30 November 2009

Liberated ClimateGate Emails Change Minds

An opinion columnist at The Atlantic, Clive Crook, first dismissed the ClimateGate controversy as irrelevant. Then, he read the emails. An honest, thoughtful reading of the files made all the difference between a climate zombie, and a person with an open mind.
In my previous post on Climategate I blithely said that nothing in the climate science email dump surprised me much. Having waded more deeply over the weekend I take that back.

The closed-mindedness of these supposed men of science, their willingness to go to any lengths to defend a preconceived message, is surprising even to me. The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering. And, as Christopher Booker argues, this scandal is not at the margins of the politicised IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] process. It is not tangential to the policy prescriptions emanating from what David Henderson called the environmental policy milieu [subscription required]. It goes to the core of that process.

One theme, in addition to those already mentioned about the suppression of dissent, the suppression of data and methods, and the suppression of the unvarnished truth, comes through especially strongly: plain statistical incompetence. This is something that Henderson's study raised, and it was also emphasised in the Wegman report on the Hockey Stick, and in other independent studies of the Hockey Stick controversy. Of course it is also an ongoing issue in Steve McIntyre's campaign to get hold of data and methods. Nonetheless I had given it insufficient weight. Climate scientists lean very heavily on statistical methods, but they are not necessarily statisticians. Some of the correspondents in these emails appear to be out of their depth. This would explain their anxiety about having statisticians, rather than their climate-science buddies, crawl over their work.

I'm also surprised by the IPCC's response. Amid the self-justification, I had hoped for a word of apology, or even of censure. (George Monbiot called for Phil Jones to resign, for crying out loud.) At any rate I had expected no more than ordinary evasion. The declaration from Rajendra Pachauri that the emails confirm all is as it should be is stunning. Science at its best. Science as it should be. Good lord. This is pure George Orwell. And these guys call the other side "deniers".

While I'm listing surprises, let me note how disappointed I was by The Economist's coverage of all this. "Leaked emails do not show climate scientists at their best," it observes. No indeed. I should say I worked at the magazine for years, admire it as much as ever, and rely on the science coverage especially. But I was baffled by its reaction to the scandal. "Little wonder that the scientists are looking tribal and jumpy, and that sceptics have leapt so eagerly on such tiny scraps as proof of a conspiracy," its report concludes. Tiny scraps? I detest anti-scientific thinking as much as The Economist does. I admire expertise, and scientific expertise especially; like any intelligent citizen I am willing to defer to it. But that puts a great obligation on science. The people whose instinct is to respect and admire science should be the ones most disturbed by these revelations. The scientists have let them down, and made the anti-science crowd look wise. That is outrageous.

Megan McArdle adopts a world-weary tone similar to The Economist's: this is how science is done in the real world. If I were a scientist, I would resent that. _CliveCrook
In order for a person to change his mind, he must first have a mind to change. Clive Crook still has a mind capable of changing. But that may not be true for all the climate zombies and Obama zombies of the world. If you know a zombie, please do not try to change his mind. Instead, treat him kindly -- like any demented person who is not an immediate danger to himself or others -- and find ways of negating the zombie's deleterious influence on your world.

Of course, if the zombie is an immediate danger to you, it must be put down hard. Always aim for the head.

H/T Tom Nelson


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Male and Female Brains, and Other Brain Stuff

In the face of danger, male brains focus on the need for action, whereas female brains focus on their own emotional response to danger, say Polish researchers.
For the study, Dr. Urbanik and colleagues recruited 40 right-handed volunteers, 21 men and 19 women, between the ages of 18 and 36. The volunteers underwent fMRI while viewing pictures from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS), a widely used, standardized testing system comprised of several thousand slides of various objects and images from ordinary life designed to evoke defined emotional states. The images were displayed in two runs. For the first run, only negative pictures were shown. For the second run, only positive pictures were shown.

While viewing the negative images, women showed decidedly stronger and more extensive activation in the left thalamus, which relays sensory information to and from the cerebral cortex, including the pain and pleasure centers. Men exhibited more activation in the left insula, which gauges the physiological state of the entire body and then generates subjective feelings that can bring about actions. Information from the insula is relayed to other brain structures involved in decision making.

"The brain activation seen in the women might indicate stronger involvement of the neural circuit, which is associated with identification of emotional stimuli," Dr. Urbanik said. "The more pronounced activation of the insular cortex in the men might be related to the autonomic components, such as elevated heart rate or increased sweating, that accompany watching emotional material."

The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary functions, including respiration, heart rate and digestion, and helps to adjust certain functions in response to stress or other environmental stimuli. It is responsible for the body's "fight or flight" response to threatening situations.

"In men, the negative images on the slides were more potent in driving their autonomic system," Dr. Urbanik said. "This might signal that when confronted with dangerous situations, men are more likely than women to take action." _SD
Once you learn to ride a bike, you are not likely to forget how. Motor learning is profound and lasting -- and fast. It has been found by UC Santa Cruz researchers that new synapse formation begins to occur within 1 hour of initiation of training for motor skills.
"We found very quick and robust synapse formation almost immediately, within one hour of the start of training," said Yi Zuo, assistant professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology at UCSC.

Zuo's team observed the formation of structures called "dendritic spines" that grow on pyramidal neurons in the motor cortex. The dendritic spines form synapses with other nerve cells. At those synapses, the pyramidal neurons receive input from other brain regions involved in motor memories and muscle movements. The researchers found that growth of new dendritic spines was followed by selective elimination of pre-existing spines, so that the overall density of spines returned to the original level. _SD

Want to grow new brain cells? You need to eat the right foods, among other necessary changes. Barcelona researchers have found that an "LMN" diet prompts mouse brains to grow new stem cells leading to the production of new neurons of various types.
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) researchers have confirmed that a diet rich in polyphenols and polyunsaturated fatty acids, patented as an LMN diet, helps boost the production of the brain's stem cells -neurogenesis- and strengthens their differentiation in different types of neuron cells.

The research revealed that mice fed an LMN diet, when compared to those fed a control diet, have more cell proliferation in the two areas of the brain where neurogenesis is produced, the olfactory bulb and the hippocampus, both of which are greatly damaged in patients with Alzheimer's disease. These results give support to the hypothesis that a diet made up of foods rich in these antioxidant substances could delay the onset of this disease or even slow down its evolution. _SD
Early intervention in autism may increase the child's IQ and social skills. University of Washington researchers claim that their intervention in 18 to 30 month old toddlers improved the IQ of children an average of 18 points.
The children were separated into two groups, one that received 20 hours a week of the intervention – two two-hour sessions five days a week – from UW specialists. They also received five hours a week of parent-delivered therapy. Children in the second group were referred to community-based programs for therapy. Both groups' progress was monitored by UW researchers. At the beginning of the study there was no substantial difference in functioning between the two groups.

At the conclusion of the study, the IQs of the children in the intervention group had improved by an average of approximately 18 points, compared to a little more than four points in the comparison group. The intervention group also had a nearly 18-point improvement in receptive language (listening and understanding) compared to approximately 10 points in the comparison group. Seven of the children in the intervention group had enough improvement in overall skills to warrant a change in diagnosis from autism to the milder condition known as 'pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified,' or PDD-NOS. Only one child in the community-based intervention group had an improved diagnosis.

"We believe that the ESDM group made much more progress because it involved carefully structured teaching and a relationship-based approach to learning with many, many learning opportunities embedded in the play," Rogers said. _Eurekalert
Sucess for such interventions much past 30 months of age is not likely to occur. Developmental windows for brain centers occurs from posterior to anterior, from near birth for visual development to final myelinisation of the pre-frontal pathways around the age of 25 years.

This UW autism research suggests that interventions targeted to particular levels of brain development -- occurring at the proper times -- can partially compensate for genetic tendencies toward developmental failure (and may possibly compensate partially for early damaging environmental exposures).

UK hospital offers high quality 3-D MRI brain scans of babies inside the uterus. The hospital claims to be the first in the world to offer a new "high speed" MRI scan that compensates for fetal movement in the womb.

Update 4 Dec 09: Here is a story about earlier research from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, looking at male and female responses to stress. The findings of this team were very similar to the results of the Polish study linked above.

Put simply: In general, women deal with stress by looking for allies and "rescuers". Men deal with stress by either flight or direct struggle. The study models used by both the Pennsylvania researchers and the Polish researchers were highly artificial, of course, taking place in brain scanning devices.

Can you design an "ethical" study placed in a more realistic setting?


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28 November 2009

Brain Reverse Engineering

... to fully realize the brain’s potential to teach us how to make machines learn and think, further advances are needed in the technology for understanding the brain in the first place. Modern noninvasive methods for simultaneously measuring the activity of many brain cells have provided a major boost in that direction, but details of the brain’s secret communication code remain to be deciphered. Nerve cells communicate by firing electrical pulses that release small molecules called neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that hop from one nerve cell to a neighbor, inducing the neighbor to fire a signal of its own (or, in some cases, inhibiting the neighbor from sending signals). Because each nerve cell receives messages from tens of thousands of others, and circuits of nerve cells link up in complex networks, it is extremely difficult to completely trace the signaling pathways.

Furthermore, the code itself is complex — nerve cells fire at different rates, depending on the sum of incoming messages. Sometimes the signaling is generated in rapid-fire bursts; sometimes it is more leisurely. And much of mental function seems based on the firing of multiple nerve cells around the brain in synchrony. _GrandEngineeringChallenge

Seedmagazine.com Seed Design Series
Respected Neuroscientist Henry Markram recently objected to claims for cat-scale "brain simulation" by an IBM team led by Dharmendra Modha. Markram stated that the IBM team's claims were a "hoax."

Modha's team nevertheless won the Gordon Bell prize for its efforts, and in computer science circles Modha's achievement was considered a respectable one.

The National Academy of Engineering considers the Reverse Engineering of the Brain to be a worthy project, as does DARPA -- which is helping to fund Modha's team.

It is important to understand the differences between Markram's and Modha's approaches to brain simulation, in order to make sense of the public disagreements. Markram -- an accomplished neuroscientist -- is attempting to simulate the brain down to the level of synapses and ion channels on individual neuronal processes (see video above). Modha is merely simulating "neurons" as points or nodes in an extensive network of nodes. Modha is a computer scientist and his simulation is just what you would expect from a computer scientist.

The two types of simulations are meant to serve completely different purposes. Markram intends for his simulation to teach neuroscientists how the brain works on a dynamic level never before approached by neuroscience. Modha wants to build a simulation that can bring human-level massively parallel computing to complex machine systems. Modha eventually wants to build thinking machines. Markram wants to open a window on real time brain function that will help neuroscientists solve the difficult problems of brain function and pathology.

What Modha is building has very little to do with a rat brain, a cat brain, a human brain, or even an insect brain. But if he and his team want to call their work a "brain simulation", no one but Markram has objected so far. Well, Markram and Al Fin. ;-)

There is room for dozens of approaches to reverse engineering the brain, or more. The only condition should be that researchers not mis-represent the nature of what they are doing.

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27 November 2009

Micro-Nubbin Neuron-Chip Interface

This "micro-nubbin" nerve interface-chip from IMEC provides convenient "docking stations" for nerve processes to interface. The chip is meant to serve as an experimental "eavesdropper" -- to listen in on communication between neurons. Initially, it will provide a surface for nerves to grow and interface. Scientists hope to learn something from recording how networks of neurons communicate among themselves.
IMEC presents a unique microchip with microscopic nail structures that enable close communication between the electronics and biological cells. The new chip is a mass-producible, easy-to-use tool in electrophysiology research, for example for fundamental research on the functioning and dysfunctioning of the brain. Each micronail structure serves as a close contact-point for one cell, and contains an electrode that can very accurately record and trigger in real-time the electrical activity of an individual electrogenic cell in a network.

...IMEC's new micronail chip is the ideal instrument to study the communication mechanisms between cells. The electrodes in IMEC's micronail chip are downsized to the size of cells and even smaller. They consist of tiny nail structures made of a metal stem covered with an oxide layer, and a conductive (e.g. gold or titaniumnitride) tip. When cells are applied on the chip surface, their cell membrane strongly engulfs the nail structures, thereby realizing an intimate contact with the electrode. This very close contact improves the signal-to-interference ratio enabling precise recording of electrical signals and electrical stimulation of single cells. _SD
This research is fairly mundane, as described. But Al Fin neuroscientists understand where the science is heading, and are quite excited.

The micro-nubbin chips will need further miniaturisation, and will have to be made biocompatible. In the lab, neuronal and glial proto-cells will be cultured, in contact with the micro-nubbins. The chip + precursor cells + selected growth factors will be implanted intra-cranially, and anchored to the underside of the skull. The cultured and anchored cells will send processes into the white matter of the brain via an intricate system of artificial portals -- in essence engineered artificial white matter paths from the interface to merge with established white matter pathways.   These soft tissue penetrations of the cortex would be composed of the individual's own cells, and firmly immersed within soft tissue so as not to cause damage to other structures.

Al Fin neuroscientists envision roughly a dozen of these micro-nubbin brain/machine interfaces at specific areas of the skull -- depending upon the brain systems to be interfaced. Each nubbin-hub interface will allow for roughly a thousand or more neuron-chip interface points. Visual, auditory, olfactory, motor, and memory systems will be targeted -- among others.

Clearly the initial applications will be military. First, to provide prosthetic control of artificial limbs, and to provide optic and auditory input to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have suffered brain damage. As the operational ability of the chips improves, they will be used to compensate for subtler forms of brain damage and functional impairment in military injuries.

As the chips are perfected they will be used to create nerve-machine interfacing with advanced weapons systems and remote reconnaissance systems. Then the chips will be implanted into elite combat infantry operatives.

Imagine being able to see well beyond the electromagnetic spectrum of visible light. Or to be able to hear well beyond the auditory spectrum of 20 Hz to 20 KHz. Having the ability to distinguish subtle smells better than a bloodhound. Those would be simple beginnings with much more complex capabilities downloaded later -- as improved versions are developed.

Brain-machine interfacing will allow for a wide variety of expanded human senses and function, as well as rich virtual reality and augmented reality settings. Auxiliary memory and calculation systems as well as other advantages of complex interfacing with highly advanced information systems, would also be available.

Before all these things can be done, such micro-nubbin chips will have to become "smart enough" to understand neuronal code.  That is the purpose of the initial lab studies with cultured neuronal nets.

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Climate Catastrophe: Never Anything But a Fraud

Nothing about the [liberated CRU emails and files] revelations surprises me. I have maintained email correspondence with most of these scientists for many years, and I know several personally. I long ago realized that they were faking the whole exercise.

When you enter into a debate with any of them, they always stop cold when you ask an awkward question. This applies even when you write to a government department or a member of Parliament. I and many of my friends have grown accustomed to our failure to publish and to lecture, and to the rejection of our comments submitted prior to every IPCC report. _VincentGray

Problems with New Zealand Government climate data continue

More scandal: French researcher's interesting climate data censored by CRU and IPCC

It is time to admit that the CRU emails and files only make explicit the scandal of climate fraud that should have been obvious all along. Phil Jones and Michael Mann have been intimidating, stonewalling, censoring, and blackballing "inconvenient points of view" for over a decade.

Before the governments of the western world commit their constituents and their descendants to lifetimes of enforced energy poverty and re-distributive slavery, they need to admit to their citizens that science has nothing to do with this massive change in their circumstances.

The news media should have picked up on this story long ago, this obvious and long-standing fraud of the pseudo-scientists of climate. The failure of the media to inform on this vital topic, will come back to haunt everyone involved.


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24 November 2009

ClimateGate: Pity the Fool Who Closes His Eyes.....

NYTimes ClimateGate: The Very Ugly Side of Climate Science

WSJ Global Warming with the Lid Off What the puppet masters of climate catastrophe never wanted you to know.

MSN Money: Big Money interests like Goldman Sachs are involved in the global warming scam up to their eyeballs.

Icecap: ClimateGate News and Links

ClimateGate: Copenhagen Plans at Risk International cutpurses wanted to pick your pockets in Copenhagen this year. Al Gore and Goldman Sachs are among them. Barak Obama was riding in the same bandwagon. Too bad.

Do these "scientists" who have been leading the carbon hysteria charge deserve to be in jail?

Here are the files. Read them for yourselves. Search function is included. Anyone who tells you this is not important, not to bother yourself reading them for yourself: such people are not your friends.


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ClimateGate Controversy Spreads

Two interesting US developments from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) server's incontinence:

1. The US Government's National Aeronautics and Space Administration is being sued by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, for multiple, blatant, violations of the Freedom of Information Act. The leaked files from the CRU's server provided evidence of intentional violation of the FOIA by NASA GISS and associated organisations.

2. Members of the US Congress are considering holding hearings concerning the leaked CRU files and their bearing on US Government climate policies.
ScienceMag.org published an article noting that deleting e-mail messages to hide them from a FOI request is a crime in the United Kingdom. George Monbiot, a U.K. activist and journalist who previously called for dramatic action to deal with global warming, wrote: "It's no use pretending that this isn't a major blow. The emails extracted by a hacker from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging." _Much more of interest at CBSBlogTakingLiberties

Al Fin hackers suspect that other climate research center servers will be targeted for similarly incriminating material in the weeks to come.

When famous and generously funded researchers misbehave at the levels displayed by Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Keith Briffa, etc., they give all of science a black eye.

Al Fin information scientists urge all readers to get to the bottom of this issue. Read the emails and commented files yourself. If anyone tells you that you should ignore the controversy and just "believe the science", ask them to be specific about what science should be believed. Good science or bad science? It is likely that they cannot tell the difference.


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23 November 2009

Change Zombies: A Generation Without Minds

Unless you are an exceptional parent, you will turn your children over to an educational establishment for a significant -- perhaps the most significant -- part of his upbringing. No matter what the child represents to you, to this establishment, your child is an experiment in educational curriculum design.   An experiment in the creation of change zombies.

Unfortunately, the title "Change Zombies" is not an exaggeration. You may begin to understand, if you read this spiked-online article. The "idea of change" can work its way into the minds of today's curriculum designers, overwhelming their basic equilibrium and sense of mental balance.
In the worldview of the educational establishment change has acquired a sacred character that determines what is taught. It creates new requirements and introduces new ideas about learning. And it encourages the mass production of a disposable pedagogy.

...Often change and social transformation are represented as if they are unique to our time....Knowledge itself is called into question because in a world of constant flux it must be continually overtaken by events. Policy has become so focused on keeping up with change that it has become distracted from the task of giving meaning to education.

The fetishisation of change is symptomatic of a mood of intellectual malaise, where notions of truth, knowledge and meaning have acquired a provisional character. Perversely, the transformation of change into a metaphysical force haunting humanity actually desensitises society from distinguishing between a passing novelty and qualitative change.

...Curriculum engineers often display indifference, if not contempt, for abstract thought and the knowledge developed in the past. Both are criticised for being irrelevant or outdated; only new information that can be applied and acted on is seen as suitable for the training – and it is training and not teaching – of digital natives.

...The instability that afflicts the education system is turned into the normal state of an institution that needs to be responsive to the uncertain flow of events. Although fads come and go, the constant feature of today’s throwaway pedagogy is a deep-seated hostility to teaching academic subjects to young people, especially to those who come from disadvantaged socioeconomic groups. So-called modernisers regard the subject-based curriculum as far too rigid for a school system that must adapt to a constantly changing world.

...Sadly, the ceaseless repetition of the idea that the past is irrelevant desensitises people from understanding the influence of the legacy of human development on their lives. The constant talk of ceaseless change tends to naturalise it and turn it into an omnipotent autonomous force that subjects human beings to its will. _spiked-online
If the parents are able to spend enough time with the child in the early years before school, and if they are able to supplement the child's official schooling with an authentic education provided at home and under the direct supervision of the family, the child will likely turn out fine. But most parents are too busy working for the tax collector and the bill collector to provide a child with a quality, meaningful contact education. And so the child is thrown to the experimenters.

Change is, undeniably, an everpresent condition of life -- particularly young life. But for the health of the child's mind it should be a background condition, not a foreground condition. If perverse educators and curriculum planners push the idea of "change" to the forefront, it too easily becomes a euphemism for meaningless emptiness and void substituted in the place of the deep and vital truths that all children must learn to create their own meaning within themselves.

Modern pedagogy assumes that this will happen on its own -- or they assume that if teachers of the proper ideology control education from top to bottom, the child can be set on the (politically) correct path by means of proper indoctrination.

But indoctrination is not education, and it has nothing to do with the deep morality that every child must learn -- regardless of the presence or absence of any religion in his life. The overriding emphasis upon political and ideological indoctrination combined with the fetish of "change" leaves an empty mind, a change zombie.

It is happening at all levels of education. It is reflected in our culture, in rampant political corruption. The widespread abandonment of books and solitude. The irritated dismissal of deep meanings that require more than a minute or two to absorb. The susceptibility to emotional pitches from well-cadenced politicians with speechwriters who understand the necessity of a short-attention-span appeal.

There is change, and there is meaningful change. The difference is lost to modern professors and graduates of university schools of education, but it is a critical difference. Most of the change that the young experience is meaningless, because they are moving from nowhere to nowhere. Meaningful change is moving from a significant somewhere to another significant somewhere.

But children are never given the opportunity to get anywhere -- they are pushed, twitter-like, from one distraction to the next without significant meaning ever setting in. Curriculum designers and educators are themselves lost in distraction, drifting in turbulent currents, having burned all their navigational charts as a demonstration of their independence of thought.

It is an ongoing tragedy of the wide-scale destruction of mind potential. It is simply how things are done in the age of change. Throw in a dash of hope for good measure. Better than nothing....

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Who Is Honest and Brave Enough to Come Clean?

The controversy over the leaked documents from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit has just begun. We are now learning that besides the incriminating emails, the liberated documents contain a great deal of commented computer code. That is where the real paydirt is likely to be found. Watch and learn.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global climate debate is the blatant dishonesty and / or cowardice of many bloggers who have committed to carbon hysteria as a way of life -- and who are now unwilling to even acknowledge the huge, obvious faultlines that are spreading across the climate science landscape.

True believers are found in every walk of life, but future-oriented bloggers are supposed to be more immune to "future shock" and "cognitive dissonance" than the mainstream of information purveyors. Sadly, that is not the case. Some of the best known and most highly regarded future-oriented bloggers are hiding from their own contradictions -- which are right in front of their noses!

Some refreshing exceptions to this troubling trend are the excellent future blogger Brian Wang, "mega-project" blogger Neil Craig, HBD blogger Half Sigma, HBD blogger Dennis Mangan, and futurist Thomas Frey. Brian Wang's and Thomas Frey's websites are very highly visited, and both Brian and Thomas have posted a lot of material favourable to the IPCC "consensus". But when recent material came to light that exposed the collusion, manipulation, and intimidation used by the foremost IPCC lead reviewers, both Brian and Thomas reported on the controversy in an open and objective manner.

It is too early to chastise the numerous well-regarded future bloggers who have chosen to keep quiet on this topic, by name. But true believers reveal themselves as often by their omissions as by their bandwagon causes. Al Fin climatologists hope that these quasi-religious believers in global warming catastrophe who happen to post on the future occasionally, will wake up and make a conscious choice to face the reality of today.

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22 November 2009

Obama Won't Pay the Debt -- He Will Default

There must be a default at some point. The question is: "Which kind?" If the central bank ceases to inflate, a recession begins. If the government or the central bank refuses to intervene, many banks go under. This shrinks the money supply. The recession becomes a depression. Bankruptcies and unemployment increase.

Tax revenues fall. The government cannot pay its debt and also meet all of its promises. It must choose:

1. Default on all of the debt
2. Default on part of the debt
3. Tell the central bank to inflate
4. Raise taxes and cut expenditures

Choice #3 starts the process over. The ultimate result: the destruction of the currency. This is default through inflation. It is nonetheless a default. _MarketOracle
Read the rest of the educational article above. Although the world has never seen a debt of this size before, several political entities have been in similar situations. They only have so many choices. Americans are finally learning enough about President Obama to understand that he is likely to choose the least responsible and most corrupt choice available.

Worst Deflation in US History

Unemployment Rates Rising Across US

Spend and Borrow Economics Worst Possible Approach to Problem

Detroit Cannot Bury Its Dead: Future of Obamanation?

Foreclosure Monster Closing In on US Again?

US Unraveling, Breakdown of Society

Multicultural societies tend to be low-trust societies. The larger they grow -- particularly when IQ and character gaps lead to performance and income gaps -- the harder they are to hold together. When times are tough, such schizoid societies tend to fragment -- sometimes violently.

The US has the misfortune to have allowed its political institutions to fall under the influence of members of the criminal class. Corrupt, criminally connected persons of low character are always in search of positions of power over others. Such leaders will continue to siphon hard-won wealth away from middle classes and productive classes, toward politically favoured groups. Just as in a third world banana republic -- which is what the US is beginning to resemble.


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Hell to Pay In the Morning: Commercial Real Estate

The collapse of the residential market was led by massive defaults in ill-conceived “sub-prime loans”. Millions of American homes are now in default and in the process of loan modification, abandonment or foreclosure. There is no end in sight as Prime, Alt-A, and Option ARM loan resets come due beginning in 2010.

Lurking around the corner, literally unnoticed by the average American worried about keeping his home, is a similar crisis in commercial real estate. For over a year commercial property values have been plummeting and have not begun to recover. A drive through both major cities and suburbia tells the story. Vacant stores, empty shopping malls, cancelled mixed use developments and eerily empty car lots presage bad things to come. _NewGeography

The collapse of the 1990s - 2000s housing bubble occurred while US unemployment was still relatively low. But now that US unemployment is well above 10% -- and approaching 20% by some meaningful measures -- the nation lacks the "consumer power" it needs to pull itself back up by its bootstraps. The private sector is being sucked dry by the government sector, and everything the government has done for the past year to halt the decline, has had unfortunate and largely unintended consequences.
Depository institutions hold about half of the $3.2 trillion of debt on US commercial property. The default rate in the first quarter of 2009 was just 2.25%. Sounds OK until you do the math and realize that $36 billion was in default and it is just beginning. The FDIC puts troubled banks on “the problem list”. In early 2008, there was one bank on the list. At the end of June 2009 there were 416, up from 305 at the end of the first quarter when the default rate was just 2.25%. Total assets at these problem institutions total $299 billion. The problem is that the total reserves of the FDIC are just $42 billion. The FDIC has closed over 100 banks and one good estimate is that they will close around 10% of US banks, 500 to 1,000, before the crisis runs its course. The losses will dwarf the $394 billion of the RTC and may surpass a trillion dollars. _NewGeography
The collapse of October 2008 was just the opening bell on an extended economic recession in the US and much of the rest of the world. Misbegotten government economic policies have reached around and stung the American economy in the asp. Indeed, damaging government policies are just getting started under the Obama / Pelosi reich.
Old, tired, and mostly vacant Class C office buildings line the crumbling freeways of Detroit, Cleveland, Youngstown, and countless smaller rust belt cities where excess capacity has eliminated the need for new development.

A year from now, the landscape of America will be forever changed. The office and retail markets will be vastly different than they look today. Not much of it will be good. Five years from now, will empty shopping centers and auto dealerships remain shuttered or will they be rebuilt or torn down and their use converted to something more productive? Will our politicians cease their meddling in the market and allow the market to heal itself? These are questions that will haunt our economy for the next decade. _NewGeography

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21 November 2009

Collusion, Corruption, Manipulation, and Obstruction
Collusion, Corruption, Manipulation, and Obstruction

The blog "Air Vent" is where the entire worldwide controversy over the hacked CRU files began. And it looks as if some of the most interesting discussion and commentary on this topic is happening at the original source.
Here are the items I have a problem with.

* Discussion of interference with IPCC procedures to block low-warming reasonable and published papers.
* Discussion of removal of climate reviewers who are open minded to low-warming papers. The fact that in GRL this apparently occurred after these discussions is a problem.
* Discussion with the government about denial of FOIA to any climate audit blogger. FOIA is not meant to be for non-controversial topics it’s SPECIFICALLY for the contriversial ones. Free speech doesn’t protect nice words, it protects strong words.
* Data manipulation discussions. These are mostly hinted at except for a few instances but they are real and directed only toward strong warming.

So now I have to provide evidence of these problems. _AirVent
If you are at all curious about how a relatively small group of "researchers" managed to bring the world to the brink of a fake apocalypse -- and why they did it -- read the whole thing including comments.

These "scientists" have received hundreds of millions of dollars in grants between them, and appear to believe that the entire world revolves around them personally. If you want to see firsthand what utterly corrupt science looks like, follow the link.


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20 November 2009

Russian Hackers Blow the Lid Off Global Climate Conspiracy???

Image Source

It is too early to say whether the Russian government sponsored the recent hacking of University of East Anglia Hadley CRU (Climatic Research Unit) computers or not. Regardless, 156 megabytes of files and sensitive emails between world-renowned, influential climate scientists were spilled onto the internet recently via a Russian server. The repercussions from the "liberation" of these emails have just begun to clang around the world's networks of networks.
The files have been confirmed to be authentic.

Since the very beginning, no clear errors had been found and your humble correspondent would have bet that the files had been authentic. Why? Well, it's just pretty difficult to type 156 MB of stuff that looks so legitimate. (See the end of this article for Jones' confirmation of authenticity.)

...The 7-MB "mail" subfolder contains 1073 TXT files with e-mails and it is the main focus of most people who want to look. ;-) There are lots of e-mails in between Briffa, Mann, Revkin, Singer, Peiser, and many other people you know. Before you read the e-mail messages, I recommend you to merge all the TXT files into one TXT file, e.g. by the DOS command "type *.* > ..\hademail.txt" launched in the "mail" directory.

There are many things to love about these e-mails. For example, the word "funded" appears roughly 66 times over there. Stepan Shiyatov instructs his colleagues about the optimal ways to commit tax evasion:

...The e-mails are full of Phil Jones' and other tricks how to circumvent the FOIA legislation: search for "FOIA".

Read it. (The book on the left is the NIPCC report: recommended.) The conclusion looks pretty clear. These people should be put in jail as soon as possible. You know, these are not just small tricks in an academic discussion. These people have acquired millions if not billions of taxpayers' money by methods that seem to be provably fraudulent.

You know, I was a bit skeptical in the morning - about the hints that this is a big story. But let me admit that right now I feel a little bit like at the beginning of the Velvet Revolution 20 years ago, after the students were beaten and a big change was in the air. _LUBOS
Much more fascinating and juicy information regarding these emails at Lubos' website linked above.

Besides confirming Al Fin's suspicions of the modus operandi of the climate grifters -- intentionally misleading with their research and intimidating science publishers into rejecting "not PC" research -- Al Fin hackers and computer scientists were most interested in who was behind the crafty hacking and release of these sensitive materials.

Russian hackers are almost certainly responsible, but were the hackers given backing by the Putin government? The Russians have never expressed much confidence in the carbon hysteria orthodoxy that has blustered its way to control of most of the climate science establishment. Russia is not crazy about Kyoto, Copenhagen, or any other IPCC inspired attempts to create energy starvation in the developed world.

So did the Russian government use its "human resources" in order to get in position to extract these embarassing files? There is more than a hint of that old KGB style of espionage in how smoothly the information was distributed to interested parties in Europe, North America, Australia, and elsewhere. Who was the mastermind?

It really doesn't matter very much, except when wondering whether any other computer systems are being targeted for similar treatment. The information that was released from CRU computers now has a life of its own. I suspect the damage done to the reputations of several "formerly esteemed" climate scientists will be immense.

Information changes things. Perhaps someone should let the Obama / Pelosi reich in on that secret.


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More On IBM's BlueMatter "Brain Simulation"

Popular Mechanics provides information on a recent IBM "brain simulation" of 1.6 billion simulated neurons -- an attempt to "simulate the human visual cortex". Here are some fascinating details from PM:
Modha's billion-neuron virtual cortex is so massive that running it required one of the fastest supercomputers in the world—Dawn, a Blue Gene/P supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California.

Dawn hums and breathes inside an acre-size room on the second floor of the lab's Terascale Simulation Facility. Its 147,456 processors and 147,000 gigabytes of memory fill 10 rows of computer racks, woven together by miles of cable. Dawn devours a million watts of electricity through power cords as thick as a bouncer's wrists—racking up an annual power bill of $1 million. The roar of refrigeration fans fills the air: 6675 tons of air-conditioning hardware labor to dissipate Dawn's body heat, blowing 2.7 million cubic feet of chilled air through the room every minute.

Dawn was installed earlier this year by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which conducts massive computer simulations to ensure the readiness of the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal. Modha's team worked with Dawn for a week before it was transitioned to NNSA's classified nuclear work. For all of its legendary computing power, Dawn still ran Modha's 1.6 billion neurons at only one-six-hundredth the speed of a living brain. A second simulation, with 1 billion neurons, ran a little faster—but still only at one-eighty-third of normal brain speed.

These massive simulations are merely steps toward Modha's ultimate goal: simulating the entire human cortex, about 25 billion neurons, at full speed. To do that, he'll need to find 1000 times more computing power. At the rate that supercomputers have expanded over the last 20 years, that super-super computer could exist by 2019. "This is not just possible, it's inevitable," Modha says. "This will happen." _PM
Can you imagine $1 million a year just to power the processors? 6675 "tons" of air conditioning to keep the hardware cool? All to run a very poor simulation of a human visual cortex at 1 / 600 th the speed of a human brain?

You have to admire Modha's optimism when he claims that it is inevitable that the human level artificial cortex will be operating in real time by the year 2019. As I said a couple of days ago, the estimation is preposterous.

First of all, the current simulation is of the most basic cortical neural architecture. It is the easiest, least complex type of neural simulation problem to solve. In fact, an insect brain is more complex -- with far fewer neurons, at much faster speeds, in a far smaller space, with a far lower energy budget -- than the monstrosity that IBM has strung together at Livermore.

It looks as if Modha's team is in a race with Henry Markram's Swiss team, and other teams around the world to simulate the human cortex the soonest. Perhaps there is an X prize for that achievement. But it seems to Al Fin engineers that this brute force approach is best adapted for burning up research funds, rather than actually coming close to simulating a human brain.

Yes, you must crawl before you can walk, walk before you can run.  But it seems as if what the IBM team is doing is moving two fingers in the air in a crawling motion, and calling it crawling.  Time will tell.

As I said before, the achievement of simulating some basic quasi-physiologic responses to simulated input stimuli -- on this scale -- is remarkable.  This platform will provide for some fascinating lab experiments in artificial neuronal networks.  There is a lot to be learned.

But please go easy on the claims.  The field of artificial intelligence has left a junkyard of exaggerated claims and absurd unfulfilled predictions across the landscape of the past 50 years.  Stick to the facts.

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Russia Corrupt and Uninsurable

Over-reliance on one source of income is a curse to any nation, and to Russia in particular. Countries with vast energy resources -- such as Russia -- tend to be corrupt, with power and wealth concentrated at the center. As long as the criminals at the top of the regime are comfortable and wealthy, they do not care that the bulk of the country and its people are impoverished and dying.
"Economic crime is and will remain a very serious risk for Russian organizations," its report said. "The economic downturn is changing the nature and scale of the fraud and integrity risks that organizations face. The speed of change is such that opportunities to commit fraud will be prevalent."

"More people will feel real pressure to 'cross the line' or look the other way while others do so," it said. _CNBC
Russia desperately needs outside investment and expertise. Outside help is not only needed to expand Russia's economy beyond the confines of oil and gas. Russia is badly in need of outside help just to keep up with maintenance and new technology in its core oil and gas industry itself. But outside companies are being stung by Russian crime and corruption -- and international insurance companies are bailing out of the high-risk Russian economy.
The [insurance] industry is particularly concerned over risks in Russia, where extractive projects have become almost uninsurable.

BP (BP.L) faced a difficult battle for control of its local joint-venture TNK-BP last year, but problems have not been limited to the oil sector and Norwegian telecom Telenor faced a similar battle this year over its stake in mobile operator Vimpelcom. _Reuters
The rot goes to the center of Russian government and power. But the manifestations of the rot go out to all areas of Russia, from Europe to the Pacific. Drug addiction, alcoholism, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, suicide -- all are Russian diseases growing in severity. A combination of tragically high death rates and low birth rates among ethnic Russians, guarantees that Mother Russia will soon be occupied by non-Russians, who die more slowly and continue to breed.

Denial of Russia's problems only allows them to grow worse. Making excuses for Russia's bad behaviour in its death throes will only make the ending scenes more violent and destructive.


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19 November 2009

Ghastly Gore: Make Me Rich -- Or Die!!!

Let's imagine that a Republican former vice president (say Dan Quayle or Dick Cheney) authored a similar book telling us that apocalypse was at hand unless we shoveled massive amounts of public money toward companies they've heavily invested in. Let's say the Republican-authored book also prominently featured the Bible verse above, suggesting that Quayle or Cheney was offering the reader the choice between life of death. _TomNelson_via_ClimateDepot


Al Gore was once a free-boozing party friend of Nashville, Tennessee area Hell's Angels. But ever since taking up the green religion, Al has given up his authentic, fun-loving self for straight-faced hypocrisy and abundant wealth. Mr. Gore stands to become a billionaire based upon his global-warming industry investments and partnerships. He is giving you the choice of life or death: his wealthy life, your death.
On a page by itself, we find this inside the front cover of Al Gore's latest climate fraud promotion book:

I'm offering you the choice of life or death. You can choose either blessings or curses.
--Deuteronomy Chapter 30, Verse 19
Mr. Gore is not just kidding around here. He went to divinity school. He understands how power is handed out in this universe. If he cannot be the president, he will at least be a billionaire global climate czar.

Mr. Obama: can you bow to that?


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18 November 2009

Actually, No, IBM Did NOT Simulate a Cat's Brain

Cognitive computing seeks to engineer the mind by reverse engineering the brain. The mind arises from the brain, which is made up of billions of neurons that are liked by an internet like network. An emerging discipline, cognitive computing is about building the mind, by understanding the brain. It synthesizes neuroscience, computer science, psychology, philosophy, and mathematics to understand and mechanize the mental processes. Cognitive computing will lead to a universal computing platform that can handle a wide variety of spatio-temporally varying sensor streams. _Source

Image via Brian Wang
At a supercomputing conference in Portland, Oregon, IBM announced a successful simulation of a "cat brain scale" silicon neuro-computing platform. You can read an engrossing account of this achievement from Dharmendra S. Modha (via Brian Wang).

The achievement is a fascinating one, and worth celebrating. But it would be inaccurate to describe the accomplishment as the simulation of a cat brain. IBM's simulation is nowhere close to a simulation of a cat's brain -- and we should have no illusions regarding the comparison. Consider this:
...using Dawn Blue Gene / P supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Lab with 147,456 processors and 144 TB of main memory, we achieved a simulation with 1 billion spiking neurons and 10 trillion individual learning synapses. This is equivalent to 1,000 cognitive computing chips each with 1 million neurons and 10 billion synapses, and exceeds the scale of cat cerebral cortex. The simulation ran 100 to 1,000 times slower than real-time. _ Modha
Some of the neuronal level phenomena observed in the simulation (in response to stimuli) vaguely resembled actual neurocortical electrophysiological activity observed in a mammalian brain. But the parallels are quite loose. And considering the time scale of the simulation was between 100 and 1,000 times slower than real-time, tweaking the stimuli and response to better match mammalian equivalents may take some while.

IBM's simulation of 1 billion spiking neurons was interesting, but a very pale shadow of a genuine cat brain, with all its specialised structural cortical and sub-cortical components -- and accessory (but very influential) glial and vascular infrastructure.

IBM is estimating that around the year 2018, it will be able to simulate a human-scale "brain" in real time. That is preposterous. Only if you accept that IBM has simulated a cat's brain in 2009 would you accept that IBM may simulate a human brain by 2018. But as IBM readily admits, it has not even simulated a cat's multi-specialised cortex -- much less a cat's entire brain.
In terms of details in our simulations, we are currently working on differentiating our cortical region into specific areas (such as primary visual cortex or motor cortex) and providing the long-range connections that form the circuitry between these areas in the mammalian brain. For this work, we are drawing from many studies describing the structure and input/output patterns of these areas as well as a study recently performed within IBM that collates a very large number of individual measurements of white matter, the substrate of long-range connectivity within the brain. _Modha
Give them time. I expect some amazing results from this approach to brain simulation, eventually. Unfortunately, neither the hardware nor the software tools are anywhere close to providing scientists with a semi-realistic mammalian brain at this time.

Even a realistic insect brain would be a marvelous achievement. Particularly one that operated in real time, and was sized on roughly the same scale as an actual insect.

So while Al Fin cognitive neuroscientists, engineers, and cognitive computing specialists congratulate IBM on its latest achievement, they also caution IBM not to overstate what they have actually accomplished.

25 Nov 2009 Update: Be sure to read Henry Markram's response to the IBM claims at Brian Wang's site (and in comments here).

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Best Nuclear Fission: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

This approach to fission power really looks like the safest and most sustainable approach humans have discovered so far. Why isn't it being used? Have I ever mentioned that we are living in an Idiocracy? That is why LFTRs aren't being used.

25 Minute Intensive Intro to Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

16 Minute Intensive Intro to Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

H/T Charles Barton

I recommend watching the 25 minute video first, then watch the 16 minute video to reinforce the basic points. At that point, you should be ready to watch all three of the roughly 1 hour long intros to LFTRs here, here, and here.

Then go and read the archives of Energy from Thorium blog and Nuclear Green blog.

In this post, Charles Barton looks at the Hyperion small nuclear reactor, and compares it to the liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR). By the time I got to the end of the this short posting, I was convinced that the LFTR approach was better than Hyperion's approach.


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17 November 2009

Aphrodisiac for Successful, Satisfying Sex

Flibanserin was once an antidepressant, but not a very good one. Some women on flibanserin did notice that even though their depression did not get much better, their sex lives did. Now, a pooled set of four clinical trials of flibanserin show a significant aphrodisiac response in women -- particularly at the dose of 100 mg at bedtime.
These trials were the first ever to test a therapy that works at the level of the brain to enhance libido in women reporting low sexual desire, said John M. Thorp Jr., M.D., McAllister distinguished professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and the principal investigator for North America in the studies.

"Flibanserin was a poor antidepressant," Thorp said. "However, astute observers noted that it increased libido in laboratory animals and human subjects. So, we conducted multiple clinical trials and the women in our studies who took it for hypoactive sexual desire disorder reported significant improvements in sexual desire and satisfactory sexual experiences.

...Studies have shown that the prevalence of hypoactive sexual desire disorder in the U.S. ranges from 9 percent to 26 percent of women, depending on age and menopausal status. Flibanserin is currently an investigational drug and is available only to women taking part in clinical trials.

...The researchers concluded that treatment with 100 milligrams of flibanserin once a day was associated with significant improvements versus placebo in the number of satisfying sexual events (SSE) reported, sexual desire (as measured by eDiary and FSFI desire domain), a reduction in distress associated with sexual dysfunction (as measured by FSDS-R and its Item 13), and sexual functioning as measured by FSFI. _SD
The science of sexual gratification and fulfillment has been largely neglected over the past centuries of rapid scientific discovery. But that is about to change. Modern PC prudishness is scheduled to be washed away in a deluge of evolutionary consciousness.

Besides -- what good is long life, prosperity, and high intelligence, if your life holds no satisfaction or pleasure? Humans are emotional and physical animals, and they require emotional and physical gratification for optimal development and happiness.


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16 November 2009

The Perfect Portable 25 MW Survival Reactor?

On Wednesday in Washington DC, and on Thursday in London, Hyperion Power Generation will unveil the design of its small modular 25 MWe portable nuclear reactor. Brian Wang reports on Hyperion's plans, and provides other details on the remarkable safety and portability of the small modular reactor.

Hyperion's 25 MWe reactor is factory built and factory fueled and re-fueled. It can be shipped by truck, train, or ship. It provides enough power for 20,000 modern homes. A single fueling is good for 5+ years. They are designed for burial underground, for additional safety. All for a mere $25 million -- or about $1,250 per household in a 20,000 home community. For over 5 years of baseload power and heat, a $1,250 investment is minimal.

Perhaps you think a 20,000 home community is too large for a survival refuge? It depends on the emergency. If you are living through a situation where the minimum viable population (MVP) comes into consideration, a 20,000 household community is very close to the proper size. Particularly when the community members are selected for their ability to contribute to the long term survival not only of the community, but of the science, technology, skill set, and cultural and philosophical wealth of the modern western world.

Every community built for survival, should have the skill and knowledge set to re-create a small modern university and a small advanced industrial town. These communities will need reliable baseload power for routine heat and electricity, as well as to power small industrial projects to promote survivability and sustainability.

Some extreme catastrophes may be resolved within a 5 year time period. A successful EMP attack, for example, would require between a year and 5 years for the central authority to re-assert control and to re-establish supply lines, power, transportation, and broadband communication to remote parts of a country. For such extended emergencies, the Hyperion reactor would see the community through the worst.

Other catastrophes would extend far beyond the Hyperion's designed lifetime. While the community might continue to extract heat and power from the reactor for several years beyond the designed re-fueling date, the output would decay rapidly after a certain point.

That is why a community containing relatively large numbers (thousands) of competent individuals is so important for long-term survival. And it is why it is so important that the community be provided a solid 5+ years of reliable baseload power and heat in the early stages of adjustment away from the former established order. Thousands of isolated and distressed individuals need reassurance and stability provided in as many ways as possible.

Under the current leadership of the large western nations, hard-won resources are being squandered at record rates. The earned leadership of the west is being abdicated by incompetent governments. Power abhors a vacuum. With the surrender of western power, other powers will rise.

The new powers will not be so squeamish about human rights, of course, but the new powers will be fragmented and at war between themselves. Large scale breakdown of order should be expected.

In the case of broad-scale anarchy and war, isolated nuclei of civilisation that can provide the nuclei of a re-coalescence of western liberalism may make all the difference in the course of the next thousand years of human history.

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15 November 2009

Can We Learn to Make the Brain Last 1000 Years?

Aubrey de Grey claims that the first person to live 1,000 years is alive right now. Perhaps. But would anyone alive right now wish to live 1,000 years with a senile brain? Probably not. That is why it is so important to learn all we can about our brains, so that we can make the necessary improvements that will allow us to stay sharp, clear, and responsive to the many changes that the next 1,000 years will bring.

A World of Manics, Where No One is Depressed?
University of Maryland researchers have taken mice and knocked out PKCI/HINT1 genes -- resulting in mice that do not get depressed or anxious.
Wang said, "Although we don't yet know why the deletion of the gene altered the mood status of the mice, what we have learned about the importance of this gene in mood function and its involvement in human mental disorders is interesting. The protein encoded by this gene could be a potential drug target for development of diagnostic or therapeutic agents that one day might be used for depression, bipolar or schizophrenia disorders. In addition, the knockout mice might be useful as a model to study mania, as there is no other animal model available yet. __MNT
When thrown in the deep end of the pool, these PKCI/HINT1 knockout mice never gave up in despair, when all other mice simply rolled over and drowned. They were literally "never say die" mice. Imagine a world of such people.

Excitable Nerves, They All Said
Sometimes nerves can "excite themselves to death." This over-excitation of NMDA glutamate receptors may lead to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis -- among other neurodegenerative diseases.
....the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor belongs to a family of cellular receptors that mediate excitatory nerve transmission in the brain.

Excitatory signals represent the majority of nerve signals in most regions of the human brain. One theory of causation in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis posits that excessive amounts of the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, can cause an overstimulation of glutamate receptors, including the NMDA receptor. Such excitotoxicity, the theory holds, can cause nerve-cell death and subsequent neurological dysfunction.

...The search is well under way for molecules that can shut down the NMDA receptor with much greater specificity. _MNT

Memories to Last 1000 Years?
Humans have short term memories (STMs) and long term memories (LTMs). Short term memory is necessary for maintaining a train of thought, or for remembering why you tied that string around your finger an hour or two ago. Long term memory is for remembering things that happened to you more than a day or so ago. These memories are formed and farmed out by the hippocampus, and the system usually works well for a lifespan of 70 or 80 years. But what happens when we live 1,000 years, and desperately need to remember something that happened 899 years ago?
Scientists have known that memories first form in the hippocampus and are later transferred to long-term storage in other parts of the brain. For some amount of time the memory resides both in the hippocampus and elsewhere in the brain. What’s not been known is how, after a few months or years, the memory is gradually cleared from the hippocampus.

Researchers have also debated the role of neurogenesis in learning and memory. The hippocampus is one of only two places in the adult brain where scientists know that new neurons form. On the basis of previous studies, many researchers think new neurons stabilize memory circuits or are somehow otherwise necessary to form new memories.

The new study suggests the opposite: Newborn neurons weaken or disrupt connections that encode old memories in the hippocampus.

Kaoru Inokuchi, a neuroscientist at the University of Toyama in Japan, and his colleagues used radiation and some genetic tricks to block neurogenesis in rats and mice that had been trained to fear getting a mild electric shock when placed in a particular cage. Control animals, with normal neurogenesis, eventually were able to bypass their hippocampi and retrieve the fear memory directly from long-term storage. But animals in which neurogenesis had been blocked still depended on the hippocampus to recall the fear memory, the researchers found.

Running on an exercise wheel, which boosts neurogenesis, also sped the rate at which old memories were cleared from the hippocampus. __Wired

Surviving the Addiction Bottleneck
The human brain has to survive through the treacherous years of childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood in order to gain the wisdom and experience to know how to live, and what to avoid like the plague. Children, adolescents, and young adults are prone to experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and high-risk / low reward behaviours. If the child becomes a crack whore or even an adolescent drunk or pothead like the US president, the 1,000 year prognosis can be very grim.

We need good ways of reversing the brain warp induced by early and habitual drug use.
Medical researchers led by Stephen Dewey at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and Dr. Jonathan Brodie of New York University School of Medicine recruited parolees who were cocaine dependent, each using an average of two grams of cocaine daily for nine years.

While half the participants in the study received a placebo powder mixed into their juice each day, half got a powder containing vigabatrin. After three months, 14 of the 50 study participants who got vigabatrin each day were able to abstain from cocaine use during the final three weeks of the study, compared with only 4 of the 53 who received the placebo. _MoneyTimes
It's a start. And in animals, the same drug reduces drug use for most every addictive substance. Of course, it will be harder to make up for the psychological neotenisation caused by poor childraising, abominable educational practises, and a horrifically dumbed down popular culture.

Does Evolution's Arrow Point to Smaller Human Brains?
Human populations that evolved nearer the equator ended up with generally smaller brains, and typically with lower IQ, than human populations that evolved farther from the equator. Anthropologist John Hawks says that the future may be bringing yet smaller brains to the entire global population.
“We know the brain has been evolving in human populations quite recently,” University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM) paleoanthropologist John Hawks explains, quoted by LiveScience.

“When it comes to recent evolutionary changes, we currently maybe have the least specific details with regard [to] the brain, but we do know from archaeological data that pretty much everywhere we can measure – Europe, China, South Africa, Australia – that brains have shrunk about 150 cubic centimeters, off a mean of about 1,350. That's roughly 10 percent. As to why is it shrinking, perhaps in big societies, as opposed to hunter-gatherer lifestyles, we can rely on other people for more things, can specialize our behavior to a greater extent, and maybe not need our brains as much,” the expert adds. _Softpedia
Modern cultures of hyper-specialisation may lead to even greater shrinking of the human brain. That could be bad for that 1,000 year lifespan.

Smaller brains are typically less intelligent, and will probably be less able to adapt to the lightspeed changes that will hit human populations like truckloads of bricks, every few years to every few dozen years.

Cross-posted in Al Fin Longevity

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Small Nukes Around the World

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are the coming thing in nuclear power. They can be mass-produced in factories, using modern methods of quality control, to assure a safe and uniformly precise construction. Modular reactors can be scaled to match the demand from an isolated small village or seastead, to full scale mega-grid baseload supplier. They can be shipped anywhere in the world to a prepared site, and fueled either in the factory before shipping, or at the final destination after arrival and installation.

Some 40 SMRs are now at different stages of development or design. About a dozen are at advanced design stages and could be deployed within the next decade. These include integral PWR designs (IRIS, SMART, CAREM), floating NPPs (KLT-40S), high temperature gas reactors (PBMR, HTR-PM) and India’s advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR). _Source
The B&W [Babcock & Wilcox] mPower reactor is a 125 MWe integral PWR designed to be factory-made and railed to site. The reactor pressure vessel containing core and steam generator is thus only five metres diameter. It would be installed below ground, have an air-cooled condenser, and passive safety systems. It has a "conventional core and standard fuel" enriched to 5%, with burnable poisons, to give a five-year operating cycle between refuelling. (B&W draws upon over 50 years experience as the main manufacturer of nuclear propulsion systems for the US Navy, involving compact reactors with very long-life cores.) _WorldNuclearNews
Other small nuclear reactors well along in the running:

The International Reactor Innovative and Secure (IRIS) is a 335MWe pressurised light water cooled reactor. The reactor vessel houses not only the nuclear fuel, control rods and neutron reflector, but also all the major reactor coolant system components including pumps, steam generators and pressurizer. IRIS has been under development by an international consortium (led by Westinghouse) since 1999.


SMART is a 330MWt pressurised water reactor with integral steam generators and advanced passive safety features. Developed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute it is designed for generating electricity up to 100MWe and for cogeneration applications.


Argentina is developing an indigenous SMR known as CAREM and plans to build a 27MWe prototype (CAREM-25) in 2011 to demonstrate the technology. The distinct design features of the CAREM are: integral primary cooling system with in-vessel steam generators, control rod drives, and pressurizer; self-pressurization; and passive safety systems.


Twin KLT-40S reactors will be used in Russia’s first floating NPP, Akademik Lomonosov, scheduled for completion in 2011. The factory-built PWRs, similar to those used in Russia’s nuclear powered icebreakers, can produce 300MWt/70MWe for electricity generation or cogeneration of electricity and heat. The KLT-40S was developed by Russia’s OKBM (experimental design bureau for machine building).

Toshiba 4S

In Japan, the 4S (super-safe, small and simple) reactor is under development by Toshiba, with outputs of 30MWt and 135MWt. It is a pool type sodium cooled fast reactor with a core lifetime of about 30 years. The 4S has reached detailed design stage and pre-licensing negotiations with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission were started in 2007.


China’s 200MW modular HTR-PM is a high temperature gas cooled reactor with pebble bed fuel and indirect supercritical steam energy conversion cycle. Full-scale demonstration is planned for 2013. Two-module plant configuration is foreseen for the commercial version. __NuclearEngineeringMag

Cross-posted to Al Fin Energy

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Russia Twists Natural Gas Knife in EU's Back

Russia is tightening its stranglehold on Europe's gas supply with new pipelines that bypass the Ukraine. The South Stream gas line will run beneath the Black Sea to Eastern Europe.  A planned northern pipeline will run beneath the Baltic Sea to Scandinavian countries.  Both pipelines will bypass the Ukraine.  They will also likely make it more difficult for the EU nations to get funding for the Nabucco pipeline -- which would have bypassed Russian influence altogether.
South Stream, which is estimated will cost 20 billion euros ($30 billion) to build and is expected to be completed by 2015, would run under the Black Sea to carry natural gas to western Europe.

The European Union has supported the construction of an alternative pipeline, known as Nabucco, in an effort to counter Russian monopolistic influence by importing gas from Caspian Sea nations like Azerbijan and Turkmenistan. That project has been stalled, however, by a lack of supply agreements.

EU leaders have been pushing for more independence from Russian natural gas since a dispute between Moscow and Kiev last January left many European homes without heat in the dead of winter.

About 80 percent of Russian gas currently passes through Ukraine, and Russia has claimed the South Stream line, which bypasses Ukraine, would ensure a smoother supply.

Another Russian project, Nord Stream, would also bypass Ukraine by piping gas to Germany beneath the Baltic Sea. Denmark, Sweden and Finland have all given their approval to the project, meaning construction could start as soon as next year. __DW-World

Most informed observers see the recent Russian invasion and occupation of Georgia as a way of stopping an alternative, non-Russian controlled pipeline from supplying gas to Europe.

Since Russia is apparently willing to go to war to prevent Europe from escaping its natural gas stranglehold, it looks as if Europe had best do whatever Mr. Putin tells her to do. Just close your eyes and think of Europe, dear. And Mr. Putin: do try to be gentle.

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Slavery Is Making a Global Comeback Under Obama

Slavery is an ancient economic institution that is enjoying a global comeback, helped along by the global recession. Most prominent in Africa and the Muslim world, slavery is also common in Southeast Asia, Korea, and even China. Girls of Europe (primarily Eastern Europe) are promised lives of opportunity, then transported internationally for use in brothels. Young girls of Asia are sold by their peasant families to brothels in the city. Young women of the Philippines and Malaysia seek profitable work in the Persian Gulf states, and end up as domestic slaves -- subject to abuse and sometimes murder.

Under communist regimes such as those of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Kim, slavery was (and is) used for punishment and "political re-education". Even in Europe, Oceania, and North America, hopeful starry-eyed immigrants get channeled into human trafficking pipelines run by organised crime and held against their will, forced to work. (see Human Trafficking)

Mr. Obama pictures himself as the champion of redistributive and retributive social justice. Hope for the downtrodden, raparations for the wronged, retribution against the historical capitalist engines of injustice -- particularly the private sector of the US and allies.

Slavery has always existed -- it fills an economic niche in virtually every economic system known to man. Only since the coming of capitalism combined with constitutional republics and liberal democracies, has slavery been largely driven out of advanced countries. Free markets create excess wealth which seeks the most efficient use for generating more profits. Slavery is relatively inefficient when compared with the work of free men and / or machines. But under conditions of massive, widespread economic hardship, the supply of "quasi slaves" grows so large that the price for them is cheap.

By destroying the private sector of the US -- the global engine of free markets and non-coercive prosperity -- Mr. Obama is bringing back the conditions that have always contributed to human slavery and trafficking throughout history. By creating the conditions for a massive resurgence of coercive labour, Mr. Obama stands to become the largest slave creator in human history.

Many productive persons in the US are beginning to feel like slaves, themselves. As Mr. Obama's vision for America becomes more and more clear to the persons whose imagination and creative labour have boosted and sustained America's economy for decades, they begin to consider alternatives. John Galt alternatives. Mr. Obama's new slaves begin considering ways off the plantation.

It is an ugly world that Mr. Obama is attempting to bring about -- a world of massive poverty and human exploitation. Will you join with Mr. Obama and Mr. Soros to help bring this world about? Or will you go Galt?

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14 November 2009

Housing Bubble Collapse: ACORN @ Eye of the Storm

Barack Obama's favourite corrupt government contractor -- ACORN -- sits squarely at the center of causation of the great 2009 Obama depression and economic collapse. It makes for an interesting story, but one that you will never hear from today's White House, or its extended public relations department -- the mainstream media.

The problem started in 1977 with Jimmy Carter's Community Reinvestment Act.  Then in the 90s, Congress empowered more loose-lending practises via the 1992 GSE, and further rule-loosening via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Finally, Bill Clinton open the floodgates of loose lending, via executive order, near the end of his last term.  By the time George W. Bush heard the ticking of the home lending time bomb, it was too late to stop the train wreck. [ Bush tried to stop it in 2003, but Bush only had bicameral majorities four out of his eight years, and never had control of Congress in the overwhelming numbers that Obama does.]

From the WSJ:
All agree that the bursting of the housing bubble caused the financial collapse of 2008. Most agree that the housing bubble started in 1997. Less well understood is that this bubble was the result of government policies that lowered mortgage-lending standards to increase home ownership. One of the key players was the controversial liberal advocacy group, Acorn (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).
ACORN was deputized to help write the statutory regulations that set mandates for affordable housing. ACORN further lobbied its congressional heavyweights sitting on banking and finance committees to put pressure on banks, to force them to accept unsound loans.
...As a result of congressional and regulatory actions, the percentage of conventional first mortgages (not guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration or the Veteran's Administration) used to purchase a home with the borrower putting 5% or less down tripled from 9% in 1991 to 27% in 1995, eventually reaching 29% in 2007.
Fannie and Freddie acquired $1.2 trillion of loans from banks and other lenders from 1993 to 2007. This amounted to 62% of all such conventional home purchase loans with a down payment of 5% or less that were originated nationwide over the same period.

Fannie and Freddie also acquired $2.2 trillion in subprime loans and private securities backed by subprime loans from 1997 to 2007. Acorn and the other advocacy groups succeeded at getting Congress to mandate "innovative and flexible" lending practices such as higher debt ratios and creative definitions of income. And the serious delinquency rate on Fannie and Freddie's $1.5 trillion in high-risk loans was 10.3% as of Sept. 30, 2009.

This is about seven times the delinquency rate on the GSEs' traditional loans. Fifty percent of the high-risk loans are estimated to be CRA loans, with much of the remainder useful to the GSEs in meeting their affordable-housing goals.

The flood of CRA and affordable-housing loans with loosened underwriting standards, combined with declining mortgage interest rates—to 5% in 2003 from 10% in early 1991—resulted in a massive increase in borrowing capacity and fueled a house price bubble of unprecedented magnitude over the period 1997-2006.

Now this history may repeat itself as many of the same community groups are pushing Congress to expand CRA to cover all mortgage lenders, credit unions, insurance companies and others financial industry segments. Are we about to set the stage for another catastrophe? _WSJ
It is not a question of "if", but of "when" history will repeat itself. Most of the same idiots are sitting on the same banking committees, in positions of even more power to force the banks to do their will -- now that they have "bailed out" the banks once.

President Obama has long and close ties to ACORN. ACORN helped put Obama in the White House, so he will find it difficult to deny the quasi-criminal organisation anything it asks for.

If that means being complicit in blowing up another housing bubble-within-a-bubble, and initiating yet another economic crisis, well, there's still a former president who can be blamed. The current clown president's core constituency will believe anything the green rookie says. If he tells them __it is peanut butter, they will gobble it right up.

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13 November 2009

Oceans Hungrily Soaking Up CO2, SeaLife Thriving

Despite the growing emissions of CO2 from human activities, the actual airborne fraction of CO2 in the air stays relatively constant!  The ocean's voracious appetite for CO2 appears to be keeping up with everything humans can do to blow it out the tailpipes and smokestacks.  And no wonder!  A recent Dutch study shows that sea sponges live almost exclusively from dissolved ocean CO2.   The sponges consume half their own weight each day in dissolved CO2 without gaining weight!!!  It seems that the sea sponges turn the dissolved CO2 into nutritious waste that it then makes available to the rest of the reef inhabitants for consumption.  In other words, CO2 is the life of the reef.

The graph above (via Anthony Watts) comes from a study by the University of Bristol, which proves using actual data -- not computer models -- that the oceans and biosphere are soaking up CO2 as quickly as humans can emit it.
The strength of the new study, published online in Geophysical Research Letters, is that it rests solely on measurements and statistical data, including historical records extracted from Antarctic ice, and does not rely on computations with complex climate models.

...this data suggests that terrestrial ecosystems and the oceans have a much greater capacity to absorb CO2 than had been previously expected.

The results run contrary to a significant body of recent research which expects that the capacity of terrestrial ecosystems and the oceans to absorb CO2 should start to diminish as CO2 emissions increase, letting greenhouse gas levels skyrocket. Dr Wolfgang Knorr at the University of Bristol, UK, found that in fact the trend in the airborne fraction since 1850 has only been 0.7 ± 1.4% per decade, which is essentially zero. _Hindu
The infant science of climatology became hopelessly entangled in politics in the 1990s. Computer models with faulty assumptions, and proxy studies using bad statistical methodology and cherry-picked data were pushed to the forefront. Actual scientific observations and a dispassionate analysis of findings were forsaken for the addicting and corrupting influence of political and popular fame associated with the "carbon climate catastrophe".

An entire generation of "climate scientists" has been indoctrinated into this faux science of crisis seeking. Like the ambulance chasers of the legal profession, the doom seekers of climate are chasing the prize of quick grants, fame, and the warm cliquish comfort of an empty consensus.

Unfortunately for that "lost generation", true science is proceeding to pass them by.

Here is the full text PDF of Knorr's U Bristol paper, courtesy of Anthony Watts

Here is a physicist's take on the Knorr paper from Lubos Motl. More (14 Nov 09): According to Lubos' calculations, the Earth system is trying to return to a CO2 atmospheric concentration of 280 ppm -- a colder and far less life-friendly level of the vital nutrient [CO2] that plants, sea sponges, and many microbes of land and sea crave.

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