31 January 2010

Stratospheric Water Vapour Master Climate Control?

“Current climate models do a remarkable job on water vapor near the surface. But this is different — it’s a thin wedge of the upper atmosphere that packs a wallop from one decade to the next in a way we didn’t expect,” says Susan Solomon, NOAA senior scientist and first author of the study...Since 2000, water vapor in the stratosphere decreased by about 10 percent. The reason for the recent decline in water vapor is unknown. _NOAA_via_Reason
Climatology is an infant science that is just barely beginning to comprehend the basics of Earth's climate. Climate models are jokes, derided by genuine scientists who deal with complex data on a daily basis. A recent study published in Science illustrates the infantile nature of modern "climate science:"
...now scientists from NOAA have published research in Science that challenges the core assumptions of the global warming camp...

...the fundamental assumption in global warming dogma, that carbon dioxide is the most important factor in global warming, is simply not true...the research does allude to human emissions having a much smaller role in climate change than previously thought... _Ntl.Post

These results were predicted years ago by a former NASA physicist from Hungary, Ference Miskolczi. David Stockwell of the blog Niche Modeling, has looked into the Miskolczi theories, and posted several explanatory articles.

Miskolczi is not the first scientist to introduce the idea of "negative feedback" into atmospheric studies. MIT's Richard Lindzen has been discussing negative feedbacks in climate for many years.

In fact, wherever you look in the atmosphere, the biosphere, or the oceans, you find negative feedbacks are predominant in climate. Otherwise by now the Earth would have experienced runaway climate change in various directions, and never have come back. Instead, when one looks at the history of Earth's climate, one sees fractal cycles that repeat over several overlapping time scales.

Only the political takeover of climate science since the 1990s has allowed the unscientific ideas of James Hansen, Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt, Tom Karl, and the rest of the on-the-take scamsters to crowd out a true scientific investigation of climate. Until recently, studies such as the one above from Science could not have been published -- they would have been censored by the established powers-that-be in climate science.

With the downfall of the University of East Anglia's CRU, and the increased scrutiny on Michael Mann's and James Hansen's "research" by various levels of auditors, the iron grip that controls what can be published and discussed has been loosened slightly.

If you still go to realclimate.org to get your daily dose of "climate science", you should start to understand that you have only been drinking heavily drugged mother's milk. If you remain in the creche of realclimate or wikipedia's climate coverage, you will never be weaned into the larger world beyond the pseudoscience to which you are addicted. No problem, psychological neotenates and academic lobotomates. That may be the limit of your capacity.

For the rest, it looks as if some actual scientific observations may finally be allowed -- instead of restricting climate studies to fudged computer models and cherry-picked proxies.


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30 January 2010

IPCCs Pachauri Lied About Himalayan Glaciers -- Again

Rajendra Pachauri was told that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 was wrong, but he waited two months to correct it. He failed to act despite learning that the claim had been refuted by several leading glaciologists _TimesOnline
It is impossible to keep up with all the lies that IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri has told to the press. Perhaps even Pachauri himself has lost track of them all. Here is but the latest:
Dr Pachauri, who played a leading role at the summit, corrected the error last week after coming under media pressure. He told The Times on January 22 that he had only known about the error for a few days. He said: “I became aware of this when it was reported in the media about ten days ago. Before that, it was really not made known. Nobody brought it to my attention. There were statements, but we never looked at this 2035 number.”

Asked whether he had deliberately kept silent about the error to avoid embarrassment at Copenhagen, he said: “That’s ridiculous. It never came to my attention before the Copenhagen summit. It wasn’t in the public sphere.”

However, a prominent science journalist said that he had asked Dr Pachauri about the 2035 error last November. Pallava Bagla, who writes for Science journal, said he had asked Dr Pachauri about the error. He said that Dr Pachauri had replied: “I don’t have anything to add on glaciers.” _More at TimesOnline

Using the bogus findings, Pachauri was able to obtain up to millions of dollars worth of grants to TERI, one of Pachauri's many private interests -- interests that stand to profit from a skewed reporting of climatic changes.

Pachauri's IPCC confederates at the UEA's CRU have been found to have broken the law in their zeal to slant the science of climate.

More and more people are starting to wonder if anthropogenic climate change may indeed be just a pile of shite.

Questions of data integrity are beginning to plague US climate researchers, including those at NASA GISS. Is that why Obama wants to strip NASA of space flight and divert all of NASA's budgeted funds to studying global warming? Right.

Recent research has overturned alarmist assumptions on questions of climate feedback, water vapour impacts on climate, and the exaggerated estimates of climate sensitivity to CO2 promulgated by (dishonest?) alarmists at the IPCC, CRU, GISS, and NOAA.

For an openminded, intelligent, and aware person, there is virtually no reason to believe in the alarmist crusade of climate catastrophe as promoted by President Obama, Barbara Boxer, Al Gore, Rajendra Pachauri, and the rest of the crusaders of the holy warmer orthodoxy.

Billions of dollars better spent elsewhere are being diverted to the climate crusade. If the crusade prevails over the climate skeptics and infidels, trillions of dollars of resources will be diverted from necessary energy and industrial projects into carbon trading scams and billion dollar gifts to third world dictators.

Your governments are scheming together to pull of a scam of legendary proportions, using pseud-science, blatant lies and illegalities, and a compliant news and entertainment media that just wants a big crisis to cover -- any crisis as long as it is politically correct.

It is up to you to decide what to do, once you figure out how badly you have been duped.


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29 January 2010

Burt Rutan, Portrait of Competence

Born Elbert L. Rutan in 1943 and raised in Dinuba, California, he began building model aircraft as a child. He graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1965 and landed a job as a flight test engineer at the US military's Edwards Air Force Base, not far from Mojave. "It was unbelievable training for a youngster," he says. Rutan later set up an aircraft design company and in 1982 went on to found Scaled Composites to enable him to realise his own creations, including SS2 _NewScientist

Long before inventing SpaceShipOne and Voyager—the first aircraft to circle the world nonstop and unrefueled—Burt Rutan revolutionized the practice of homebuilding airplanes with a 700-pound, composite oddity built with a set of step-by-step directions as simple as the recipe on a box of cake mix. _AirSpace

Burt Rutan is busy in Mojave, California, building a fleet of spacecraft for Richard Branson. Rutan is a full-spectrum aerospace designer, from single engine hobby planes and jets to round-the-world without refueling experimental craft to spaceplanes for tourists to safely get a taste of black weightless space. But more than that, Rutan is a man who thinks for himself, and goes his own way. His competence has been tested and proven in many ways, and Rutan is a thousand times better as a role model than any politician or film / sports celebrity.
Rutan is a megastar in aerospace circles. Over the last 40 years he has overseen the design and construction of more than 40 novel aircraft, including the record-breaking and ultra-efficient Voyager, which in 1986 flew non-stop around the world on a single tank of fuel.

In October 2004, financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, he secured a place in the history books when one of his aircraft, the waif-like White Knight, carried another of his designs, a rocket plane called SpaceShipOne (SS1), up to 50,000 feet. From there, SS1 was launched to the edge of space, winning Rutan the X Prize, an international contest to build the first privately funded crewed spacecraft to fly to an altitude of at least 100 kilometres and return safely to Earth twice within two weeks. _NewScientist

As an aerospace engineer, Rutan has to understand basic mechanics, aerodynamics and fluidics.  As an inventor, he knows how to generate good ideas and how to recognise bad ideas early enough to prevent serious problems.  As a pilot, he must have a firm grasp of atmospheric mechanisms as well as basic meteorological phenomenon.  As an enrepreneur and businessman, he must be competent at finance and management.  As a competent individual, he things for himself and refuses to stampede with the crowd.

Like most intelligent and independent thinking persons, Rutan is something of a skeptic when it comes to politicised science.  Take the climate catastrophe movement, for example. Rutan has done an intensive investigation of the phenomenon of "climate change" and has a lot of ideas on where things have gone wrong in the climate crusade.
My study is NOT as a climatologist, but from a completely different prospective in which I am an expert. Complex data from disparate sources can be processed and presented in very different ways, and to “prove” many different theories.

For decades, as a professional experimental test engineer, I have analyzed experimental data and watched others massage and present data. I became a cynic; My conclusion – “if someone is aggressively selling a technical product who’s merits are dependant on complex experimental data, he is likely lying”. That is true whether the product is an airplane or a Carbon Credit. _WUWT

In fact, persons from dozens of different backgrounds are trained to be competent at collecting, massaging, and analysing complex data. So when such a person of proven competence points out that data is being mismanaged to promote a political and economic agenda, other competent persons would take notice.

Living in a culture that makes a fetish of in-your-face incompetence -- as long as it is politically correct -- finding truly competent individuals going about their business without seeking the limelight is refreshing.


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Nanotech Builds a Synaptic Beginning

French researchers have built an artificial synapse using a combination of gold nanoparticles and an "organic transistor." The tiny device was designed to mimic the short term learning behaviour of a single synapse. Understand that it is a bare beginning -- since neurons have thousands of synapses, and there are tens of billions of neurons in the neocortex.
The team, which includes scientists from the CNRS (the French National Science Agency) and CEA (the French Atomic Energy Commission), began by adding gold nanoparticles to the interface between an insulating layer (gate dielectric) and an organic transistor made of pentacene. They fixed the nanoparticles, which were 5, 10 and 20 nm in diameter, into the source-drain channel of the device using surface chemistry techniques and finished the structure by covering it with a 35 nm thick film of pentacene. The resulting device is called a nanoparticle organic memory field-effect transistor or "NOMFET".
Short-term plasticity

A biological synapse transforms a voltage spike (action potential) arriving from a pre-synaptic neuron into a discharge of chemical neurotransmitters that are then detected by a post-synaptic neuron. These are subsequently transformed into new spikes, leading to a succession of pulses that either become larger or diminish in size. This fundamental property of synaptic behaviour is known as short-term plasticity, which is related to a neural network's ability to learn. It is this plasticity that Vuillaume and colleagues have succeeded in mimicking.

In the NOMFET, the pre-synaptic signal is simply the pulse voltage applied to the device and the output signal is the drain current, explains Vuillaume. The holes – the charge carriers in the p-type organic semiconductor employed – are trapped in the nanoparticles and act like the neurotransmitters. A certain number of holes are trapped for each incoming spike voltage and in the absence of pulses, the holes escape in a matter of seconds

This time delay is carefully adjusted by the researchers by optimizing nanoparticle number and device geometry. "The output of the NOMFET is thus able to reproduce the deceasing or amplifying behaviour typical of a synapse depending on the frequency of spikes," said Vuillaume. _PhysicsWorld

Nanowerk story on NOMFET

More from ZDNet

H/T ScienceDaily

Such research is important in recreating the bottom-up behaviour of synapses, and eventually neurons and neuronal networks. It is not necessarily the best way to build an artificial brain, but important insights may arise from the work which will suggest better ways to build artificial brains.

Conceptualizing how the brain creates consciousness and intelligence would be a big help in the effort reverse-engineer the brain and to build machine intelligences. Unfortunately, every effort to do so up until now has been wrong. Not to worry. We do not have to be exactly right to achieve a meaningful result. Just approximately right -- and to be willing to double, triple, quadruple check our work and to start over again as often as we have to until we get it right.

If we become emotionally attached to a failed concept for too long, we miss our chance to achieve a useful tool.

Life is not about being "right" or winning a cocktail argument. It is about being effective and competent in getting things done. This superfluous culture of psychological neoteny and academic (and media) lobotomy will not last.


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28 January 2010

Genetics Magic: Two Examples of a Startling Future

Here are two fascinating examples of genetics magic:

Brain cells from skin cells
Skin cells called fibroblasts can be transformed into neurons quickly and efficiently with just a few genetic tweaks, according to new research. The surprisingly simple conversion, which doesn't require the cells to be returned to an embryonic state, suggests that differentiated adult cells are much more flexible than previously thought.

If the research, published in the journal Nature yesterday, can be repeated in human cells, it would provide an easier method for generating replacement neurons from individual patients. Brain cells derived from a skin graft would be genetically identical to the patient and therefore remove the risk of immune rejection--such an approach might one day be used to treat Parkinson's or other neurodegenerative diseases.

"It's almost scary to see how flexible these cell fates are," says Marius Wernig, a biologist at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford, who led the research. "You just need a few factors, and within four to five days you see signs of neuronal properties in these cells." _TechnologyReview
Humans will soon be living longer, but in order for those longer lives to be meaningful, humans must have ways to keep their brains and other organs young and fully functional. Using common skin fibroblasts to provide replacement cells for aging brains would be the bare beginning steps to the regenerative society.

Diesel from bacteria
Jay Keasling, professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering at UC Berkeley and one of LS9's founders, and scientists at LS9 report engineering E. coli bacteria to synthesize and excrete the enzyme hemicellulase, which breaks down cellulose into sugars. The bacteria can then convert those sugars into a variety of chemicals--diesel fuel among them. The final products are excreted by the bacteria and then float to the top of the fermentation vat before being siphoned off.

Using these methods, it's possible to create a range of fuels from biomass, but LS9 is focusing on diesel rather than fuels similar to gasoline for the time being, says Stephen del Cardayre, the company's vice president of research and development. Diesel specifications are easier to meet and the market for diesel is growing by 2 to 4 percent a year, while that for gasoline is flat. Last May, LS9 partnered with Procter & Gamble to develop fuels as well as commodity chemicals. _TechnologyReview

Biomass can be grown in the oceans, in the deserts, on land, and in all ranges of climate. If a microbe can easily convert biomass to fuels on a large enough scale, you can say goodbye to fears of energy depletion.

The reprogramming of cellular genetic mechanisms allows humans to use living cells as molecular manufacturing plants, and as cell replication factories.   Programmed replacement brain cells can perform their normal functions plus secrete neuroprotective molecules to preserve their neighbors.  Re-programmed probiotics in the gut can provide a full range of nutrients and supplementary molecules to promote full body regeneration.  Programmed cells in the skin can use sunlight to synthesise a wide range of energy-providing molecules to power the body and brain.   Programmed biomass can turn itself into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc. with a minimum of post-harvest processing.

When you look at all of the phantom fears held over our heads by the zombies in government, the UN, the media, and the rest of our fearful culture,  you need to understand that there are solutions to virtually every problem.  More importantly, you need to learn to distinguish problems that are fabricated to control your behaviour from problems that desperately require your attention to be solved.

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27 January 2010

Microid Robots Meant to Act in Colony Swarms

The world belongs to the very small -- insects, microbes, molecules . . . It is past time that humans learned to use the power of "small squared" in the real world. Lots and lots of very small agents working together to manipulate real world objects. The possibilities are endless.
"The microids would be able to walk, run, jump, and pick up and move objects many times their own weight," Clark said. "A microid can also do what no insect or other microrobot can do, which is continue walking if flipped on its back. Who knows, maybe flight is next."

He also envisions the possibility of hordes of microids working in unison and communicating with each other to perform a complex task.

"You can't underestimate the power of having thousands of microids working together, much like ant colonies," he said.

The microids could be mass-produced using manufacturing technologies that are common to the semiconductor industry.

Purdue has filed a patent application on the concept.

The microids are designed to have the "tripod gait" for walking used by most insects - only three of six legs are on the ground at a time - which enables bugs to remain stable while traversing uneven terrain.

Each leg or mandible comprises a bundled triad of slender beams made of piezoelectric material, which generates electricity when compressed. This feature could enable the microids to harvest energy by taking advantage of vibration in the environment to recharge. _Physorg

Imagine planting and harvesting many acres of food crops and biomass crops using self-powered micro- and nano- robots. Powered by vibrational energy, solar energy, from heat or chemicals in the environment . . . Imagine using such robots to assemble homes and meeting places.

The military, espionage, and sabotage applications should be obvious without dwelling on them. Al Fin Futurologists take note of the negative applications, but prefer to spend most of their time developing positive uses for new technologies.

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Safer Retinal Gene Delivery System Developed

PEG-POD (polyethylene glycol - peptide ocular delivery) is a non-viral approach to compacting DNA and delivering it to cells in the retina. The method offers a safer genetic approach to treating several degenerative disorders of eyesight, as well as some congenital ocular disorders.
Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts have developed a new tool for gene therapy that significantly increases gene delivery to cells in the retina compared to other carriers and DNA alone, according to a study published in the January issue of The Journal of Gene Medicine. The tool, a peptide called PEG-POD, provides a vehicle for therapeutic genes and may help researchers develop therapies for degenerative eye disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.

"For the first time, we have demonstrated an efficient way to transfer DNA into cells without using a virus, currently the most common means of DNA delivery. Many non-viral vectors for gene therapy have been developed but few, if any, work in post-mitotic tissues such as the retina and brain. Identifying effective carriers like PEG-POD brings us closer to gene therapy to protect the retinal cells from degeneration," said senior author Rajendra Kumar-Singh, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology and adjunct associate professor of neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) and member of the genetics; neuroscience; and cell, molecular, and developmental biology program faculties at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts.

Safe and effective delivery of therapeutic genes has been a major obstacle in gene therapy research. Deactivated viruses have frequently been used, but concerns about the safety of this method have left scientists seeking new ways to get therapeutic genes into cells. _RDMag

More on the basic method

Gene delivery systems will allow for the re-programming of cells that have gone wrong, and for cells that were programmed wrong from the very beginning. In other words, gene therapies will be for all humans regardless of age.

The idea is to make human life longer, healthier, more fulfilling, and more relevant to the universe at large. The way to the next level.


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26 January 2010

CO2 to Fuels Using Sunlight

The question remains: Can humans do better at conversion of CO2 to useful fuels and chemicals than nature has done for billions of years?

A recent newsrelease from Carbon Sciences Inc. claims the development of a new biocatalytic process to convert CO2 into methane, ethane, and propane.

This past November, Joule Biotechnologies announced an important advance in its quest to convert CO2 into hydrocarbons using solar powered genengineered microbes.

Sandia Labs is also pursuing the dream of synthetic conversion of CO2 to fuels using solar energy.

From UCSD:
Now Clifford Kubiak, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and his graduate student Aaron Sathrum have developed a prototype device that can capture energy from the sun, convert it to electrical energy and “split” carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen. _ScienceBlog

Penn State researchers aim to use nanotubes to catalyse the reduction of CO2 to methane using sunlight as a power source.

Algal fuels companies and other microbial fuels syndicates and bioenergy corps. also rely upon CO2 for feedstock and sunlight for energy.

Problem: Carbon dioxide is a trace gas -- only 0.04% of the Earth's atmosphere. For most of the plans above to succeed, they need to tap into a concentrated source of CO2 -- such as the effluent gases from a coal plant.


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Don't Look at Me! You're the One With the Uterus!

Most modern countries are helplessly aging into gray. Before long, there will be no workers in Europe to fund the generous Euro-welfare states. Soon there will be no Russian soldiers to defend the mineral rich Siberian frontier. And soon the Japanese islands will be a haunted empire of ghosts looking to the east. The following quotes are taken from a recent City Journal article. Most modern environmentalists fail to comprehend the problem. They are too focused on a phantom climate doom or peak oil doom. But it's always the doom they don't see that tends to get them.
Today, women in more than 60 countries, ranging from Austria, Canada, and Poland to Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, don’t bear enough children to keep the population growing. In a handful of countries, women average just one child over a lifetime, less than half the replacement rate. _CityJournal

What’s behind the dwindling births? The chief factor is urbanization. Starting in the Industrial Revolution, households began migrating from rural areas, where Johnny and Sally could work on the family farm to help make ends meet, to cities, where the modern economy made kids a financial burden, requiring them to spend more and more years in school to become employable. Nowadays, it costs between $170,000 and $300,000 to raise a child through high school in the United States or Europe.

High taxes, mandatory schooling up through the late teens, and a social / cultural zeitgeist that discourages children and favours a quasi-urbane, pseudo-sophisticate lifestyle of faux gentility.
Shrinking fertility rates are producing rapidly graying societies. More than 20 percent of Japan’s population, for instance, is now 65 or older, and by 2050, that figure will rise to an astonishing 40 percent. Germany’s over-65 population has increased from 15 percent in 1980 to 20 percent today and is expected to reach one-third of the population by 2050.

Japan is working furiously to insert robot replacements into both service and factory worker slots. Even babies are to be replaced by "baby robots." Caretaker robots will care for the masses of aged Japanese.
Older workers’ experience can be valuable, but they tend to be less productive than their younger counterparts because they generally work fewer hours, are more costly to employ (since their seniority-based wages are higher), and aren’t as adaptable or as up-to-date technologically.

More resources will be devoted to the care of the aged, as fewer and fewer actual workers remain to pay into the system. Europe is just beginning to feel the pinch.
As aging Japanese workers poured ever more of their earnings into retirement accounts, consumer spending suffered, too. Between 1990 and 2000, average Japanese household spending actually shrank, once adjusted for inflation. While savings can lift an economy by providing more capital for business investment, Japanese producers viewed the increasing savings and the falling consumption as a sign of population stagnation, and they stopped investing at home, instead expanding in overseas markets like the U.S.

The ballooning US economy of the 1990s and most of the 2000s encouraged investors in the more sluggish Japanese and many Europeans to invest in US funds and instruments. Thus did a large part of the wealth of entire generations evaporate in a burst bubble of Barney (Frank).
Faced with the inescapable math of fertility decline, many countries have tried to address its economic consequences. The most common policy change has been to reduce the size of the welfare state, especially through adjustments to pension systems, which aren’t sustainable as the ratio of workers to pensioners declines. The European trend until recently was for workers to retire earlier and earlier, even as life expectancy grew. The labor-force participation rate of people aged 55 to 64 in the European Union is just 48 percent, compared with 64 percent in the United States. Countries with some of the gravest population problems also have the lowest rates of participation. In Italy, for instance, only 36 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds are in the labor force.

Too little, too late. Europeans have refused to face reality for several decades now. There is no reason to expect them to wake up now.
A study of birthrates among the French in the 1990s found that immigrant women from Morocco, Tunisia, and other North African countries had a fertility rate of nearly three. But the unemployment rate among the foreign-born in France is twice the rate of native-born French (by contrast, in the U.S. the foreign-born unemployment rate is roughly the same as the native-born rate). Nor have the children of the foreign-born in France proved successful at integrating into the French economy. In many North African neighborhoods in France, 30 to 40 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds are unemployed.

The French are not procreating. It is the immigrants -- who do not tend to work or produce -- who are procreating. It is illegal in France to provide the statistics which might have warned the people early enough to do something about the problem.

In fact, many European cities, schools, and birthing wards are filling with foreign immigrants who refuse to work or otherwise integrate into society. As the cities of Europe decay, as the armies, legislatures, and police forces begin to fill with alien-thinking immigrants, Europe may want to think of a different name to call herself.

The world is on the cusp of transformation. It is simply a different transformation than anything you have been told by your professors or by the media. Buckle up!

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25 January 2010

Sex and Jazz: The Improvisational Brain

Improvisation is central to jazz. Every performance is unique, a musical flight of the creative moment. How does the brain accomplish such an intricate and instantaneous crystallization of near-chaotic sublime balance?
Spontaneous improvisation was in each case associated with a highly congruous pattern of activations and deactivations in prefrontal cortex, sensorimotor and limbic regions of the brain. In addition, the majority of these regions showed functionally reciprocal patterns of activity. That is, activations during improvisation were matched by deactivations during the control tasks, and vice versa, when each condition was compared to the resting baseline.

...The changes in the prefrontal cortex consisted of a deactivation in the lateral parts and activation in the medial parts of the prefrontal cortex. The medial part is thought to play a role in the complex phenomenon of the self, internally motivated self generated content and as such this activation can be explained by the fact that improvisation is also a way of expressing one’s own musical voice or story. The deactivation of the lateral part is explained by the occurrence of free floating attention, permitting spontaneous expressions without interference of self-monitoring. _Dr.Shock

Compare what happens in the frontal cortex of a jazz improvisationalist with what happens in the frontal cortex of a female brain in orgasm -- a "sexual improvisationalist".
But when a woman reached orgasm, something unexpected happened: much of her brain went silent. Some of the most muted neurons sat in the left lateral orbitofrontal cortex, which may govern self-control over basic desires such as sex. Decreased activity there, the researchers suggest, might correspond to a release of tension and inhibition. The scientists also saw a dip in excitation in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, which has an apparent role in moral reasoning and social judgment—a change that may be tied to a suspension of judgment and reflection. _SciAm

Areas of the pre-frontal lobes that govern judgment, self-control, and self-vigilance tend to be shut down in both improvising jazz musicians and in orgasming women. Other areas of the brain having to do with body sensations experience amplified activity during both jazz and sex.

You may ask, "so what?" Well, consider this: what if the proper test of human level consciousness has more to do with the ability to orgasm or to "feel jazz" than it does with playing chess or algorithms?

The human brain and the human body work together. Separate them, and neither one can function well. The mind is embodied within the brain, but in a sense the brain is co-embodied along with the physical organism. The idea that one can create a human equivalent mind without taking into account how the brain and body improvise our reality, moment by moment, is irrational.

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23 January 2010

Adrenaline Hunters Seek to Move Beyond

Humans need to move out of their coddled infancy -- out of their addiction to security and eternal comfort. The only eternal comfort is death, and not many want that. Evolved primates will have to leave their cradle planet, and become good at surviving unimaginable hazards. Adrenaline hunters are the humans who show traces of the instinct to go beyond. There is no safety, no security. There is only competence to face the inevitable hazards coming our way. We have to find that competence.

Beyond the thrill-seekers, the explorers, and the adventurers, human societies must be able to produce the pioneers -- people who move permanently out into the danger zone. People able to adapt and prosper using their own resources.

The tools needed to make the remaining frontiers on Earth (the oceans, polar regions, the high atmosphere) safe for human habitation are very close. The tools needed to make outer space and planetary surfaces safe for human living are not much farther behind. For such hazardous environments, competence is always the central tool for survival.

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A Late Comprehending of Obama's Incompetence

It has been a year of fecklessness, amateurism, and posturing. Less that is useful has been accomplished by this president in his first year than by any president since Herbert Hoover, and he was ambushed by the Great Depression after seven months. _Ntl.Post

You would have to go farther back in history than Herbert Hoover to find a US president as incompetent as Obama. But far worse than his incompetence is his unshakable belief in his own destiny to determine the fate of the world according to his inner whimsies.
Withal, this president seems overwhelmingly confident, strangely detached,....'cold and faux eloquent.' He is fluent and sonorous, but rather vapid.

...For all the claims that the Republicans are too influenced by religious zealots and country club knuckle-draggers, the administration may be in the hands of 'redistributive,' pacifistic Kool Aid drinkers. ConradBlack

Unemployment rose in 43 states in December 09. The state of California is on the brink of economic collapse. Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and several other Obama strongholds are not far behind. Even the labour unions -- among Obama's staunchest supporters -- cannot escape the fallout of incompetence emanating from ground zero of Doombama. Consequently, union membership is growing among government employees but falling in the productive sector -- where everyone is suffering.

The middle class has always been a bulwark against collectivists and dictators. And the US middle class is starting to wake up to the reality of Obama. It is growing angry.
The frustration of the middle class is the angry confusion of people who can appreciate the opportunities Big Government denies them. It is the anxiety of those who hear the businesses who employ them relentlessly demonized, while the ruling class is never held responsible for its foolishness, waste, and theft. It is the resentment of people who suffer through disasters that President Obama and his allies regard as opportunities. It’s the hearty distrust of a State, and its media apparatus, that declares every frigid blast of bad economic news to be “unexpected” – but expects us to believe it can predict market fluctuations, technological advances, and even the global climate.

The President says “I have every interest in seeing a unified country solving big problems.” The rest of us have an interest in being allowed to pursue our individual solutions to those problems, according to the liberties our Constitution says belong to us as absolutely as our souls. We can see the wreckage of those “unified” solutions strewn through our past, and littering the rest of the world. Our frustration is born of intelligence and moral strength, not stubborn blindness. _TheGreenroom
There is nothing new about Obama's incompetence. What is new is the growing public comprehension of the invisible nature of the emperor's suit. Obama has always lacked leadership ability. But the news and entertainment media have been willing to provide a smokescreen to hide the man's incompetence -- until now.

It was easy to get caught up in the Obama crusade -- for those who had never had an original thought, for those who had nothing truly important to accomplish, and for those who saw an opportunity to advance their own selfish goals under the cover of a populist crusade. But as the destruction grows and as failure mounts, it is not so easy to ignore the sense of an approaching abyss.

Can politics save a nation from the disaster that politics has created? No. But it can delay and mitigate the disaster long enough for the more thoughtful and competent ones to prepare.

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22 January 2010

Colleges Under Assault from the Real World

For many young people in North America, college is a place to go to party, to get away from the stresses of the real world for as long as possible, before entering the workforce.  But the outside world has a way of slipping through the bricks and mortar, bringing with it the cold winds of reality -- there may be no jobs for them when they leave partytown.
1.) Money – As the cost of colleges skyrockets, student loans and financing are becoming harder to get.

2.) Courses – Our existing semester and quarter-based college schedules are a poor match for today’s plugged-in, hyper-jacked students. Passed down from generations past, the current timetables for courses spread out over 8-12 weeks only works for an increasingly small segment of society, leaving most working adults to fend for themselves.

3.) Teachers – As new economic realities hits college campuses, their first impulse will be to cut staff. Some will attempt to limit the damage to wage freezes and curtailed hiring, but others will begin to roll out the pink slips.

4.) Classrooms – There has long been the pervasive notion that learning can only take place in a classroom. Even though schools use field trips and outdoor experiences to enhance education, the classroom remains a dominant central fixture in education today....However, classroom-centric education is not necessary for learning. Our need to physically “gather at the feet of the master” will be replaced with faster, easier systems for connecting thoughts and ideas.

5.) Credits - ...Credit-granting authority will be the most difficult area for outsiders to penetrate. But rest assured, when the economic foundation of colleges begins to feel shaky, the creative opportunists will begin to emerge.

6.) Status – Academic elites have long been drinking the Kool-Aid, espousing the gospel of superior standing in one’s community that can only be achieved through diplomas and scholarly achievement. With a record numbers of college graduates now unemployed and under-employed, the bragging rights have begun to tarnish. _ColoradoBiz_via_ImpactLab

University has been a refuge for dysfunctional adults as well. I am referring, of course to humanities and social sciences professors. As the assault on the well-entrenched redoubts of higher indoctrination proceeds, we may have the opportunity to watch many of these sinecured and self-assured brain binders turned out into the cold cruel world of real work.

Amusingly enough, it is the economic devastation driven by the political agenda of these societally superfluous profs that is squeezing college budgets and forcing many of the coming cuts in college employment. The average voter is not feeling very charitable toward tenured bureaucrats and academics with fat salaries and pensions -- particularly if he or someone he knows happens to be among the 20% or more unemployed or underemployed.

The prosperity that built the huge North American empire of education can be quickly wiped out by an Obama - Mugabe - Chavez style of bankrupting "social justice." But it is when the academics start losing their jobs as a result of their own agenda that "social justice" acquires its sweet ironic overtones.

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21 January 2010

Why Peak Oil Doom is for Dummies: Hotelling Rule

The “Hotelling rule”, named after the late US mathematician Harold Hotelling, states that the price of an exhaustible commodity should converge towards the price of a substitute resource. _National

Peak Oil Doom is all about the massive devastating crash of the world economy that occurs, shortly after world crude oil production "peaks." The movement has collected a lot of adherents over the years, and several websites are dedicated to perpetuating the pornographic pleasure that peak oil doomers experience when contemplating the world after peak oil.

There is a serious problem with peak oil theory. It tends to ignore other forms of energy besides crude oil, which can be substituted for crude. Taking all the potential substitutes for crude oil into account tends to change the picture significantly.
From shale gas in North America to big new discoveries off the coasts of Venezuela and Israel, the recent appraisal of a huge Turkmen gasfield, new Australasian, Russian and Yemeni liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects and initiatives to reduce gas flaring in Nigeria, Russia and Iraq, it has never been clearer that the world is floating on a party balloon of gas.

Ironically, the more geologists search for oil, the more they usually find gas.

Consequently, gas prices have fallen in markets where the commodity trades freely.

Not so long ago, gas produced from oilfields was considered a nuisance, and it was burned as waste.

Now gas is a valued commodity for heating, power generation, the production of petrochemicals and fertiliser, for pushing more oil out of the ground, and even for conversion into synthetic crude oil and for use in some diesel engines.

Like oil, it can now be shipped around the world in tankers as well as moved through pipelines. If global warming continues, LNG tankers may soon ship gas from the Arctic.

Because of its infrastructure requirements, however, gas has most often been sold under long-term contracts linked to crude prices. In future, if Dr Austvik is right, crude markets may follow international gas prices. _National

Important new crude oil discoveries are being made on the continent and continental shelves of North America. But North America with its massive coal reserves, its trillions of barrels of oil sands bitumens and oil shale kerogens, and its massive new finds of natural gas, is in an excellent position to substitute "home grown" fuels for imported crude oil, if necessary.

There is of course another kind of oil -- bio-oils. Bio-oils from microbes are the next big liquid fuels revolution (after CTL coal-to-liquids, GTL gas-to-liquids, and BTL biomass-to-liquids). It will take 10 to 20 years for microbe-produced oils to begin hitting the market and begin enacting Hotelling's Rule of economic substitution. BTL, CTL, and GTL will hit the markets much sooner.

And then there is the nuclear revolution -- safer and more efficient reactor designs just waiting for more enlightened governments in North America, Europe, and elsewhere to approve the next obvious step in large scale power generation.  It takes about ten years to construct a modern nuclear plant once approved, but the Luddites in the Obama - Pelosi government and its alliance with the reactionary faux environmental factions are obstructing every form of useful new energy as far as possible -- including nuclear.

Peak Oil Doom is the twin of Climate Catastrophe Doom.  The two movements conveniently dovetail, since Peak Oil Doom uses Climate Catastrophe Doom in an attempt to deny the use of coal, gas, kerogens, bitumens, heavy oils, and even regular crude.  These faux environmental political movements are oriented around the hobbling of the industrial base of the western world.  It is simply a matter of the consolidation of political power through energy starvation and a general economic hardship.

But the plan will not work, unless the Obama - Pelosi government is allowed to complete its well mapped agenda. There are several reasons -- including this one -- to doubt that the O-P Reich will have enough time to finish the job.

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the future of human governments and human society. Falling into a zombie panic over phantom doom will help no one.  It will only prevent us from doing what has to be done.

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Brain Storms

University College London researchers have identified firing patterns of "spatial grid" neurons that allow humans to navigate and locate objects.

Duke University researchers have identified about 50 neuroprotective chemical compounds using arrays of "humanized yeast!"

University of Cincinnati researchers, with scientists from the Canadian Department of Agriculture and the USDA have shown that blueberry juice can aid the memories of older humans.

MIT and University of Pittsburgh researchers have demnostrated that the size of specific brain regions can predict how well a person can succeed in playing video games. This somewhat reinforces previous researchers that show a strong correlation between a person's IQ and the size of specific brain centers.

Unmotivated learners can suddenly become motivated if the learning task is framed as "fun."

Older persons can make sense out of seemingly "irrelevant" information. This finding is a bit counterintuitive, since younger brains are supposed to be more open and flexible to new ideas and information. But if you consider an older person's superior experience and larger knowledge base, just a bit of flexibility can go a long way toward making irrelevant information relevant.

The human brain is the only example of high level general intelligence that humans know of. Cognitive scientists who wish to design machine brains have a lot to learn before they separate what is important and what is not important in the brain's creation of mind -- when applied to the larger and more general question of evolved or designed cognition.


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20 January 2010

Stealthy Personal Flyer Half Airplane, Half Helicopter

This pretty little personal flyer lets you take off and land vertically (VTOL) in a stealthy manner, using electric motors. Called the "Puffin", it is NASA's answer to the US Marines' Osprey VTOL airplane.
In theory it can cruise at 150 miles per hour and sprint at more like 300 miles per hour. Since the craft is electrically propelled it doesn't need air intake, so thinning air is not a limitation, meaning it can reach — again, in theory — 30,000 feet before limitations on battery power force it to descend...

...Aside from the military applications (super-stealthy troop insertions with very low thermal signatures?) the quiet, uncomplicated, low-powered electric lift — just 60 horsepower gets pilot and craft airborne — shows how a world in which everyday folks get around modern cities via personal aircraft may not be as sci-fi as was once thought. _Gizmodo

Al Fin was unable to convince Jack Bauer to give up his priority position in line to test fly the Puffin. But just as soon as he can, he will provide a personal test flight report.

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The Cost of Energy: Comparison per Million BTUs

Chemical engineer Robert Rapier has provided a comparison of costs per million BTUs for various energy sources. It is an interesting beginning point for discussion.
Current Energy Prices per Million BTU

Powder River Basin Coal - $0.56
Northern Appalachia Coal - $2.08
Natural gas - $5.67
Ethanol subsidy - $5.92
Petroleum - $13.56
Propane - $13.92
#2 Heating Oil - $15.33
Jet fuel - $16.01
Diesel - $16.21
Gasoline - $18.16
Wood pellets - $18.57
Ethanol - $24.74
Electricity - $34.03 _Source, Sources, and Conversion Factors

This is the type of comparison that the Obama - Pelosi crusade for energy starvation does not want you to see. But there it is, stark and plain.  It is important to separate issues of cost from peripheral issues such as "carbon climate catastrophe" and "peak oil."  

The only way that Powder Basin coal can be used cleanly is via gasification -- preferably using Integrated Combined Cycle Gasification with Combined Heat and Power production (IGCC with CHP).  IGCC extracts more energy from the fuel, using both gas and steam turbine cycles.  CHP makes productive use of the "waste" heat, making the entire enterprise above 80% efficiency.  Powder Basin coal is cheap and dirty, but it can be used cheap and clean using IGCC plus CHP.    If you want liquid fuels, you can convert cheap, dirty coal to cheap clean liquids using gasification plus Fischer Tropsch catalysis etc.

Forget the carbon sequestration, unless you have an algae farm or other productive use for the CO2 you are sequestering.   Carbon sequestration is a horrific waste of resources.  It virtually eliminates the advantages of IGCC while doing nothing for the environment except necessitating the use of even more fuel.

When the people understand the issues behind the grand crusade of the Obama - Pelosi Revolutionary Reich for redistribution, energy starvation, economic depression, and social justice, they tend to vote against it.

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19 January 2010

Artificial Female Intuition: The Mind of Monica

The field of artificial intelligence has suffered from an excess of reductionist, linear male logic. It could likely stand a strong dose of non-linear, chaotic female intuition to put it closer to fruition. Monica Anderson may be exactly the kind of female that the field of machine intelligence needs right now.

Brian Wang summarized a presentation by Monica Anderson from the recent Foresight 2010 conference. (see Anderson's presentation video 49:34)  Brian's brief glimpse of Ms. Anderson's approach to "Artificial Intuition" was interesting enough to lead to the Syntience.com website, and to the intriguing Artificial Intuition website.
Most humans have not been taught logical thinking, but most humans are still intelligent. Most of our daily actions such as walking, talking, and understanding the world are based on Intuition, not Logic.

I will attempt to show that it is implausible that the brain should be based on Logic. I believe Intelligence emerges from millions of nested micro-intuitions, and that true Artificial Intelligence requires Artificial Intuition.

Intuition is surprisingly easy to implement in computers, but requires a lot of memory....

Computer-based intuition - "Artificial Intuition" - is quite straightforward to implement, but requires computers (a recent invention) with a lot of memory (only recently available cheaply enough). These methods were simply unthinkable at the time AI got started, not to mention at the time we discovered the power of Logic and the Scientific Method. The tendency to continue down a chosen path may have delayed the discovery of Artificial Intuition by a few years. _ArtificialIntuition
Anderson goes on for several pages elaborating on the concept of artificial intuition, and how the concept could compensate for the deep and deadly deficiencies of a primarily logic-based approach to artificial intelligence.   It is worth reading for anyone interested in why artificial intelligence has been so slow to develop.

Here are Monica Anderson's videos on Vimeo.com

Ms. Anderson's ideas go in the right direction, generally. I recommend reading the Artificial Intuition website. It is likely that she underestimates the difficulty of implementing intuitive operations into machines -- at all the multiple levels they are suspected of operating. She refers to "artificial intuition" as an algorithm, which is unlikely to be accurate on two counts: it is unlikely that "intuition" can be implemented for multiple levels using only a single "algorithm", and in fact it is unlikely that machine implemented intuition will be readily recognised as an "algorithm" by most practitioners of computer science.


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18 January 2010

A Burst of Consciousness: Out of Chaos

The line between mental chaos and a clear awareness is measured in milliseconds. If the brain can be distracted at just the right time, it will not be able to see what is in front of its nose. Researchers at the Weizman Institute of Science studied patients with implanted brain electrodes (in preparation for surgery). They were able to observe the sudden burst of brain activity in the higher visual brain centers signifying comprehension of an image.
The subjects looked at a computer screen, which briefly presented a 'target' image -- a face, house, or man-made object.

This image was followed by a 'mask' -- a meaningless picture for distraction -- at different time intervals after the target image had been presented. This allowed the experimenter to control the visibility of the images -- the patients sometimes recognized the targets and sometimes failed to do so. By comparing the electrode recordings to the patients' reports of whether they had correctly recognized the image or not, the scientists were able to pinpoint when, where and what was happening in the brain as transitions in perceptual awareness took place.

Malach: 'We found that there was a rapid burst of neural activity occurring in the high-order visual centers of the brain -- centers that are sensitive to entire images of objects, such as faces -- whenever patients had correctly recognized the target image.' The scientists also found that the transition from not seeing to seeing happens abruptly. Fisch: 'When the mask was presented too soon after the target image, it 'killed' the visual input signals, resulting in the patients being unable to recognize the object. The patients suddenly became consciously aware of the target image at a clear threshold, suggesting that the brain needs a specific amount of time to process the input signals in order for conscious perceptual awareness to be 'ignited.'' _SD

Consciousness is a time-critical process. The time constraints of conscious awareness depend upon electro-physiological activity across the cortical and sub-cortical brain. These electro-physiological activities are in turn dependent upon lower level physiological and biochemical activities in cerebral neurons, glia, and vasculature. But there is a great deal of subtle detail hidden out of sight, for now. It will require our brightest scientists to tease out the complexity from the chaos.

Earlier research by same researchers using fMRI to identify neuronal correlates of conscious activity

Global Neuronal Workspace Theory of Consciousness

PDF Look at how prefrontal activity can be temporarily "shut down" by perceptual processes PDF

PDF A glimpse at active unconscious assistance processes in conscious reading of handwritten materials PDF

300 milliseconds to conscious awareness

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17 January 2010

Central Pattern Generators Out of the Gait

Animals with 4 or more legs tend to utilise various gait patterns of locomotion, shifting from one to another effortlessly to save energy. Now, scientists at Max Planck Institute and Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Göttingen, the Physics Department of the Georg-August-University of Göttingen are using central pattern generators (CPGs) in robots, to allow similar gait-shifting. In fact, they have managed to control multiple gaits using just one CPG!
In humans and animals, periodically recurring movements like walking or breathing are controlled by small neural circuits called "central pattern generators" (CPG). Scientists have been using this principle in the development of walking machines. To date, typically one separate CPG was needed for every gait. The robot receives information about its environment via several sensors - about whether there is an obstacle in front of it or whether it climbs a slope. Based on this information, it selects the CPG controlling the gait that is appropriate for the respective situation.

One single pattern generator for many gaits

The robot developed by the Göttingen scientists now manages the same task with only one CPG that generates entirely different gaits and which can switch between these gaits in a flexible manner. This CPG is a tiny network consisting of two circuit elements. The secret of its functioning lies in the so-called "chaos control". If uncontrolled, the CPG produces a chaotic activity pattern. This activity, however, can very easily be controlled by the sensor inputs into periodic patterns that determine the gait. Depending on the sensory input signal, different patterns - and thus different gaits - are generated.

The connection between sensory properties and CPG can either be preprogrammed or learned by the robot from experience. The scientists use a key example to show how this works: the robot can autonomously learn to walk up a slope with as little energy input as possible. As soon as the robot reaches a slope, a sensor shows that the energy consumption is too high. Thereupon, the connection between the sensor and the control input of the CPG is varied until a gait is found that allows the robot to consume less energy. Once the right connections have been established, the robot has learned the relation between slope and gait. When it tries to climb the hill a second time, it will immediately adopt the appropriate gait. _MaxPlanckSociety

 Even simple insects use different gaits to conserve energy.  Being able to program such energy-saving hacks into multi-legged robots should lead more quickly to autonomous roving robots capable of "living off the land" while achieving extended missions.  Living off the land might mean operating on solar energy or even eating forms of carbon such as plants, coal, or peat.

Central pattern generators are useful circuits, only algorithmic in a definitional way.  CPGs are generally seen as automatised motor controls for muscles, but it is likely that similar circuits contribute to cognitive functions at a low level.

Rodney Brooks must be loving this.


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Clean Water for Haiti and the Third World

HydroWell Water Purification System

With over fifteen years of research, scientists have developed the world’s first commercially viable forward osmosis membrane for emergency desalination and water filtration. This membrane is used by NASA, the US Department of Defense, the United States Coast Guard and is now available to the public for use in emergency desalination situations.

...Forward osmosis products out-perform the competition in these situations, because unlike other filter or purification technologies, they are virtually unaffected by the presence of mud or other suspended solids in the contaminated source water. Using an advanced membrane filter, our systems offer the highest purity available from any personal water filter. Yet because they operate passively without pressure, they do not clog, allowing virtually any water source to be used to provide clean, safe drink. _ImpactLab_via_SeaPack

Dean Kamen's Water Purifier

It is designed to supply a village with 1,000 liters/day of clean water.

You can use any water source — ocean, puddle, chemical waste site, hexavalent chrome, arsenic, poison, 50 gallon drum of urine.

The Slingshot (as its called) can use half the waste heat (450 watts) from a sterling engine electrical generator (prototype also being designed by Kamen’s company) to boil its water.

The heat put into the water is recovered with a "counter-flow heat exchanger" and recycled to heat the next batch of water (that is part of the novel bit).
Slingshot will be less then 60 lbs. The prototype slingshot was hand-built for $100K. The goal is to get production units down to $1,000 to $2,000. The sterling engine, used as an electrical generator, can produce about 200 watts of power (it will never be more then 20 percent efficient) and 800 watts of waste heat (the waste heat that slingshot uses).

Later sources say the sterling engine can generate 1 kilowatt or enough power for 70 high-efficiency light bulbs. (CNN)
The sterling engine can run on anything that burns, propane or even cow dung. (CNN)
The slingshot is a David and Goliath reference aimed at putting water and power back in the hands of the individuals. (AP) _Wired

Perhaps 5 children out of a hundred from the third world have the potential learn to live in a modern high-tech world. But the rest will need good, reliable ways to produce clean drinking water -- both in emergencies and during the long stretches of ordinary life in between.

We have heard that Haiti is "unlucky." That is true in a trivial sense. Haiti is unlucky in the same way that Zimbabwe is unlucky, Darfur is unlucky, or that Detroit is unlucky. Haiti is unlucky enough to be populated by people who are unable to change the ordinary, mundane circumstances of their lives.

Such parts of the third world will always need the help of those who are capable of generating change, innovation, and improved circumstances. Clean water is a good place to start.

Lifesaver Water Bottle via Brian Wang


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16 January 2010

Online Medical School Coming Soon

High quality lectures, notes, texts, and other learning materials are freely available online to the aspiring medical homeschooler. The only thing lacking to qualify an ambitious and determined student to pass the basic sciences medical boards is to have the material organised properly, to provide an online forum for medical homeschoolers to interact with each other and with more medically knowledgeable persons, and to provide a method of testing the knowledge learned. All of those things will come.

There are even methods of providing expert lectures and training in real time -- using Skype and Dimdim.  Here is how:
Table 1: Ten Cookbook Steps
1) Make sure you have a relatively recent (3-4 years) old desktop or laptop PC or less, hardwired to a DSL or cable broadband internet connection. WiFi may not work. FIOS would be a dream! Macs  have worked as an attendee computer, and they have worked as a host computer also.
2) Make sure you use the MSIE (Explorer) browser. Firefox will work, Chrome will not work. Safari has worked.
3) Download the latest version of Skype (currently 4.1), and learn how to use it. Have one of your of your student attendees CALL the entire group, including you, preferably the student with the fastest internet connection. It is important that the Skype initiator be DIFFERENT from the Dimdim  presenter, for bandwidth preservation purposes. Having a DIRECT microphone input for the presenter, rather than an open mike, might improve quality, and having the student attendees DISCONNECT their mikes (TOTAL disconnect, switch off or pink plug unplugged) while not talking IS NECESSARY! Of course they can switch ON to talk anytime. If you do not feel comfortable using Skype, this project will fail.
4) Go to www.dimdim.com and register for their FREE service option, and then click the button to HOST a meeting.
5) Make sure in Dimdim, under "Preferences", that you set the audiovisual option to "NONE"
under the "Features" tab in Preferences, and switch off the "Auto Microphone" and "Auto HandsFree" options also, then "SAVE" these options. These three items are the only differences you will need from the default settings. Failure to do this will have catastrophic results.
6) When the Dimdim meeting starts, it will prompt you to select one of these options:
Select the "COMPUTER SCREEN" [ORANGE] option.
7) Then, when you are finally in the classroom by yourself, you will see your Dimdim user name on the top of the Dimdim window (which is your "ROOM NAME"). If you click on this "Room Name" it will automatically "copy" the URL of the meeting into your clipboard.
8) "Paste" this URL into your multiuser Skype 4.1 window for all your attendees or students to see, whom you have already been talking to (voice) freely, so they can all click on this link and enter the meeting room in a few seconds. They should best be using the MSIE browser also, and Firefox might be  OK too, but Chrome will currently fail.
9) Once they are all in the room, start your class, remembering that EVERYTHING you now see on your computer screen, they will also see, e.g., powerpoints, web pages, OFFline virtual microscopy viewers (online java viewers, like the one at the University of Iowa, may work, but it will probably not  allow the presenter to navigate the microscope for the students, and they will have to do it by  themselves). There is a way of fixing this, but it is horribly complex. OFFLINE viewers however, such as "Live Pix Deluxe" displaying FPX files, WILL work fine! All students will hear you and each other perfectly clearly.
10) So far, I have tried this technique dozens of times and hosted classes on 4 different continents simultaneously (not South America, Australia, or Antarctica), with up to 10 separate student attendees. IT WORKS ALL THE TIME, as long as all participants are using the latest Skype (4.1 is best), the latest MSIE, and a hardwire connection to a DSL or cable internet connection, NOT WiFi. Macs have worked as attendees and hosts. WiFi connections might be unstable. I can EASILY increase my class size to 20. Not a single student, so far, has had a technical problem, after we laid down the ground rules! _PDFMedSchoolPathologyPDF

Such low-cost, high throughput methods of teleconferencing lectures could allow one lecture location to service an entire world of students -- interactively.  Here are the lecture notes in pathology and histology from the Skype - using professor above.  Here are his YouTube videos on the same topics, of about 10 minutes length apiece.

It is possible to prepare a student to pass the clinical section of medical school boards without ever touching a human patient, using online means.  But in order to effectively teach the second half of medical school, one would require actual human patients. More on how to do that, and how to use simulators to work around the problem, in later posts.

Course lectures for a subset of medical school classes

Human Anatomy dissection lectures

Another subset of medical school classes

Extensive list of online free medical texts

Medical Matrix free online textbooks

University of Iowa Virtual Hospital

Medical Student.com

Nice set of online medical ebooks from ncbi

Free books 4 doctors online (for anyone)

If you think you may be interested in going to a bricks and mortar medical school, check out these pre-med courses to get ahead of the competition.

Or, consider going to a Caribbean medical school, mon!

It can be a challenge sometimes to transfer from a Caribbean school to the US or Canada, but some friends of Al Fin made the transition with minimal angst.  Al Fin often regrets not having gone to a Caribbean school himself.   Alaska is nice, but the scuba diving is much better in the islands.  ;-)

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Ocean Space Launch From the Barrel of a Gun

How to Shoot Stuff into Space

The gun combusts natural gas in a heat exchanger within a
chamber of hydrogen gas, heating the hydrogen to 2,600˚F and causing a 500 percent increase in pressure.

Operators open the valve, and the hot, pressurized hydrogen quickly expands down the tube, pushing the payload forward.

After speeding down the 3,300-foot-long barrel, the projectile shoots out of the gun at 13,000 mph. An iris at the end of the gun closes, capturing the hydrogen gas to use again. _Popsci

Google Tech Talks Video (via Brian Wang)

John Hunter's mid-ocean space launch gun is powered by hydrogen and natural gas, and hopes to launch payload into orbit for a mere $250 a pound.
Building colossal guns has been Hunter’s pet project since 1992, when, while a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, he first fired a 425-foot gun he built to test-launch hypersonic engines. Its methane-driven piston compressed hydrogen gas, which then expanded up the barrel to shoot a projectile. Mechanical firing can fail, however, so when Hunter’s company, Quicklaunch, released its plans last fall, it swapped the piston for a combustor that burns natural gas. Heat the hydrogen in a confined space and it should build up enough pressure to send a half-ton payload into the sky at 13,000 mph.

Hunter wants to operate the gun, the “Quicklauncher,” in the ocean near the equator, where the Earth’s fast rotation will help slingshot objects into space. A floating cannon—dipping 1,600 feet below sea level and steadied by a ballast system—would let operators swivel it for different orbits. Next month, Hunter will test a functional, 10-foot prototype in a water tank. He says a full-size launcher could be ready in seven years, provided the company can round up the $500 million. Despite the upfront cost, Hunter says he has drawn interest from investors because his reusable gun saves so much cash in the long haul. Just don’t ever expect a ride in the thing: The gun produces 5,000 Gs, so it’s only for fuel tanks and ruggedized satellites. “A person shot out of it would probably get compressed to half their size,” Hunter says. “It’d be over real quick.” _Popsci_via_Scienceblips

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15 January 2010

Children: Don't Fear the Plant Food

Schoolchildren are taught early to be very, very afraid of carbon dioxide.  The same low level trace gas (under 0.04% of atmospheric gases) that provides plants with vital carbon for growth, is cruelly thrust into the nightmares of young children as a horrid monster that is destroying the planet.   This is the type of childhood mental trauma that can shape the mental outlook of a young mind, and last a lifetime.

Is it child abuse to fill a child's mind with fearsome images of impending doom?   Certainly, if the doom being force-fed to schoolchildren is based upon a fabrication.  If sweet, hometown schoolteachers are filling your child's mind with invented horrors which have no real basis in science, what should be done?

First, try to understand carbon dioxide's role in the planetary scheme of things.  Without carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, there is no carbon-based life on the surface of the planet.  But will higher levels of CO2 create  a problem?

Environmental Effects of Increased Carbon Dioxide PDF

Limits on CO2 Climate Forcing PDF

Climate Models that predict catastrophic warming are untrustworthy

And besides growing lots of plants, there are many valuable things that we can produce from any excess CO2 that we are lucky enough to find:
When it's exposed to the elements, the surface of copper turns green because it reacts with oxygen. But now scientists have discovered a copper-based material with a surprising property: it reacts with carbon dioxide in air rather than oxygen. Though the reaction is not a practical way to remove large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it does provide an alternative new route, using a cheap, nonpetroleum feedstock, to make useful chemicals. _TechnologyReview

 More creative uses of CO2 from the UK (via MattGoesGreen)

You might ask yourselves why educational curricula for entire nations would be designed to instill fear inside the minds of very young children. What would be the point of creating herds of fearful, self-doubting and self-loathing human minds-in-development?

Ask yourselves that every morning when your children step out to go to school.

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14 January 2010

Why is Haiti So Poor?

Map of Haiti before the recent tragic earthquake. The huge loss of life, and the ongoing monumental humanitarian relief effort have focused the eyes of the world onto the small, perennially impoverished and unstable island nation.

Tyler Cowen asks the second-most asked question in the world:  Why is Haiti so poor?   Tyler then provides 8 hypothetical reasons for Haitian poverty, but confesses that he is not satisfied by them.   But his commenters proceed to fill Tyler in on the real reasons -- from American colonialism to voodoo religion to deforestation etc etc.  The most intelligent commenter suggested that Haiti was so poor because the average income was too low!  No doubt an Ivy League MBA with a law degree, working for the government or the UN.

A few commenters timidly suggested that perhaps something intrinsic to Haitians themselves contributed to poverty in Haiti, but the idea was dimissed as being "beyond the pale."  

The average IQ of the Caribbean nations' populations is close to 75.   According to Wikipedia, the average IQ of Jamaicans is 72. The GDP of nations correlates very will with the average IQ -- so much so, that only educated fools could go on and on in comments about the poverty of a nation such as Haiti without seriously discussing the average IQ (and other heritable factors).

Haiti has been violently independent since its inception as a nation of self-liberated slaves from West Africa. Independent except when it comes to foreign aid and foreign weapons to the ruling classes, and other militant groups. Haitian immigrants have contributed significant crime to New York City, Boston, Quebec, and other parts of North America -- but little else.

So why is Haiti so poor? Who in their right minds could imagine an independent Haiti as anything else -- this side of the singularity and the nanotech revolution? Read the comments at the top link, and consider the extravagance of so many wasted educations.

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