30 October 2006

Russian Brides--Coming to America and the West

Why do so many successful North American men choose to spend thousands of dollars corresponding with Russian women, then spend more thousands to travel to Russia or Eastern Europe to meet these women face to face? Why do so many men choose to marry these Russian women they have only recently met, and only known for a relatively short time, knowing that the cultural differences and (frequently) age differences already put them two strikes behind the count? Part of the answer is here on this website, and on other similar websites by successful trans-cultural and trans-national brides.

Mping at Fat Knowledge blog recently did a story on "The Vanishing Russians." Average Russians are truly in desperate circumstances, due to the corruption of their government. The KGB-ocracy of communist days has transformed almost seamlessly into the mafi-ocracy of the modern times. Russian men have no opportunities for success, meaning they cannot marry and support families. This leaves Russian women who want the normal life of marriage and children out in the cold. No wonder so many sign up with the marriage agencies to try to meet North American, European, and Australian men.

But why do successful american men go through the inconvenience and expense of corresponding with, and traveling to Russia and Eastern Europe to meet, Russian women?

There is no mystery here. Successful middle-aged men want to marry somewhat younger women, who can appreciate the life the man can provide them, and can also give the men children in many cases. If the man takes the trouble to correspond long enough with the woman, and knows how to judge a woman's character, he can develop a lifelong friendship and love relationship--with the trans-cultural, trans-linguistic nature of the relationship as a spiced icing on the cake.

The man can also make a mistake, and marry someone who only wants legal residency in the west. That happens frequently, but no more frequently than all-western marriages go badly. There are plenty of foreign bride scams operating. People have to be careful. The Russian women themselves, even with the dismal conditions in Russia, also have to be extremely careful not to get themselves into a situation worse than what they have at home.

Here is another reason Russian brides may be in higher demand than brides from southeast Asia or South America. Crush41 at Audacious Epigone posted an interesting look at the relative expenses charged to adopting parents for babies of different ethnic backgrounds. A similar calculus may apply to the "price" western men will pay for overseas brides of various nationalities. Knowing that their babies will possess the ethnic characteristics of both mothers and fathers, perhaps more western fathers want to marry caucasian wives, even if they are from a different culture.

I know a number of professional colleagues who have married Russian women from overseas. They are generally very happy with their choices, and recommend Russian women to their friends, if their friends are careful and take the time to develop an honest relationship that will allow both parties to make a rational choice. You probably know someone who is married to a Russian woman. It is becoming much more common than you think.

So--what is wrong with American women, that successful American men will reject them in favour of foreign women? Let us be honest here. There is plenty wrong with any particular man or woman. No one is perfect. But the war of the sexes in North America and much of the western world has become very personal.

Anyone who has not read "The Myth of Male Power" or "Who Stole Feminism?" is in no position to even discuss the issue of current day power struggles in the trenches between the sexes. Go to Amazon and click on the similar books that will be displayed on the same pages as those two books. Read a dozen or so similar books and you will begin to understand why a lot of western men are looking outside the culture for life partners.

Women are favoured in modern education from the beginning, all the way to graduate school, post-docs, and employment/tenure. Affirmative Action applies to women too, not just minorities. That built-in inequality tends to instill an attitude of entitlement to many women, which is obvious in the activities of many radical feminists who control Women's Studies Departments in the Universities, and who also have enormous influence in the modern US Democratic Party political machine.

Fathers are often discriminated against in divorce settlements and child custody settlements as well. The male proportion of college graduates and graduate students in most fields (except math-intensive fields) is diminishing steadily. Women have a nearly endless set of resources to call upon to help them with their goals. Men are pretty much on their own. All of these inequities and many more lead to a deep distrust between the sexes. Even if all of these things are never consciously considered by most western men, they still affect the subconscious thinking.

So what is up with these Russian women who are marrying so many financially successful western men? These women know western men are not perfect. But compared to so many Russian men, these western men can give them a home, a family, and a better lifestyle with more freedoms. And compared to western women, these Russian women can give the western men a level of respect and acceptance that many western women are no longer willing to give.

Many Russian women are professionals by training, and with some re-training in the west are able to be highly successful in their own right. The salaries they are capable of earning are many times higher than what is being paid in Russia.

This trend toward more Russian brides is not likely to slow. Because the trend toward indoctrinating western women into the man-hating sisterhood is not slowing. The two things are intimately related. One feeds the other.

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28 October 2006

Viruses Affect Memory

Recent research looks at how viral infections can involve the brain, affecting how the memory works. In fact, some of the incidental memory degeneration associated with ageing may be due to past viral infections. Aetiology Blog looks at this issue.

A recent article highlights one area of investigation: how viral infections can influence memory problems......

A family of viruses that cause a range of ills from the common cold to polio may be able to infect the brain and cause steady damage, a team at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota reported on Monday.

"Our study suggests that virus-induced memory loss could accumulate over the lifetime of an individual and eventually lead to clinical cognitive memory deficits," said Charles Howe, who reported the findings in the journal Neurobiology of Disease. [Article can be found here; --TS]

This may seem somewhat far-fetched at first, but we know that viruses certainly can cause severe damage to the brain and nervous system. Therefore, this lends plausibility to the idea that they can cause more minor damage as well. As they note, polio (a picornavirus) is a prime example of this, with the potential to affect the brain and the spinal cord and result in paralysis. A related virus in mice, called Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus, has also been used to induce damage to the nervous system (for example, it's used as a mouse model for multiple sclerosis), and researchers infected mice with this and then performed cognitive tests to see if it had more subtle effects as well:

Infected mice later had difficulty learning to navigate a maze. Some were barely affected, while others were completely unable to manage, and when the mice were killed and their brains examined, a correlating amount of damage was seen in the hippocampus region, related to learning and memory.

Now, it's always a bit difficult to extrapolate directly from an animal model to humans, but the study is certainly intriguing and can open doors for epidemiological studies of viruses and cognition in humans.

One virus particularly likely to cause brain damage is enterovirus 71, which is common in Asia, the researchers said. It can cross over into the brain and cause encephalitis, a brain inflammation that can lead to coma and death.

"Our findings suggest that picornavirus infections throughout the lifetime of an individual may chip away at the cognitive reserve, increasing the likelihood of detectable cognitive impairment as the individual ages," the researchers wrote in their report.

"We hypothesize that mild memory and cognitive impairments of unknown etiology may, in fact, be due to accumulative loss of hippocampus function caused by repeated infection with common and widespread neurovirulent picornaviruses."

The link to this story came from Tangled Bank #65. There are many more good stories to be found from this edition, so check them out.

This is a particularly disturbing concept--one that has probably spawned a large number of zombie stories and other tales of malignant mass mental transformations. Vaccines have minimised incidence of bacterial meningitis, which previously destroyed the minds of many thousands of people every year--at least in the western world. Neurovirulent viruses can be more difficult to control.


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26 October 2006

Bioremediation--Using Microbes to Infect Us into Wellness

The concept of a benign infection with helpful micro-organisms is not a new one. Our normal bacterial flora on the skin, in the gut, and other body locations--all of these bacteria protect us from pathological infections and provide us with other benefits as well. Now, researchers are looking into using benign infections to combat atherosclerosis--the major killer of persons in the western world. From the Methuselah Foundation:

The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University has awarded biochemist John Schloendorn a $30,000 scholarship that will enable him to pursue anti-aging research as a Ph.D. student in the School of Life Sciences. Schloendorn is part of the institute’s inaugural doctoral graduate assistantship class of 2006.

Schloendorn’s pioneering work concerns a new field of research called medicalbioremediation. The research focuses on identifying microbes that possess particularly effective mechanisms to biodegrade the molecular “junk” thataccumulates inside cells over time, and is at the root of many of the debilitiescaused by aging. Schloendorn’s research has been and is supported by a seedgrant made by the Methuselah Foundation, a charity dedicated to accelerating theprocess of discovering methods to defeat the debilities caused by aging.

Schloendorn’s work has led to the isolation and characterization of bacteriathat efficiently degrade several recalcitrant cholesterol breakdown products,among them 7-ketocholesterol, that are thought to play a major role inatherosclerosis (the cause of almost all heart attacks and strokes). His futureobjective is to isolate the enzymes responsible for the breakdown and test theirtherapeutic prospects in cell models of the disease, with the ultimate goal ofcreating medical bioremediation treatments for humans.
See the Methuselah Foundation website for more information.

Of course using viruses to introduce new genetic sequences is another way of using microbes in a hopefully benevolent way. As scientists learn more sophisticated and multi-level ways of affecting the human organism using microbe genomes and other cellular machinery, they will need to understand both human biology and microbial biology at correspondingly more sophisticated levels. Micro-organisms are a biological form of nanotechnology, and will no doubt compete with other forms of nanotech medicine to perform similar cellular rejuvenation tasks.


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25 October 2006

Expecting More from Our Cars

Maybe it was all the James Bond films. The floating cars, the submarine cars, the flying boats, and so on. We simply want our transportation devices to do more than one thing.

Take the new Hydra Spider super fast floating car.

With its snazzy snout, convertible top, Corvette V8 engine and jet "impeller" -- the stainless-steel cone protruding from the rear that propels it through water -- the Hydra Spyder is poised to become the first, mass-produced amphibious automobile in America.

"It's incredibly nimble in the water. The Spyder turns smoothly, docks easily," the 46-year-old inventor boasts.

It has one shortcoming, he concedes. On the water, "the parallel parking really sucks."

Giljam tingles at the idea of anglers taking their cars out on lakes for a day of fishing; of rush-hour commuters bypassing congestion by taking a river as an alternate route; of water-skiers bouncing along in the wake of a speedboat with four wheels.

Or take the flying car presently under development by former MIT engineering student Carl Dietrich and his company Terrafugia. Sooner or later, someone will develop a comfortable road car that also flies.

My personal choice would be a flying car that could also travel submerged like a submarine, or like a hovercraft over water, mud, or ice. It would have to also function as a motorhome, for overnight trips. I do not think I am asking too much, not really. At least I didn't ask for a built in warp drive or time machine. Not yet, anyway.


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24 October 2006

Amazing Neurochip Has Potential to Strengthen Neural Connections

UW Researchers report on an implantable electronic neurochip that may help rehabilitate patients with stroke or other types of brain damage. This chip is capable of performing an amazing function--it creates an artificial neural pathway that the brain can use to recuperate from otherwise disabling injury.

Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) are working on an implantable electronic chip that may help establish new nerve connections in the part of the brain that controls movement. Their most recent study, to be published in the Nov. 2, 2006, edition of Nature, showed such a device can induce brain changes in monkeys lasting more than a week. Strengthening of weak connections through this mechanism may have potential in the rehabilitation of patients with brain injuries, stroke, or paralysis.....

When awake, the brain continuously governs the body's voluntary movements. This is largely done through the activity of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the motor cortex. These nerve cells, or neurons, send signals down to the spinal cord to control the contraction of certain muscles, like those in the arms and legs.

The possibility that these neural signals can be recorded directly and used to operate a computer or to control mechanical devices outside of the body has been driving the rapidly expanding field of brain-computer interfaces, often abbreviated BCI. The recent Nature study suggests that the brain's nerve signals can be harnessed to create changes within itself.

The researchers tested a miniature, self-contained device with a tiny computer chip. The devices were placed on top of the heads of monkeys who were free to carry out their usual behaviors, including sleep. Called a Neurochip, the brain-computer interface was developed by Mavoori for his doctoral thesis.

"The Neurochip records the activity of motor cortex cells," Fetz explained, "It can convert this activity into a stimulus that can be sent back to the brain, spinal cord, or muscle, and thereby set up an artificial connection that operates continuously during normal behavior. This recurrent brain-computer interface creates an artificial motor pathway that the brain may learn to use to compensate for impaired pathways."

Jackson found that, when the brain-computer interface continuously connects neighboring sites in the motor cortex, it produces long-lasting changes. Namely, the movements evoked from the recording site changed to resemble those evoked from the stimulation site.

An electronic implant that can learn neuronal "language" in order to teach damaged brain to repair itself, is something new and promising. Insightful thinkers have wanted to learn the "language of the brain" for many years. Now we seem poised on the brink of beginning that process productively for healing purposes. I look forward to following this progress.

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Ending the Torture--How Long?

For everyone who has earned themselves a root canal and crown, you understand what torture can be. None of this lady's underwear tease for torture crap. When you talk about dental work, you are talking genuine existential torture without the need for exaggeration you see in ideological claims of torture.

Well, things are changing. It may seem that dentistry is the last profession to innovate--and that may be true. Even so, better late innovation than no innovation at all. Medgadget blog brings a fascinating story about rapid same-day crown manufacture and placement--in the office.

Digital dentistry, using high-end computer-aided design and manufacturing right in dentists offices, will take crown fabrication from the painful multi-visit ordeal it is now to a quick, 30 minute job. And according to the Dallas Morning News, the company that will bring this innovation to you isn't modest about their beliefs:

Anyone who's ever had a tooth reconstructed knows the routine. The problem tooth is drilled down, and a temporary covering is put on while a permanent crown is made. The patient returns in a few weeks to have the permanent crown put in.

For four years, D4D has been working feverishly to change that. With its now-patented technology, the tooth is digitized using a laser wand, and a virtual 3-D model is sent to a computerized milling machine that makes the crown, inlay, onlay or veneer in 30 minutes. The patient leaves with a new tooth.

Company founder and chief executive Basil Haymann says the system is undergoing user testing and clinical studies (including one just starting at Baylor College of Dentistry). It's also in the final approval stage with the Food and Drug Administration.

"I had to be a little insane," the 60-year-old says, "because I've put in tens of millions of dollars into a dream, which everyone told me was impossible."

Did you get that? The tooth is digitized with a laser wand, and a micro milling machine makes the crown in 30 minutes or less! This may be the beginning of a beautiful transformation of how ordinary people view a trip to the dentist's. I look forward to more innovations from dental researchers. Having rapidly decaying rocks in our mouths for masticating food may have been a good idea when people lived only thirty or forty years on average. Now that people look to live close to a century or longer, our mineral teeth as currently designed may not go the distance with the rest of us.
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23 October 2006

Academic Bill of Rights--Where to Go from Here

Yesterday I presented the problem of the "indoctrination university"--a place for students to go to be brainwashed rather than to be taught different styles of thinking and viewing the world, so as to be able to forge their own unique style.

The Students for Academic Freedom have published on their site the Academic Bill of Rights, as a guideline for universities who seek to bring open-mindedness back to universities, to replace the politically and philosophically one-sided hyper-bias of current universities in North America.

.....Academic freedom consists in protecting the intellectual independence of professors, researchers and students in the pursuit of knowledge and the expression of ideas from interference by legislators or authorities within the institution itself. This means that no political, ideological or religious orthodoxy will be imposed on professors and researchers through the hiring or tenure or termination process, or through any other administrative means by the academic institution. Nor shall legislatures impose any such orthodoxy through their control of the university budget.

This protection includes students. From the first statement on academic freedom, it has been recognized that intellectual independence means the protection of students – as well as faculty – from the imposition of any orthodoxy of a political, religious or ideological nature. The 1915 General Report admonished faculty to avoid “taking unfair advantage of the student’s immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher’s own opinions before the student has had an opportunity fairly to examine other opinions upon the matters in question, and before he has sufficient knowledge and ripeness of judgment to be entitled to form any definitive opinion of his own.” In 1967, the AAUP’s Joint Statement on Rights and Freedoms of Students reinforced and amplified this injunction by affirming the inseparability of “the freedom to teach and freedom to learn.” In the words of the report, “Students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion.” ....

If you read the ABR carefully at the link above, you will see that it does not call for any type of faculty quota. I will quote from the ABR below so that you can see exactly what is being called for:

1. All faculty shall be hired, fired, promoted and granted tenure on the basis of their competence and appropriate knowledge in the field of their expertise and, in the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts, with a view toward fostering a plurality of methodologies and perspectives. No faculty shall be hired or fired or denied promotion or tenure on the basis of his or her political or religious beliefs.

2. No faculty member will be excluded from tenure, search and hiring committees on the basis of their political or religious beliefs.

3. Students will be graded solely on the basis of their reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study, not on the basis of their political or religious beliefs.

4. Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas by providing students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate. While teachers are and should be free to pursue their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, they should consider and make their students aware of other viewpoints. Academic disciplines should welcome a diversity of approaches to unsettled questions.

5. Exposing students to the spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects examined in their courses is a major responsibility of faculty. Faculty will not use their courses for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or anti-religious indoctrination.

6. Selection of speakers, allocation of funds for speakers programs and other student activities will observe the principles of academic freedom and promote intellectual pluralism.

7. An environment conducive to the civil exchange of ideas being an essential component of a free university, the obstruction of invited campus speakers, destruction of campus literature or other effort to obstruct this exchange will not be tolerated.

8. Knowledge advances when individual scholars are left free to reach their own conclusions about which methods, facts, and theories have been validated by research. Academic institutions and professional societies formed to advance knowledge within an area of research, maintain the integrity of the research process, and organize the professional lives of related researchers serve as indispensable venues within which scholars circulate research findings and debate their interpretation. To perform these functions adequately, academic institutions and professional societies should maintain a posture of organizational neutrality with respect to the substantive disagreements that divide researchers on questions within, or outside, their fields of inquiry.

Many people when first exposed to the concept of intellectual diversity, assume that those who are ideologically being actively excluded from faculties would naturally call for an affirmative action or quota policy, to ensure the inclusion of their own political point of view on faculties. As you can see by reading the Academic Bill of Rights, that is not the case.

Unfortunately, going from the present absurdly skewed and biased system, to a more principled and inclusivist, and less biased, system, will not be easy. The faculty stands ready at the barricades to repel all invaders to their sacred ground of power and indoctrination.

Rationality does not signify here, for these faculty defenders live in the post-modern world, the post-rational world as it were. These will be interesting times on the battlefields of academic freedom. You have to watch the definitions, because in the post modern world, words no longer mean what you think they mean.
:-)See also the website for FIRE--the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

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22 October 2006

Intellectual Diversity on Campus--What Went Wrong?

Universities were never meant to be the indoctrination centers for political correctness they have become. In "The Elusive Goal of Intellectual Diversity," award winning science fiction author Orson Scott Card discusses the current pathetic state of intellectual restrictiveness that is almost universally present on North American university campuses.

....As a friend of mine on the faculty of a western university wrote not long ago, "higher education may have other litmus tests for ideological conformity, but the you-better-believe-in-diversity test is the only one that isn't hidden."

Ironically, the result of this absolute insistence on a commitment to diversity is ... a lack of diversity.

When the administration and faculty have all had to make the same affirmation in order to get their jobs, how likely is it that anyone will use their "academic freedom" to question a doctrine that they have already declared they believe in?

....Here and there, however, students are beginning to rebel against the pious cant that they hear from their relentlessly establishment teachers.

For instance, at Utah State University, student officers voted for an "Academic Bill of Rights." The goal was to "support intellectual diversity" on campus, and it called for such things as:

"Faculty will not use their courses for the purpose of political, ideological, religious, or non-religious indoctrination."

"Selection of speakers, allocation of funds for speakers programs and other student activities will observe the principles of academic freedom and promote intellectual pluralism."
More at Source.

Or take this Chronicle.com oped discussing the Academic Bill of Rights, promoting Intellectual Diversity.

By adopting the Academic Bill of Rights, an institution would recognize scholarship rather than ideology as an appropriate academic enterprise. It would strengthen educational values that have been eroded by the unwarranted intrusion of faculty members' political views into the classroom. That corrosive trend has caused some academics to focus merely on their own partisan agendas and to abandon their responsibilities as professional educators with obligations to students of all political persuasions. Such professors have lost sight of the vital distinction between education and indoctrination, which -- as the AAUP recognized in its first report on academic freedom, in 1915 -- is not a legitimate educational function

When "search committees" look for new faculty members, they are actually looking for more faculty members who think the same way as the search committe thinks. This leads to monolithic intellectual conformism in a faculty, which harms students' ability to function in the real world.

Former leftist radical turned conservative rabble-rouser David Horowitz has made a cause of intellectual diversity on campus. Recently Horowitz visited Duke University to give a talk on intellectual diversity among faculties. But a professor of women's studies had a surprise waiting for him--a bevy of women students prepared to laugh, heckle, and take off their shirts to distract attendees from Horowitz topic. I wish young women students would do that for me when I give a lecture or talk. That type of distraction I could deal with.

This CFIF commentary gives even more insight into the sad lack of range of intellectual challenge provided for students on the modern PC campus.

College students love to complain about how campuses are removed from "reality," which is generally defined as living in subsidized housing, sleeping on a park bench, or working in a makeshift medical clinic in Africa. But these same students seem completely oblivious to how far removed their campuses are from the rest of the nation’s political discourse. In the country as a whole, Democrats and Republicans are almost evenly split, but studies indicate that academic faculties are often skewed at least 10 to 1 in Democrats’ favor. My law school’s faculty of more than 100 includes only one registered Republican. On many campuses, students are more likely to find a Marxist professor than a conservative professor. It’s not unusual to hear a professor assert that Ronald Reagan systematically and deliberately spread AIDS to homosexuals, or that George W. Bush is not legitimately our president; many professors at my law school quite convincingly contend there is no such thing as a free-market economy and that law itself is completely indeterminate.

The most disturbing aspect of this phenomenon is how students on both sides of the political spectrum — most paying astronomical tuition — are being shortchanged. Schools often structure their curricula around professors’ specialties; thus when liberal thought is so drastically overrepresented, it is bound to overshadow necessary curricula. During most of my terms as an undergraduate, the journalism school I attended offered at least three advanced courses on race, poverty, gender or the evils of the death penalty, but not a single class on editorial writing.

Although many classes attempt to examine issues from both sides, conservative arguments are bound to be less convincing when rarely advanced by anyone who believes them. This is regrettable for both conservative and liberal students — for conservatives because they are not taught the most defensible form of their arguments and for liberals because their own views are not adequately challenged. Sure, students can make an effort to push the envelope themselves, but shouldn’t the bulk of that burden belong on the faculty? After all, they are the ones paid to foster diversity of thought.

Professors with a point of view are not incapable of teaching two sides of an issue — in my experience, many do a remarkable job. But not all professors are so open-minded; some blatantly intend to inculcate students with their political views. For example, last year a Citrus College professor required students to write anti-war letters to President Bush, and a Colorado professor asked students to write an essay explaining why the President was a war criminal. Students who refused or expressed different opinions received no credit. Sometimes professors offer such assignments for extra credit, but is that really a proper option — those who think like me get extra credit, and those who don’t, please keep it to yourself?

Maybe one Berkeley professor had it right in adding to a course description: "conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections." Although the professor later apologized, one can almost appreciate the initial honesty in admitting up front that a course is designed in furtherance of a professor’s point of view.

This is a fascinating topic that is playing itself out on campuses across america. It is obvious to me that the leftist end of the spectrum has overwhelming control of most university campuses--and intends to consolidate and increase that control. It is up to more level headed minds who are actually concerned about the quality of education modern North American students receive, to attempt to provide more balanced offerings on more and more campuses.

Visit Students for Academic Freedom for more information. Another good resource is FIRE--Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

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21 October 2006

Mental Chronometry As Alternative to IQ Tests--New Book from Jensen

Mental Chronometry (MC) has been used for 150 years to measure the underlying neurological processes that support cognition. IQ tests have largely supplanted MC for measuring "g", or general intelligence, but as Psychometrician Kevin McGrew points out in his interesting post, Arthur Jensen maintains in his new book that MC can be very useful indeed to find measures of "g".

First developed in mid-1800, MC was subsequently eclipsed by more complex and practically useful types of psychometric tests stemming from Alfred Binet. This class of mental tests, however, has no true metric relating the test scores to any specific properties of the brain per se. The scores merely represent an ordinal scale, only ranking individuals according to their overall performance on a variety of complex mental tasks. The resulting scores represent no more than ranks rather than being a true metrical scale of any specific dimension of brain function. Such an ordinal scale, which merely ranks individuals in some defined population, possesses no true scale properties, possessing neither a true zero or equal intervals throughout the scale. This deficiency obstructs the development of a true natural science of mental ability. The present burgeoning interest in understanding individual differences in mental abilities in terms of the natural sciences, biology and the brain sciences in particular, demands direct measures that functionally link brain and behavior. One such natural ratio scale is time itself - the time it takes the brain to perform some elementary cognitive task, measured in milliseconds.

After more than 25 years researching MC, Jensen here presents results on an absolute scale showing times for intake of visual and auditory information, for accessing short-term and long-term memory, and other cognitive skills, as a function of age, at yearly intervals from 3 to 80 years. The possible uses of MC in neurological diagnosis and the monitoring of drug effects on cognition, the chronometric study of special time-sensitive talents such as musical performance, and presents a theory of general intelligence, or g, as a function of the rate of oscillation of neural action potentials as measured by chronometric methods. Finally, Jensen urges the world-wide standardization of chronometric methods as necessary for advancing MC as a crucial branch of biopsychological science.

Source, quoting from Amazon.com.

MC can be very useful as an adjunct to conventional IQ testing, in the effort to bypass cultural bias and other test-taking artifacts. Inside the PC University environment, measurement of aptitude is frowned upon--particularly when measuring between groups such as race and gender. In the real world, it is necessary to discard PC in order to discover important but inconvenient truths.

Hat tip to Chris at Develintel.

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19 October 2006

A New Approach for Developing Antimocrobials

The world needs better methods of attacking resistant microbes. This is particularly true in the area of engineered bio-weapons. A new approach to antimocribial development at MIT appears to offer many possibilities for both treatment of routine resistant organisms, and treatment for anthrax and other potential bioweapons.

"In the last 40 years, there have been only two new classes of antibiotic drugs discovered and brought to the market," said graduate student Christopher Loose, lead author of a paper on the work that appears in the Oct. 19 issue of Nature. "There is an incredible need to come up with new medicines."

Loose, research associate Kyle Jensen and Professor Gregory Stephanopoulos of the Department of Chemical Engineering are focusing their attention on antimicrobial peptides, or short strings of amino acids. Such peptides are naturally found in multicellular organisms, where they play a role in defense against infectious bacteria.

The researchers' newly designed peptides were shown to be effective against dangerous microbes such as Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) and Staphyloccus aureus, a bacteria that spreads in hospitals and is frequently drug-resistant. The peptides may also be less likely to induce drug resistance in these bacteria, according to the researchers.

Antimicrobial peptides act by attaching to bacterial membranes and punching holes in them, an attack that is general to many different types of bacteria and is difficult for them to defend against. "There's no quick easy mutation fix for a bacteria to get around this non-specific membrane attack," said Loose.
....To design their new peptides, the researchers first came up with all possible 20-amino acid sequences in which each overlapping string of 10 amino acids conformed to one of the grammars. They then removed any peptides that had six or more amino acids in a row in common with naturally occurring peptides. Then, they threw out sequences that were very similar to each other and chose 42 peptides to test.

About half of the peptides displayed significant antimicrobial activity against two common strains of bacteria -- Escherichia coli and Bacillus cereus. That is a much higher success rate than one would expect from testing randomly generated sequences, and much higher than the success rate for peptides with the same amino acids as the designed sequences, but in a shuffled order.

"We've been able to focus our shotgun approach so that half of the time, we get a hit," said Loose.

In further tests, two of the designed peptides showed very high effectiveness against two types of especially dangerous bacteria, S. aureus and anthrax.

There are other approaches to treating resistant bacteria that have similar promise. I am very hopeful that biotechnology will offer many solutions to the problems that conventional pharmacology has created.


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18 October 2006

Thorium Fission Energy--The Next Big Energy Thing?

Thorium is referred to as a "fertile isotope," and is vastly more plentiful than U235. In addition, when it undergoes conversion and subsequent fission, it will not produce plutonium--unlike another fertile isotope, U238.

Michael Anissimov posted a fascinating look at Thorium fission, and other aspects of safer, more advanced fission energy, in this excellent post. Michael provides a great deal of information about advanced fission, and a several links at the bottom of his article. He also provides a visionary's look at the possibilities provided by these new technologies that is inspirational.

Another good source of information about Thorium fission is the Thorium Energy Blog.

If it takes 20 years for politicians and bureaucrats to catch up to the safer new nuclear fission technologies, then that is how long current oil production will need to be maintained. If renewable technologies can continue to increase their share of production, albeit slowly, they will be enormously useful.

Many extreme right wing and extreme left wing persons are hoping for an energy crash that leads to a severe worldwide depression, with accompanying massive human die-off. The apocalyptic vein runs deep in these people, as it does in many religious ultra-fundamentalists of various types. That type of death wish deformity merely makes the work that much harder--for those of us who are trying to keep the progress made by western civilisation going and accelerating.

I am not presently in a position to comment on the immediate prospects for the Thorium economy. I am, however, encouraged by what I am reading on various sites about the potential.

Here is a description of a thorium reactor that operated in Germany in the late 1980s. More are currently under development now.


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17 October 2006

Re-Defining the Concept of Printing: Mass Producing 3-Dimensional Micro Scale Machines

A Redwood City, California, company has developed a new technique for building micro-scale machines layer by layer, using a "printer" supplied with specially formulated "inks" containing materials from metals to ceramics to polymers. Various micro-scale structural features can be built in, including tiny passages and chambers. This Technology Review story goes into more detail:

Each layer is cured by a flash of ultraviolet light before the next layer is printed, and once all of the layers have been printed, the whole assembly is fired at high temperatures, about 850 degrees Celsius , depending on the materials used. These materials have to be carefully selected so that they shrink at the same rate during the firing, and so that the space-holding materials can diffuse through the other materials, leaving behind empty spaces.

One of the company's first devices, a fuel-cell "reformer" for stripping hydrogen from methanol, will supply enough hydrogen for micro fuel cells that recharge 20-watt two-way radios used in emergency areas, where grid power isn't reliably available. The 300-layer device shows the complexity possible with the printing technique, Chait says. The layers form a total of 33 discrete components, such as heating coils, catalyst beds, "chambers, passageways, a diffuser section, a reformer section, and a combustion section," he says. Methanol is fed into the device, and the combination of steam and catalysts free the hydrogen. The entire reformer is the size of two dominoes.

Chait says his company is working with several others to create prototype devices based on the new technique, which can produce complex, three-dimensional structures out of multiple materials--and do so in a high-throughput process that can lower costs. The new method is an improvement over other printing-based techniques, Chait says, such as those that print designs on pre-formed ceramic sheets. The new method requires no pre-forms, which simplifies the process, cuts costs, and allows for more-complex designs, he says.

EoPlex is applying the concept to manufacturing micro-reactors, devices now often made from silicon, which quickly combine small amounts of precursor compounds to form high-value chemicals. Because they work with small amounts of chemcials at a time, such micro-reactors could be safer than conventional techniques when interacting with toxic or volatile chemicals. EoPlex has also designed an electrical generator smaller than a dime that uses piezoelectric materials to transform vibrations in a vehicle into electricity for powering wireless sensors. While wireless air-pressure sensors are now available on luxury cars, Chait says the new power source could lead to much smaller devices. The new printing technique would help make the sensors inexpensive enough to be put on all new cars.

Printing technologies have promise because "they are amenable to low-cost mass production," says Michael Cima, materials-science and engineering professor at MIT. "If you're talking about sensors for cars, you've got to make millions of them, and you've got to make them cheaply." ....

This technology is even more intriguing than similar silicon micro-scale fabrication methods, due to the use of several different materials together in the same micro-machine. This is a technology to be watched--because this type of process almost inevitably is shrunk in size over time, like silicon lithography for micro-electronics.
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14 October 2006

This Is Not Your Grandfather's TV

I remember the first time I went to a Laserium show, thinking: "lasers can do a lot more than I thought." Now an Australian company has developed laser television that surpasses plasma tv technology in just about any way you can imagine.

Soon-to-be-listed Australian company Arasor International and its US partner Novalux yesterday unveiled what they claimed to be the world's first laser television in Sydney, with a pitch that it will be half the price, twice as good, and use a quarter of the electricity of conventional plasma and LCD TVs.

Manufacturing company Arasor produces the unique optoelectronic chip central to the laser projection device being developed by Silicon Valley-based Novalux, which is being used by a number of television manufacturers.

And displayed beside a conventional 50 inch plasma TV, the Mitsubishi-built prototype does appear brighter and clearer than its "older" rival.

With a worldwide launch date scheduled for Christmas 2007, under recognisable brands like Mitsubishi and Samsung, Novalux chief executive Jean-Michel Pelaprat is so bold as to predict the death of plasma.

"If you look at any screen today, the colour content is roughly about 30-35 per cent of what the eye can see," he said.

"But for the very first time with a laser TV we'll be able to see 90 per cent of what the eye can see.

"All of a sudden what you see is a lifelike image on display."

With better energy efficiency, better price and half the weight and depth of plasma TVS, laser televisions are expected to take over the plasma niche.

I never did like the power-hog plasma sets. But if lasers can provide over 50% more colour content than plasma, I cannot wait to see the new laser displays. Next stop--laser hologram displays.
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13 October 2006

Tangled Bank from Neurophilosopher

Neurophilosopher Blog consistently publishes high quality stories, usually accompanied by exceptionally good graphics. This month Neuophilosopher provides Tangled Bank 64, a great collection of recent stories from science, medicine, and nature.

If you have not become acquainted with Neurophilosopher Blog, go over and take a look at the recent postings.
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12 October 2006

Plagiarism on the Net--How Widespread?

Update 17 Oct 06: Keelynet has a post today that explains the reason for lack of attribution. He apparently saw my story on another website where it had been re-published without clear attribution. It was an unintentional mistake and has been corrected.

By the way, I did a recent blog search on laser television, and found an excerpt from my laser TV story (above) published on a website I have never heard of, under my original title. There was a link to my website via Topix.net. So I can understand how a web author might run across one of my stories on yet a third website, and for it not to be clear where the story originated.

One of my favourite sites for looking at new sci-tech stories is Keelynet.com. Unfortunately, on 12 Oct 06, Keelynet copied an Al Fin story from 23 Sept 06 verbatim--"The Ammonia Economy Tries to Displace the Hydrogen Economy"--without attribution.

Whenever I quote from another site, I post a link to the original site. Perhaps many sites assume that all articles on blogs are from secondary sources--not original. That is not the case. This is not the first time I have found some of my stories used by other websites, but almost always a link or some form of attribution was provided--albeit sometimes in almost invisible small print or faint print.

Is this a problem for any other bloggers? I am not in this for any monetary rewards, but simple attribution for original writing should not be too much to ask. What do you think?
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10 October 2006

Second Life: What Can You Do With It?

Second Life is an interactive online environment where you can spend all of your time if you want. Some people make their living in the real world from what they do on Second Life.

"Second Life" now has more than 800,000 denizens, of whom more than a hundred are earning a real-world, full-time living there, selling things like virtual land, clothes, jewelry, weaponry and pets, or by offering virtual services, notably sex.

Yes, people pay real money for things they can only use in Rosedale's world, which is created on powerful servers and accessed through the Internet. Hundreds of thousands of real dollars change hands in "Second Life" daily, and it would have an annual gross domestic product of around $150 million if it were to stop growing today.

But Rosedale forecasts it will pass a million users this year. A rush to be part of the "new new thing" is on, and organizations like Major League Baseball, Harvard University, American Apparel Inc., and CNet.com are among the many opening operations in "Second Life," while musicians like Duran Duran and Suzanne Vega have broadcast virtual concerts there using the world's lifelike animated characters.

Find much more information about SL, particularly from the creator's point of view at the source.

The best article that I have found describing Second Life is this one. There you can find interviews from several Second Life addicts, and links to a variety of YouTube clips from SL.

The intriguing thing to me about Second Life is how dedicated the creators/operators of the enterprise seem to be toward improving the simulation and making it more realistic.

Second Life has a lot of potential to grow. Other virtual environments such as World of Warcraft could conceivably become mere subsets of the Second Life world. As interfaces grow more and more realistic--including sensory body suits and haptics--most forms of human interaction will become possible. If you imagine a total sensory experience combined with ultra-wide bandwidth, you begin to see the future of networked interaction.

I recommend reading the two articles linked to above, and view a couple of the YouTube videos at the Phoenix site. Unless you are already familiar with SL, you will probably be amazed by what is there, and blown away by the possibilities for the future.

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08 October 2006

Here is A Good Approach to the Energy Problem

The Kohkala technology recovers waste heat (or uses solar heat) and produces electricity as well as hot water and space heating from low temperature heat that is usually wasted. This approach will be a boon to homes and small industries that have not been able to utilise cogeneration technologies due to the low level of heat produced. This is one approach to small scale power generation that can be widely applied--especially when combined with newer geothermal technologies. Making use of relatively low temperature energy is like snatching usable energy from the jaws of the monster entropy.

Here is more from Kokhala:

Kokhala's solution uses a unique heat-to-electricity closed loop power cycle solution optimized to generate electricity from external heat sources above 120F. The heart of the EnergyCell® are two proprietary, oil-free variable speed positive displacement expander engines, optimized to efficiently convert the external heat into mechanical rotary power, and then into electricity. The modular components are designed to function in a compound thermal relationship such that a high temperature power cycle is optimized with working fluid circulates between 600F and 250F and a low temperature power cycle is optimized with a different working fluid circulates between 250F and 120F. Since the heat transfer and expansion occurs in a biphase mode, cycle efficiency are optimized and the heat exchangers are minimized. Each expander turns an efficient permanent magnet DC generator with a high turned down ratio. The residual heat from the low power temperature cycle is provide to heat domestic hot water and provide comfort heating for the facility. Based on principles of organic Rankine thermodynamics, the EnergyCell®. exhibit excellent efficiency, low acoustical and electrical noise, no polluting emissions, high reliability and long life.


Hat tip Peswiki.

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07 October 2006

Interesting Observations on Arabs: Why are We so Surprised When a Different Culture is so DIFFERENT?

12 postulates about arabs from Rants and Raves blog, based on his experience teaching in Saudi Arabia:

1)They don't think the same way we do.
2)When you meet them in ... the right circumstances they are likable.
3)Their values are fundamentally different from ours . . .
4)They can neither build nor maintain a modern infrastructure
5)They do not think of obligations as running both ways
6)In warfare, we think they are sneaky cowards . . .
7)They don't mean their rhetoric to be taken seriously
8)The abstract concept of "truth" means something different to them . . .
9)Cause and effect means something different to them . . .
10). . . They see themselves as a civilization on the skids . . .
11)We think everybody has a right to their own point of view--arabs think that's ridiculous
12)Arabs understand that western secular civilization cannot share the same world with muslim/arab civilization. One or the other must dominate, and arabs mean their culture/civilization to dominate by whatever means necessary.

I took minimal editorial license with the twelve points. Read the original observationshere. An extremely abbreviated quote from the post is below, but I recommend reading the entire thing.

1) They don’t think the same way we do.


2) When you meet them in just the right circumstances, they are a very likable people.

Arabs are often easy to like, but difficult to respect....no friendship with you is ever going to remotely equal the obligations they have for their family, tribe or the community of the Believers.

3) Their values are fundamentally different from ours, their self-esteem is derived from a different source.

4) Not only can they not build the infrastructure of a modern society, they can’t maintain it either.

The very concept of "maintenance" is foreign to them.

5) They do not think of obligations as running both ways.

With us, contractual and moral obligations tend to be equal and reciprocal. They don’t see it that way.

6) In warfare, we think they are sneaky cowards, they think we are hypocrites.

7) In rhetoric, they don’t mean to be taken seriously and they don’t understand when we do.

8) They don’t place the same value on an abstract conception of Truth as we do, they routinely believe things of breathtaking absurdity.

9) They do not have the same notion of cause and effect as we do.

This involves some seriously weird stuff about other people being responsible for their misery because they ill-wished them.

10) We take for granted that we are a dominant civilization still on the way up. They are acutely aware that they are a civilization on the skids.

Anyone who looks at the surviving architecture of Moorish Spain can tell that Islamic civilization has seen better days.

11) We think that everybody has a right to their own point of view, they think that that idea is not only self-evidently absurd, but evil.

12) Our civilization is destroying theirs. We cannot share a world in peace. They understand this; we have yet to learn it.

The comments after the post are also very interesting.

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06 October 2006

Climatology Students Learning from Climateaudit.org--Turbulence Ahead!

Climatology students in one class have gotten tired of the evasiveness they see all too often at realclimate.org. They want to support realclimate because they believe the "consensus" orthodoxy, but feel some of the blogmasters at realclimate are real weanies. Their instructor recommended they check in at Climateaudit.org to learn what educated and generally apolitical skeptics are saying. Rather like a "trial by fire" you might say.

I have noticed the weasly nature of the realclimate people as well. But then, that is typical of an orthodoxy that wishes to squash dissent. I cannot blame an educated person with little knowledge of statistics, who believes the orthodox realclimate POV out of respect for "scientific" authority. That is a natural approach for a non-scientist, non-statistician. Those with scientific and/or statistical backgrounds, however, should delve a bit more deeply into the very real and ongoing debate.

Realclimate.org is the conventional, orthodox climate site. If you want to know what the high priests of the orthodoxy are promoting in terms of climate policy and climate outlook, go no farther than realclimate.

For scientists and data analysts, there is no excuse for just going along with the orthodoxy. I salute Kenneth Blumenfeld for being wise enough to direct his students to a meaty debate, rather than simply telling them to accept the "revealed word."

Update 7 Oct 06: Climate Science blog has an excellent example of what is troubling so many climate science students about realclimate.org. Read the article and the comments, including two by Gavin from realclimate--then read the responses to Gavin's comments. Judge for yourself who is being more scientific, and who is being more political/religious (dogmatic and orthodox). Most fascinating!
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