31 December 2005

Taking Sex Differences Seriously

Two recent news articles highlight sex differences, in an age when most academics try to deny them. Men and Women Use the Internet Differently and an animal study, Male Monkeys Prefer Toy Cars, Females Like Dolls.

Mainstream feminism chafes at such accounts from the real world. The radicals who have taken over university Women's Studies Departments become ill at the mere suggestion that men and women may have different interests or aptitudes.

But "Some critics of mainstream feminism consider themselves feminists, but of a different kind. Their outlook is captured well in the title of Christina Hoff Sommers' book Who Stole Feminism? . . . Sommers and other equity feminists are open to the idea that women may have different natures, which could lead many of them to pursue different life paths from men's even if given every opportunity that men are given." Page 14,15 Taking Sex Differences Seriously by Steven E. Rhoads.

Pretending that men and women are the same is living in fantasy. The fact that most academics, most journalists, most feminists, and most politicians choose to live in that fantasy does not require a thinking person to do so.

Lawrence Summers
was almost fired from Harvard for making a few tentative understated remarks about sex differences. Fortunately he is good at his job and had the support of the board. He also has science on his side, and science will not sit silently on the side for much longer.


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30 December 2005

Philosophy of Fear

Here is an incisive analysis of popular fear mongering by the pseudo-intelligentsia over the past few decades. It is immensely humorous and revealing at the same time. The signal is fear, although the carrier wave may change, and the amplitude is always at full blast volume. Read it all, and enjoy all the great graphics.

"...David Brinkley once said, “The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.”"

The dismaying thing is that students in government schools are being taught by the same type of pseudo-intellectuals who thrive on the climate of faux fear. In Running Screaming from Phantoms I briefly touched on similar issues.

credit to Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings.

Other clear minded social commentary can be found at this link.

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29 December 2005

Can Pond Scum Punch Out Alzheimer?

In anarticle pointed to by Science Nerd Depot blog, we learn that Nostoc, a cyanobacterium found in pond scum, produces a potent cholinesterase inhibitor that might be useful in the fight against Alzheimer's.

Some of the neurons most damaged by Alzheimer's Disease (AD), are the acetyl choline fibers of the hippocampus and neocortex. This suggests that increasing brain levels of acetyl choline might mitigate some of the symptoms of AD.

Cholinesterase inhibitors are used routinely in anesthesia for reversing neuromuscular blockade, and in myesthenia gravis to improve muscle strength. Finding more selective inhibitors of cholinesterase that work mainly in the neocortex might be helpful in AD. Donepezil and Tacrine are used for this purpose with modest success in early and intermediate AD. More selective inhibitors might have fewer side effects and more potent main effects.

Alzheimer's is a major scourge of any nation where large numbers of people routinely survive into their late sixties and later. Evolution never really planned for that eventuality, and does not really care one way or the other. Those of us who wish to increase the average human lifespan appreciably must care about AD very much.


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28 December 2005

New Way to Deliver Cell Therapies

Yet another way to deliver therapies to cells has been developed by Johns Hopkins scientist David Gracias and colleagues.

A self-assembling gold-plated cube with perforations, the whole assembly as small as a dust mote, has been developed to time-deliver medications and other therapies directly to targeted tissues.

I am particularly interested in various ways of introducing medicines, hormones, and genes into cells. For those of you similarly interested, I strongly recommend the biosingularity blog linked in the blogroll to the right.

This blog's purpose is to explore ways that people can prepare for and transition to "the next level." Over time I will continue to sketch out the idea of the next level, and why it is subtly different from most concepts of the singularity. Regardless, in order to approach the next level, much better methods of gene therapy will be necessary than are presently available. There are enough reasons for developing gene therapy anyway, with devastating diseases like cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell disease, Huntington's disease, progeria, and many others, cutting the lives of young and relatively young people short.

It is necessary to look beyond the ability to treat selected diseases, to the broader abilities that will be provided by gene therapies. As the new year evolves, I will spend more time analysing the deeper meanings of this proliferation of discovery.


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Applications of Gene Therapy

The other day, I mentioned the gene insertion technique that uses nano-tubules as a gene delivery mechanism. It is important to develop a safe and reliable means of introducing genes into the nucleus of specific target cells. The diseases that target children are also genetically based diseases, to a large extent.

Muscular dystrophy, sickle cell disease and even lifespan are targets of the gene scientists. Technically, virtually every life process is mediated through the action of genes. You can see that the scope of genetic science includes not only all living things, and all parts of all living things, but also things that have not been invented yet, such as house trees and many other wonders that will blur the boundaries between biotech and assembly nanotech.

This is an exciting and competitive field of science. The end result will probably lead to future shock for many.
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27 December 2005

Cute Overload

I ran across this site today. It reminded me of another thing that makes humans different from other apes--our tendency to domesticate other species as pets.

Humans have partnered with dogs for millenia. Other species, including cats, have been similarly domesticated.

Young animals have great appeal to the human eye. If it is possible to be too cute, some of the animals at Cute Overload come perilously close.


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26 December 2005

Peak Oil Meet Jatropha

Peak Oil Debunked is one website that seeks to confront the illogic of the doomseekers of Peak Oil. At that website you can read about a new, massive coal deposit found off the coast of Norway that could supply 600 years of world energy use, eventually. But perhaps it would be more cautious to use renewable energy? Research into biofuels is proceeding rapidly. One of the more petroleum like biofuels can be obtained from Jatropha seeds.

Jatropha Curcas is a member of the euphorbiceae family. The oil from the seeds of this nonedible plant are exceptionally well suited for use in diesel engines, far better than the biodiesel typically used in North America from soy or rapeseed oil. The plant grows well in arid and semi-arid regions of the globe, making it available to much of the impoverished third world.

Biofuels hold a lot of promise for replacing much of the petroleum currently being used for heat and transportation fuels. In the third world, biofuels might well replace much of the firewood used for heating and cooking. As renewable fuels, biofuels have a neutral effect on the carbon balance, if the energy involved in their production comes from part of the yield of the biofuel itself.

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25 December 2005

The Body Becomes Accessible

Once it was difficult to target specific cells, and to insert proteins or genes into these cells. Now scientists are using nanotubes to open the door. From Stanford chemist Dai: "Dai's team also showed that carbon nanotubes could carry proteins and DNA into cells potentially to help deliver drugs or therapeutic genes. Compared with a solid spherical nanoparticle, a hollow nanotube has more surface area with which to carry molecules, explained biomolecular engineer Michael Strano at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. " Further, "Dai and his colleagues in August reported that by tagging carbon nanotubes so that they would specifically latch onto cancer cells and shining near-infrared lasers on them, they could kill just cancer cells without harming normal tissue."

Biosingularity blog is a rich field of information on biological advances. Recent reports of insertion of growth factors into failing heart muscle, and differentiation of heart myocyte stem cells are encouraging.

Using viruses to insert genes into cells caused problems, including the death of a child. Scientists backed off from that avenue of research until they could be assured that it was safe. Other types of forced entry into the cell were explored and found less risky, for the time being.

With the emergence of more accessible biohacking, and safer methods of gene insertion into cells, the scale of unregulated animal (mice, rats etc) experimentation into gene therapies may grow larger than the published and regulated experimentation. If ALF commandoes raid a university lab and "liberate" the animals, will they be making a dent in the overall structure of experimentation? Probably not.

Here is a simple manual to introduce an understanding of genes and gene therapy.


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23 December 2005

DNA and RNA: What Will They Do Next?

RNA is certainly full of surprises! Molecular Biologists once taught the ABCs of their craft: DNA to RNA to Protein. But how was it all controlled? That is the mystery that is unraveling, and RNA is not just a passive messenger like they once thought.

DNA is proving to have more uses than once supposed. Not merely a repository of genetic information anymore, DNA is proving to be a versatile workhorse in nanotechnology.

Many engineers with biological training have long realised that molecular and cell biology is the perfect proof of concept for nanotech. Now they are finding a way to use molecular biology to bridge the gulf to assembler nanotechnology. A lot of people who are skeptical about assembler nanotech will not like these developments. They may consider them a form of "cheating." Most engineers only worry about what works, not what meets their preconceived notions. Many academics could learn from that attitude.
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22 December 2005

Ingredients of Life Circling Distant Star

Where did life come from? This is an artist's impression of the makings of a solar system, before the planets have condensed.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope surveyed 100 young stars in the constellation Ophiuchus. Out of the 100, one star contained hydrogen cyanide and acetylene in its orbiting cloud of matter. These molecules combined with water can make a few different amino acids plus the nucleic acid adenine. Of course these molecules are plentiful on other planets of our own solar system, but is it not interesting that only one out of one hundred young earth-like stars had enough of these elements to be detected from this far away? Put this star at the top of the list, for checking in on in a few million years.

The origins of life are mysterious. The most likely scenario is that life originated on this planet, from unknown precursors, by unknown mechanisms. Also possible is that life originated elsewhere, and was transplanted to earth via space debris or comet/asteroid collision. Spores and other environment resistant microbes can survive the extreme cold and vacuum of space, our own space program has demonstrated that.

Life is one way for matter to organise itself. As long as a reliable energy source is available, with the right raw materials and water, life may eventually develop. Intelligent life is an entirely different matter, and much less likely to evolve and survive.


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21 December 2005

Turning Lovely Trees into "Battrees"?

Can you turn one of these lovely natural objects, . . . .

. . . . . into one of these?

This article
discusses the work of an engineering group in Canton Mass., in collaboration with an inventor from Illinois. They claim that soon they will be able to tap the "energy in trees" to charge batteries up to 12 Volts or higher.

The concept comes from the natural potential differences that develop in nature. Such potential differences help to shape animal embryo growth and development. Such naturally occurring potential differences also create lightning, and other natural electrical phenomena.

Currently the researchers can only generate enough voltage/current to keep an LED burning indefinitely. They promise more, much more, in the near future--if provided with funding. Take that for what it is worth. Food for thought, at least for termites.

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20 December 2005

The Deep Web is not Invisible

The Deep Web is a term given to huge parts of the web that are not necessarily accessible to ordinary search engines. It is estimated that the "deep web" is 500 times larger than the "surface web" we are familiar with, is growing faster than the surface web, and exceeds in size all printed matter in the entire world.

There are many guides to searching the deep web. This one is both fairly short and quite useful. This is another quite good introduction to the subject.

There is always Wikipedia, which has a fairly useful discussion and set of links on the topic.

If you are just getting started in professional life, or are even still a student (as we all are, truly), getting control of information sources 500 times larger than the surface web may seem daunting. More likely, it suggests exciting possibilities for information searches.

We really do need better brains if we are to do justice to the explosion of information happening right before our eyes. Better brains, and longer lives. The next level is waiting to be born.

Update 27Dec05: Welcome, readers of Carnival of Tomorrow #16, kindly hosted by The Ministry of Minor Perfidy. In honor of the occasion, and the holidays, I am providing a link to deepwebresearch.info, both here and on the sidebar. Deepwebresearch.info provides an incredible number of potent links covering the deep web. If you really want to master the deep web, this should help.


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18 December 2005

Pure Thought? Pure Experiment? Or Both?

This article suggests a possible breakthrough in the understanding of how matter itself is put together. Perhaps this is the beginning of the path that leads to the creation of new, stable, "hyper-elements?"

The interesting thing to me was the idea that the problem was suggested to the theoreticians by an experimental result. But since the experiment left many questions unanswered, the theoreticians decided to do their own experiments, inside a computer. This in silico experiment answered many of the questions the physical experiment could not.

Here you see the pursuit of scientific knowledge on three different levels. On the one level, you have pure theory, the inside-the-human-head conceptualization, and scribbles on the notepad and blackboard. On the second level, you have brute force experiments, using large amounts of energy precisely controlled and analysed. On the third level, you have a type of hybrid. Not exactly experiment, but not exactly human conceptualizing.

Some claim that pure thought is superior to empirical experiment. How do they answer the multiple levels of thought and experiment encountered here?
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Communists Only Killed 100 Million, But They're Not Finished Yet

In The Black Book of Communism, we learn from leftist scholars about the brutal crimes of the heirs of Marx and Engels. We learn about the vile murderous crimes of ideologues and their minions. Communists have minds for murder, and murder is what they do. Whether this follows naturally from the ideology of Marx, or whether Marx has simply been perverted--time, after time, after time, after time--well, let it simply be a matter of judgment.

Communism is not finished, because there will always be stupid people in the world who cannot learn from history. Islamism is making an effort to be the mass killer of the 21st century, to rival what communism did in the 20th. But again, communism is not finished yet.

Communists made a mess of every country they have gotten their bloody grip on. From the USSR, to the bloodied pulp of eastern europe, to Mao's China, to Pol Pot's Cambodia, Ho's Vietnam, Castro's Cuba, Mugabe's Zimbabwe, Chavez' Venezuela, Ortega's Nicaragua--all turned to bloody ruin. China's reform movement, to the extent that it negates communist/marxist dogma, may neutralize the worst effects of the mindless doctrine temporarily.

Marx was clearly a fool, and anyone who still bothers to study Marx is unwittingly the worse fool for that. Yet we know that university faculties are populated by legions of unimaginative conformists who never had to face opposition to their inbred philosophies. Thus Marx still prospers within the ranks of insular drone minds that populate the social science departments of universities. Journalists are another breed that are unintelligent enough to take marxist ideas seriously.

These professorial circle jerkers never look to the real world to see the results of their malbred deformity. They pretend as if the utter failures of their ideas, and the cost of hundreds of millions of lives--when the total cost is computed--never happened. To the extent that philosophy departments have been taken over by post-modernist morons and marxist die-hards, philosophy is dead. Fortunately, there are five other branches of cognitive science that are growing strong enough to carry the load without missing the lagging sixth.

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16 December 2005

Orc Sighting in Waziristan--Chimeric Creature Being Bred for Conquest of the West

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11 December 2005

Too Stupid to Know . . .

. . . when people are trying to kill you.

I recently watched A History of Violence, a film starring Viggo Mortensen, from LOTR. After an apparently unconnected short violent opening, the film begins to portray the peaceful family life of Tom and Edie Stall, living the american dream in small town Millbrook, Indiana. Tom is a devoted family man, peaceable and loyal to his home and hometown. Nothing seems to foreshadow what is going to happen next.

Late one night, two men walk into Tom's diner just as it is closing. Tom asks them to leave, explaining that the diner was closed. The two men had other plans. One of the men held everyone in the diner at gunpoint, while the other brutalised a female diner employee. Then the older of the two gunmen orders the younger one to kill the woman. What happens next is abrupt, brutal, and decisive.

If Tom had not really believed the younger gunman would kill his employee, he would not have acted as he did. And everyone in the diner would have been killed by the two murdering strangers. If Tom had been too stupid to know that they were planning to kill them all, they would have all died.

Before I saw the film, I read several reviews at rottentomatoes.com. Most of the reviews were simply garbage, of course. I knew that after I had seen the film for myself. You may wish to make the comparison yourself, read the reviews and see the movie.

But I digress. What happens to people who are too stupid to know that other people intend to kill them? They usually die. Often horribly. Primitive people in Rwanda massacred almost a million other people with machetes. Primitive people in Iraq and other places decapitate other people with dull knives, while screaming "allahu akbar!" Primitive people in Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, NYC, Madrid, London, Washington DC, blow themselves up in crowds and buildings to kill as many innocent people as possible.

Do you want to die? There are people who want to kill you, for certain. Are you stupid? Will you passively allow the dull knives to slit your throats, denying to the end that this could really be happening to you?

We are all different, and we all take different messages home from the cinema, and from a news story or a book. There are many things about the world that we see differently from each other, without paying a cost. The one thing we have to see clearly, and understand with certainty, is when someone wants to kill us. None of us can afford the stupidity of denial in such a situation.

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08 December 2005

A Curriculum

Here is a curriculum to ponder. Beginning at age three, and proceeding to age sixteen, this curriculum is conceptually broad and intellectually challenging. Tucked within this chapter of an obscure online book, this curriculum lays the foundation for the type of student who could create the groundwork for the next level.

The Montessori Method is another attempt to create a complete education. Waldorf schooling is another well known approach. Another provider of innovative curricula is Glenn Doman's IAHP in Philadelphia.

Many intelligent and innovative homeschoolers have created a wide array of curricula with some success. Many people will mix and match various curricula to meet the needs of their children. Reviews for some homeschooling curricula can be found at the above link.

Over the years, much effort has gone into creating a truly evolutionary educational method that will bypass the fetid morass of government education. Government education as practiced today, on the other hand, represents the devolution of humankind to primitive level status. It is a race to see whether evolution or devolution will win. The governments of the developed world are putting their power and prestige into promoting devolution. Nothing illustrates the innate corrupting force of large government more than this travesty.

In the end, this is the best curriculum I have seen, for the purposes of trying to achieve the next level through education. It should be clear that I do not think education alone will suffice. Nevertheless, properly designed education opens the doors much wider for more of the newer generations. Next question: where are the teachers who could teach this curriculum?

Where did the curriculum come from? From an inventor-philosopher named John David Garcia. I have mentioned JDG briefly in a previous post, and will probably be referring to him and his work in the future. I was fortunate enough to meet him and spend a few days in his home discussing his ideas and our mutual interests, while he was still relatively strong.

John David Garcia's books are online, freely available. They should be of interest to anyone with a desire to create a more rational and harmonious society.

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03 December 2005

Alexander Chislenko, A Singularitarian Before His Time

On the sidebar to the right, you will find a link titled "Sasha,a Man Before His Time". If you click on the link you will discover an incredible array of links, many you may not have seen before. Sasha's page is one of the first true treasures I discovered when I started exploring the web.

Sasha Chislenko moved to Boston in 1989, from then Leningrad, then USSR. He was looking for freedom, and fellow futurists. His vision was broad and deep, and he found much of what he sought, although not all. He is not with us any longer, but he left a legacy that will not die as long as futurists, singulatarians, extropians, transhumanists, and others who promote human evolution continue the quest. During the years that Sasha posted to his website, he acquired a large number of web admirers. Many of them have left messages in Sasha's guestbook.

When navigating Sasha's website, you will find a number of websites that have been lost, in one way or another. You may want to get acquainted with Archive.org, a very useful website also listed here, at the top of the sidebar. With archive.org, you can actually find and navigate many websites that are otherwise lost to us.

Many younger futurists do not understand why they should be interested in "history." For some, history is anything that did not happen in the past six months. The fact is, human nature has not changed much in the past thirty or forty thousand years. No matter how intelligent a person may be, without the element of perspective in his thinking, he will probably create a great deal of nonsense. Here is a set of history links for general history research. But everything has history. Every conceivable topic has a history. If you are involved in an occupation, profession, vocation--and do not know the history of that occupation--you are handicapped.

Sasha Chislenko became part of the history of the early web discussions of futurism and what was to become transhumanist, extropian, and singularity thinking. Thanks for your work, Sasha, wherever you are.


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01 December 2005

How To Read a Scientific Paper

Here is a nice set of papers that discusses how to read science papers, specifically papers in medical science. Hat tip to mindhacks.com/.

A well educated person in today's world should be able to go to an original article and tell whether the authors used good methods in coming to their conclusions. A person should also be able to discern how strong the conclusion actually is, if valid, and in what settings it is likely to apply.

It is astounding how easily journalists in particular are misled by shoddy research. Since the general public gets most of its science news from journalists, the average voter is very poorly informed when it comes to assessing the usefulness of much taxpayer supported research. Likewise, the average juror in a product liability trial is completely incapable of understanding the arguments involved, unless he has taken the time to learn the basics.

When it comes to informed discussion on the internet, many people are similarly limited in what they can comprehend and contribute. The above link may be of use to anyone who wishes to improve their strategic positioning in an informed argument or discussion that utilises scientific research.
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