Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chinese Discover Fortune Cookies

Here's a funny short video of Chinese people being exposed to fortune cookies (an American invention) for the first time:

Americans find high emotional attachment to the slips inside their cookies, looking to them for winning lottery numbers and becoming upset when the fortunes inside are unfortunate. The Chinese, on the other hand, would often tell me after trying the curved vanilla-flavored wafers, “Americans are so strange, why are they putting pieces of paper in their cookies?”

From BoingBoing

Zooming into Concrete

This video ... slowly zooms in on concrete until it reaches the atoms, while verbally explains what we're seeing.

Via here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jill Bolte Taylor: My stroke of insight @ TED

About this talk

Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions -- motion, speech, self-awareness –- shut down one by one. An astonishing story.

About Jill Bolte Taylor

Brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor studied her own stroke as it happened -- and has become a powerful voice for brain recovery.

Go to TED

The Easy Glider

Not quite a segway killer, but interesting...

Kucinich @ DNC: Wake up America!

I like the energy. We need more of that.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Swedes Won't Allow Teaching Religion as Truth in Schools

The Swedish government has announced plans to clamp down hard on religious education. It will soon become illegal even for private faith schools to teach religious doctrines as if they were true. In an interesting twist on the American experience, prayer will remain legal in schools - after all, it has no truth value. But everything that takes place on the curriculum's time will have to be secular. "Pupils must be protected from every sort of fundamentalism," said the minister for schools, Jan Björklund.

Creationism and ID are explicitly banned but so is proselytising even in religious education classes. The Qur'an may not be taught as if it is true even in Muslim independent schools, nor may the Bible in Christian schools. The decision looks like a really startling attack on the right of parents to have their children taught what they would like. Of course it does not go so far as the Dawkins policy of prohibiting parents from trying to pass on their doctrines even in their own families - and, if it did, it would certainly run foul of the European convention on human rights. It does not even go as far as Nyamko Sabuni, the minister for integration - herself born in Burundi - would like: she wanted to ban all religious schools altogether. But it is still a pretty drastic measure from an English perspective.

In the background to these announcements comes the release of a frightening documentary film on Swedish jihadis, which follows young men over a period of two years on their slow conversion to homicidal lunacy.

IMNSHO, I think this is pretty sensible. As I've said before, the opposite of radical extremism from one religion is NOT radical extremism from another religion -- it's critical thinking.


Blue Pencil Monster

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Steepest Stairs I've Ever Seen

Very cool... anyone knows where this is?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dead Bigfoot Body Found in Georgia

It’s more than 7-feet tall. Weighs over 500 pounds and walked upright -- three "Bigfoot" seekers, including a Redwood City man, Wednesday claimed they have proof that they have found the body of the elusive creature in the wilds of Georgia.

And on Friday, at a news conference in Palo Alto, they say they will present DNA evidence to prove the carcass of “Rickmat” is that of a bigfoot.

Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, Georgia residents who lead Bigfoot-tracking expeditions, say they found the body of what appears to be a Bigfoot in the woods of northern Georgia and will join local Bigfoot researcher Tom Biscardi at the news conference, according to Robert Barrows, who is publicizing the event.

Among the creatures's other physical characteristics of the body -- according to the hunters website -- -- were flat feet similar to human feet. Its footprint is 16 ¾ inches long and the length from palm to tip of the middle finger is 11 ½ inches long.

"I think you'll find that this is the real deal," Barrows said of the alleged discovery.

More here and here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Human Beatbox Beardyman

Very cool video from Boing Boing.

Aussies crack cancer secret

AUSTRALIAN scientists are hoping to cure leukaemia, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis after their breakthrough discovery of how to stop killer blood cells growing.

The team has unlocked the secrets behind the protein which controls the way the blood cancer cells spread when it is damaged - and have found a way to stop its deadly process.

Work is now starting to design a drug to prevent the damaged proteins operating, effectively stopping the cancer as well as asthma and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

After spending a decade uncovering the structure of the receptor protein, which sits on the surface of white blood cells, lead researcher Professor Michael Parker, of Melbourne's St Vincent's Institute, said scientists could now build a drug to attach itself to the protein and stop it sending messages into the cells telling them to multiply unchecked.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Hope for end to rejection drugs

Scientists have developed a procedure which may help end the need for transplant patients to rely on powerful anti-rejection drugs.

The complex procedure involves mixing the patient's infection-fighting white blood cells with cells from the donor.

One patient went eight months without immunosuppressive drugs and others were switched to low doses.

The new technique involves giving transplant patients an infusion of specialised cells known as a transplant acceptance-inducing cells (TAICs).

The TAICs are created by isolating a type of white blood cell from the donor, and modifying them chemically in the lab.

Once modified, the cells gain the ability to kill off cells in the immune system which trigger the rejection process, and to boost the action of another type of immune cell which plays a beneficial role in guarding against rejection.

The cells are then cultured alongside those from the recipient - which helps prime the immune system further - before being injected into the patient.

The technique has been tested on kidney transplant patients, some of whom were given the cells before surgery, and others after the transplant, as an additional drug therapy.


Contagious cancer

The [Tasmanian] devil, known to science as Sarcophilus harrisii, lives mostly by scavenging and sometimes by predation. It will eat, in addition to kangaroo meat, chickens, fish, frogs, kelp maggots, lambs, rats, snakes, wallabies, and the occasional rubber boot. It can consume nearly half its own body weight in under an hour, and yet—with its black fur and its trundling gait—it looks like an underfed bear cub. Fossil evidence shows that devils inhabited all of Australia until about 500 years ago, when competition with dingoes and other factors caused them to die out everywhere but in Tasmania, which dingoes had yet to colonize. More recently, Tasmanian stockmen and farmers have persecuted devils with the same ferocity directed elsewhere at wolves and coyotes. The devils’ reproductive rate, opportunistic habits, and tolerance for human proximity, however, have allowed localized populations to persist or recover, and at the time of Baars’s 1996 visit, their total number was probably around 150,000.

On his earlier visits, Baars had seen at least ten devils every night, and they were quick to adjust to his presence. They would walk into his blind, into his tent, into his kitchen, and he could recognize returning individuals by the distinctively shaped white patches on their chests. This trip was different. On the first night, his bait failed to attract a single devil, and the second night was only a little better. He thought at first that maybe the stockmen and farmers had finally succeeded in wiping them out. Then he spotted a devil with a weird facial lump. It was an ugly mass, rounded and bulging, like a huge boil, or a tumor. Baars took photographs. More devils wandered in, at least one of them with a similar growth, and Baars took more pictures. This was no longer wildlife photography of the picturesque sort; it was, or anyway soon would become, forensic documentation.

Back in Hobart, Tasmania’s capital, Baars showed his pictures to Nick Mooney, a veteran officer of Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service who has dealt with the devil and its enemies for decades. Mooney had never seen anything like this. The lumps looked tumorous, yes—but what sort of tumor? Mooney consulted a pathologist, who suggested that the devils might be afflicted with lymphosarcoma, a kind of lymphatic cancer, maybe caused by a virus passed to the devils from feral cats. Such a virus might also be passed from devil to devil, triggering cancer in each.

The phenomenon of transmissible tumors isn’t confined to canines, Tasmanian devils, and Syrian hamsters. There have been human cases, too. Forty years ago a team of physicians led by Edward F. Scanlon reported, in the journal Cancer, that they had “decided to transplant small pieces of tumor from a cancer patient into a healthy donor, on a well informed volunteer basis, in the hope of gaining a little better understanding of cancer immunity,” which they thought might help in treating the patient. The patient was a fifty-year-old woman with advanced melanoma; the “donor” was her healthy eighty-year-old mother, who had agreed to receive a bit of the tumor by surgical transplant. One day after the transplant procedure, the daughter died suddenly from a perforated bowel. Scanlon’s report neglects to explain why the experiment wasn’t promptly terminated—why they didn’t dive back in surgically to undo what had been done to the mother. Instead, three weeks were allowed to pass, at which point the mother had developed a tumor indistinguishable from her daughter’s.

Weinberg went on to explain that the process is a little more complicated than classic Darwinian selection. Darwin’s version works by selection among genetic variations that differentiate one organism from another, and in sexually reproducing species those variations are heritable. But evolution in tumor lineages occurs by that sort of selection plus another sort—selection among epigenetic modifications of DNA. Epigenetic means outside the line of genetic inheritance: acquired by experience, by accident, by circumstance. Such secondary chemical changes to the molecule affect behavior, affect shape, and pass from one cell to another but do not, contrary to the analogy, pass from parent to offspring in sexual reproduction. These changes are peeled away in the process of meiosis (the formation of sperm and egg cells for sexual reproduction) but preserved in mitosis (the process of simple cell replication in the body). So cancerous cell reproduction brings such changes forward into the new cells, along with the fundamental genetic changes.

Does that mean tumors don’t evolve? Certainly not. They do. “It’s still Darwin,” Weinberg said. “It’s Darwin revised.”


New gene technique 'stops HIV in its tracks'

HIV can be stopped dead in its tracks using a revolutionary technique for "silencing" genes, a study has shown. The discovery raises the possibility of a treatment for HIV that does not involve potentially toxic anti-viral drugs.

Scientists have found that RNA interference – where genes are artificially silenced using a natural molecular switch in the cell – can inhibit the replication of HIV in human blood cells.

Professor Premlata Shankar of Texas Tech University, who carried out the work when she was at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said: "RNA interference has great potential as an antiviral treatment... We think it has real promise, but there is a lot more to be done."


Ferrofluid Magnetic Moving Sculptures

While most visual artists prefer traditional materials
such as oil, acrylic, bronze and ceramic, Tokyo-based
magnetic nanoparticles, ferrofluids often contain high
levels of iron and, as such, are deeply affected by
and responsive to the presence of magnetic fields.
While the NASA-developed ferrofluids are being used
increasingly for commercial applications - on
everything from compact disks to weight-responsive car
suspension systems - Kodama is revolutionary in
applying their widely dynamic qualities to the fine
arts arena.

Using a computer to manipulate electro-magnetic fields
in the sculptures, Kodama coerces her stunning
ferrfluid pieces to grow and disintegrate, flower and
shed, and constantly reinvent themselves without the
aid of animatronics or video wizardry.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Old Scool Dancing - Not So Old School With Daft Punk, eh?

Vitamin C Shows Promise as Cancer Treatment

New research with mice suggests that intravenous doses of vitamin C could one day reduce the size of cancerous tumors in people.

The findings are preliminary and still must be confirmed in humans. And even if the treatment works, it's not a cure but would likely be used in combination with other drugs, the researchers said.

Still, the research does show an unexpected use for vitamin C, which has previously been thought of as a nutrient, not a drug, said study co-author Dr. Mark Levine, chief of the U.S. National Institutes of Health's Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Section.

"There's potential promise that [vitamin C] is part of the armamentarium for treating some cancers," he said. "Which ones? We've got to do more and find out."

Vitamin C has long been one of the most respected of all vitamins, lauded for its supposed powers to treat many ills, from colds to heart disease. The late scientist Dr. Linus Pauling increased the vitamin's profile by touting it as a cancer treatment.

But getting heavy doses of vitamin C into the body is a challenge. Unlike some other vitamins, it's virtually impossible for people to overdose on vitamin C since the body only ingests a certain amount through the mouth and then stops allowing it to build up, Levine said. "The body wants to get to a certain place and no more," he said.
But Levine cautioned that the treatment isn't ready for prime time with humans. "Should patients with any kind of tumor go out and get IV ascorbate [vitamin C]? That's not the message here," he said.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Church Signs - Hopefully Not All Christians Are This Dumb

Not that all of these are completely dumb... but overall it doesn't bode well for Christianity.

More here.

Japanese Water Printer

Very cool!

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