Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for January 21st, 2013

Rock solid proof of alien life? Scientists claim fossilized algae inside meteorite

Posted by Anonymous on January 21, 2013

An example of a supposedly fossilized diatom (Image from www.journalofcosmology.com)

Fossilized algae recently discovered inside a Sri Lankan meteorite could finally prove the existence of extra-terrestrial life, claim the authors of the new paper.

­In a recently published article in the Journal of Cosmology titled “Fossil Diatoms in a New Carbonaceous Meteorite”, scientists from the UK and Sri Lanka claim to have found fossilized algae in a meteorite.

The paper alleges that “microscopic fossilized diatoms were found in the sample,” which fell in Sri Lanka in December last year. The finding, the work suggests is a “strong evidence to support the theory of cometary

panspermia.” The theory argues that life across planets is spread by meteorites and asteroids. Panspermia suggests that life could have existed on another planet and moved to Earth.

The scientists concluded the paper by saying “the presence of structures of this kind in any extra-terrestrial setting could be construed as unequivocal proof of biology.”

Samples from the rock were collected immediately after a large meteorite disintegrated and fell in the village of Araganwila in Sri Lanka on 29 December 2012.

The scientific community, including Prof Francis Thackeray from the Institute of Human Evolution at Wits University welcomed the report as “very exciting” yet “very controversial”, as samples could have been contaminated on earth, Business Day reports. …

The study was conducted by a group headed by Chandra Wickramasinghe, the director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology at the University of Buckingham, who was also a co-founder of Panspermia theory.

The finding however has already come under sharp criticism, with astronomers claiming that the meteorite looks more like a rock that could be found on earth as the study provides vague details of the finding.

Astronomer and lecturer Phil Plait wrote in his blog on Slate that the chemical analysis presented “doesn’t prove it’s a carbonaceous chondrite, let alone a meteorite,” and there is “no reason to trust that what they have is a meteorite.”

Plait also cited a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Patrick Kociolek as saying that there was no sign that the diatoms illustrated in the study were “fossilized material,” and that most of them were species that represented “a clear case of contamination with freshwater.”

Speaking with HuffingtonPost, the author of the study did not deny that the meteorite his team studied contained known freshwater species from Earth. But there were also “at least half a dozen species that diatom experts have not been able to identify,” Wick

ramasinghe added. …

via Rock solid proof of alien life? Scientists claim fossilized algae inside meteorite — RT.

Posted in Archaeology, Biology, Space | Leave a Comment »

Scientists in Germany Draft Neanderthal Genome

Posted by Anonymous on January 21, 2013

Scientists report that they have reconstructed the genome of Neanderthals, a human species that was driven to extinction some 30,000 years ago, probably by the first modern humans to enter Europe.

The Neanderthal genome, when fully analyzed, is expected to shed light on many critical aspects of human evolution. It will help document two important sets of genetic changes: those that occurred between 5.7 million years ago, when the human line split from the line leading to chimpanzees, and 300,000 years ago, when Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern humans parted ways; and second, the changes in the human line after it diverged from Neanderthals.

An early inference that can be drawn from the new findings, which were announced Thursday in Leipzig, Germany, is that there is no significant trace of Neanderthal genes in modern humans. This confounds the speculation that modern humans could have interbred with Neanderthals, thus benefiting from the genes that adapted the Neanderthals to the cold climate that prevailed in Europe in last ice age, which ended 10,000 years ago. Researchers have not ascertained if human genes entered the Neanderthal population.

Possessing the Neanderthal genome raises the possibility of bringing Neanderthals back to life. Dr. George Church, a leading genome researcher at the Harvard Medical School, said Thursday that a Neanderthal could be brought to life with present technology for about $30 million. …

via Scientists in Germany Draft Neanderthal Genome – NYTimes.com.

Posted in Archaeology, Biology, Technology | 1 Comment »

Original Batmobile sold for $4.2m at US auction

Posted by Anonymous on January 21, 2013

The Batmobile used by actor Adam West in the original TV series of Batman has sold for $4.2m (£2.6m) at a US auction.

The car was bought by Rick Champagne, a logistics company owner from Phoenix, Arizona.

The 56-year-old, who was just 10 when the high-camp TV series began in 1966, said it “was a dream come true”.

The Batmobile design was based on a 1955 Lincoln Futura, a concept car built in Italy by the Ford Motor Company.

It was the first time that car had come up for public sale since it was bought in 1965 by car-customiser George Barris for a nominal fee of $1.

Barris then spent $15,000 (roughly £5,370 at the time) to transform it into the famous superhero vehicle, over a period of 15 days.

Gadgets

It had a V-8 engine, arguably one of the first in-car phones, and parachutes, which were deployed to help Batman turn sharp corners.

Mr Barris told reporters at the auction: “The car had to be a star on its own. And it became one.”

Since the show was cancelled in 1968, he has toured the Batmobile and was eventually housed in a private showroom in California. …

via BBC News – Original Batmobile sold for $4.2m at US auction.

Posted in Popular Culture | 3 Comments »

ShotSpotter Hits the Suburbs as the Police Fight Gun Violence

Posted by Anonymous on January 21, 2013

BANG! The shot rang out after midnight, sending revelers who had spilled from a house party screaming and running down a scrappy Long Island street. Four miles away, in a concrete bunker 25 feet below ground, an emergency dispatcher jumped at the sound, and homed in on its source.

Within moments, a police car, its siren wailing, was racing to the scene, in the heart of Uniondale. A second shot went off. Four men were arrested as they tried to speed away. The officers also found two guns, both illegal, their muzzles still warm. No one had been hit.

The dispatcher had heard and mapped the shots using ShotSpotter, a gunshot tracking system that has been adopted so far by 45 cities, universities and government sites — giving its operators near-bionic listening powers, often in troubled places.

In recent months, ShotSpotter has been deployed in pockets of Westchester County, Nassau County, New Jersey and New Haven, and officials say it has helped the police respond to shootings faster, aid victims sooner and catch suspects almost in the act.

“This thing has been tremendous so far,” said Officer Joseph Avery, a police spokesman in New Haven. “We actually caught a woman with a smoking gun in her hand.”

ShotSpotter is made by a 14-year-old eponymous company in Mountain View, Calif., that is considered a leader in the field of acoustic gunshot tracking, though there are other systems: Sentri, made by Safety Dynamics of Tucson, monitors smaller areas with cameras and microphones, and the mobile Boomerang system, made by BBN Technologies of Cambridge, Mass., is used by the military in Afghanistan and Iraq to track sniper fire.

The ShotSpotter system uses microphones that transmit the sound of a gunshot to a police mainframe computer seconds after the firing. The wireless sensors also gauge their distance from the noise, like bats, triangulating the information to direct the police to the shooting site. If the system sounds like Big Brother, it is, kind of — except, one police official insisted, it eavesdrops only on things that go bang.

“There is no personally identifying information associated with this,” said the official, William G. Flanagan, a deputy commissioner for the Nassau County police. “It’s capturing gunfire.”

ShotSpotter was deployed in Nassau County in late July, covering three square miles of an area the police refer to as “the gun corridor” in Roosevelt and Uniondale, two struggling, adjoining towns. The police spent $800,000 on the system; it costs $200,000 to $250,000 per square mile of coverage to install, with an annual maintenance fee after the first year of about 15 percent of the installation price. …

via ShotSpotter Hits the Suburbs as the Police Fight Gun Violence – NYTimes.com.

According to Infowars, ‘The Department of Homeland Security is looking to install “gunshot detector” microphones that are capable of listening to conversations throughout “urban areas” of Washington, DC.’

Posted in Crime, Technology | 2 Comments »

Leprosy spreads by reprogramming nerve cells into migratory stem cells

Posted by Anonymous on January 21, 2013

leprosyThe bacterium that causes leprosy spreads through the body by converting nerve cells into stem cells with migratory properties, according to research published today in the journal Cell. The new findings could improve treatments for leprosy and other infectious diseases caused by bacteria, and help clinicians to diagnose them earlier. They may also provide a safe method for developing stem cell treatments for a wide variety of other conditions.

Mycobacterium leprae is a parasitic bacterium that can only survive inside host cells. It evades detection by the host’s immune system by infecting Schwann cells, the glial cells which form the fatty myelin tissue that insulates peripheral nerves and helps them to conduct impulses. Infected cells remain healthy in the early stages of infection but, soon enough, their myelin begins to degenerate, leading to the nerve damage, loss of sensation and blistering skin sores that are characteristic of the disease.

Anura Rambukkana of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and his colleagues isolated Schwann cells from adult mice, grew them in Petri dishes and infected them with M. leprae. They found that the bacterium gradually turns off the genes that give Schwann cells their characteristic properties, and then activates another set of genes that transforms them into something resembling neural crest stem cells, which are only present in the embryo, and which migrate from the developing nervous along various routes to form a wide variety of tissues, including muscle, bone, cartilage, and the Schwann cells and sensory neurons of the peripheral nerves.

This genetic reprogramming helps to disseminate the disease – infected cells revert to a stem cell-like state, then proliferate and convert into immature muscle cells or other cell types that migrate away from the initial infection site, carrying their bacterial load with them. By hiding out in the cells, the bacteria can spread through the body without triggering an immune response.

“These bugs keep Schwann cells in the de-differentiated state, but this causes the cells to loose their normal function, and this initiates neurodegeneration,” says Rambukkana. “We’re having an identity crisis at this point. We still don’t know what kind of stem cells the Schwann cells are being reprogrammed to, but they must be stem cells, because they have all the typical features of stem cells – they can differentiate into muscle, bone and fat and propagate themselves at the same time.”

The researchers also found that the reprogrammed stem cells secrete chemokines, small signalling proteins that attract immune cells called macrophages. When infected stem cells were injected into mice, they recruited macrophages to the infection site, which then take up the bacteria and accumulate to form areas of inflammation called granulomas. The bacteria-laden macrophages are then released from the granulomas, thus providing another way for the disease to spread further. …

The study provides the very first evidence that an infectious agent can reprogram adult body cells. Leprosy can be treated with multi-drug therapy, but diagnosis usually follows the appearance of symptoms, by which time it is too late to treat effectively. The presence of stem cells or the proteins they synthesize could be an early marker for the disease, which may enable clinicians to reach a diagnosis before any symptoms present themselves.

“This is provocative and important work,” says Kristjan Jessen, a professor of developmental biology who studies Schwann cells at UCL. “It illustrates the astonishing plasticity of mammalian cells and their ability to change from one cell type to another, and also shows just how much there is yet to learn about Schwann cells and nerve pathology.”

The new findings could also pave the way for a safe method of producing stem cells for researching neurodegenerative diseases and developing treatments for them. The discovery that cells taken from just about any part of the human body can be induced to revert to stem cells with the ability to re-differentiate into any other cell type raised hopes, until it was subsequently found that these so-called pluripotent stem cells harbour genetic defects and can cause tumours when transplanted. …

via Leprosy spreads by reprogramming nerve cells into migratory stem cells | Mo Costandi | Science | guardian.co.uk.

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

300-million-year-old UFO tooth-wheel found in Russian city of Vladivostok

Posted by Anonymous on January 21, 2013

metal pieceLighting the fire during a cold winter evening a resident of Vladivostok found a rail-shaped metal detail which was pressed in one of the pieces of coal that the man used to heat his home. Mesmerized by his discovery, the responsible citizen decided to seek help from the scientists of Primorye region. After the metal object was studied by the leading experts the man was shocked to learn about the assumed age of his discovery. The metal detail was supposedly 300 million years old and yet the scientists suggest that it was not created by nature but was rather manufactured by someone. The question of who might have made an aluminum gear in the dawn of time remains unanswered.

Nowadays, finding a strange artifact in coal is a relatively frequent occurrence. The first discovery of this sort was made in 1851 when the workers in one of the Massachusetts mines extracted a zinc silver-incrusted vase from a block of unmined coal which dated all the way back to the Cambrian era which was approximately 500 million years ago. Sixty one years later, American scientists from Oklahoma discovered an iron pot which was pressed into a piece of coal aged 312 million years old. Then, in 1974, an aluminum assembly part of unknown origin was found in a sandstone quarry in Romania. Reminiscent of a hammer or a support leg of a spacecraft “Apollo”, the piece dated back to the Jurassic era and could not have been manufactured by a human. All of these discoveries not only puzzled the experts but also undermined the most fundamental doctrines of modern science.

The metal detail which was recently found by Vladivostok resident is yet another discovery which perplexed the scientists. The coal in which the metal object was pressed was delivered to Primorye from Chernogorodskiy mines of Khakasia region. Knowing that the coal deposits of this region date 300 million years back, Russian experts inferred that the metal detail found in these deposits must be an age-mate of the coal.

When geologists broke the piece of coal in which the metal object was pressed into and spot-treated in with special chemical agents, it turned out that the metal detail was unusually light and soft. No more than seven centimeters long, the object was found to be composed of 98 percent aluminum and 2 percent magnesium. On the one hand, such an alloy stalled the scientists because nearly pure aluminum is very rarely found in nature. Thus, the detail was most definitely created artificially. On the other hand, however, when it became clear that the object was made from aluminum-magnesium alloy the experts quickly found an answer to the question of how a metal detail could withstand the ravages of time so well. The scientists explained that pure aluminum is increasingly prone to oxidization which contributes to the creation of a special layer protecting it from further corrosion. As a result, the metal detail made 98 percent from aluminum can endure not only high pressure but also heat and other severe natural conditions.

Another question that interests Russian scientists is whether the aluminum alloy is of Earthly origin. It is known from the study of meteorites that there exists extra-terrestrial aluminum-26 which subsequently breaks down to magnesium-26. The presence of 2 percent of magnesium in the alloy might well point to the alien origin of the aluminum detail. Nonetheless, further testing is needed to confirm this hypothesis.

The last property of the object that puzzled the scientists was its distinctive shape which was reminiscent of a modern tooth-wheel. It is hard to imagine that an object could take regular shape of a tooth-wheel with six identical ‘teeth’ naturally. Moreover, the intervals between the ‘teeth’ of the gear are curiously large in relation to the size of the ‘teeth’ themselves which might mean that the detail was a part of a complicated mechanism. Nowadays, such ‘spare parts’ are used in construction of microscopes and other mechanical appliances. This poses yet another unanswerable question to the modern scientists: how can the metal tooth-wheel be 300 million years old if the regular-shaped ‘wheel’ itself was created by man millions of years later.

After the discovery came public, conspirators were quick to dub it ‘a UFO tooth-wheel’. Russian scientists, however, do not jump to conclusions and will run further tests to learn more about the strange artifact.

Posted in Archaeology, Strange | 2 Comments »

Forget the Placebo Effect: It’s the ‘Care Effect’ That Matters

Posted by Anonymous on January 21, 2013

Americans spend $34 billion a year on so-called alternative medicine — botanical pills, acupuncture, energy healing, and the like — despite the fact that few of these techniques are backed by any science. Study after study has rejected the ability of such treatments to cure. But the same studies routinely find that treated patients do wind up feeling better. For example, a randomized, controlled trial of Chinese herbs on women with ovarian cancer found no effective difference between the herbs and a dummy pill — because there was some improvement with both. A double-blind trial of saw-palmetto pills for men with enlarged prostates produced similar results. What gives?

The obvious answer is the placebo effect. We’ve known for decades that when sick people are given a treatment, even if it’s just a sugar pill, their condition often improves. But that can’t be the whole story, if only because the size of the effect varies wildly from one study to the next. One clue to a better answer is found in research led by Ted Kaptchuk at Harvard Medical School: Patients with irritable bowel syndrome were told they’d be participating in a study of the benefits of acupuncture — and one group, which received the treatment from a warm, friendly researcher who asked detailed questions about their lives, did report a marked reduction in symptoms, equivalent to what might result from any drug on the market. Unbeknownst to them, the researchers used trick needles that didn’t pierce the skin.

Now here’s the interesting part: The same sham treatment was given to another group of subjects — but performed brusquely, without conversation. The benefits largely disappeared. It was the empathetic exchange between practitioner and patient, Kaptchuk concluded, that made the difference.

What Kaptchuk demonstrated is what some medical thinkers have begun to call the “care effect” — the idea that the opportunity for patients to feel heard and cared for can improve their health. Scientific or no, alternative practitioners tend to express empathy, to allow for unhurried silences, and to ask what meaning patients make of their pain. Kaptchuk’s study was a breakthrough: It showed that randomized, controlled trials could measure the effect of caring. But there was already abundant evidence from nursing science to suggest a healing power in the interaction between practitioner and patient. A study in Turkey found that empathetic nurses improved the symptoms of patients with hypertension. Midwestern cancer patients who received massages slept better and had less pain.

Of course, nurturing is no replacement for science — care won’t shrink a tumor or set a broken bone. But mainstream medicine could stand to learn something important about caring from the alternative forms. Suffering people reflexively seek care, but in mainstream medicine, “care” tends to mean treatment and nothing more. Many patients who really need empathy and advice are instead given drugs and surgery. …

via http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/01/dr-feel-good/

Posted in Health | Leave a Comment »

Australian 177 oz gold nugget worth more than its weight in gold

Posted by Anonymous on January 21, 2013

The Y-shaped nugget, weighing 5.5kg (177 ounces), was buried 60cm beneath the ground near the town of Ballarat in Victoria. Local experts said they could not recall any nugget even approaching that size being discovered in the area previously.

Michael Cooper believes it is likely to attract the attention of aficionados of the precious metal.

“It is such a rare find I can imagine a lot of collectors out there would probably see it having a high collectable value, not just its intrinsic value,” according to Mr Cooper, who says it will probably be “many, many years” before such a large nugget is found again.”

His advice to British prospectors whose eyes have lit up at the news?

“For all those people that go out with their metal detectors in the UK, I would say it’s probably incredibly unlikely you’re going to find anything that size – your chances are against you – but still try; it’s a fun hobby, so why not?”

via Video: Australian nugget worth more than its weight in gold – Telegraph.

 

That much gold at current prices is $299,122.92.

Posted in Earth, Money | Leave a Comment »

Captain Kirk’s Predecessor: Star Trek Was RAND Corporation Predictive Programming

Posted by Anonymous on January 21, 2013

FederationIn a rare and recently unearthed interview from 1965, the actor who preceded William Shatner as first captain of the Enterprise, stated that the series was based on the RAND Corporation’s “projection of things to come”.

Actor Jeffrey Hunter, who played captain Christopher Pike in the Star Trek pilot “The Cage” told a Hollywood columnist in January of ’65 that he hoped the pilot-episode would be picked up as a series because he was intrigued by the fact that the series was based on the RAND corporation’s “projection of things to come.”

“We should know within several weeks whether the show has been sold.”, Hunter stated almost half a century ago.

“It will be an hour long, in color, with a regular cast of a half-dozen or so and an important guest star each week.”, he stated hopefully.

“The things that intrigues me the most”, Hunter said, “is that it is actually based on the Rand Corporation’s projection of things to come. Except for the fictional characters, it will be like getting a look into the future and some of the predictions will surely come true in our lifetime.”

Trekweb, the first Star Trek website ever to appear on the internet, republished part of the recently discovered interview with Hunter in the context of celebrations around the historic pilot-episode- considered by many “Trekkies” to be the blueprint of the entire Star Trek project. As Trekweb notes, the character of Captain Pike “remains a popular character with Trek fans.”

captain-pike

According to one Star Trek-dedicated website, the involvement of the RAND corporation in the series was limited to “technical advice” by RAND researcher Harvey P. Lynn Jr. As Trekplace points out, Lynn “provided Star Trek’s original series creator Gene Roddenberry with scientific and technical advice during preproduction of the series.”

According to Lynn’s son (Harvey P. Lynn Jr. died in 1987) in response to a question from Trekplace’s Greg Tyler in 2002, his father “worked at RAND as a liaison Officer between RAND and Project Airforce.”

In RAND’s own FAQ the question whether a RAND researcher designed the initial bridge of the Enterprise, is irritatingly anwered with the statement that Harvey Lynn was indeed “consulted, but as a private citizen, not as part of a RAND project.”

This is clearly at odds with the spontaneous statement made by Hunter, namely that the entire Star Trek series was based on RAND’s “projection of things to come”. Furthermore, a 2002 MSNBC article (Cached version) titled Is Star Trek in our future? noted that Lynn was not merely consulting on the pilot episode of the series, but was intimately involved in the creation of several aspects of Star Trek which have become part of our cultural nomenclature. The article also expands on the relationship between the series creator Gene Roddenberry and “Liaison officer” Harvey P. Lynn Jr:

“Lynn, it turns out, was an invaluable resource. He had been referred to Gene through Colonel Donald I. Prickett, an old Air Force buddy from his days as a pilot during World War II. “I am going to forward a copy of Star Trek to a physicist at Rand,” Prickett wrote Gene after he had read an early summary of the series. “He’s a retired AF type and I can count on him to keep it to himself – he is a creative, scientific thinker and will appreciate your concepts.”

Despite of RAND’s own statement that Lynn was consulted as a “private citizen”, the article goes on to say that “At first Lynn worked informally on the series. Later he was paid a whopping $50 per show for the use of his brain and expertise. He contributed indispensable insights that helped shape ideas like the ship’s computer (he suggested that it talk, in a woman’s voice), the sickbay (he suggested that beds be outfitted with “electrical pickups” that monitor the body) and teleportation.” …

via Captain Kirk’s Predecessor: Star Trek Was RAND Corporation Predictive Programming | ExplosiveReports.Com.

As to predictive programming being some kind of evil plot, who cares? Great ideas have ways of becoming reality, but   RAND did not invent the ideals in Star Trek of exploration, a peaceful unified world, elimination of money, treating alien life with respect, and so on. If some ideas in Star Trek were planted by think tanks to help us move in a better direction, good! People need inspiration to get off of their fat couches and evolve.

Posted in Politics, Science Fiction | Leave a Comment »

Koch-Funded Study Finds 2.5°F Warming Of Land Since 1750 Is Manmade not Solar

Posted by Anonymous on January 21, 2013

 

Image: The decadal land surface temperature from BEST average (black line), “compared to a linear combination of volcanic sulfate emissions (responsible for the short dips) and the natural logarithm of CO2 (responsible for the gradual rise) shown in red. Inclusion of a proxy for solar activity did not significantly improve the fit. The grey area is the 95% confidence interval.”

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST) has finally published its findings on the cause of recent global warming. This Koch-funded reanalysis of millions of temperature observations from around the world, “A New Estimate of the Average Earth Surface Land Temperature Spanning 1753 to 2011,” concludes:

… solar forcing does not appear to contribute to the observed global warming of the past 250 years; the entire change can be modeled by a sum of volcanism and a single anthropogenic [human-made] proxy.

You may recall that back in July, Richard Muller, BEST’s Founder and Scientific Director, published a NY Times op-ed, “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic,” which concluded

Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

The finding itself is “dog bites man” (see It’s “Extremely Likely That at Least 74% of Observed Warming Since 1950″ Was Manmade; It’s Highly Likely All of It Was).

What makes this “man bites dog” is that Muller has been a skeptic of climate science, and the single biggest funder of this study is the “Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($150,000).” The Kochs are the leading funder of climate disinformation in the world!

Muller further explained:

Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming.

In short, a Koch-funded study has found that the IPCC “consensus” underestimated both the rate of surface warming and how much could be attributed to human emissions!

The Koch-finded study also finds, “the rate of warming we observe is broadly consistent with the IPCC estimates of 2-4.5°C warming (for land plus oceans) at doubled CO2.” A summary of BEST’s findings are on their website.

via Koch-Funded Study Finds 2.5°F Warming Of Land Since 1750 Is Manmade, ‘Solar Forcing Does Not Appear To Contribute’ | ThinkProgress.

Posted in Earth | Leave a Comment »

 
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