31 March 2007

Peak Uranium? Predictions of Uranium Shortages Appear Overblown

Recent concerns over CAGW have led many planners--and even environmentalists--to suggest that increased use of nuclear power may reduce CO2 dumping into the atmosphere. But many anti-nuclear activists are claiming that there is a shortage of uranium which prevents any large scale nuclear energy alternatives. What is the reality?

Uranium is a common mineral--as plentiful as tin.
Uranium prices reached an all-time low in 2001, costing US$7/lb, but have since rebounded strongly. As of January 2007, uranium sells at US$72/lb and the price is rising fast. This is the highest price (adjusted for inflation et cetera) in 25 years [2]. The higher price has spurred new prospecting and reopening of old mines. Cameco and Rio Tinto Group are the top two producing companies (with 20% of the production each), followed by Areva (12%), BHP Billiton (9%) and Kazatomprom (9%).
Deposits of uranium lie primarily in Canada, Australia, the US, South Africa, and countries of the former USSR. There is tremendous flexibility in the production of uranium, depending on pricing and political/regulatory conditions. Currently Canada and Australia are the world's major producers, but producers in the third world are gearing up for higher production with Chinese and Russian backing.

Realistically, "Peak Uranium", like "Peak Oil", is an almost meaningless term. Better terminology would refer to pricing of these commodities--which reflects supply, demand, and political/regulatory factors. Although some people have seized upon this report that suggests an impending bottleneck of uranium supplies for the US, more informed individuals with a broader perspective of commodities markets will understand that markets find a way--even when ivory tower academics can only see government action as a solution.

The important thing is to assure that government regulatory agencies do not make it impossible for the market to function.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

30 March 2007

Visionaries, Inventors, Engineers, and the People Who Actually Get Things Done

Nanotechnology theorist and visionary Eric Drexler has played a vital part in bringing the promise and danger of molecular assembly to the public's attention. But he has never actually built a molecular assembler. This is the nature of today's important advances in "nanotechnology:"
A new high-resolution positioning & scanning system providing 25 picometers resolution is available.
The minute P-363 PicoCubeÆ, together with its low noise E-536 driver / controller, provide significantly higher resolution and positional stability than previous multi-axis scanning stages.

How Do PicoCubeÆ Scanners Differ from Traditional Scanner Tubes?
PicoCube systems were designed to overcome the limitations of open-loop piezo-tube based scanners which provide high resolution motion but poor linearity and trajectory guidance.
The compact PicoCube is based on exceptionally robust, high-stiffness piezo drives rather than tubes and employs non-contact, direct-measuring, parallel-metrology capacitive sensors for position feedback. The low-inertia drives allow for a resonant frequency of 10 kHz, important for high speed scanning applications

Such devices are useful for atomic force microscopy and nano-manipulation. Of course, such devices are nothing like a molecular assembler, and can certainly not make copies of themselves. Nevertheless, they are useful in the slow and incremental study of molecular/atomic scale forces and structures. They are designed by engineers, and manufactured by machines and human assemblers.

Drexler's books help to stimulate the imaginations of the people who will actually make the breakthroughs leading to molecular assembly. Drexler is a visionary.

Dean Kamen and Ray Kurzweil function as both visionaries and inventors. They conceive new ideas, and work with their teams to actually develop working devices and machines. Of course, all successful modern inventors work with teams of engineers, craftsmen, attorneys, accountants, financiers, and other vital members of a modern enterprise.

Steve Wozniak served as visionary, inventor, and engineer. But Steve Jobs provided other useful skills that helped the company get off the ground. Other less well known members of the team likewise played vital roles.

In every research lab there are technicians and craftsmen who fabricate tools, software, and equipment that are necessary for testing ideas, and for refining ideas that show promise. Visionaries and inventors cannot do without them.

In reality, visionaries are a dime a dozen. Anyone can think of ideas, as long as the ideas do not have to work or be important. It is the visionaries who think of important ideas that could actually work, who are in demand--or they should be. Positioning is also important, as is who they know and how well they can stick to their purpose. Because a good visionary needs a good team, if anything is ever going to get done.

One of the major problems with a society improving itself, is the setting of priorities in the financing of innovations. In a socialist society, priority-setting occurs at fairly high levels in government committees, and nationalised industries. That is why nations such as North Korea, Cuba, Zimbabwe, and Venezuela see little if any innovation. China saw very little innovation while the Communist Party held its rigid grip on economic planning and enterprise. Russia's neo-nationalisation of oil, gas, and other profitable industries is certain to reduce innovation in that unfortunate country. Theocracies such as Iran demonstrate the same lack of innovation as socialist and other centrally controlled societies.

The more free-wheeling a society's economy, the more innovation that will be seen from the bottom up. It is no accident that revolutionary scale innovations in western nations are more rare, as the nations' economies grow more centralised.

But revolutionary innovations are what prevents economic stagnation. The evolution toward nanny states and greater nationalisation and centralisation of enterprise and innovation suggests that stagnation is coming. Certainly if a person is cared for from the cradle to the grave, regardless of his productive contribution to society, the incentive of that person to innovate will be reduced.

Many idle visionaries dream of a society where machines do all the work, and well-entitled humans sit around composing music, poetry, or producing great art. It may happen that the humans will be well cared for materially, but it is unlikely that most such persons would bother creating anything meaningful. What would be the point? More likely such persons would crave entertainment, amusement, and all manner of pleasure. If most people do not have to work at anything, they will not.

There are ways of educating children to actually want to create, innovate, and produce remarkable things. Those are not ways that most children are educated--and there is no conceivable way that today's education system could evolve into the other educational methods I allude to.

Sadly, today's education creates psychological neotenates--grown children with no experience of meaningful life responsibility or practical skills. University faculties are populated by psychological neotenates, as are civil service jobs, welfare roles, and prison cells.

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share

Sad Necessity of War

War follows humanity as surely as night follows day.
To say that war must never be waged for the sake of truth, for the sake of justice, is to create the impression that there is no truth, that one belief is as good as another, that I should be happy to embrace any way of thinking that is imposed upon me. It is to imply that there is no such a thing as justice, that there are no "rights" or "wrongs", that therefore there are no "wrongs" to be "righted". Indeed, it is to imply that there is no such thing as "rationality" and that chaos and disorder is and should be the rule of the day.

In fact, war preceded humans. Chimpanzees and wolves carry out wars of extermination against rival groups.
This sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen among nonhumans. Until the attack on Godi, scientists treated the remarkable violence of humanity as something uniquely ours. To be sure, everyone knew that many animal species kill; but usually that killing is directed toward other species, toward prey. Individual animals--often males in sexual competition--fight with others of their own species; but that sort of contest typically ends the moment one competitor gives up. Scientists thought that only humans deliberately sought out and killed members of their own species. In our minds, we cloaked our own species' violence in culture and reason, two distinctly human attributes, and wondered what kind of original sin condemned us to this strange habit. And suddenly we found this event in the ape world. The attack on Godi suggested that chimpanzees might be a second species that killed its own kind deliberately. But how strange that the second species should be chimpanzees! After all, no species is more closely related to us than chimpanzees are.

Forgetting the lessons of history and ethology, nations of the European Union--and even Canada--have largely disarmed themselves, wishfully thinking that there are no more serious enemies in the world that must be fought.
The latest Iranian kidnapping of British sailors came after British promises to leave Iraq, and after the British humiliation of 2004, when eight hostages were begged back. Apparently the Iranians have figured either that London would do little if they captured more British subjects or that the navy of Lord Nelson and Admiral Jellico couldn’t stop them if it wanted to.

....The rationalizations are limitless, but essential, since no one in Europe — again, understandably — wishes a confrontation that might require a cessation of lucrative trade with Iran, or an embarrassing military engagement without sufficient assets, or any overt allegiance with the United States. Pundits talk of a military option, but there really is none, since neither Britain nor Europe at large possesses a military.

What does the future hold if Europe does not rearm and make it clear that attacks on Europeans and threats to the current globalized order have repercussions?

If Europeans recoil from a few Taliban hoodlums or Iranian jihadists, new mega-powers like nuclear India and China will simply ignore European protestations as the ankle-biting of tired moralists. Indeed, they do so already.

....Europe is just one major terrorist operation away from a disgrace that will not merely discredit the EU, but will do so to such a degree as to endanger its citizenry and interests worldwide and their very safety at home. Islamists must assume that an attack on a European icon — Big Ben, the Vatican, or the Eiffel Tower — could be pulled off with relative impunity and ipso facto shatter European confidence and influence. Each day that the Iranians renege on their promises to release the hostages, and then proceed to parade their captives, earning another “unacceptable” from embarrassed British officials, a little bit more of the prestige of the United Kingdom is chipped away.

As it happens, civilisation did not save Greece, it did not save Rome, it did not save pre-Islamic Egypt. When the barbarians come to call--particularly religious barbarians intent on religious conquest of the world--civilisation will not do. When threatened and repeatedly attacked by violent barbarians, only a brutal and decisive response will yield a period of peace.

But there are no wars that end all wars. Robert Heinlein was soundly booed by a large crowd of young people in the Vietnam era when he reluctantly declared that "there will always be war." Human nature combined with clans, tribes, ideologies, and overgrown ambitions--all these guarantee there will be other wars in other times. Many of them will not be avoidable by the more civilised of the parties involved.

If the civilised cannot reach inside themselves to find the requisite brutality, they and their civilisation may just go extinct.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

29 March 2007

Great Global Warming Swindle--An Update

Since first posting this wonderfully controversial video, YouTube has been busily downloading the video to curious students and websurfers around the world.
The documentary has sent scientific authorities and activists into attack mode. Sir John Houghton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, insists that global warming is a "weapon of mass destruction." The Independent, a notorious megaphone for environmental activism, launched an "investigation" into the program and found it "riddled with distortions and errors."

Yet the counter-charges mostly evade the issues raised by Durkin's film: that humans produce miniscule amounts of carbon emissions; that carbon samples from polar ice sheets contradict global warming predictions; and that solar activity corresponds closely to temperature change. Moreover, some of the solutions--insisting on solar energy for developing nations, switching to low-wattage light bulbs--appear ludicrous. Program viewers have noticed: They're blogging feverishly about the film, downloading it from YouTube (over 249,000 hits), and lashing out at slanted media coverage.

....The Great Global Warming Swindle makes at least one incontestable charge: A "discourse of catastrophe" has infected the scientific community's approach to global climate change and is shaping the budget priorities of government. In this, the issue has taken on a quasi-religious character, with devotees on a quest for radical lifestyle alternatives to avert an apocalyptic future.

I have noted with interest that some bloggers who had previously been rather intolerantly apocalyptic in their belief in CAGW, have begun to have second thoughts after watching the video, and presumably giving it some thought.

In a sense, Global Warming (CAGW) is the perfect religion, for atheist and believer alike. It helps if you have an apocalyptic streak, and a weakness for sensationalist and alarmist news stories. It also helps if you trust "authority" a good deal more than you should, or if you have a difficult time sorting out complex topics for yourself.

In other words, CAGW is a religion custom made for the psychologically neotenous products of modern school systems. Politically correct to a fault, they will believe what they are told they should believe--because to do anything else would require taking responsibility. We cannot have that. That might threaten the orthodoxy.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

28 March 2007

The Nano Domain

Korean researchers aim to break the 10 nanometer barrier for circuit design, using carbon nanotubes to etch the circuits.
Leading the project are Prof. Choi Hee-cheul of Pohang University of Science and Technology and Kim Hyun-tak of the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI).

Choi employed carbon nanotubes to successfully etch circuits that are thinner than 10 nanometers on the face of silicon wafers. One nanometer is equal to one billionth of a meter.

``As far as we know, we broke a 10-nanometer barrier for the first time in history. We could make the breakthrough after finding unique surface chemical reactions of carbon nanotubes,'' Choi said.

``We hope this carbon nanotube-based technology will help crank out 10-nanometer memory chips. Toward that end, we are currently cooperating with U.S. venture start-ups,'' he said.

The findings were featured in Nature Nanotechnology this week.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine are designing nanoscale protein traps for catching and disabling deadly viruses in the body--such as HIV.
The next stage of their research would be to mix engineered red blood cells and normal immune cells in a dish and see whether they can trap HIV. Dr. Turner speculated that someday it might be possible to give HIV patients transfusions of engineered blood cells. The cells would lure the virus away from T cells, allowing a patient’s immune system to recover. And since red blood cells survive only a few months before being destroyed in the spleen, the trapped viruses would gradually disappear from the patient’s body.

....even if the virus was not completely destroyed in a patient, driving down the numbers would have significant benefits. It would keep the immune system from collapsing, which is what AIDS drugs are designed to do now. But traps might end up being cheaper.

Dr. Finberg is also exploring other ways to trap viruses. “We did it with red blood cells, but they didn’t have to be red blood cells,” he said. “Another way to do it would be to pull them out with beads.”

Scientists at the Universities of Heidelberg and Bayreuth in Germany, are designing 14 nanometer sized grains of boron-nitride that are 85% as hard as diamond. These nanograins, when mass-produced, should provide an economical material for industrial cutting, drilling, grinding, and other applications. When molecular assembly comes into its own, this material may provide a useful substitute for diamondoid nano-assemblies for some uses.

Drexlerian molecular assemblers are probably decades away. Nanotechnology engineers and scientists have still not learned enough from biological molecular assembly, to understand enough of the potentials and limitations of molecular fabrication. Between where we are, and the time of abundant Drexlerian nano-assemblers, will be a time of exciting discovery. We do need to grow out of our narcissism, psychological neoteny, superstitious natures, and hyper-emotionalism, before we will be ready for the granting of our every wish.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

27 March 2007

Fast, Flexible Computer Chips and Optical Chipsets

MONARCH is a new "supercomputer on a chip" capable of 64 Gigaflops with memory bandwidth of 60 Gbps and off-chip data bandwidth of 43 Gbps.
Granacki is director of the Advanced Systems Division at ISI, and Research Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Systems and Biomedical Engineering in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

"What we have been creating is essentially a supercomputer on a chip," he said, "and not just a supercomputer, but a flexible supercomputer that reconfigures itself into the optimal supercomputer for each specific part of a multi-part task."

Meanwhile IBM has created the world's fastist optical chipset.
Measuring 3.25 by 5.25 millimeters, IBM's new optical chipset contains both driver and receiver circuits, and was built using industry-standard complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology. Optical-grade plastic fibers are used to transmit data, and optical components use indium phosphide (InP) and gallium arsenide (GaAs).

Because of the large number of communication channels as well as the very high speeds for each channel, IBM said the chipset provides the highest record ever of transmitted information per unit of physical space.

These very powerful chips will soon be available in large quantities, which makes one wonder how they will be used. The IBM optical chip has enough data throughput to run a medium sized war--ground, sea, air, and space (data equivalent to four million simultaneous telephone conversations). All on a chip roughly the size of a dime.

The MONARCH supercomputer-on-a-chip has the ability to reconfigure itself to adapt to different computing tasks on the fly.

If you consider these powerful chips to be mere building blocks of a more powerful system, or networks of systems, you may begin to see the potential for systems designers.

Most people will probably just want better video gaming and more realistic virtual reality effects. Computer hobbyists will want to build extremely fast custom systems to impress their friends. Financial and security interests will want more advanced systems to provide better data security. Domestic and international criminals and terrorists will likewise want the features of these advanced chips.

With the rate of advancement in chip processing power and data bandwidth, it becomes more difficult for the holders of wealth and power to keep the wolves at bay. I recommend diversifying.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

New Chimeric Lamb--Warns Against Global Warming

Scientists at the Univeristy of Nevada have developed a sheep that is 15% human. As pictured above, it is quoted as saying that global warming is baaaaad!
Scientists have created the world's first human-sheep chimera - which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs.

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells - and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.

Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, has spent seven years and £5million perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep's foetus.

...Scientists at King's College, London, and the North East Stem Cell Institute in Newcastle have now applied to the HFEA, the Government's fertility watchdog, for permission to start work on the chimeras.

The chimeric animals would allow better animal models for human disease research, and might allow animal to human organ transplantation with less risk of rejection. There is the risk of transferring animal viruses to humans.

Most scientists believe that the anti-global warming aspect of the chimeric sheep to be a bug, although Al Gore has stated publically that he sees it as more of a feature.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

Teaching Plants to Grow For Energy, Food, Drugs, and More

Humans domesticated many plants thousands of years ago, during the first agricultural revolution. Now humans are using genetic engineering, and other techniques to coax plants to grow in ways that humans want.
"This is a major step in understanding auxin transport, which is vital to every aspect of plant growth and development," said Angus Murphy, the professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue University who led the team.

Murphy said results of the study, published last month in The Plant Cell, have already been applied and have been used to create plants with larger root structures.

"This study gives us another important tool in our toolbox," he said. "Before, we would modify plants one gene at a time, but now we realize why this approach has not worked very well. We now see that there are two elements of control to keep in mind, just as amplified sound is best controlled by modulating gain from the microphone and amplifier output to the speakers."

....The research also should have important implications in horticulture. For example, the team's findings might be used to produce ornamentals that do not need pruning or that have larger root systems to support more vegetation, he said. Such plants would require less labor, energy and - with larger roots - less fertilizer, Murphy said.

The team's findings could have applications in food crops, but Murphy said he hasn't pursued such work due to some concerns over eating genetically modified foods.

"We're focusing on biofuels and ornamentals because everybody loves to drive their car, and people don't eat their flowers," he said.

Scientists are learning how plants adjust to salt, drought, and other stresses. And although advances in plant science does not receive the news coverage that stem cells and human gene therapy receive, in the long run what we can coax plants to do may determine what we can accomplish on Earth, and how far we can expand into the solar system and beyond.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share

26 March 2007

Blow-Up Space Structures--Accelerating Private Space Enterprise

Inflatable spacecraft and habitats have been a staple of science fiction for decades. The relative vacuum of space allows inflatable structures to achieve uncharacteristic rigidity and structural strength.
After reaching orbit, Genesis 1 expanded from a diameter of about five feet (1.5 meters) to a configuration that is now more than eight feet (2.44 meters) across. In its pressurized, fully expanded status, the module yields 406 cubic feet (11.5 cubic meters) of usable volume and is energized by eight solar arrays — four on each end of the structure.

Genesis 1 remains in excellent shape, along with healthy avionics and is exhibiting good thermal conditions as it orbits Earth, said Robert Bigelow, founder and president of Bigelow Aerospace, as well as owner of the Budget Suites of America Hotel Chain, among other enterprises.

....Bigelow’s next space module, Genesis 2, is now being prepped for shipment to Russia. It is scheduled to be launched via a Dnepr rocket within the first quarter of this year, said Mike Gold, corporate counsel for Bigelow Aerospace in Washington.

....Genesis 2 will carry several new systems — such as reaction wheels for attitude control as well as a distributed, multi-tank inflation system — an improvement on the single-tank design of Genesis 1.

Go to the link above for more information. For an interesting video dealing with inflatable structures in space, go here.

Inflatable structures can be built on earth and launched uninflated to save space. Once in place--in orbit, on the moon, on Mars, etc.--the habitat or structure can be inflated to its operational size. Quick and dirty, but effective, once radiation vulnerabilities can be worked out.


Bookmark and Share

Special Delivery of DNA to Cells: Interesting Method

David M. Lynn and fellow engineers at UW Madison have developed an ultrathin film for DNA packaging and delivery, for use in gene therapy.
When placed in or near a body tissue, the films are designed to degrade and release the DNA. Large strands of DNA cannot normally penetrate cells, so Lynn constructs his films with special polymers designed to bundle the genes into small tight packages that cells can import. Once inside, the genes instruct the cells to make proteins.

Lynn and his colleagues create the films one layer at a time using a dip-coating method, dunking first in one solution, then another. The individual layers are so thin it would take roughly 10,000 of them to equal the thickness of a single sheet of paper.

....The researchers alternate layers of DNA with layers of a polymer that is stable when dry but that degrades when exposed to water. Because the polymers carry a positive electric charge that is attractive to DNA, each polymer layer also "primes" the surface to accept the next layer of DNA. While electrostatic forces between the layers keep the film stable in dry, room-temperature conditions, the polymers break down easily in a wet biological environment - like the inside of a patient's body.

Lynn's laboratory has engineered a whole toolbox of different polymers to fine-tune the DNA delivery properties of their films. Using the layering method, they can control the amount of DNA by adding more layers, or can even layer multiple ingredients in a specific order. Tweaking the polymer structure slightly can change how quickly the films erode and thus how long cells are exposed to the gene therapy.

Given the past morbidity and mortality of using viral vectors for gene therapy, it is important to find safe and effective alternatives. Although this method lacks much of the gene insertion machinery naturally present in viruses, it represent a very safe beginning for an alternative approach.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Killing Cancer Cells, Leaving Normal Cells Alone

The biggest problem in cancer therapy is being able to selectively destroy malignant cells while not harming normal tissue. UW Madison chemistry professor Laura Kiessling and her team have developed one method for selectively killing cancer cells.
In a series of cell-based experiments, the researchers' system recognized and killed only those cells displaying high levels of receptors known as integrins. These molecules, which tend to bedeck the surfaces of cancer cells and tumor vasculature in large numbers, have become important targets in cancer research.

In contrast, an established tumor-homing agent linked to the cell toxin doxorubicin destroyed cells even when they expressed very little integrin, indicating this strategy has the potential to kill cancerous and healthy cells indiscriminately.

"This study suggests that the cell recognition mode we used can direct an endogenous immune response to destroy cancer cells selectively," says Kiessling. "We think this could lead to a new class of therapeutic agents not only for cancer but also for other diseases involving harmful cells."

The researchers' method is promising, because it would allow oncologists to target tumour cells that had the same receptors that normal cells have--only at much higher levels. This differential in number of specific receptors between malignant and normal cells allows differential immune "tagging" just enough to kill the cancer cells but leave the normal cells intact.

This method should be useful for a wider range of tumour types than most anti-receptor therapies up until now.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

Nano-Electric Impulse Engine: Specific Impulse Adjustable from 100s to 10,000s

This nanotech electric impulse thruster is scalable for use with energy ranges from watts to megawatts power.
Termed the nanoparticle field extraction thruster – nanoFET – this highly integrated propulsion concept is a high efficiency, variable specific impulse engine type that can be readily scalable for a large range of future space science and exploration missions ("Nanoparticle Electric Propulsion for Space Exploration"; pdf download, 460 KB).
The nanoFET utilizes highly scalable MEMS/NEMS structures to feed, extract and accelerate nanoparticles through micron-sized thrusters. The nanoparticles to be used as propellant can be of various geometries and materials.

....Here is how it works: Conductive nanoparticles would be transported to a small liquid-filled reservoir by a micro-fluidic flow transport system. Particles that come into contact with the bottom conducting plate would become charged and pulled to the liquid surface by the imposed electric field. If the electrostatic force near the surface can cause charged nanoparticles to break through the surface tension, field focusing would quickly accelerate the particles through the surface. Once extracted, the charged nanoparticles would be accelerated by the vacuum electric field and ejected, thus generating thrust.

....Another advantage of this system is that it affords a much broader set of missions with a single engine type – nanoFETs have an unprecedented thrust-to-power ratio for electric propulsion systems; they can adjust specific impulse over a large range from 100s to 10,000s; they show a high efficiency range of over 90% over the entire specific impulse range; they do not have the life-limiting factors common in ion thrusters.

The system is also very flexible with regard to the size and type of particles that can be used. Almost any conductive nanoparticle, such as carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, as well as metal nanospheres and nanowires could be used. Currently, the researchers are experimenting with silver, nickel and copper nanoparticles ranging in size from 5 nm to 70 nm.

This thruster lacks the thrust needed to launch a craft from Earth to orbit. But once in orbit, its high efficiency would enable a wider range of missions per payload weight.

Labels: ,

Bookmark and Share

25 March 2007

Selling Iran Short

  • First a key Iranian official defects
  • Next,Russia starts getting tougher with Iran on uranium enrichment
  • Then, Iran seizes 15 British sailors and marines
  • Next, the UN Security Council strengthens sanctions against Iran
  • Will the next move be for bombs to fall on Iran in April?
  • Update 1 April 2007: See here

  • The corrupt Islamic government of Iran is under assault by its own citizens. You have the teachers in revolt. You have the Kurds. You have a large number of other ethnic groups verging on the edge of revolt against the tyrannical theocracy.

    But probably the group that represents the greatest danger to the brutal and bloody dictatorship in Teheran is the women of Iran.
    Let us see what atrocities the fundamentalists have committed against women in Iran.

    In truth, the people around the world have been informed of a very small portion of the tragedy that has affected women in my country. As you might know, misogyny is distinctive to the fundamentalist ruling Iran.

    No one but Iranian women have experienced body and soul this misogyny.

    The mullahs' rule came down on women's rights, liberties, culture, family and private lives like a huge avalanche.

    - Executing thousands of female opponents, which is unprecedented anywhere in the world;
    - Torturing tens of thousands of women political prisoners;
    - Executing pregnant women, the torture of mothers in front of their children;
    - Degrading women's social and economic standing to second class citizens;
    - Imposing gender apartheid;
    - Controlling women's presence in the streets;
    - Imposing compulsory veiling, controlling the color and forms of women's attire;
    - Lacerating and splashing acid on women's faces because of their clothing and make up.
    - Systematic assault on women in prisons;
    - Denial of the right to divorce and the right to custody of children;
    - Promoting polygamy and temporary marriage, justified by the mullahs' disgraceful Sharia;
    - Applying medieval and painful punishments such as stoning, whose victims are primarily women;
    - Injustice and discrimination in economic participation, employment and education;
    - The sale of small children by impoverished families and their trafficking to other countries by the mullahs' criminal gangs in a country as rich as Iran;
    - Selling innocent girls' body parts due to impoverishment, hunger and many other calamities;

    Indeed, these are only parts of the tragedy women have been experiencing under the rule of the fundamentalists. I must emphasize that these come at a time when the Iranian Resistance movement has been waging a relentless struggle against this regime for 27 years. Imagine what the fundamentalist mullahs would have done to women if this resistance did not exist.

    An invasion of Iran by a western coalition would be absurd. But clearly the current brutal Iranian dictatorship is pushing the limits of what the civilised world will tolerate.

    Clearly the people of Iran are suffering badly under the mad mullahs and the prancing monkey Ahmadinejad. But many westerners, out of political motives, appear to be turning a blind eye toward the suffering people of Iran. Even western feminists seem to be jumping in bed with the patriarchy of Iran.

    It is common for many journalists and bloggers to downplay the very real Iranian threat--out of hatred for US President Bush! They may feel that propagating a falsely benign image of Iran to the public will minimise the chances that Bush will attack or invade Iran. But a falsehood is a falsehood, regardless of motive. The thing that concerns me is that they may be fooling themselves!

    Labels: , ,

    Bookmark and Share

    Radical Synthesis of Natural Substances

    Chemists have had a difficult time synthetically creating many important natural substances in the laboratory.

    Bioactive compounds found in marine and terrestrial organisms often have anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and other desireable qualities. The cost of synthesizing the compounds can be prohibitive, though.

    This is a critical concern, as identification of a reasonably economic means of production for marine and other natural products is typically one of the most challenging hurdles in a potential drug's commercial development. An overly complex and expensive synthesis can even slow or halt the development of an otherwise promising drug candidate.

    ....A range of drugs from aspirin to the widely used cancer treatment Taxol has been discovered in nature, but the complexity of producing natural products has made some companies reluctant to focus on them.

    “There is this far-ranging and damaging perception that natural products are too complex to be used in a drug discovery setting despite their overwhelming track record in medicine,” says Baran. “I think if our work has helped in even a small way to revive the use of natural products, then we've served our purpose.”
    Phil Baran and colleagues at Scripps Institute have opened the door to faster and more economical synthesis of natural products by changing the rules.
    A radically different approach to constructing complex molecules could help to tap the pharmaceutical potential of natural products. The concept, devised by Phil Baran and colleagues at Scripps Institute, La Jolla, California, promises to generate natural products in much larger amounts than conventional methods, making biological testing much easier for drug discovery scientists.

    Most total syntheses, which assemble complicated carbon-based molecules from relatively simple building blocks, make liberal use of protecting groups. These chemical shields prevent completed parts of a molecule being altered while chemists are still tinkering with other sections that are still under construction. However, adding and removing protecting groups can add many steps to a synthesis, cutting overall yields drastically.

    Baran's team have now made a collection of marine natural products without using a single protecting group. Instead, they take advantage of the intrinsic reactivity of the molecule's different functional groups.

    This unconventional approach delivered several grams of compounds such as ambiguine and welwitindolinone in less than 10 steps. What's more, the reactions were enatioselective - they made only the preferred mirror-image form, or enantiomer, of the molecule, instead of a racemic mixture containing equal amounts of both enantiomers. This is a vast improvement over traditional syntheses, which make milligrams of racemic product in around 30 steps.

    Hat tip Biosingularity blog. Biosingularity blog specifically tracks developments on the cutting edge of biology, and is worth a regular look.

    Labels: , ,

    Bookmark and Share

    24 March 2007

    Cultivating a Sense of Perspective

    The Images are from the wonderfully contrarian website IceAgeNow.

    Labels: ,

    Bookmark and Share

    Doing Something About the Weather At Last, Sam

    Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. But now engineer and inventor Stephen Salter is suggesting that maybe it wouldn't be so hard to do something about the weather at all.
    In his scheme, seawater will be sucked up from the ocean into pipes within the blades. Nozzles at the ends of these pipes will turn the water into an aerosol and spray fine droplets from the trailing edges of the blades 5 to 20 metres above the sea surface into the turbulent wake of the rotor.

    This, Salter points out, will hugely increase the surface area of water that can be turned into water vapour. The turbine will also overcome one of the main brakes on evaporation from the ocean, he argues. The problem is a wafer-thin layer of stagnant, humid air that clings to the surface of the sea and prevents water molecules from escaping.

    Salter calculates that with a wind speed of 8 metres per second, each "spray turbine" could lift more than half a cubic metre of water a second to a height of 10 metres. Hundreds or even thousands of the machines in hot areas of the world could make enough rain to prevent droughts, he estimates. "The successful large-scale deployment of spray turbines could reduce the number of people who are short of water by several billion."

    Read more at Fatknowledge Blog, a very fine blog indeed.

    While Salter's "ocean mist" scheme may be tagged as a way to combat global warming, in reality it is a way to stir up the weather considerably, and hopefully to reduce drought and bring fresh water to many people who are presently without it. The lack of clean fresh water is a far greater environmental problem than the more fashionable CAGW. We should never forget that water vapour is the most meaningful greenhouse gas, but that water in the atmosphere performs a very complex function that is not amenable to current climate models.

    Labels: , , ,

    Bookmark and Share

    Battle of the Superlenses--Another Revolutionary Tool for Research

    Three approaches to the development of the superlens are vying for recognition in the latest edition of Science. The University of Maryland is competing with Caltech and UC Berkeley for supremacy in the "Battle of the Superlenses."
    In one study, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, used a metamaterials-based lens paired with a conventional optical lens to reveal patterns too small to be discerned with an ordinary optical microscope. In one experiment, the lens was able to distinguish two 35-nanometer lines etched 150 nanometers apart. Without the metamaterials, the microscope showed only one thick line.

    Such a lens could be used to watch cellular processes that have been impossible to see. Conversely, it could be used to project an image with extremely fine features onto a photoresist as a first step in photolithography, a process used to make computer chips. Such detailed resolution would also make it possible to represent more data on the surface of a DVD.

    The other two papers describe related advances. Caltech researchers built a microscopic prism using metamaterials that bends green light the opposite way it would bend with an ordinary prism. This could make it possible to create lenses in shapes not possible now, such as space-saving flat lenses.

    In the third paper, researchers from the University of Maryland built a lens that can magnify rays of blue-green light emanating from dots just 70 nanometers across. The rays become big enough to be seen by an ordinary optical microscope, giving the device an effective resolution of 70 nanometers. Even better resolution might be observed if smaller dots were used, says Igor Smolyaninov, a Maryland research scientist and author of the paper. He estimates that the method could resolve features as small as 10 nanometers.

    Imagine a light microscope with a resolution near that of an electron microscope! These superlenses should also improve technique in photolithography.

    Hat tip Advanced Nano.


    Bookmark and Share

    Plasmonic Density--The Exciting Opening of a Vast New Field of Science

    Electromagnetic waves such as visible light, can generate electric energy through photovoltaics, can boost an electron to a higher energy level, and can create plasmons--density waves of electrons on a surface.

    Plasmons are density waves of electrons, created when light hits the surface of a metal under precise circumstances. Because these density waves are generated at optical frequencies, very small and rapid waves, they can theoretically encode a lot of information, more than what's possible for conventional electronics. Source

    Advanced Nano blog points to a SciAm article discussing the potential of plasmons to vastly increase data density on computer processor chips.
    In the 1980s researchers experimentally confirmed that directing light waves at the interface between a metal and a dielectric (a nonconductive material such as air or glass) can, under the right circumstances, induce a resonant interaction between the waves and the mobile electrons at the surface of the metal. (In a conductive metal, the electrons are not strongly attached to individual atoms or molecules.) In other words, the oscillations of electrons at the surface match those of the electromagnetic field outside the metal. The result is the generation of surface plasmons--density waves of electrons that propagate along the interface like the ripples that spread across the surface of a pond after you throw a stone into the water.

    ....This phenomenon could allow the plasmons to travel along nanoscale wires called interconnects, carrying information from one part of a microprocessor to another. Plasmonic interconnects would be a great boon for chip designers, who have been able to develop ever smaller and faster transistors but have had a harder time building minute electronic circuits that can move data quickly across the chip.

    ....Ultimately it may be possible to employ plasmonic components in a wide variety of instruments, using them to improve the resolution of microscopes, the efficiency of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and the sensitivity of chemical and biological detectors. Scientists are also considering medical applications, designing tiny particles that could use plasmon resonance absorption to kill cancerous tissues, for example. And some researchers have even theorized that certain plasmonic materials could alter the electromagnetic field around an object to such an extent that it would become invisible.

    Labels: ,

    Bookmark and Share

    23 March 2007

    Do Global Warming Be Making Humans Stupider?

    When Homo Sapiens migrated north from the equator in prehistoric times, humans were forced to adapt to colder temperatures, and learn more clever ways to survive. This adaptive pressure led to more intelligent humans, the farther from the equator they traveled, and the colder it got.
    The authors suggest that a key environmental trigger to the evolution of larger brains was the need to devise ways to keep warm and manage the fluctuations in food availability that resulted from cold weather.

    ....Gallup and Ash suggest that while our understanding of brain evolution remains incomplete, the study provides evidence of the role of climate and migration away from the equator as selective forces in promoting human intelligence, and that the recent trend toward global warming may be reversing a trend that led to brain expansion in humans.

    Sheep experts are suggesting that global warming is making sheep smaller. Now evolutionary psychologists are claiming that global warming will make human brains smaller--and presumably make humans less intelligent at the same time.

    May I suggest that global warming has already made humans less intelligent--otherwise how do you explain the widespread acceptance of CAGW, when it rests on only the flimsiest of scientific evidence? Blaming it on Al Gore would be begging the question, since presumably Al Gore's brain is affected by global warming too. No, clearly global warming is playing with us all, and laughing at us behind our backs.

    Hat tip, Michael Anissimov.

    Bergmann's rule suggests that animal body mass becomes larger as they migrate to higher latitudes. Razib's post here, and subsequent comments, suggest that Bergmann's rule should be applied loosely, if at all.

    Like I have said many times, if you can link your study to global warming, you have a better than average chance of being funded, passing peer review, and being published. Just because science is supposed to be above fashion and fad, does not mean that it actually works that way.

    Labels: , ,

    Bookmark and Share

    22 March 2007

    Neural Rhythms, Moral Minds

    My two favourite mind/brain blogs are Developing Intelligence and Neurophilosophy. Chris Chatham has another fascinating post on the theme of neural oscillations--Alpha Oscillations and Consciousness.
    More recent work provides a detailed view of how alpha-band oscillations may contribute to cognition. Palva & Palva review evidence that large amplitude alpha oscillations may actually perform a different function than lower-amplitude oscillations in the same frequency band. In a visual search task, for example, alpha-band oscillations are dampened in active visual cortex and enhanced in inactive regions of visual cortex, but both small and large alpha band activity prior to the onset of the visual stimulus was correlated with better subsequent performance! One could conclude that these alpha-band oscillations reflect preparation for the task by generally "calming the waters" in cortex (either through alpha phase locking or alpha amplitude suppression) so that activity due to the upcoming visual stimulus can be readily detected

    ...Palva & Palva previously found cross-frequency phase coupling in every frequency band from delta to gamma, and that this coupling was stronger during mental calculation as well as high working memory load - in particular, the strength of alpha-gamma coupling. The authors argue that a variety of behaviors are synchronized at alpha rhythms, including human serial recognition/categorization speed, the timing of illusory motion reversals in the wagon wheel illusion, discrimination of odors by rats, and phasic muscular activity (including "alpha tremor").

    MC presents a recent study from Antonio Damasio and Marc Hauser (author of Moral Minds) about the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC) and its likely role in moral judgment:
    In the current study, the intelligence and logical reasoning of the six patients with VMPC damage was unaffected, and they all had full knowledge of social norms. However, they all displayed impaired autonomic responses to emotionally-charged images, and, in line with the previous findings, had a significantly diminished sense of empathy, embarrassment and guilt.

    Thus, the findings confirm the notion that there are at least two neural systems involved in making moral decisions: one in which emotions are involved, and one which performs a cost-benefit analysis. The former appears to be disrupted in the six patients with VMPC cortex, while the latter is intact. It is believed that the emotion-based system for making moral decisions evolved first, perhaps in a situation where small numbers of people lived in kin groups. Damasio says, “A nice way to think about it is that we have this emotional system built in, and over the years culture has worked on it to make it even better”.

    Here is a link to a podcast interview with Marc Hauser from Neurophilosophy discussing his recent book Moral Minds You may observe in the podcast interview that the blank slate hypothesis dies very hard in an Idiocracy, but if for no reason other than general apathy, its days are numbered.

    The two above articles help to clarify important research findings for important areas of brain and consciousness research. Both neuroblogs above keep close track of neuroscience research, and are well worth following on a regular basis.

    Labels: , , ,

    Bookmark and Share

    Remember the Sun?

    The Sun is far more complex and important to humans than is commonly realised. The Japanese satellite Hinode is opening a startling new window on the Sun.
    Hinode, Japanese for 'sunrise', was launched on 23 September 2006 to study the sun's magnetic field and how its explosive energy propagates through the different layers of the solar atmosphere.

    "For the first time, we are now able to make out tiny granules of hot gas that rise and fall in the sun's magnified atmosphere," said Dick Fisher, director of NASA's Heliophysics Division. "These images will open up a new era of study on some of the sun's processes that effect Earth, astronauts, orbiting satellites and the solar system."

    Hinode's three primary instruments, the Solar Optical Telescope, the X-ray Telescope and the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer, are observing the different layers of the sun. Studies focus on the solar atmosphere from the photosphere - the visible surface of the sun, to the corona - the outer atmosphere that extends outward into the solar system.

    Thanks to coordinated measurements from the three instruments, Hinode is already showing how changes in the structure of the magnetic field and the release of magnetic energy in the low atmosphere spread outward through the corona and into interplanetary space.

    Australian scientists are learning how to use sunlight to produce hydrogen gas from seawater.
    A revolutionary technology that uses sunlight and sea water to produce an unlimited supply of clean, hydrogen fuel could be developed within a decade, Sydney researchers say.

    Leigh Sheppard, of the University of NSW, estimated that 1.6 million of the solar devices, installed on rooftops, would be able to produce enough hydrogen gas to supply Australia's entire energy needs. While other energy options under discussion, such as nuclear power, produce harmful wastes, the only by-products of this solar hydrogen technology would be oxygen and fresh water, Dr Sheppard said.

    "It is the cleanest, greenest energy option for a sustainable economy."

    The light and heat from the sun allow life on Earth to exist, which is why the ancients worshiped the Sun. Modern people are too sophisticated to revere deities. But along with liberation from ancient superstitions, humans have lost a sense of perspective in the universe. By making the universe anthropocentric, humans blind themselves to the important forces impacting on Earth from outside the sphere of human influence.


    Bookmark and Share

    21 March 2007

    Online Education Offers Many Advantages

    In Arizona, some students are enrolled in all three state universities simultaneously, online.
    A small but growing number are taking courses at all three Arizona universities through a program that gives students more flexibility and access to classes.
    Students can choose the university that grants their degree and never attend a class there in person.
    As part of the Arizona Universities Network, students typically go to class at one university and take online courses at the other two.

    Online education provides possibilities to rural students that would have been inconceivable until recently.
    Rural students are at risk of being left out of the latest technological advances, educational opportunities – and jobs, said Hudson, a biochemist who directs the Center for Matrix Biology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

    “But there is a path to enhanced opportunity,” he said. “I would like to capture that path, and give them hope and understanding.”

    On April 10, Hudson and his team of science educators will launch the Aspirnaut Initiative, a unique science education program in Sheridan, Ark., about 30 miles south of Little Rock.

    About 15 “high ability” middle and high school students will receive laptop computers, then board a bus equipped with broadband Internet access via cell phone towers.

    Online college enrollment is growing significantly in the midwest:
    More than 98 percent of large public colleges and universities (with more than 15,000 students) in the region offer online courses or programs - more than double the percentage of smaller institutions.

    The same thing is happening in the southern US states:
    More college students are taking online academic courses at institutions in the 16 member states of the Southern Regional Education Board than ever before, according to an SREB report.

    More than 1.1 million students were enrolled in online classes at two- and four-year colleges in SREB states in 2006, a 68 percent increase over the previous year and nearly double the 35 percent national gain.

    The report, "Making the Grade: Online Education in the United States, 2006, Southern Edition," is based on the Sloan Consortium's annual survey of online learning at more than 2,200 colleges and universities in the United States. It shows that the percentage of students using online courses at public institutions is higher on average in SREB states than in the nation. Growth and acceptance patterns also indicate that online learning has made greater inroads in SREB states than in the nation as a whole.

    Online education will allow students to get high quality university educations from any location in the world.

    That is a distinct improvement over the current situation, where on-campus education is more likely to emphasise indoctrination as education.

    Bypassing the huge on-campus infrastructure for political bias and indoctrination will make the educational experience far more productive.

    Labels: , ,

    Bookmark and Share


    One of the reasons that there are so many religions in the world, is that most people feel compelled to look outside themselves for a purpose to their lives. Religions claim to reveal a person's "true purpose in life." But why do people feel the need for a "purpose" in the first place?

    The University of Minnesota sponsors a "Purpose Project." It is oriented toward helping people deal with the phenomenon of prolonged longevity. According to the Project:

    Purpose is that deepest belief within us where we have a profound sense of who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going. It is the quality or thread we choose to shape our lives around. It is a source of deep meaning and vitality.

    According to author and speaker Richard Leider:

    There are three hungers that people are trying to feed throughout their lives. The first is to connect deeply with the creative spirit of life. Sooner or later, most people come to recognize that there is some sort of creative energy that infuses all of life. They feel a hunger to touch that energy and to be touched by it. That doesn't mean that you have to be a creative person in a classic sense-to make your living as a painter, a dancer, a writer, or an actor. It could mean an experience as universal as bringing a child into the world, or helping to nurture and shape a life. It could mean finding ways to infuse the workplace with more creativity and more playfulness.

    The second hunger is to know and express your gifts and talents. The people I have met in my 30 years as a career counselor are always absolutely sure that they have some unique talent. They may not know what it is yet. They may not know how to express it. It may have nothing to do with how they earn a living or what they do at work. But they know that they have something within them that they have to contribute. And this feeling lasts throughout your lifetime: The healthiest seniors I've met continue to explore their gifts and abilities, long after they've left the workplace.

    The third hunger is to know that our lives matter. Everyone wants to leave behind some kind of legacy, some kind of personal mark. It doesn't have to be great or magnificent. But human beings know that at one level, we each have a own unique thumbprint, and we all want to leave that print behind for others to see that we've been here. We can be successful, make a lot of money, reach a certain status, but it will be success without fulfillment. Fulfillment comes from feeding these three hungers.

    The last hunger--wanting to know that our lives matter--appears to be the motivator for many young people who undergo religious conversion, or who perform acts of seeming desperation. Muslim suicide bombers and religious cult members who abruptly cut themselves off from their former lives, are examples of people driven to do something that "makes a difference."

    Here is an interesting exercise from Steve Pavlina, to find your "purpose:"

    1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
    2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
    3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
    4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.

    That’s it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a counselor or an engineer or a bodybuilder. To some people this exercise will make perfect sense. To others it will seem utterly stupid. Usually it takes 15-20 minutes to clear your head of all the clutter and the social conditioning about what you think your purpose in life is. The false answers will come from your mind and your memories. But when the true answer finally arrives, it will feel like it’s coming to you from a different source entirely.

    For those who are very entrenched in low-awareness living, it will take a lot longer to get all the false answers out, possibly more than an hour. But if you persist, after 100 or 200 or maybe even 500 answers, you’ll be struck by the answer that causes you to surge with emotion, the answer that breaks you. If you’ve never done this, it may very well sound silly to you. So let it seem silly, and do it anyway.

    We are driven so strongly toward a purpose--if not consciously, then sub-consciously--that even the most jaded and cynical individual is susceptible to "the pitch," if presented correctly for that person.

    If you are religious, your purpose is decided to a certain degree by others--founders and shapers of your religion. If you are not religious, but are compelled to find purpose, consider this idea from the Purpose Wikibook:

    Given that there is no detectable purpose pre-designed into life or the universe, then, if we must have one, we must adopt a surrogate.

    To my mind, the only viable option is to support life’s continual evolution and focus upon helping it to achieve an omnipotent ability. Such a purpose is universal and rational; it is a purpose that will last as long as life itself lasts. It accommodates the whole of life, and shows that we care about more than just our own well-being. It declares that we value life for its own sake and think little about the death that must follow, taking it simply as the price to be paid for living.

    It should be obvious that such a purpose--like all stated "purposes"--is susceptible to manipulation, distortion, and abuse. Yet, as humans, we are stuck with the need for a purpose, but are given no completely trustworthy formulation of what that purpose should be.

    Steve Pavlina's method above reminds me of an interesting exercise utilised by the late John David Garcia, which he called "autopoiesis." To summarise the method, a person will ask for a solution to an important question. The person will then discard the first, automatic thought that comes into the mind, and wait for other answers. The person will most eventually recognise which answers are relevant and useful. It is important to find a quiet place, and have plenty of time available. Garcia taught autopoiesis as a group exercise, which does add an element of expectation that a solo exercise may lack.

    The salient feature of mainstream western existence--within academia, as portrayed in the media, and as experienced around the many coffee machines and water coolers of my life--is a lack of meaningful purpose for most westerners. That may be a partial explanation for the merely feeble correlation between affluence and happiness.

    Young westerners are fixated on wealth, comfort, and fame. If their lives do not provide these things, it is easy to turn to mind altering chemicals. The trend toward an increase in narcissism, combined with an increase in binge drinking, and extreme drug use, suggests that rather than seeking a deep and meaningful purpose in life, young westerners are looking for escape from unpleasantness.

    A later post will discuss the relationship between political activism, religious activism (including terrorism), and the youthful need to "make a difference."

    Image Courtesy of Journeys With Purpose

    Labels: , , ,

    Bookmark and Share

    19 March 2007

    Why is Al Gore Mortally Afraid of Bjorn Lomborg?

    Al Gore is supposed to be a courageous voice speaking truth to power, to save the environment from powerful industrial interests who hide behind their own deceit. But it seems that it is Mr. Gore who is doing most of the hiding. Why did Gore first demand that Bjorn Lomborg be excluded from an interview with a Danish newspaper, then later cancel the interview without explanation--even after the paper had agreed to his terms?
    The interview had been scheduled for months. The day before the interview Mr. Gore's agent thought Gore-meets-Lomborg would be great. Yet an hour later, he came back to tell us that Bjorn Lomborg should be excluded from the interview because he's been very critical of Mr. Gore's message about global warming and has questioned Mr. Gore's evenhandedness. According to the agent, Mr. Gore only wanted to have questions about his book and documentary, and only asked by a reporter. These conditions were immediately accepted by Jyllands-Posten. Yet an hour later we received an email from the agent saying that the interview was now cancelled. What happened?

    One can only speculate.

    If Al Gore will not even consent to be interviewed by reporters with just a casual relationship with Bjorn Lomborg, Al Gore would certainly not debate Michael Crichton, writer/producer/director in the US entertainment media. What is Mr. Gore so afraid of? Gavin Schmidt, climatologist and founder of the orthodox CAGW website realclimate.org, was brave enough to debate Crichton publicly.

    Schmidt lost, but at least he had to cojones to take a chance. Al Gore has nothing but false bravado.

    As long as the genuine skepticism of true scientists could be suppressed, people such as Al Gore were free to speak loudly and brashly, without fear of contradiction. Those days are long past, however. It is unlikely that the world will soon be as kind to him as it has been.

    Labels: , ,

    Bookmark and Share

    Tale of Two Oil Lands:Tragic Venezuela, Kurdistan Triumphant

    In Venezuela, the people are sinking into a hellish quagmire of socialist decline.
    Those economists say the inflation is a result of a surge in public spending by Mr. Chávez and increasingly jittery efforts by the wealthy to circumvent tightening controls on prices and foreign exchange.

    “We’re witnessing policy in the form of window dressing, all carried out at the whim of one man whose strong point is not economics,” said Hugo Faría, an economist at the Institute of Higher Management Studies, a private business school here. “Anyone who sees a 12 ½-cent coin as a remedy for this country’s problems isn’t thinking too clearly.”

    Inflation has been climbing rapidly since January when a sharp decline in the black-market value of the bolívar pushed up prices of imported goods. Since Mr. Chávez moved to nationalize major telephone and electricity companies in January, Venezuelans have rushed to take money out of the country, currency traders say. That exodus has caused the bolívar to weaken by about 20 percent to a level of 4,000 to the dollar on the black market, placing it among the world’s worst performing currencies this year.

    Capital is fleeing Venezuela, and although the country's oil prevents the nation from going totally belly up, oil infrastructure in Venezuela is in rapid decline. Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Cuba, North Korea--what do these failing countries have in common?

    Meanwhile in Iraqi Kurdistan, business is booming.
    The cabin erupted with applause when the wheels touched down on the runway. The pilot announced the weather (sunny and 60) in three languages and cheerfully told us all to have a great day. Have a great day may seem an odd thing to say to people who just arrived in Iraq, but this is Kurdistan. I did, indeed, have a great day.

    ....Nation-building is a hard and violent slog in the center and south of Iraq, and it might not ever work out. But in Kurdistan, in the north, it already is a reality.

    Massive new construction projects are literally everywhere. Most of those that had started when I arrived for the first time are finished, and ambitious new projects are well underway.

    ....Iraqi Kurdistan is still a Third World country in many ways – there is no sewer system, for instance, and the electricity fails every day. Unemployment is high. But it’s a Third World country with hope, and it is rapidly moving upscale. New houses cost more in and around Erbil than they do in some parts of the United States. An average sized 200 square meter lot can cost as much as 150,000 dollars – and that’s before a house is built on it. There are literally thousands of brand new houses here in this city, and the population is still just a little bit shy of one million.

    Arabs are moving up here from the center and south – when they can, and as long as they are cleared by internal security – and they’re hired to do menial jobs the Kurds no longer want. Sunni Arabs were once the oppressors of Kurds. Now they are reduced to the same low status as migrant Mexican workers in the United States.

    You might say the problem with Iraq, is arabs. And while the middle and south of Iraq are flush with arab violence, the Kurds appear to be trying to enter the modern world of civil society.

    There is only one country in the middle east that offers western standards of living, Israel. How nice it would be for a more peaceful vision of living to take hold in that part of the world, where death cults and blood-thirsty dictatorships such as Syria, Islamic Iran, and Saddam's Iraq traditionally hold sway.

    Labels: ,

    Bookmark and Share

    Improving on Garbology in an Idiocracy

    Remember the "Great Garbage Avalanche of 2505?" If modern garbology tycoon David Stoller has his way, there will never be a great garbage avalanche. Stoller aims to shrink-wrap garbage in a clean and efficient manner, so that the garbage can later be used to generate energy through plasmas or fuel cells.
    TransLoad's equipment compresses tons of garbage into dense cylindrical bales and seals them hermetically in several layers of plastic film. The company intends to load those bales into boxcars, and ship them to its landfills.

    TransLoad claims that the combination of compaction, shrink-wrapping and rail-based shipping makes the system cost-effective and eco-friendly.

    ....Compressing the garbage at a rate of 1,400 to 1,600 pounds per cubic yard prevents liquid from pooling in the bales, which in turn prevents putrefaction and foul odors.

    Sealing the waste in impermeable plastic prevents the escape of groundwater-polluting leachate associated with standard landfill storage.

    And shipping by rail eliminates the need for greenhouse gas-emitting trucks, a point the company's PR firm is quick to emphasize in the wake of Al Gore's Oscar win for An Inconvenient Truth.

    ....A variety of conversion technologies, including ones that use landfill gas to generate electricity, are being explored by garbologists in Europe and the United States.

    Thompson notes that several bioreactors are already in operation across the country. And a company called Geoplasma plans to build a facility in St. Lucie County, Florida, that will use plasma arc technology to convert waste into gas that can be used to generate electricity.

    Stoller looks forward to the day when TransLoad's bale-stuffed landfills will function as enormous trash-powered fuel cells.

    Rather than a health hazard, garbage may come to represent a rich new source of "renewable" energy. One small step toward sustainability, when combined with optimal recycling technologies.

    Labels: ,

    Bookmark and Share

    18 March 2007

    Lighting Your Future Life

    Interactive lighting. More lumens for less power cost. A brighter world that costs less to light.

    Below is a look at the magic crystal ball.

    Hat tips to Impact Lab and Gizmodo.


    Bookmark and Share

    Islam Means Never Having to Say You Are Sorry

    While decadent westerners are expected to apologise for slavery hundreds of years back, muslims never need to apologise. Not for modern day slavery in Sudan, Chad, Mauritania, etc. Not for brave suicide bombers who target women and children. And especially not for 9/11! Allah forbid it!

    No, 9/11 is to be celebrated first, then denied. Behind doors and off-camera it is celebrated still. On camera, it is denied.

    Watch the video and note how similar the conspiracy theories of islamic terror apologists are to those of western left-academics and right wing-nut jobs. Of course GW Bush personally placed each of 4,000 explosive devices to precisely demolish the twin towers. What a pity he could not time them to come down simultaneously? Perhaps next time?

    Labels: , , ,

    Bookmark and Share
    Newer Posts Older Posts
    Al Fin Main Page
    Enter your Email

    Powered by FeedBlitz

    Powered by