Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for December 2nd, 2010

WikiLeaks cables on Afghanistan show monumental corruption

Posted by Anonymous on December 2, 2010

Hundreds of U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks paint a picture of corruption in Afghanistan at every level of government and society, according to the New York Times and the Guardian newspaper in London.

The New York Times, reporting the scale of the problem, said the documents showed corruption’s ” pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge it poses to American officials.”

One cable from the U.S. mission in Kabul earlier this year noted that the agriculture minister, Asif Rahimi, “appears to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist.”

Two months previously, a senior Afghan minister warned U.S. diplomats that President Hamid Karzai was “under great pressure from political leaders to accept a number of ministerial candidates whose technical skills are lacking.” The minister “argued that these political leaders are only thinking of dividing up the spoils rather than the quality of government needed to tackle Afghanistan’s problems.” He also told the U.S. Embassy that of the $200 million collected in fees on truck traffic, just $30 million reached government coffers. …

via WikiLeaks cables on Afghanistan show monumental corruption – CNN.com.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment »

Triple That Vitamin D Intake, Panel Prescribes

Posted by Anonymous on December 2, 2010

That’s far lower than many doctors and major medical groups have been advocating—and it could dampen some of the enthusiasm that’s been building for the sunshine vitamin in recent years.

Many doctors have added blood tests of vitamin D levels to annual physicals, and sales of vitamin D supplements have soared to $425 million last year from $40 million in 2001, according to the Nutrition Business Journal.

It’s long been known that vitamin D is essential to maintaining strong bones. But hundreds of new studies have also linked low vitamin D levels to a higher risk of a slew of chronic health problems—heart disease, stroke, diabetes, prostate, breast and colon cancers, auto-immune diseases, infections, depression and cognitive decline. Studies have also suggested that many Americans are vitamin D deficient due to working and playing indoors and slathering on sunscreen.

The Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences that sets governmental nutrient levels, said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that low vitamin D causes such chronic diseases; it based its new recommendations on the levels needed to maintain strong bones alone. …

The panel also raised the acceptable upper limit of daily intake to 4,000 IUs for adults, from 2,000 previously. …

The panel was also concerned about what she called “emerging evidence of concern” about possible ill effects of too much vitamin D. Besides a risk of kidney and heart damage noted with vitamin D levels of 10,000 IUs per day, Dr. Brannon said the panel had seen higher death rates from pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer and other causes in men whose blood levels were above 50 ng/ml. The link is still tentative and may never be proven, she noted: “The difficulty is, you can’t design a trial to look at adverse effects.” …

He said that despite the paucity of randomized-controlled trials, the long list of chronic diseases associated with vitamin D does make sense, given that it is actually a hormone that affects virtually every organ in the human body and regulates as many as 2,000 genes.

For his part, Dr. Holick recommends that adults take 2,000 to 3,000 IUs per day—and notes that he had done studies giving subjects 50,000 IUs twice a month for six years and seen no harmful effects. “There is no downside to increasing your vitamin D intake, and there are more studies coming out almost on a weekly basis,” he said.  …

via Triple That Vitamin D Intake, Panel Prescribes – WSJ.com.

I’ve been sick for the past few days and yesterday I started taking 2,500 IUs/day of Vitamin D3 from a non-fish liver source.

Posted in Biology, Food, Health | 3 Comments »

Computer Game Makes You a Genetic Scientist

Posted by Anonymous on December 2, 2010

A new online game harnesses the computational power of idle brains to help decipher the origins of genetic diseases.

The game, called Phylo, stands on the shoulders of crowdsourced science giants like the protein-folding game Foldit and the celestial object identification powerhouse Galaxy Zoo. Each project takes advantage of humans’ prowess at pattern recognition, something computers are notoriously terrible at.

“There are some tasks that humans can do better than computers, like solving puzzles,” said bioinformatics expert Jerome Waldispuhl of McGill University, one of Phylo’s project leaders. The game was officially launched Nov. 29.

Phylo players move colored squares representing the four nucleotides of DNA to find the best alignment between snippets of DNA from two different species. These particular sections of DNA, called promoter regions, determine which parts of the genome end up as traits in the organism, whether it be blue eyes or heart disease.

Seeing where the genes line up across species can help biologists pinpoint the sources of genetic disorders. …

Unlike in Foldit or Galaxy Zoo, the science in Phylo is pretty well hidden. It feels like an abstract puzzle game, with colorful shapes and jazzy music. That was deliberate, Waldispuhl says.

“We don’t want to be restricted only to the people interested in science,” he said. Science geeks won’t need as much convincing to play a game that helps research move forward, he says. The Phylo developers want the game to appeal to people who would otherwise play Farmville. …

via Computer Game Makes You a Genetic Scientist | Wired Science | Wired.com.

You can play Phylo right now. Not quite sure I get it… Ok, push all rows all the way to the left, and then try to match colors, but mostly minimize the number of gaps total. Nice that I would be helping fight a tooth disease. :-)

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

NASA’s Announcement: Arsenic Eating Bacteria Found On Earth, Ramifications for Alien Life

Posted by Anonymous on December 2, 2010

Alien MicrobesRANDOLPH E. SCHMID – The discovery of a strange bacteria that can use arsenic as one of its nutrients widens the scope for finding new forms of life on Earth and possibly beyond.While researchers discovered the unusual bacteria here on Earth, they say it shows that life has possibilities beyond the major elements that have been considered essential.

“This organism has dual capability. It can grow with either phosphorous or arsenic. That makes it very peculiar, though it falls short of being some form of truly ‘alien’ life,” commented Paul C. W. Davies of Arizona State University, a co-author of the report appearing in Thursday’s online edition of the journal Science.

Six major elements have long been considered essential for life – carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur.

But the researchers found that the bacteria, discovered in Mono Lake, Calif., is able to continue to grow after substituting arsenic for phosphorous. …

The find is important in the search for life beyond Earth because researchers need to be able to recognize life, to know what life looks like, Anbar said. …

Felisa Wolfe-Simon of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, who led the study, targeted Mono Lake because it has high arsenic levels.

Arsenic and phosphorous are chemically similar, so she speculated that a microbe exposed to both might be able to substitute one for the other.

“Arsenic is toxic mainly because its chemical behavior is so similar to that of phosphorus. As a result, organisms have a hard time telling these elements apart. But arsenic is different enough that it doesn’t work as well as phosphorus, so it gets in there and sort of gums up the works of our biochemical machinery,” explained Anbar.

The researchers collected the bacteria known as GFAJ-1 and exposed it to increasing concentrations of arsenic, which it was able to adapt to and grow.

The microbe does grow better on phosphorous, but showing that it can live with arsenic instead raises the possibility that a life form using arsenic could occur naturally, either elsewhere on Earth or on another planet or moon where arsenic is more common. …

via HuffingtonPost

Further explanation of why this is so “alien”.

All living organisms on this planet use six elements for almost all of the chemical structures of DNA, RNA, proteins, and lipids. There is a smattering of other elements, mostly metals, that are essential for biological functions (e.g., the iron in hemoglobin). However, we wouldn’t expect to find anything outside of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus in the basic structures of biomolecules. Surprisingly, a team of scientists provide evidence in Science that another element, arsenic, can be incorporated into the basic chemical makeup of the macromolecules of life, replacing some of its phosphorus.

Evolutionary geochemist Felisa Wolfe-Simon, the lead author, and her colleagues found a strain of bacterium (GFAJ-1 of the Halomonadaceae family) that can grow in a medium abundant in arsenic and lacking phosphorus. The GFAJ-1 bacterium naturally resides in the arsenic-rich waters (200 uM) of Mono Lake located in California’s Eastern Sierra, and it belongs to a family of proteobacteria that is known to accumulate arsenic. It’s not remarkable that GFAJ-1 survives in high concentrations of arsenic, but what is startling is that it potentially integrates arsenic into its DNA and proteins. …

via ArtsTechnica

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

Full-Scale Replica Of Noah’s Ark Planned For Grant Co.

Posted by Anonymous on December 2, 2010

The Creation Museum will announce details Wednesday afternoon of its planned expansion.

Answers In Genesis, which built and operates the religious-themed attraction, plans to build a full-scale wooden replica of Noah’s Ark based on biblical descriptions.

The $24.5 million project will be constructed by the same team that built the Creation Museum.

The religious ministry is soliciting online donations to help construct the project, which they expect to draw an estimated 1.6 million visitors per year.

Ken Ham, president and CEO of Answers In Genesis, cites poll data showing that an estimated 63 percent of Americans would visit a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark if one were built in the U.S.

“We see a full-scale, wooden ark as something so significant that it will shake up this nation,” Ham said. “It would be a clear reminder to America about the truths of the Bible. The building of a huge ark is a unique and powerful opportunity to reach millions in our nation (and around the world) with a bold statement: God’s word is true.” …

via Full-Scale Replica Of Noah’s Ark Planned For Grant Co. – Cincinnati News Story – WLWT Cincinnati.

Cool. Once they get two of every animal on earth inside I’ll go visit. That shouldn’t be so difficult, right?

I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22(P) Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. – biblegateway

No problem. You get a couple elephants, a couple tigers, a couple goats … wait … and two each of the 5,486 other mammal species … and  two each of the 450,000 species of beetles, two each of the 9,084 reptile species, two each of the 102,248 species of spiders and scorpions … wait, and the 350,000 types of plants, …. and the fugi … and the birds?! … and the 447,752 other insect species after you take away the beetles, spiders and scorpions!!!?? …oh crap… and what about all the fresh water fish species?! Do I have to build fish tanks on the Ark?  A “type” of animal is not enough. Unless you agree that evolution of new species took place, you can’t just collect one pair from every genera of animal.

Get the point?  The task is not actually possible. Unlike the Creation Museum people, Noah and  Utnapishtim both had the good sense to protest this absurd idea. Some things are simple for a boss to command, but impossible for a worker to actually do.  The devil is in the details.

The 50,000 animals estimate on christianansswers.net is laughable. The number is at least 12 times that. For example, even if we think that the 5,000 aquatic beetle species world-wide could all survive in salt-water, that still leaves 445,000 species of beetles to collect and feed. If you could collect two each of 10 different beetle species per day–they aren’t all in once place, you have to hunt for them—, it would take you 45 years to collect them all. Fourty-five years of work and you would only have one kind of animal … beetles … on your Ark. Well, if you are 500 to 600 years old already, another 45 years collecting one kind of bug isn’t so bad.

But wait, every species has to have the right habitat to survive, some need heat, some need cold, … and the right kind of food. How do you figure out what food each type of beetle likes to eat?

A whole pack of miracles would be needed: 1) Put the animals into suspended animation so no one has to feed them. 2) change the laws of physics so the boat does not sink under the weight of the rhinos, hippos, etc.3) Make all the predators peaceful so they don’t eat the other animals on the way to and from the boat at the start and end.

Adults who take this story literally are embarrassingly ignorant about the real diversity of life on earth.

Why not do something more Christian? $24.5 million could feed a lot of hungry people.

Posted in Biology, Religion | 1 Comment »

Scientists Find 200 Sextillion More Stars in the Sky

Posted by Anonymous on December 2, 2010

The night sky may be a lot starrier than we thought.

A study suggests the universe could have triple the number of stars scientists previously calculated. For those of you counting at home, the new estimate is 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That’s 300 sextillion.

The study questions a key assumption that astronomers often use: that most galaxies have the same properties as our Milky Way. And that’s creating a bit of a stink among astronomers who want a more orderly cosmos.

It’s one of two studies being published online Wednesday in the journal Nature that focus on red dwarf stars, the most common stars in the universe. The study that offers the new estimate on stars is led by a Yale University astronomer. He calculates that there are far more red dwarfs than previously thought, and that inflates the total star count.

… When scientists had estimated previously how many stars there were in the universe, they assumed that all galaxies had the same ratio of dwarf stars as in our galaxy, which is spiral-shaped. Much of our understanding of the universe is based on observations inside our Milky Way and then extrapolated to other galaxies.

But about one-third of the galaxies in the universe are not spiral, but elliptical, and van Dokkum found they aren’t really made up the same way as ours.

Using the Keck telescope in Hawaii, van Dokkum and a colleague gazed into eight other distant, but elliptical, galaxies and looked at their hard-to-differentiate light signatures. The scientists calculated that elliptical galaxies have more of those dwarf stars. A lot more.

“We’re seeing 10 or 20 times more stars than we expected,” van Dokkum said. By his calculations, that triples the number of estimated stars from 100 sextillion to 300 sextillion. …

via FoxNews.com – Scientists Find 200 Sextillion More Stars in the Sky.

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

You lose: FCC Backs Usage-Based Broadband Pricing

Posted by Anonymous on December 2, 2010

The top U.S. telecommunications regulator on Wednesday endorsed the idea that broadband providers could charge extra for providing heavy Internet users with lots of online video or data-heavy services such as videogames.

Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, backed “usage-based pricing” while outlining proposed rules that would bar Internet providers from deliberately tampering or slowing legal Web traffic.

Mr. Genachowski‘s support for pay-as-you-go pricing represents a victory for cable and telecommunications companies because …

The extra charges at $1/Gigabyte could be around $4 per high def movie. Time for that consumer push back. Fire Genachowski for starters.

Federal Cickback Commission.

Posted in Politics, Technology | Leave a Comment »

The surreal treehoppers

Posted by Anonymous on December 2, 2010

Jerry A. Coyne – The first thing a biologist does on seeing a model like this is think, “This can’t be real,” and resorts to some Googling. Sure enough, it’s a real insect. Here are two photos:

via  The surreal treehoppers « Why Evolution Is True.


Posted in Biology, Strange | Leave a Comment »

US photographer snaps ‘eye of God’

Posted by Anonymous on December 2, 2010

US photographer snaps ‘eye of God’. See more on the web site of Sean R. Heavey.

Blow hole by Sean R. Heavey Eye of the storm.. by Sean R. Heavey TuRN BACK NOW..! by Sean R. Heavey  by Sean R. Heavey

Posted in Art, Earth | 2 Comments »

Conplan 3502, US Prepares for Civil Disturbance

Posted by Anonymous on December 2, 2010


via YouTube – Martial Law in America – Conplan 3502 Exposed – NORTHCOM FEMA RNC G20 Civil Disturbance.

Most of the PowerPoint slides say “unclassified” and the document is in a folder called “Library” so I think this is okay for the general public to check out. Good to know they have a plan for major disasters like Nuclear Attack, Major Earthquake, Chemical Attack, Cyber Attack, Pandemic Inflenza….

Posted in Politics | Leave a Comment »


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