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Topics - Kai

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Techmology and Scientism / Behold, our ancestors.
« on: October 13, 2008, 10:16:03 pm »

A community of the bacteria Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator has been discovered 2.8 kilometres beneath the surface of the Earth in fluid-filled cracks of the Mponeng goldmine in South Africa. Its 60C home is completely isolated from the rest of the world, and devoid of light and oxygen.

D. audaxviator gets its energy from the radioactive decay of uranium in the surrounding rocks. It has genes to extract carbon from dissolved carbon dioxide and other genes to fix nitrogen, which comes from the surrounding rocks. ... D. audaxviator has genes to produce all the amino acids it needs.  D. audaxviator can also protect itself from environmental hazards by forming endospores - tough shells that protect its DNA and RNA from drying out, toxic chemicals and from starvation. It has a flagellum to help it navigate.



I thought this organism was worth a second look it its own thread and a different context.

However, why oh WHY do people have to go on and on and on about seeding from outer space? I mean, sure it sounds cool, but isn't it so much cooler to contemplate how life might have arisen on our own planet, that this whole diversity is home grown and endemic? The nearest planets are dead lifeless rock, and even then, why is it more likely that life arose there rather than here? What is it about elsewhere that makes it seem so much more probable than right here on this planet, with so much water, low impact cosmic radiation and relatively happy temperatures? Furthermore, why is it so much more attractive?

I think its because people want to find "intelligent life" elsewhere. They want to be reassured that they we are not alone in this sector of the universe, or want to relive their childhood science fiction fantasies. Besides, saying life came from elsewhere doesn't help us understand how life arose, and unless you buy into a creator deity, it arose somewhere, sometime, somehow, and it arose spontaneously.

As fun as aliens may be sometimes, it is really really TRULY time to use Occam's Razor.

Now, back to the organism. Chemosynthetic, from URANIUM. Thats a new one. Chemosynthetic organisms that make use of sulfur are relatively common. Some of the most ancient of these (we suppose) are those living in deep sea vent environments, mostly because there is very little way that these could have gotten there if they had not arisen there in the first place. This bacteria is doing pretty well for its self too, with a flagellum and full ammino acid ability, plus, it can go cryptobiotic. Lots of bacteria have these abilities, but few have them in this combination, and none that I know of have these characters together, especially the whole Uranium radiation pathway.

So, we have two possible pathways for the metabolisms of the earliest bacteria now. Very cool.

A controversial concept called the electromagnetic drive, or Emdrive for short has been called impossible. But one company believes the concept is viable and has worked for several years on building demonstration models. The Emdrive is a reactionless propulsion system that supposedly generates thrust by converting electrical energy via microwaves. If it works it could provide an almost endless supply of thrust for satellites and possibly other spacecraft. But no detectable energy emanates from the device, and most scientists say the Emdrive violates the well-established principle of the conservation of momentum. Satellite Propulsion Research, Ltd. (SPR), the company working on the drive now says researchers from China have confirmed the theory behind the Emdrive, and they should have a trial engine ready to test by the end of this year.

Discordian Recipes / CURRY
« on: October 02, 2008, 11:35:28 pm »
I made curry this evening. It was SPECTACULAR.


Cumin seeds
half a vidalia onion
3 cloves of garlic
olive oil
chilli powder
coriander powder
Cayenne pepper
orange juice
chick peas
sweet corn


I fried up a handful of cumin seeds in olive oil first till they were brown, then added chopped onion and minced garlic. When these were clear and browned respectively, I threw in the coriander, cayenne, chilli, and tumeric, mixed that well, then added in the peas, corn, lentils and carrots. To make the stock, I used orange juice, but you could probably use anything you wanted, you just need a base to cook the vegetables in. After a while I added more spices to taste. Tumeric if you want it thicker, cayenne and chilli if you want it "hotter", and coriander and tumeric if you want it more earthy. Added water several times when there wasn't enough to soften the lentils. When everything was a nice consistancy, I served it over some long grain brown rice.

I definitely plan on making this again soon.

Literate Chaotic / Politics and the English Language by Orwell
« on: August 11, 2008, 05:59:03 pm »

Summary: Never use a fancy word when an simple one will do. This is not possible when you need to speak in scientific language with precision, but everywhere else it is useful.

As Vonnegut said, pity the reader.

Techmology and Scientism / Weekly Science Headlines
« on: July 30, 2008, 10:04:06 pm »
July 30, 2008

The Nature of Glass Remains Anything but Clear

from the New York Times (Registration Required)

It is well known that panes of stained glass in old European churches are thicker at the bottom because glass is a slow-moving liquid that flows downward over centuries.

Well known, but wrong. Medieval stained glass makers were simply unable to make perfectly flat panes, and the windows were just as unevenly thick when new.

The tale contains a grain of truth about glass resembling a liquid, however. The arrangement of atoms and molecules in glass is indistinguishable from that of a liquid. But how can a liquid be as strikingly hard as glass?

AIDS Deaths Down 10 Percent in 2007

from the Los Angeles Times (Registration Required)

The number of AIDS deaths worldwide dropped 10 percent in 2007 because of increasing access to treatment, as did the number of new infections in children, the United Nations reported today.

Condom use and prevention efforts increased in many countries and adolescent sex declined in some of the most heavily affected regions, the report says.

... Despite these gains, however, the overall number of new infections during the year remained constant at about 2.7 million, fueled by increases in countries including China, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Russia and Vietnam.

Canadian Arctic Sheds Ice Chunk

from BBC News Online

A large chunk of an Arctic ice shelf has broken free of the northern Canadian coast, scientists say.

Nearly 20 sq km (eight sq miles) of ice from the Ward Hunt shelf has split away from Ellesmere Island, according to satellite pictures. It is thought to be the biggest piece of ice shed in the region since 60 sq km of the nearby Ayles ice shelf broke away in 2005.

Scientists say further splitting could occur during the Arctic summer melt. The polar north is once again experiencing a rapid ice retreat this year, although many scientists doubt the record minimum extent of 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles) of sea-ice seen in 2007 will be beaten. 

When Play Becomes Work

from the Washington Post (Registration Required)

It happens all the time: Two guys in a garage come up with a cool new technology—and dream of making it big. A thousand people take time off work to campaign for a visionary politician because they feel they are doing something to change the world. A million kids hit baseballs—and wonder what it would take to become a pro.

Then the brainiacs, volunteers and Little Leaguers grow up. What they did for fun becomes ... work. Paychecks and bonuses become the reasons to do things. Pink slips and demotions become the reasons not to do other things.

Psychologists have long been interested in what happens when people's internal drives are replaced by external motivations. A host of experiments have shown that when threats and rewards enter the picture, they tend to destroy the inner drives.

Experimental Alzheimer's Drug Shows Early Promise

from USA Today

CHICAGO (Associated Press)—For the first time, an experimental drug shows promise for halting the progression of Alzheimer's disease by taking a new approach: breaking up the protein tangles that clog victims' brains.

The encouraging results from the drug called Rember, reported Tuesday at a medical conference in Chicago, electrified a field battered by recent setbacks. The drug was developed by Singapore-based TauRx Therapeutics.

Even if bigger, more rigorous studies show it works, Rember is still several years away from being available, and experts warned against overexuberance. But they were excited.

Ancient Ocean Cooling Sparked a Biodiversity Boom

from National Geographic News

More than 400 million years ago, Earth's dramatically warmer sea temperatures plummeted to almost present-day levels, opening the door for a boom in biodiversity, new research shows.

The cooler seas—which occurred during the Ordovician period—created a more hospitable environment for a range of species, researchers say.

The find might also foreshadow a biodiversity crisis if the planet continues to warm due to climate change.

Bees Help Police Close in on Serial Killers

from New Scientist

You might not think it, but bumblebees and serial killers have something in common: neither like to divulge their address and both tend to stay close to home. Now a study of the habits of one could be used to track down the other.

Geographical profiling (GP) is a technique used by the police to find serial offenders. The search is narrowed down using two common traits: most attacks happen fairly close to the perpetrator's home, but beyond a "buffer zone" that prevents the attacker being recognised or noticed by neighbours.

By mapping out the locations of crime scenes, police aim to identify the buffer zone and prioritise their search in this area.

Bracing the Satellite Infrastructure for a Solar Superstorm

from Scientific American

As night was falling across the Americas on Sunday, August 28, 1859, the phantom shapes of the auroras could already be seen overhead. From Maine to the tip of Florida, vivid curtains of light took the skies.

Startled Cubans saw the auroras directly overhead; ships' logs near the equator described crimson lights reaching halfway to the zenith. Many people thought their cities had caught fire. Scientific instruments around the world, patiently recording minute changes in Earth's magnetism, suddenly shot off scale, and spurious electric currents surged into the world's telegraph systems.

... The impact of the 1859 [solar] storm was muted only by the infancy of our technological civilization at that time. Were it to happen today, it could severely damage satellites, disable radio communications and cause continent-wide electrical blackouts that would require weeks or longer to recover from.

Statins 'May Cut Dementia Risk'

from BBC News Online

Scientists have found further evidence that taking commonly used cholesterol-lowering statins may protect against dementia and memory loss.

The study, published in Neurology, found that statins—normally taken to reduce heart disease risk—may cut the risk of dementia by half.

The five-year project examined 1,674 Mexican Americans aged 60 and over at heightened risk of dementia. The Alzheimer's Research Trust said the research is "encouraging."

The Web's Best 'Happy Birthday' Cards for NASA

from the Christian Science Monitor

NASA turned 50 yesterday. On July 29, 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower signed his name to the National Aeronautics and Space Act, creating the agency that brought man to the moon, satellites to distant planets, and landers to Mars.

No NASA milestone would be complete without tons of multimedia coverage.

So, to help ring in this golden jubilee, the Monitor has brought together some of the best multimedia NASA-birthday coverage from across the web.

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