31 Mar 2010


BOINC stands for Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. For scientists it allows data intensive projects to be distributed to volunteers who allow access to their idle computing time. For you, the volunteer, it means participating in scientific research on astronomy, medicine, global warming and even searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. All you need to do is sign up, download the software and it operates behind the scenes using up spare computing capacity when you're busy doing something else.

Cool or what!!

Brain Stimulation Can Alter Our Moral Judgments, Research Suggests

A team of neuroscientists claim it is possible to influence people's moral judgments by disrupting a specific brain region called the the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ).

The study offers "striking evidence" that the right TPJ, located at the brain's surface above and behind the right ear, is critical for making moral judgments, the authors say.

Previous studies have shown that the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) is highly active when we think about other people's intentions, thoughts and beliefs. In the new study, researchers disrupted activity in the right TPJ by inducing a current in the brain using a magnetic field applied to the scalp. They found that the subjects' ability to make moral judgments that require an understanding of other people's intentions — for example, a failed murder attempt — was impaired.

Brain Stimulation Can Alter Our Moral Judgments, Study Suggests

"You think of morality as being a really high-level behavior," says lead author Liane Young, a postdoctoral associate in MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. "To be able to apply (a magnetic field) to a specific brain region and change people's moral judgments is really astonishing."

Actually, I am far less surprised than the researcher. Our brain is not just a network of neurons, it is also a complex electromagnetic system. I don't know how long it will take for this idea to really sink in - I guess slowly... but surely.

28 Mar 2010

Is Religion Natural? ESSSAT Conference


The European Society for the Study of Science And Theology (ESSSAT)
& The Science Religion Forum (SRF)
present the
XIIIth European Conference on Science and Theology, Edinburgh, UK,
April 7-11, 2010

The conference is hosted by The School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

Under the title Is Religion Natural?, this conference will explore the drives underlying the religious attitude of mind. In five invited lectures, theologians from different backgrounds, and scientific researchers at the forefront of 21st century studies of the religious mind, will jointly engage with that question. Justin Barrett (Cognitive Psychology, Oxford), author of Why would anyone believe in God?, and Ilkka Pyysiäinen (Comparative Religion, Helsinki), author of Magic, Miracles and Religion and How Religion Works, will present cutting-edge scientific viewpoints on the nature of religious thinking. Mona Siddiqui (Islamic Studies, Glasgow) (How to Read the Qur’an) and Christoph Schwöbel (Systematic Theology, Tübingen) (God: Action and Revelation and Persons, Divine and Human, together with several books in German) will consider the conference theme from their contrasting theological perspectives. And Lluis Oviedo (Theological Anthropology, Rome), whose writings in Spanish and Italian include La fe cristiana ante los nuevos desafios sociales ("Christian Faith confronting the New Social Challenges"), will ask whether - or in what way - it is appropriate to try to naturalise religion. There will also be ample opportunity during the meeting for the presentation of short papers by conference participants.

Biologist And Former Dominican Wins £1 Million Templeton Prize For Science And Religion

"Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist who has vigorously opposed the entanglement of science and religion while also calling for mutual respect between the two, has won the 2010 Templeton Prize." Yet again the prize has gone to a scientist who says nice things about religion.

In a statement prepared for the news conference, Ayala forcefully denied that science contradicts religion. “If they are properly understood,” he said, “they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters, and each is essential to human understanding.” Referring to Picasso’s Guernica, he noted that while science can assess the painting’s massive dimensions and pigments, only a spiritual view imparts the horror of the subject matter. Together, he explained, these two separate analyses reveal the totality of the masterpiece."

This all harks back to the fragile idea of non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) as espoused by Stephen Jay Gould. If science and religion really did not overlap then we wouldn't even be discussing this topic. For religious (or even scientific) apologists to claim that the two magisteria ask different questions is merely a linguistic sleight of hand - at least Aquinas was more consistent, if doubly wrong. Alaya's work defending the teaching of evolution can be commended without agreeing with his overall vision.

Another scientist gets £1 million for saying nice things about religion. read the whole article...

Biologist And Former Dominican Wins £1 Million Templeton Prize For Science And Religion


26 Mar 2010

WikiLeaks Editorial - US must stop spying on us!

The editorial below is on the current homepage of WikiLeaks but has no other URL so may be taken down at some point in the future. Please go to WikiLeaks for any further updates.

EDITORIAL:U.S. must stop spying on WikiLeaks

Fri Mar 26 08:44:46 UTC 2010

Over the last few years, WikiLeaks has been the subject of hostile acts by security organizations. In the developing world, these range from the appalling assassination of two related human rights lawyers in Nairobi last March (an armed attack on my compound there in 2007 is still unattributed) to an unsuccessful mass attack by Chinese computers on our servers in Stockholm, after we published photos of murders in Tibet. In the West this has ranged from the overt, the head of Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, threatening to prosecute us unless we removed a report on CIA activity in Kosovo, to the covert, to an ambush by a "James Bond" character in a Luxembourg car park, an event that ended with a mere "we think it would be in your interest to...".

Developing world violence aside, we've become used to the level of security service interest in us and have established procedures to ignore that interest.

But the increase in surveillance activities this last month, in a time when we are barely publishing due to fundraising, are excessive. Some of the new interest is related to a film exposing a U.S. massacre we will release at the U.S. National Press Club on April 5.

The spying includes attempted covert following, photographng, filming and the overt detention & questioning of a WikiLeaks' volunteer in Iceland on Monday night.

I, and others were in Iceland to advise Icelandic parliamentarians on the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, a new package of laws designed to protect investigative journalists and internet services from spying and censorship. As such, the spying has an extra poignancy.

The possible triggers:

  • our ongoing work on a classified film revealing civilian casualties occurring under the command of the U.S, general, David Petraeus.
  • our release of a classified 32 page US intelligence report on how to fatally marginalize WikiLeaks (expose our sources, destroy our reputation for integrity, hack us).
  • our release of a classified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik reporting on contact between the U.S. and the U.K. over billions of euros in claimed loan guarantees.
  • pending releases related to the collapse of the Icelandic banks and Icelandic "oligarchs".

We have discovered half a dozen attempts at covert surveillance in Reykjavik both by native English speakers and Icelanders. On the occasions where these individuals were approached, they ran away. One had marked police equipment and the license plates for another suspicious vehicle track back to the Icelandic private VIP bodyguard firm Terr. What does that mean? We don't know. But as you will see, other events are clear.

U.S. sources told Icelandic state media's deputy head of news, that the State Department was aggressively investigating a leak from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik. I was seen at a private U.S Embassy party at the Ambassador's residence, late last year and it is known I had contact with Embassay staff, after.

On Thursday March 18, 2010, I took the 2.15 PM flight out of Reykjavik to Copenhagen--on the way to speak at the SKUP investigative journalism conference in Norway. After receiving a tip, we obtained airline records for the flght concerned. Two individuals, recorded as brandishing diplomatic credentials checked in for my flight at 12:03 and 12:06 under the name of "US State Department". The two are not recorded as having any luggage.

Iceland doesn't have a separate security service. It folds its intelligence function into its police forces, leading to an uneasy overlap of policing and intelligence functions and values.

On Monday 22, March, at approximately 8.30pm, a WikiLeaks volunteer, a minor, was detained by Icelandic police on a wholly insignificant matter. Police then took the opportunity to hold the youth over night, without charge--a highly unusual act in Iceland. The next day, during the course of interrogation, the volunteer was shown covert photos of me outside the Reykjavik restaurant "Icelandic Fish & Chips", where a WikiLeaks production meeting took place on Wednesday March 17--the day before individuals operating under the name of the U.S. State Department boarded my flight to Copenhagen.

Our production meeting used a discreet, closed, backroom, because we were working on the analysis of a classified U.S. military video showing civilian kills by U.S. pilots. During the interrogation, a specific reference was made by police to the video---which could not have been understood from that day's exterior surveillance alone. Another specific reference was made to "important", but unnamed Icelandic figures. References were also made to the names of two senior journalists at the production meeting.

Who are the Icelandic security services loyal to in their values? The new government of April 2009, the old pro-Iraq war government of the Independence party, or perhaps to their personal relationships with peers from another country who have them on a permanment intelligence information drip?

Only a few years ago, Icelandic airspace was used for CIA rendition flights. Why did the CIA think that this was acceptable? In a classified U.S. profile on the former Icelandic Ambassador to the United States, obtained by WikiLeaks, the Ambassador is praised for helping to quell publicity of the CIA's activities.

Often when a bold new government arises, bureaucratic institutions remain loyal to the old regime and it can take time to change the guard. Former regime loyalists must be discovered, dissuaded and removed. But for the security services, that first vital step, discovery, is awry. Congenitally scared of the light, such services hide their activities; if it is not known what security services are doing, then it is surely impossible to know who they are doing it for.

Our plans to release the video on April 5 proceed.

We have asked relevant authorities in the Unites States and Iceland to explain. If these countries are to be treated as legitmate states, they need to start obeying the rule of law. Now.

Sciencewise UK

The Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre for Public Dialogue In Science and Innovation (ERC) is funded by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS). It aims to help policy makers commission and use public dialogue to inform policy decisions in emerging areas of science and technology.

It consists of a comprehensive online resource of information, advice and guidance together with a wide range of support services aimed at policy makers and all the different stakeholders involved in science and technology policy making, including the public.

The Sciencewise-ERC also provides co-funding to Government departments and agencies to develop and commission public dialogue activities.

To find out in more detail about the Sciencewise-ERC and Public Dialogue please read The Government’s Approach to Public Dialogue on Science and Technology (Guiding Principles).


The GovSpeak may be less than sexy but if you're in the UK and involved in science communication then there may be some work or money or free resources available.

25 Mar 2010

A Quarter of Republicans Think Obama is the Anti-Christ

Americans have some extreme views of President Obama, with a new controversial survey suggesting that 40 percent of adults believe he is a socialist, and about a quarter of survey participants thinking the president is a racist, anti-American and even doing things Hitler did.

The whammy: 14 percent of Americans say President Barack Obama may be the Antichrist. When split by political party, 24 percent of Republicans and 6 percent of Democrats viewed the nation's leader in this way.


At some point, one has to stop being astonished, but even then, are these people a different species?

24 Mar 2010

How is the Date for Easter Calculated? An Amusing Look at the Science.

Yeah, I know, it's coming round to Easter time, and Passover. This is the story of how the two are linked and how the ecclesiastical calendar is a fiction used to keep control over the biggest mystery of all: how is the date of Easter calculated?! This is mathematics in the service of obscurantist theology. Even if you don't care about Easter, enjoy this tongue-in-cheek look at the history of calendars.

How is the date for Easter calculated?

Why Men Show Off in Front of Attractive Women

Scientists in Australia have discovered that men do foolish things in the presence of attractive women. It's truly amazing the kind of research that gets funding. Before you consign this to the "tell me the obvious" dustbin, just bear with me, there's a neat video at the end that I'm sure you'll love.

Hey, if anybody wants to get lots of papers published just go into the social sciences!

Why Men Show Off in Front of Attractive Women

22 Mar 2010

Your Religion is False - BIL2009 Video

About the Talk
In a humorous talk at BIL2009, Joel takes on the lofty goal of proving every religion false individually.

About the Presenter
According to his blog, “If you want to get technical, Joel Grus is actually an aspiring author, an aspiring speaker, and an aspiring provocateur. He is, however, an accomplished jerk. Joel lives in Seattle. He has no hobbies.”

Your Religion is False.

From BIL: like TED, but BIL.

Force Field Developed to Protect Armoured Vehicles

A space-age "force field" capable of protecting armoured vehicles and tanks by repelling incoming fire is being developed by British military scientists. The new type of armour will use pulses of electrical energy to repel rockets, shrapnel and other ammunition that might damage a vehicle.

Researchers at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), which is the research and development arm of the Ministry of Defence, claim it is possible to incorporate material known as supercapacitors into the armour of a vehicle to turn it into a kind of giant battery.

Sophisticated tracking systems will also need to be developed to work in conjunction with the new armour so that incoming threats can be identified and the electrical discharge timed correctly to repel the rocket. But on the plus side this will mean a much lighter vehicle meaning improved speed and manoeuvrability.

20 Mar 2010

Dalai Lama to Visit University of Wisconsin-Madison Neurolab 15-16 May - Free Tickets Available

The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Waisman Center will welcome His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to its public grand-opening celebration Saturday-Sunday, May 15-16.

The Dalai Lama will join Davidson in a public dialogue at 2:15 p.m. on Sunday, May 16, at Madison's Overture Center for the Arts. Daniel Goleman, best-selling author of "Emotional Intelligence" and "Ecological Intelligence" will moderate the conversation, "Investigating Healthy Minds." Gov. Jim Doyle will deliver opening remarks, followed by a special musical performance by Madison Youth Choirs.

Free tickets available soon.

Dalai Lama to Visit University of Wisconsin-Madison Neurolab 15-16 May.

18 Mar 2010

Meditation and Healthy Minds, a Podcast with Richard Davidson

Richard J. Davidson is the William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, Director of the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior, the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience and the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This is an interview of Richard Davidson on Shrink Rap Radio with David Van Nuys, discussing his research on meditation and the brain. Davidson tells that his research shows that meditation has a beneficial effects on the mind and quantitative effects on brain functions. Even novice meditators show immediate changes, with experienced long term meditators showing more pronounced changes. One thing he has noticed is that, given each individual starts with a slightly different brain structure, different meditation techniques have varying degrees of effects. One thing he would like to see in the future is a way to establish which technique is most suitable for each individual, without having to go through a trial and error phase.

His overall conclusion is that the brain is plastic, and therefore changes according to our experiences, and it is therefore up to each of us to ensure that we change ourselves in a positive way rather than leaving it to the vagaries of external experiences.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Can The Internet Really Win The Nobel Peace Prize?

Nominations for this year's Nobel Peace Prize have closed and, amongst a record 237 nomination, it includes "The Internet". All of it, apparently! Every computer, every server, every router that is part of the global phenomenon that is the Internet. But can it win?

 Can The Internet Really Win The Nobel Peace Prize?

CERN Liquid Containment Unit Leaks on Camera

One of CERN's liquid containment units - a coffee mug - is shown to leak profusely when an attempt is made to put it into commission. A hapless pair of PR gurus bought their mugs at CERN's gift shop and only discovered the faulty design once it was tested back home. Mercifully, CERN does not currently have an online shop so this isolated accident should not alarm the rest of the public.

Watch the video...

A Problem in the Philosophy of Neuroscience: Introspection

Neuroscience has a problem. It may appear to be a mere philosophical problem but has practical implications for the broader philosophy of science and the scientific method.

One of the big projects is the correlation between states of the brain and states of mind. It isn't the only project but it is an important one. On one side of the equation we have a battery of biological, chemical and physical data regarding neurological activity at the level of the neuron and brain plus possibly other physiological processes. This domain poses few problems in producing data that is acceptable as employing a scientific method. On the other side of this correlation we have what can variously be called states of mind, states of consciousness, cognitive experiences or just plain experiences. And more often than not, the only access the neuroscientist has to such experiences is to ask the person. Introspection is back as a scientific method!

A Problem in the Philosophy of Neuroscience: Introspection

17 Mar 2010

Welcome to the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

Welcome to the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

I know, this sounds like a New Age flake factory... but it isn't.

Located within the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we are a research Center dedicated to creating a world in which healthy qualities of mind flourish. The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, through hard-nosed basic and translational scientific research, will help to pave the way toward more widespread incorporation of methods and practices to nourish positive qualities of mind throughout society. The work and research of this Center are at the forefront of the scientific and scholarly communities, and have led to the development of a new hybrid discipline – contemplative neuroscience. In a global era where individuals, communities and the world are reconnecting with the pursuit of happiness, well-being and contentment and seeking innovative and mindful solutions to achieve it, the Center offers facts about interventions and methods grounded both in research and the wisdom of contemplative traditions.

They even have Einstein sounding like Gautama Buddha.

"A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
- Albert Einstein, 1921

The director, Richard Davidson, has already done research on the brainwaves of Tibetan monks in meditation, so will be interesting to see what they do next.

16 Mar 2010

How Brainwaves and Neurons Interact

This is a controversial issue, but some light is starting to be shone in this direction. Many neuroscientists assume that the electric fields generated by neurons are too weak to have any effect on their neighbours. However, recent research (Radman et al., 2007) has shown that weak electric fields (<5 V/m) within a broad spectrum of operating brain frequencies affect the firing properties of individual neurons. The researchers show that the nonlinear properties of an individual neuron can 'amplify' the effects of such small fields, effectively 'resonating' with the extracellular field. [...]

The researchers are thus fully aware of the importance of their findings in that they provide a framework within which others can develop neuro-therapies, as well as for researchers looking at the effects of environmental electromagnetic radiation. Add to that the not insignificant contribution to how the brain really functions! So much so that an open letter is appended to the research paper by David M. Alexander, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Japan. "As reported by Massimini et al. (2004), slow-wave sleep EEG has been shown to take the form of a global spatio-temporal wave. Such waves are able to act as an 'external' source of electric fields to individual minicolumns in the cortex. There is now sufficient evidence to outline the case that large-scale electrical field dynamics do indeed play a causal role in brain activity, and to propose confirmatory experiments." The letter is also interesting in that it lists other papers that add weight to the Radman experiments, one paper going all the way back to 1984. Alexander sounds like a converted skeptic as he also quotes:"our [Radman et al.] results challenge the common view that extracellular slow potential oscillations represent mere epiphenomena without physiological significance per se."

Is This How Brain Waves And Neurons Create Consciousness?

10 Mar 2010

God Help Me, Say 82% Of Americans

Most Americans believe God is concerned with their personal well-being and is directly involved in their personal affairs, according to new research out of the University of Toronto.

Overall, most people believe that God is highly influential in the events and outcomes in their lives. Specifically:

82 per cent say they depend on God for help and guidance in making decisions;

71 per cent believe that when good or bad things happen, these occurrences are simply part of God's plan for them;

61 per cent believe that God has determined the direction and course of their lives;

Ok, that's enough depressing statistics, you can read the whole article here.

TGI Pi Day! Irrational Exuberance All Round

March 14 is Pi Day and it's also Albert Einstein's birth day, so a double celebration for geeks around the world!

But hold on, why March 14th? Well, the people at the Exploratorium obviously figured out that written out as numbers this date becomes 3-14, which are the first three digits in the decimal expansion of pi (3.14...) However, they are lucky to be Americans because this makes no sense whatsoever to most of the rest of humanity! In America, they like to write their dates as month-day-year whereas most of the planet use the seemingly more rational "little endian" form day-month-year. So irrationality really does triumph on Pi Day!

Read the whole article: Irrational Exuberance - Thank Goodness It's Pi Day!

If you haven't already then do watch Pi the movie.

HAARP: A Case Study in Ultra-Modern Warfare

Recent advances in geophysical research, communication, and computerization have led to substantial technological changes in military weaponry. Under the rubric of national security, the U.S, military is utilizing this technology to strengthen control over its spheres of influence. Included in this endeavor is a proposed "revolution in military affairs" driven by a belief that while conventional armed warfare is still a necessary component of military strategy, a compelling new priority is how to quell insurgencies, terrorist attacks, and social unrest overseas and at home. 

One example of this new technology is the U.S. Air Force and Navy's development of HAARP, a 'High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program' under construction in Gakona, Alaska. The major component of HAARP is a radio wave transmitter utilizing powerful high frequency (HF) transmissions and a variety of associated observational instruments "...to investigate naturally occurring and artifically induced ionospheric processes that support, enhance, or degrade the propagation of radio waves." Scheduled to b e completed in approximately five years, HAARP is presently running at about ten percent of projected power levels. 

In a 1993 Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] addressing possible environmental impacts of HAARP, the Air Force indicated that the study of the ionosphere was being initiated "...to better understand and use it to enhance communications and surveilla nce systems for both civil and defense purposes." 


However, this doesn't come from a conspiracy website, but is the introduction to a university course, HAARP: A Case Study in Ultra-Modern Warfare. Has some interesting links plus a way to think about the problem in a rational way that can bring in more of the public without them feeling it is all too outlandish to be true.

9 Mar 2010

Science Cryptic Crosswords - First Puzzle Now Online

The Science Cryptic Crossword site SCICX has just launched and has its first crossword online, numbered SCX1. these are cryptic crosswords, not science general knowledge quiz-type questions, rather more along the lines of The Times. This means it should appeal to both the scientifically literate as well as crossword addicts. The online version of the crosswords are there only for show, to print out a nice copy they are also available as pdf files. SCX1 is available here. There's also a prize draw for completed crosswords sent in - closing date 8 April.

8 Mar 2010

The International Society of the Arts, Mathematics, and Architecture

ISAMA was founded by Nat Friedman, in order to further interdisciplinary education relating the arts, mathematics, and architecture.

To learn the latest about Math and Art, read HYPERSEEING. Published monthly by ISAMA since fall 2006, HYPERSEEING offers a lively mix of articles, news, reviews of books and exhibits, announcements, and even cartoons.

Most summers, ISAMA runs an interdisciplinary conference on the arts, mathematics and architecture. ISAMA 2010 will be held 21–25 June; in Chicago, IL, USA.

VideoLectures.Net - Online Science Lectures

VideoLectures.NET is a free and open access educational video lectures repository. The lectures are given by distinguished scholars and scientists at the most important and prominent events like conferences, summer schools, workshops and science promotional events from many fields of Science. The portal is aimed at promoting science, exchanging ideas and fostering knowledge sharing by providing high quality didactic contents not only to a scientific community but also to a general public. All lectures, accompanying documents, information and links are systematically selected and classified through the editorial process taking into account also users' comments.

VideoLectures.NET is being used as an educational platform for several EU funded research projects such as PASCAL NoE, ECOLEAD NoE, SEKT IP and different organizations among others MIT OpenCourseWare and CERN. The range of countries involved and languages used varies from Europe, USA, Taiwan, Australia, Ukraine, Russia and Brazil.

7 Mar 2010

Science, Magic and Religion Videos

Professor Courtenay Raia, from UCLA, lectures on science and religion as historical phenomena that have developed over time. She examines the earlier mind-set before 1700 when into science fitted elements that came eventually to be thought as magical. The course also looks at how Western cosmologies became "disenchanted." Magical tradition transformed into modern mysticisms is also analysed as well as the political implications of these movements. Includes discussion regarding science in totalitarian settings as well as "big science" during the Cold War.

Science, Magic and Religion

6 Mar 2010

Life in Deep Space? Organic Molecules Found in the Orion Nebula

ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory has revealed the chemical fingerprints of potential life-enabling organic molecules in the Orion Nebula, a nearby stellar nursery in our Milky Way galaxy. This detailed spectrum, obtained with the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI) - one of Herschel's three innovative instruments - demonstrates the gold mine of information that Herschel-HIFI will provide on how organic molecules form in space.

among the organic molecules identified in this spectrum are water, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, methanol, dimethyl ether, hydrogen cyanide, sulphur oxide, sulphur dioxide and their isotope analogues. It is expected that new molecules will also be identified. This spectrum is the first glimpse at the spectral richness of regions of star and planet formation. It harbours the promise of a deep understanding of the chemistry of space once the complete spectral surveys are available.

Life in Deep Space? Organic Molecules Found in the Orion Nebula

Citizen Scientist Discovers $300m Space Dust

Most people think that science is done behind closed doors with expensive equipment, fiddling around with complicated technology by scientists wearing cheap lab coats. The rest of us merely stand on the outside waiting for some interesting discoveries to be made. Well, although the caricature is partly true there are many experiments where the amount of data is so huge that the research teams have enlisted the help of citizen scientists.

Bruce Hudson, from Ontario in Canada, is just such a citizen scientist and he has discovered what scientists believe is the first piece of interstellar dust that was captured by NASA's Stardust spacecraft. Stardust@home is a website where anybody in the world can help find these particles of stardust, with some 27,000 people having already joined. The prize is that you get to name the particle. Bruce Hudson named the previously boring “particle 30” as Orion. “So far this particle is unique... if we drop it on the floor, it will cost $300m to get another one.” says a nervous Dr Andrew Westphal, from the University of California, Berkeley.

Read the whole article at Xomba.

Depression Diagnosis Criteria Flawed

A study in the March edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry senior-authored by Jerome C. Wakefield, a professor at the Silver School of Social Work at New York University with Mark Schmitz of Temple University and Judith Baer of Rutgers University, empirically challenges the effectiveness of psychiatrists' official diagnostic manual in preventing mistaken, false-positive diagnoses of depression. The findings concerning the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders' (DSM) criteria for diagnosing depression rebuts recent criticism of earlier research by Wakefield. That earlier research suggested that misdiagnoses of depression are widespread, and touched off considerable controversy.

According to the DSM, the diagnosis of major depression requires the presence – for two weeks – of at least five possible symptoms out of a list of nine, which include, for example, sadness, loss of interest in usual activities, lowered appetite, fatigue, and insomnia. However, these symptoms can also occur in normal responses to loss and stress. False positive diagnoses occur when someone reacting with intense normal sadness to life's stresses is misdiagnosed as having major depressive disorder. Recent studies suggest that a very large percentage of people have such symptoms for two weeks or longer at some point in their lives; therefore, how many of these individuals really are afflicted by a mental disorder or are responding within normal limits to loss or stress has been a matter of debate. [ESN]

5 Mar 2010

Sexsomnia: A Sleep Disorder With Sexual Behaviour

Sexsomnia is a sleeping disorder in which a person indulges in sexual activity, either with themself or another person while still sleeping - it is also sometimes known as "sleep sex" or "sexual behaviour in sleep" (SBS). Like sleep-eating, the person is utterly unconscious of what they are doing. This can be startling for both the sexsomniac and their partner! Why has this been kept under the covers for so long? How would you know if you suffered from this sleep disorder? And is there a remedy?


4 Mar 2010

Vaccine for mesothelioma proven safe

Researchers have demonstrated the safety of a potential vaccine against mesothelioma, a rare cancer associated primarily with asbestos exposure. The vaccine, which infuses uses a patient's own dendritic cells (DC) with antigen from the patient's tumor, was able to induce a T-cell response against mesothelioma tumors.

"[This] is the first human study on DC-based immunotherapy in patients with mesothelioma," wrote Joachim G Aerts M.D., Ph.D., a pulmonary physician at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands.
The findings have been published online ahead of print publication in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The U.S. and other developed countries have prohibited the use of asbestos for decades, but the time between asbestos exposure and diagnosis of mesothelioma can up to 50 years. The incidence of mesothelioma, therefore, is still on the rise and expected to continue to increase until 2020. Once diagnosed, mesothelioma has a median survival time of 12 months. The standard chemotherapeutic treatment only improves survival time by about three months.
"The major problem in mesothelioma is that the immunosuppressive environment caused by the tumor will negatively influence our therapy so we are now working on a method to lower this immunosuppressive environment," said Dr. Aerts. "We hope that by further development of our method it will be possible to increase survival in patients with mesothelioma and eventually vaccinate persons who have been in contact with asbestos to prevent them from getting asbestos related diseases." [ScienceCodex]

HAARP, Earthquakes, and Hurricanes

Can HAARP manipulate storms, hurricanes, and earthquakes? There is definitely a correlation between these and when HAARP is active. This article will give some examples of that correlation. And while that alone does not prove a direct causal relationship, the physics of HAARP and the political agenda behind the program suggest that weather and earthquake manipulation is both possible and likely.

I assume everyone reading this knows of HAARP. Less known is that HAARP is only one of several such facilities — and not the most powerful one either. There are others, here are five:
1) Mu Radar – 1 megawatt facility in Japan (34°51'14.80"N 136° 6'19.45"E).
2) Arecibo Observatory – 2 megawatt facility in Puerto Rico (18°20'38.97"N 66°45'9.77"W).
3) HIPAS – 70 megawatt facility east of Fairbanks, Alaska (64°52'21.18"N 146°50'18.78"W).
4) Sura – 190 megawatt facility in central Russia (56° 7'10.32"N 46° 2'4.41"E).
5) EISCAT – 1 gigawatt facility in Tromsø, Northern Norway (69°35'1.06"N 19°12'57.11"E).
(you can copy and paste the coordinates into google maps)
Read the whole article at Montalk.

A good article with a level-headed look at the data. Everyone has the same problem of trying to fathom events from the official data stream from the official HAARP facility. What would be really useful is some independent receiving device capable of monitoring these signals.

2 Mar 2010

Evolution is a tit-for-tat game: proof

The team observed viruses as they evolved over hundreds of generations to infect bacteria. They found that when the bacteria could evolve defences, the viruses evolved at a quicker rate and generated greater diversity, compared to situations where the bacteria were unable to adapt to the viral infection. The study shows, for the first time, that the American evolutionary biologist Leigh Van Valen was correct in his 'Red Queen Hypothesis'. The theory, first put forward in the 1970s, was named after a passage in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass in which the Red Queen tells Alice, 'It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place'. This suggested that species were in a constant race for survival and have to continue to evolve new ways of defending themselves throughout time. [ESN]

Evolution is a tit-for-tat game. How comforting. Obviously into their game theory, the researchers then want to look at what happens in symbiotic relationships rather than pure predator-prey.

1 Mar 2010

Chile Earthquake and Tsunami - Some Science Videos

Some interesting videos about the earthquake in Chile, just to understand a bit of science.

The first one shows how shockwaves propagate from the epicentre in Chile to the monitoring station at the University of Portland, OR.

This second animations shows the propagation of the tsunami wave across the Pacific... and why in the end the waves were not dangerous to inhabited areas.

And finally, a time-lapse video taken in Hawaii showing the attenuated tsunami. One thing everybody should know by now is that the initial warning of a tsunami arriving is that the water flows away from the beach first.

Why So Many Earthquakes This Decade?

While Haiti is still sorting out the chaos from its January earthquake, the Earth suffers another massive quake in Chile. At a magnitude of 8.8 on the Richter scale this is one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. Concerns about a tsunami spreading across the Pacific have abated and the Chilean authorities claim they have the resources to handle the catastrophe.

Why are we having so many earthquakes recently? Is it just that the media likes to report dramatic and tragic events, or has there been a quantitative increase? The graph from USGS tells a worrying story.

Why So Many Earthquakes This Decade?

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