30 April 2009

China: Land of the Insane?

Mental illness has now overtaken heart disease and cancer as the biggest burden on the Chinese health system, according to the World Health Organisation, affecting seven per cent of the population. Telegraph_via_Impactlab
China's national mental health center director suggests that over 100 million mentally ill persons call China their home. Most of these likely suffer from anxiety, depression, phobias, and panic disorder. But China has a sizable population of schizophrenics, and other psychotics. And China is not prepared to deal with the problem.

In a nation of world-class pollution, homelessness, unemployment, and the massive internal displacement of hundreds of millions of people, it should not be a surprise that China's mental health environment is less than optimal. Unfortunately, there is no indication that China's government will ever be up to the task -- so the problem is likely to only grow worse with time.
There are only 4,000 qualified psychiatrists and a further 15,000 doctors working in psychiatric hospitals to serve China's vast population. "There are no psychiatry, psychology or psychotherapy students in medical school. You need to qualify as a doctor first, and then subscribe to a course in mental treatment," she said.

As a result, she said the true number of mentally ill could be far higher. "My own estimate is that one-third of the students I was at university with now have some form of mental illness," she said. _Telegraph
Despite its facade of socioeconomic robustness, China faces many severe internal instabilities. Much of China's society and industry is economically and infrastructurally unsound. And while much of the world now looks to China as a rock of stability in an increasingly untrustworthy Obamaworld, it would be a good idea to look very closely before committing to what could be a Potemkin facade.

In a population as immense as China's, the amount of naturally occurring human misery will be large. Add to that the human misery caused by pollution of land, water and air, and the human misery caused by massive population displacements and social engineering on a huge scale -- and it may be a wonder that any sanity exists within China at all.

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29 April 2009

Fear, Anxiety, Depression: One Puzzle Piece

Current therapies for depression and anxiety disorders are less than perfect. When the potential for new and effective therapies for mental health disorders appear, it is cause for hope and scrutiny. Acid Sensing Ion Channel protein (ASIC1a) plays a key role in the experiencing of fear, prolonged anxiety, and depression. Researchers in Iowa have studied this protein for over two years, and earlier demonstrated that disrupting ASIC1a blunts the "fear response" of mice. Now, the Iowa researchers have demonstrated an anti-depressant effect in mice by blocking the ASIC1a protein.
The UI research team found that disrupting ASIC1a -- an ion channel protein found in the brain -- produced an antidepressant-like effect in mice. The effect was similar to that produced by currently available antidepressant drugs, but the team also showed that ASIC1a's effect arose through a new and different biological mechanism. _PO
This approach to the study of anxiety and depression promises to bring about entirely new therapies for these disorders. Several years are likely to pass before ASIC1a-based treatments are on the market, but given the growing costs of mood and anxiety disorders to health care systems around the world, useful leads for researchers to follow can only help.

In the meantime, large numbers of pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for anxiety and depression are available.

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Natural Gas Says: Fracc You Peak Oil!

Brian Westenhaus reports some good energy news from the natural gas front. It involves a method of enhancing natural gas wells called "fraccing", or fracturing rock layers to provide better gas access. North America has abundant natural gas resources -- particularly if you include the methane hydrates of the far North.
...oil and gas service businesses have invented a rock fracturing technique for deep below the surface. Called fracing for short, the technique quite simply uses raw power to force water, sand and specialized chemical solvents, binders and lubricants into the wells so they open and fill cracks that can allow the natural gas to flow out.

...[Along] with methane hydrates and new biomass sources, natural gas has a bright future. There is an existing infrastructure for moving gas; a huge installed base of users and it’s the least contentious fossil carbon fuel. Its pretty good stuff, and the cost to use it isn’t threatened by anyone but the U.S. Congress with its Cap and Trade suicide pact.

There are careers here that will last for decades. Of all the fossil carbon sources natural gas is the least risky for U.S. production of fuels. Oil and particularly coal are in danger with grave consequences in store for consumers as the hysteria over global warming from CO2 continues to drive politics, muckraking ands profiteering by its promoters. Even if Congress abandons the common welfare for the perceptions and subversions of special interests, natural gas will be the least affected. _NewEnergyandFuel
Brian Wang also reports some encouraging energy news: a new technique of oil recovery promises 400 billion more barrels of Alberta oil at a cost of $26 per barrel!
ET Energy's Electro Thermal technology could be used to pump out 600 billion barrels of Alberta's oil sands bitumen. That's more than triple the Alberta government's best guess at what's currently recoverable from the oil sands, and enough to satisfy total global demand for twenty years.

Saudi Arabia has 260 billion barrels of oil reserves, so the additional 421 billion barrels would be close to double the oil in Saudi Arabia.
Cross posted to Al Fin Energy

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28 April 2009

Obama's Disastrous Debut......Worse to Come

Obama's presidency is off to a blundering and inauspicious start, with daily missteps and the continuing failure to fill important administrative positions. Obama is the second-least popular president in 40 years, after just 100 days. Even George Bush was more popular after his first 100 days.
...five presidents rated higher than Mr. Obama after 100 days in office. Ronald Reagan topped the charts in April 1981 with 67 percent approval. Following the Gipper, in order of popularity, were: Jimmy Carter with 63 percent in 1977; George W. Bush with 62 percent in 2001; Richard Nixon with 61 percent in 1969; and George H.W. Bush with 58 percent in 1989. _Source
Even more than his unprecedented multi-trillion dollar a year deficit spending, and a clear intention to double the national debt during his tenure in office, Obama's personal incompetence shows through in every way to anyone capable of looking. The end result of Obama's total cluelessness about the economy will be the subject of anti-Obama curses for generations to come.

Obama wants the US to be like Europe. But which Europe? The Europe in his fantasies, or the rapidly crumbling memorial to socialist stupidity?

Barak the Clown wants to put persons on trial who did their best to protect the US from muslim terrorists. But is D'oh-bama's thinking on this issue clear? And is the view of the Obama zombies toward Iraq based upon the facts on the ground? Obama's NYC Air Force One low altitude fly-by reflects a certain pre-9/11 thinking that borders on the totally oblivious. Whatever are those idiots thinking?!?!?

Obama has been artificially buoyed by a worshipful press, a corrupt and quasi-criminal labour union movement, the wealth-stripping crony cabal of trial lawyers, a thoroughly indoctrinated and partisan academia, and an odd assortment of bailed-out Wall Street investment bankers and billionaire political activists. Oprah helped a lot, too.

But how long can Clown Prince of the world Barry maintain this artful semblance of popular support, when his personal arrogance and disdain for Americans and their country is on full display? We shall see. There is nothing liberal about D'Oh-bama. There is only a clueless leftist arrogance that has already created a fiscal disaster for the country that is almost beyond recovery for many decades.

More Americans are waking up from the zombie dream daily. The longer it takes to awaken, the harsher will be the hangover. Heed the alarm, or suffer the consequences.

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27 April 2009

Sure, We Still Kiss the Same Way as Always -- But We Use Protection When We Have Sex

With more than 100 people dead in Mexico and almost 30 infected in the US and Canada, the threat of a flu pandemic is gripping the world. Although there had been hopes that the emergency could be contained to the North American continent, Europe saw its first confirmed case on Monday. _Spiegel
A world-wide panic over swine flu is on, and the news media is primed and ready to pump up the panic to the popping point. Suddenly bird flu is out and swine flu is in? If I were a bird I would think about suing CNN for neglect. Nothing excites journalists so much as people dying unexpectedly.

In the real world, people die of flu, cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, diabetes, accidents, violence ... in large numbers every day -- but in "newsworld" all deaths are unexpected. They have to be unexpected to be news. Several "unexpected" deaths attributed to the same cause will make a newsroom positively giddy for days on end. Especially if the media can paint the cause of death as a threat to viewers and readers. That kind of threat has the makings of panic, and panic sells papers.
With the first case of swine flu confirmed in Europe, the world is gripped by fear of a global pandemic. German newspapers on Monday examine the measures taken to contain the disease and some warn against the spread of panic. _Spiegel
Global markets are down on swine flu fears -- at least partially. Of course, in an Obama depression global markets need little reason to be down. Coincidentally, Felipe Solis, an archeologist in Mexico who recently shook Obama's hand, and spent a great deal of time in close proximity to the narcissist in chief, died of swine flu shortly thereafter.

Panic, damn you! We're the government-media complex. We're here to help you. And we can't really help you unless you are thrashing about helplessly, gripped by an uncontrollable panic. So panic, already!

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26 April 2009

All Zombies Now

MIT researchers have genetically programmed specific types of cells -- fast spiking interneurons -- in mouse brains to respond to pulses of laser light. The researchers can expose these cells to laser pulses at specific frequencies, causing the cells to produce gamma oscillations.
Gamma waves are fast, high-frequency, rhythmic brain responses that have been shown to spike when higher cognitive processes are engaged. Research in adults and animals suggests that lower levels of gamma power might hinder the brain's ability to efficiently package information into coherent images, thoughts and memories. _Source
The MIT researchers can cause the mouse brains to produce gamma waves "on demand", allowing for much easier study of the phenomenon in animal models of perception, memory, and even "conceptualisation."
The trick for inducing gamma waves was the selective activation of the "fast-spiking" interneurons, named for their characteristic pattern of electrical activity. When these cells were driven with high frequency laser pulses, the illuminated region of cortex started to produce gamma oscillations. "We've shown for the first time that it is possible to induce a specific brain state by activating a specific cell type" says co-author Christopher Moore, associate professor of neuroscience and an investigator in the McGovern Institute. In contrast, no gamma oscillations were induced when the fast-spiking interneurons were activated at low frequencies, or when a different class of neurons was activated.

The authors further showed that these brain rhythms regulate the processing of sensory signals. They found that the brain's response to a tactile stimulus was greater or smaller depending on exactly where the stimulus occurred within the oscillation cycle. "It supports the idea that these synchronous oscillations are important for controlling how we perceive stimuli," says Moore. "Gamma rhythms might serve to make a sound louder, or a visual input brighter, all based on how these patterns regulate brain circuits." _MIT
This merging of expertise from molecular genetics and neuroscience, permitted the production of specially designed mice whose brain activity could be controlled by laser -- to a certain extent -- for study of gamma waves.

Before long, it should be possible to genetically program the brains of humans to respond to certain environmental cues -- light, ultrasound, microwave etc. -- to control behaviours in far more sophisticated ways. The ability to influence gamma waves alone should be sufficient to influence normal perception, conceptualisation, and coherent thought. In other words, persons whose brains were programmed to respond to pulsed energy could be made to appear schizophrenic, or could have their short-term memories blocked at specific times. And a lot more besides.

If you want to be able to force persons to think specific thoughts, or believe particular assertions, you would need to use a sophisticated form of conditioning from behavioural psychology. In fact, these newer tools of "brain control" might very well bring about a startling renaissance in behavioural studies in certain research labs that accept government funding.

The combination of bio-nanotechnology, molecular genetics, stem cell technology, neuroscience, and some even more surprising technologies in cell and molecular biology, are opening the doors of perception and deception wider than ever. Can these technologies be used to accomplish good things? Of course they can and of course they will. But there is always a dark side to every discovery.

But think of this timely application: Who would need to torture someone to divulge information, when they could re-program the person's motivational structure -- leaving his memories intact for voluntary extraction.

Of course, if you were the sort of politician who looks at masses of people, and sees only zombies to be recruited into your personality cult and private army of adulation, this technology might have application to your needs as well.

All zombies now.

More information on MIT study, along with another study from Stanford with parallel findings

Update on the Swiss Blue Brain project (via TechNutNews)

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A Lot More Pirates Where Those Came From

Even if all captured pirates were hung from the yardarms, how long would it take to end the problem of piracy on the high seas? Forever! Since more potential pirates are being made every day than would conceivably be hung every year, the piracy problem would never be solved by summary executions.
Image Source
Somalia is the source of most of the Indian Ocean pirates who prey on freighters, tankers, cruise ships, and even fishing boats. Some companies have gotten smart and hired well-trained security crews.
Six men in a small, white Zodiac-type boat approached the Msc Melody at about 1730 GMT Saturday and opened fire with automatic weapons, Msc Cruises director Domenico Pellegrino said. They retreated after the security officers returned fire and sprayed them with water hoses. The ship continued its journey with its windows darkened.

"It felt like we were in war," the ships commander, Ciro Pinto, told Italian state radio.

None of the roughly 1,000 passengers and 500 crew members was hurt, Pellegrino said. The passengers were asked to return to their cabins and the external lights on board turned off.

Pellegrino said all Msc cruise ships around the world are staffed with Israeli security agents because they are the best trained.

The attack occurred about 200 miles (325 kilometers) north of the Seychelles, and about 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Somalia, according to the anti-piracy flotilla headquarters of the Maritime Security Center Horn of Africa. _Yahoo
Image Source
A brief look at Yemen's population pyramid suggests that Yemen may well be the next big source of Indian Ocean pirates. In fact, pirates are already using islands just off the coast of Yemen as forward bases.
When I traveled the Saudi-Yemen border some years back, it was crowded with pickup trucks filled with armed young men, loyal to this sheikh or that, while the presence of the Yemeni government was negligible. Mud-brick battlements hid the encampments of these rebellious sheikhs, some with their own artillery. Estimates of the number of firearms in Yemen vary, but any Yemeni who wants a weapon can get one easily. Meanwhile, groundwater supplies will last no more than a generation or two.

I’ll never forget what a U.S. military expert told me in the capital, Sanaa: “Terrorism is an entrepreneurial activity, and in Yemen you’ve got over 20 million aggressive, commercial-minded, and well-armed people, all extremely hard-working compared with the Saudis next door. It’s the future, and it terrifies the hell out of the government in Riyadh.” The future of teeming, tribal Yemen will go a long way to determining the future of Saudi Arabia. And geography, not ideas, has everything to do with it. _RobertKaplan_via_ComingAnarchy
The "zones of lawlessness" are growing ever wider -- propelled by the demographic explosion of the third world, and abetted by the demographic implosion of the first world. Now that Barak Obama is the leader of the western world, the defenses are down and the gates are thrown wide open. The machinery of freedom and the marketplace begins to rust of neglect. Third world entropy swarms the half-built barricades.

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25 April 2009

How Much Farther Down Can the Sun Slide?

Go to Watts Up With That for more background information. Compare the plot for the current minimum with the plot for the previous solar minimum in 1996. Why are the two plots so different? No one knows.

Modern satellites and scientific instruments for studying the sun have only been around for a short time, historically. It is still too early to say how the developing minimum ranks alongside historical minimums such as the Dalton or the Maunder.

The sun is too far away to tax, so most governments pay little attention to its comings and goings, its lapses and its waxes. But there is a lot of money to be made from faux climate catastrophes and from carbon hysteria. Cap and trade, carbon tax, fines and penalties out the gazoo. Create a boogeyman out of plant food to scare the kids and zombies. Anything to sell papers. Anything to get elected. Anything to shift the center of power from the marketplace to the reich.

Update 27 April 2009: More on sun - climate link



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The Last Bubble to Pop? The Education Bubble

From the video above:

From the 1950s until 1991, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Yale formed the Overlap Group, through which they shared data on applicants. This allowed them to artificially inflate tuition and eliminate merit-based financial aid by circumventing competition. A Dartmouth official said that had it not followed the Overlap Group, "we would effectively be out of the Ivy League, and this would have a serious impact on our applicant pool."

Thus, tuition rises.
Forty-seven universities have built billion-dollar endowments, while doubling their average tuition from 1995 to 2005. The average US public college tuition rose 35% between 2001 and 2006, while private college tuition rose 11%. Instruction has only received 21% of inflation-adjusted college spending per student since 1976. Overall, only Switzerland spends more per student from elementary school through college than the US. Although 97% of Americans with children expect their eldest to attend college, 26% have less than $5000 saved for this. Hence, half of college graduates spend 8% of their income on student loans. Those with graduate degrees spend 13.5%. To make matters worse, college graduates' real incomes fell 5.2% from 2000 to 2004, as high school graduates' incomes rose 1.6%. Now, only 44% of parents think the value of a college education is worth the cost. As a matter of fact, a 1999 study found no income difference between graduates of selective universities and those who won acceptance to comparable schools but chose less-selective ones.

In 1973, the US Supreme Court ruled in Griggs versus Duke Power Co. to forbid general intelligence tests in employment because they create racial "disparate impact." So, educational credentials have served as a mark of intellectual competence. However, employers have reason to doubt this conceit.

SAT scores peaked in 1964. Twenty-two percent of college freshmen need high school-level math. From 1995 to 2005, reading proficiency among Americans with graduate degrees declined from 51% to 41%. A 2006 study found that 20% of students pursuing 4-year degrees had only basic quantitative skills, and half could not perform complex literacy tasks. In the early 1960s, the average college student completed 60 hours of schoolwork per week. In 2003, only 33% of freshman reported 6 or more hours per week. Those doing less than one hour per week doubled over 16 years to 16%. Meanwhile, 47% receive A average grades, compared to 18% in 1968.

Such dubious currency at such a steep cost has yet to impact the plentiful supply. In 1950, 6% of Americans had a college degree. In 2005, 28% had one. The masters degree is the fastest growing, with a 19% increase from 1996 to 2002.

In the words of Dr. Mark Edmundson of the University of Virginia, "It is probably time now to offer a spate of inspiring solutions. . . . Perhaps it would be a good idea to try firing the counselors and sending half the deans back into their classrooms, dismantling the football team and making the stadium into a playground for local kids, emptying the fraternities, and boarding up the student-activities office. Such measures would convey the message that American colleges are not the northern outposts of Club Med."

Al Fin comments:

But American colleges are indeed the temperate clime outposts of Club Med. More famous for binge parties, hooking up, athletic stars who are flunking with criminal records, grade inflation, and a punitive indoctrination into inquisitorial pre-scientific political correctness.

If you are a parent, spending hard earned, hard saved income to send your child to one of these play pens for psychological neotenates, you may wish to consider the mismatch between your good intentions and your actions.

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24 April 2009

30 Top Resources for Non-Pharmacological Therapies for Depression

Guest post by Kat Sanders

Depression is not something that we can take lightly; it may start out as a mild form of sadness, but if left untreated or unmanaged, it could turn into a full blown mental disorder that causes more complications than you can handle. Rather than resort to drugs to treat depression (they come with a host of side effects and are sometimes addictive), you could try these top resources for non-pharmacological therapies for depression. A word of warning - these are not meant as professional advice, so consult your doctor before you stop your medication or try something new.

There are various alternative methods of treating depression, and some of them are:

Psychotherapy: this is a method that uses cognitive behavior therapy and other coping strategies to help deal with their problem. A few sites that have good information on psychotherapy are:

  • About.Com s Depression and Psychotherapy page

  • Psych Central s resources on psychotherapy

  • Psychotherapy Resources offers depression help in North Carolina and in general

  • Patient.Co.UK has information on psychotherapy and related resources in the United Kingdom

  • Psychotherapy.Net links to articles and interviews with qualified therapists who deal with depression on a daily basis.

  • Anxiety Insights offers information and news on psychotherapy, depression and related topics.

Light Therapy: is used to help people who suffer from depression because of living in houses where there’s not enough natural light and in places where sunlight is missing for the major part of the year. It involves being bathed in artificial light for at least half an hour each day. Below are a few sites that offer comprehensive information and resources about this therapeutic method.

Aerobic Exercise: Cardio workouts that get your heart beating have been proven to be mood enhancers and are thus a great cure for depression. Regular exercise releases endorphins and other feel good chemicals that keep you in good spirits the natural and healthy way. Some sites that offer quality resources on exercising and beating depression are:

Supplements: From time immemorial, people have been using herbs and other natural substances to treat depression and other mental disorders. A few sites that offer information on supplemental treatment for depression are:

Foods: Some foods are known to be great mood enhancers because of the chemicals they contain, like chocolate. If you want more information on foods that boost mood and help people who are depressed, check out the below list:

  • Natural News offers a list of food groups that help beat depression

  • Search Warp tells you why certain foods help enhance your mood and chase away depression

  • Ezine Articles offers information about foods that are supposed to keep you upbeat

  • Jared Story tells you why food therapy is good for treating depression

  • Ayush Veda also tells you why you must eat certain foods to keep your spirits up

  • Web MD offers a list of foods that help beat winter depression


This article is written by Kat Sanders, who regularly blogs on the topic of MRI technologist schools at her blog MRI Tech's Health Blog. She welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: katsanders25@gmail.com.

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23 April 2009

High Above the Bloody Streets Below

Welcome to the future, where city streets are war zones between drug gangs and sectarian militias. A world whose cities are like Beirut of the 1980s, where the sounds of firefights, car bombs, and bloody martyrdom greet one's ears more commonly than sounds of birds singing or children playing.Having been financially and morally depleted by the Obama administration of the early 2000s, the United States had long since lost its ability to keep trade routes safe, or to ride herd on trans-national criminal organisations and religious terrorist groups. At street level, it has become a free-for-all, worldwide. People of means began looking for higher ground.

The world's elites decided to create cities in the sky, in an attempt to escape the cheapness of human life on the streets below. By paying "protection fees" to street-level gangs and militias, the sky-cities' street level foundations and ground access were protected, for the most part. The last sky city to be brought down by the gangs was in Singapore of 2049. Subsequent brutal reprisals against the streets of Singapore by the triad owners of the felled Sky City left most of the island freehold uninhabitable to this day.
The rise of China as world hegemon in the early 2020s paved the way for expansion of third world corruption to Europe, North America, and Oceania -- regions formerly supportive of property rights and rule of law. Finally, as China itself fragmented into warring factions in the late 2020s, the entire world became a place without law. The teeming masses of the third world discovered that the developed world lacked the will to defend its borders. Soon there was no distinction between third world and first world.

Crime lords and militia leaders have no use for space launches, so every year another irreplaceable satellite falls flaming back to Earth. During the 2030s, nuclear arsenals finally fell into the hands of the gangs, and a few short nuclear wars quickly thinned the ranks of would-be nuclear terrorists and warriors. Several warheads turned out to be duds, and a few thousand self-styled nuclear submariners took residence in Davy Jones' locker. They lacked the competence to safely pilot the aging sea monsters -- particularly the Russian death traps.

As the skies of the world once again grow dingy with coal and wood smoke, all pretense of protecting the water and air of the planet are abandoned. Any species that cannot fend for themselves will suffer the fate of the dodo. Rain forests are slashed and burned, and huge pit mines gouge the surface of every continent and large island. This is the rapidly poisoning world that the many leftist environmental movements of the late 20th and early 21st centuries made possible, through their quasi-terrorist tactics against the world of law -- a world that was quickly shrinking under their noses. It took only an Obama presidency and the lack of any credible opposition for the "Greens" to finish off human economic freedoms and any chance for a clean prosperity that might carry men to the stars.

And so the wealthy few -- many of them crime lords themselves -- huddle in the uncertain safety of the sky cities. Listening to the bombs and gunfire far below. Forgetting how close the world had come to climbing out of the primitivity of lower human nature -- but now mired in the stinking, choking future of perpetual sectarian and criminal warfare.

H/T Inhabitat and Time

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22 April 2009

The Unbearable Irrelevance of University

Last fall, David Wiley stood in front of a room full of professors and university administrators and delivered a prediction that made them squirm: "Your institutions will be irrelevant by 2020." DN
Universities cannot help themselves. They grow more irrelevant with each passing day, and soon everyone will understand the pointlessness of attending university for any reason except for professional (medical, dental etc), engineering, or scientific training.
Higher education doesn't reflect the life that students are living, he says. In that life, information is available on demand, files are shared, and the world is mobile and connected. Today's colleges, on the other hand, are typically "tethered, isolated, generic, and closed," he says....

....Wiley is an amiable firebrand who helped launch the nation's "open content" movement a decade ago while he was getting his Ph.D. at BYU. Like the "open source" software movement that preceded it, open content makes it easy for authors, teachers and others to sign licensing agreements to freely share their copyrighted materials.

At its core, the open education movement and the larger open content, copyleft movement has "a fundamental belief that knowledge is a public good and should be fully shared," explains Catherine Casserly, senior partner with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Wiley, she says, is viewed in the open education realm as an imaginative innovator who is always thinking of new applications for disseminating knowledge to the many instead of keeping it "locked up" for the benefit of the few......

......Wiley sees a future where textbooks could always be downloaded for free, easily edited to meet the needs of the teacher and students. The average college textbook today costs between $100 and $150, he notes, so there's a kind of "arms race" constantly going on in which students figure out how to share textbooks or buy used ones, and publishers try to make the books obsolete every 18 months.

Wiley helped start Flat World Knowledge, which creates peer-reviewed textbooks that can be downloaded for free, or bought as paperbacks for $30. He also is the founder of the Utah Open High School, which debuts next fall. It, too, will use open content materials, and will provide an online education for 125 students. _DN_via_Technovelgy
So far, Flat World Knowledge has a small selection of textbooks. Textbook Revolution has a wider selection of categories and particulars. But give them time.

Free online lectures are proliferating on YouTube, Google Video, and several other online venues. See Lecture Fox, or this list for more. But these open courseware resources are just the beginning. Free textbooks and lectures can only get you so far. You also need some form of certification of knowledge or proficiency.

In addition, certain university courses require intensive laboratory training, often with supervision. Many of the sciences, professions, and engineering / technology disciplines cannot be mastered without well-supervised hands-on training. For that type of learning to go "open source", a way of simulating expensive lab experiential training online -- or via sophisticated interactive software -- will be needed.

Open source universities may need to borrow a trick from homeschooling, and create an "open source cooperative" that provides sophisticated simulation equipment too expensive for individual students to afford. In fact, combining "de-centralised simulation" facilities with independent testing and certification facilities makes a great deal of sense, in terms of allowing small communities to provide wide-spectrum highly sophisticated educational experiences to their citizens.

Realistically, a sophisticated system of education capable of training competent lifelong learners for the future, will not be free. But it's clear that modern universities have priced themselves out of the future for most of tomorrow's learners. And too, becoming fascist indoctrination centers for zomboid political correctness hasn't helped the case of universities.

Once people really start catching on, the collapse of the university system should happen quickly. When that happens, more useful alternatives will need to be in place. Who will be the Bill Gates of the next phase of education?

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Sun to Earth: Look, Still No Spots!

Compared to all the spots in 2001 (on the left), our 2009 sun (on the right) looks quite nude. Is it just a coincidence that the Earth is experiencing global cooling at this time? Despite all the dire predictions of dying reefs, melting icecaps, and worldwide droughts, the reefs and icecaps keep coming back from cyclical downturns. Antarctic sea ice is growing so fast that it threatens to create a cooling feedback effect in the Southern Hemisphere. It is important to understand that Antarctic sea ice has an order of magnitude greater effect on Earth's heat balance than Arctic sea ice.

What does the spotless sun portend for our near-future climate?
.....This was a period in the Little Ice Age when sunspots became very rare, as noted by observers of the era. During one 30-year period within the Maunder Minimum, astronomers recorded only about 50 sunspots. Although a simplistic correlation is rightly contested, the Maunder Minimum thus appears to coincide with the middle - and the severest part - of the Little Ice Age.

Moreover, a second time a cycle was delayed like our current ‘Solar Cycle 24’ occurred during the so-called Dalton Minimum, an especially cold period that lasted several decades from 1790. Northern winters became ferocious: in particular, the rout of Napoleon’s Grand Army during the retreat from Moscow in 1812 was at least partly due to the lack of sunspots.

Thus, what currently is happening to the average temperature of the Earth’s surface? Since at least 2001, it has been falling, and dramatically so during the last two years. _Source
The connection between sunspots and Terran climate is not direct, but is rather mediated by energy fluxes and particle "winds" interacting with the Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere, with the likely involvement of extra-galactic cosmic rays to boot. Ocean oscillations are a more proximate manifest determinant of climate control.

H/T Tom Nelson

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21 April 2009

How Do You Like These "Future-Proof" Jobs?

Popular Mechanics presents the following list of 10 "Future-Proof" jobs. If you are looking for a first, second, or third career, you might consider one of them as a possible way to survive the Obama depression.

1. Undersea Welder

Wet welders work in offshore oil fields as deep as 400 feet, building and repairing undersea infrastructure......Arc welding underwater with electrodes carrying 185 amps might seem unwise, but deep-diving wet welders do it every day. They build and repair pipelines and oil platforms—in January 2009 there were 313 new bids worth $484 million in the western Gulf of Mexico alone. Dusty Harrison, placement director for a Florida school called the Commercial Diving Academy, says, “There’s no telling how much work there is,” thanks to a decade of hurricanes and a boom in oil exploration. During the Gulf ’s hurricane season, some welders work in West Africa and Asia.

How to Do It: Oil companies hire dive outfits with welders certified by the Association of Commercial Diving Educators. Schools such as the Commercial Diving Academy and New Jersey’s Divers Academy International have four- to five-month certification courses. Swimming ability and a high school diploma are prerequisites; scuba diving isn’t.

Earning Potential: Right out of school, you’ll pull in $17 to $20 an hour. “After two and a half or three years, that typically doubles,” Harrison says.

2. Zero-Energy Home Architect

Some houses now being built make as much energy as they consume. They rely on equipment such as solar cells to generate power, while using efficient design to keep consumption down. Michelle Kaufmann, an architect in Oakland, Calif., is bringing the zero-energy idea and other forms of sustainable design to prefab houses such as her mkLotus, a small, one-bedroom home. (Kaufmann worked for architecture legend Frank Gehry before founding her own firm in 2002.) Kermit Baker, an economist for the American Institute of Architects (AIA), says, “Sustainability and architecture are now intertwined.” In a recent AIA survey, architects reported that 47 percent of their clients in 2008 used green building elements. Despite the housing slump, Kaufmann says her 15-person staff is swamped: “We have more projects than ever before.”

How to Do It: Earn a master’s from one of the 61 U.S. architecture programs that offer classes with a green bent. (Yale has a joint degree in architecture and environmental management.)

Earning Potential: Nationally, staff architects earn about $45,000 to $100,000. Architects who own their firms can make much more.

3. Combined Heat and Power Mechanic
Jim Bondi is an old-school electrician who embraces new-school energy production. After eight years working on projects that included solar installations, he joined Pennsylvania-based E-Finity, designing combined heat and power (CHP) plants. A CHP unit saves energy by burning fuel to produce electricity and using the excess heat for climate control and producing hot water. “With the nation’s rising energy demand and the increase in environmental stewardship, CHP is an economic and environmental no-brainer,” Bondi says. The Department of Energy hopes the industry will grow enough to add a million workers by 2030.

How to Do It: CHP suppliers provide training. Electricians and mechanics with experience on jet and helicopter engines, which are similar to CHP turbines, find their skills are a natural fit.

Earning Potential: Salaries are $30,000 out of the gate; they top out at $75,000.

4. Energy Engineer
When the Coronado naval base in San Diego wanted to shrink its energy consumption, it turned to the consulting firm Tetra Tech, whose energy-efficiency staff has grown sixtyfold in the past decade. “The naval base is like a small city, with office buildings, a supermarket, bowling alleys,” says Linda Hunter, a Tetra Tech energy engineer who was brought in to boost efficiency on the base and its two aircraft carriers. Energy engineers may recommend new air-conditioning equipment or solar-powered streetlights, or they may design entire renewable-energy systems, such as harnessing methane from a landfill to generate electricity.

How to Do It: Earn a degree in chemical, mechanical, electrical or civil engineering—or a newer specialty called energy resources engineering. A Certified Energy Manager (CEM) certification is useful; it demands expertise in subjects like indoor air quality codes and standards, thermal energy storage systems and energy economics.

Earning Potential: Salaries start in the $50,000 range; with a master’s, you’ll get bumped up to around $70,000. Managers can pull in more than $100,000.

5. Digital Detective

Red teamers focused on digital security are hired to hack into computer systems to uncover vulnerabilities. The Department of Homeland Security plans to quadruple its cyber-security staff this year. Mark Mateski, a red teamer and the managing editor of Red Team Journal, says, “You’ll find a lot of red teamers working in war gaming and cyber security in the government-contracting world.” Even bigger growth may be coming in the private sector: “If your business’s survival depends on cyber security, you’re going to start looking for unconventional answers,” he says.

How to Do It: Programming skills are a must; a degree in computer science is helpful in landing a job. The Center for Cyber Defenders Program at New Mexico’s Sandia National Laboratories offers specific red-team training.

Earning Potential: $60,000 to start on the government and government-contract side; six-figure salaries are common in the private sector.

6. 3D Sports Tech

Many fans already say they get a better view of sports events watching TV than sitting near the action, but 3D cements the argument. At least, that’s the view of Steve Schklair, CEO of Burbank-based 3ality Digital Systems, a company specializing in 3D technology and production. “If you’ve got a camera down low next to the green and the golfer is putting uphill, you can actually see the roll of the green while he’s putting,” he says. Ray Hannisian, the company’s lead stereographer, uses software running complex sets of algorithms to fine-tune and synchronize the depth readings of as many as 10 cameras during events. The technology raised its profile during this year’s national college football championships, which 3ality shot and broadcast live to 63 movie theaters in January. Such broadcasts will soon be coming to a living room near you: American consumers have already bought 1.4 million 3D-compatible televisions, and every major electronics manufacturer is now producing such sets. Of course, the best-known 3D arena remains moviemaking. More than a dozen 3D movies are scheduled for release in 2009.

How to Do It: You can master 3D still photography on your own using a program like HumanEyes Capture 3D Software. Also, take classes in digital videography (art schools and university film programs offer them), then look for a job as a 2D cameraman. “With digital technology, you can learn a lot about 3D while you’re actually shooting,” Hannisian says.

Earning Potential: Salaries start at $50,000 and can go as high as $150,000 for television work. For the elite earners in 3D movie production, Schklair says, “There is no limit.”

7. Wind Explorer

Siting a wind farm takes engineering chops, anemometers, GPS skills and, sometimes, zinc oxide on your nose.

When civil and environmental engineer Mathias Craig arrived in Nicaragua in 2004, he found a stretch of Caribbean coastline where transportation consisted of horses and boats and there wasn’t a single light bulb. “It was like the Wild West 200 years ago,” he says. As founders of the nonprofit Blue Energy Group, Craig and his brother organized volunteers to build wind turbines to catch the Caribbean trade winds and supply several com-munities with electricity. Hugh Piggott, a Scotland-based wind-energy pioneer, has worked on similar projects in Zimbabwe, Peru and Sri Lanka. “One of the places wind energy is expanding most rapidly is the developing world,” he says. “The number of people in the world who don’t have utility power is actually increasing.” That’s because the population in many regions is growing faster than grid lines and new power plants can be constructed. Craig and his staff of 32 have already installed nine turbines in Nicaragua. They’ve also scouted sites in West Africa, and they’re in talks to expand into Honduras and Guatemala.

How to Do It: Texas Tech University’s Wind Science and Engineering Research Center offers a summer internship for undergrads and has one of the country’s few Ph.D. programs in the field. However, it’s possible to jump in without an advanced degree. Piggott teaches turbine-building seminars worldwide; Blue Energy has an apprenticeship program in Nicaragua.

Earning Potential: Nonprofit firms based in developing countries pay from $1000 to $4000 per month. Annual salaries in the U.S. currently range from $35,000 to $55,000.

8. Fabricator of Carbon-Fiber Spaceships and Planes

“We’re like the shipbuilders of the modern era,” Reuben Garcia says. As head composite fabricator at XCOR, an aerospace company in Mojave, Calif., Garcia is deeply engaged in the race to make ships capable of carrying tourists into space. Garcia and his team take the plans drawn by XCOR’s engineers and make them real, using lightweight carbon composites similar to the materials used everywhere from Formula One race cars to high-end fishing rods. Composite structures are built up layer by layer, and Garcia’s high-tech creations are shaped largely with such low-tech tools as squeegees filled with epoxy resin. XCOR, which plans to conduct test flights to space by 2011, is situated in a tiny town that has become a hotbed for spaceship and small-airplane construction. “You can walk into any of the 20 or so companies here and have a job in an hour,” says Jon Sharp, owner of Nemesis Air Racing, which builds racing planes.

How to Do It: Many companies will train newbies. However, community colleges can offer a head start with introductory courses in composite fabrication.

Earning Potential: Pay starts low but can climb to $20 per hour. Managers who go on to earn engineering degrees can make up to $100,000 a year.

9. Battery Engineer

Will Gardner was a freshly minted college graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering when he was hired by Duracell. “I had no idea what a battery company could want with a mechanical engineer,” Gardner says, but he was drawn to the field, which combines elements of electrical engineering, chemistry, materials science and, yes, mechanical engineering. “You need to know something about each of them in order to succeed,” he says. Today, Gardner leads a team that designs, builds and tests batteries for hybrid electric cars at A123 Systems, a fast-growing firm based in Watertown, Mass. A123’s clients include Chrysler, GM and automotive upstarts Think and Better Place, and the company’s staff has jumped from 150 to 2000 in the past three years. Ann Marie Sastry, who directs the University of Michigan’s master’s program in energy systems engineering, says, “The DNA of the automobile is changing, which means the composition of the workforce has to change.” Sastry also runs her own battery company, called Sakti3. “We’re hiring,” she says. “It’s a great time to be a battery guy.”

How to Do It: A bachelor’s in math, materials science or engineering is essential. Sastry’s program is very highly regarded: “Students are getting jobs even before they finish their studies,” she says.

Earning Potential: To start, $50,000 to $60,000; at the senior level, $95,000.

10. Independent Video-Game Designer

It took Kyle Gabler just four days to come up with the concept for his first video game, and, frankly, it didn’t seem like a blockbuster waiting to happen: The protagonists are gobs of goo. But in the growing world of independent game design, execution is key—and Gabler created a look that has drawn comparisons to filmmaker Tim Burton, supporting a story filled with intrigue and humor. The prototype became an indie hit, and in October 2008 Gabler launched the Nintendo Wii game World of Goo (above). In an era of sequels (a dozen Medal of Honor games, eight iterations of Grand Theft Auto), the industry needs fresh ideas—and supplying them has traditionally been a designer’s main job. But as Simon Carless, publisher of the industry website Gamasutra and a former lead designer, says, “Now designers also need practical skills. You need to be able to make the game.”

How to Do It: More than 200 schools offer game-design degrees, including the Art Institute of Portland, which graduates students with a B.S. in Visual and Game Programming. But consumer tech is so good now that you may be able to go it alone. “You can make stuff in your bedroom that’s as good as what people are making professionally,” Carless says. Art, music and coding skills are all critical. _PopularMechanics
The only problem with some of the green jobs coming into prominence is the fact that for every job created, approximately 2.3 conventional jobs are lost. It is a conundrum for Obama -- or it would be if he ever gave it some thought, understood what the word "conundrum" meant, and had the mental capacity to think beyond simplistic jingoism.

Anyway, there are a few job categories to consider for new job seekers. I am always on the lookout for lists of new things -- including new types of jobs. If you run across one, please let me know.


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Why the Future Belongs to the Penguin

Anyone who has read Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Galapagos" will understand that humans have a lot of devolving to do. By the time we devolve to the level of human neo-seals, we should be ready to greet the upwardly evolving penguin on relatively equal terms -- for a short time. But soon afterward, penguins will leave devolving aquatic humans behind as they continue their upward evolution -- with the assistance of bionic penguins and penguin flying robots that will perform tasks that natural penguins find difficult.

You see, the makers of the Terminator franchise have it all wrong. The future does not belong to humanoid robots. Sorry. It's penguins all the way down the line.

H/T Gizmodo


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20 April 2009

Adopt a Chimpanzee, Send it to the Best Schools, And Discover How Genes Affect IQ

The story of what made us human is probably not going to focus on changes in our protein building blocks but rather on how evolution assembled these blocks in new ways by changing when and where in the body different genes turn on and off. Experimental and computational studies now under way in thousands of labs around the world promise to elucidate what is going on in the 98.5 percent of our genome that does not code for proteins. It is looking less and less like junk every day. _SciAm
The truth is, anyone with the least scientific judgment accepts that the genes affect IQ (and EF, executive function). Different breeding populations of primates have evolved differently -- from the inside out. "As within, so without", as they say. But then, you already knew that.

So we know that humans and chimps are different -- genetically, morphologically, and behaviourally. What is the "difference that makes the difference" between chimps and humans?
The human brain is well known to differ considerably from the chimpanzee brain in terms of size, organization and complexity, among other traits. Yet the developmental and evolutionary mechanisms underlying the characteristics that set the human brain apart are poorly understood. HAR1 had the potential to illuminate this most mysterious aspect of human biology.

..... until humans came along, HAR1 evolved extremely slowly. In chickens and chimps—whose lineages diverged some 300 million years ago—only two of the 118 bases differ, compared with 18 differences between humans and chimps, whose lineages diverged far more recently. The fact that HAR1 was essentially frozen in time through hundreds of millions of years indicates that it does something very important; that it then underwent abrupt revision in humans suggests that this function was significantly modified in our lineage.

.....HAR1 is active in a type of neuron that plays a key role in the pattern and layout of the developing cerebral cortex, the wrinkled outermost brain layer. When things go wrong in these neurons, the result may be a severe, often deadly, congenital disorder known as lissencephaly (“smooth brain”), in which the cortex lacks its characteristic folds and exhibits a markedly reduced surface area. Malfunctions in these same neurons are also linked to the onset of schizophrenia in adulthood. HAR1 is thus active at the right time and place to be instrumental in the formation of a healthy cortex....

Beyond having a remarkable evolutionary history, HAR1 is special because it does not encode a protein. For decades, molecular biology research focused almost exclusively on genes that specify proteins, the basic building blocks of cells. But thanks to the Human Genome Project, which sequenced our own genome, scientists now know that protein-coding genes make up just 1.5 percent of our DNA. The other 98.5 percent—sometimes referred to as junk DNA—contains regulatory sequences that tell other genes when to turn on and off and genes encoding RNA that does not get translated into a protein, as well as a lot of DNA having purposes scientists are only beginning to understand.

.....It might seem surprising that no one paid attention to these amazing 118 bases of the human genome earlier. But in the absence of technology for readily comparing whole genomes, researchers had no way of knowing that HAR1 was more than just another piece of junk DNA.

Language Clues
Whole-genome comparisons in other species have also provided another crucial insight into why humans and chimps can be so different despite being much alike in their genomes. In recent years the genomes of thousands of species (mostly microbes) have been sequenced. It turns out that where DNA substitutions occur in the genome—rather than how many changes arise overall—can matter a great deal. In other words, you do not need to change very much of the genome to make a new species. The way to evolve a human from a chimp-human ancestor is not to speed the ticking of the molecular clock as a whole. Rather the secret is to have rapid change occur in sites where those changes make an important difference in an organism’s functioning.

HAR1 is certainly such a place. So, too, is the FOXP2 gene, which contains another of the fast-changing sequences I identified and is known to be involved in speech. _SciAm
Of course, none of the sub-species of humans -- the semi-isolated breeding populations -- are as different from the other human populations as all chimpanzees are different from all humans. At the same time, no one truly understands human gene expression well enough to say which differences between human populations are potentially important, and which are not. Likewise, a significant amount of interbreeding between formerly isolated breeding populations takes place in modern societies such as those in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia. These "natural experiments" in inter-mixing between formerly isolated populations should provide an unbiased science with a number of "natural experiments", perhaps revealing a "dose-response" gradient to genetic effects.

The best approach to the science of genetic influences on behaviour and intelligence would be to pursue the topic as seriously as the Manhattan Project was pursued in WWII. The goal is the discovery of methods that allow humans to become more intelligent. It is a far more important goal than life extension. Who wants to live forever in the middle of an Idiocracy? Not I. Of course, once we are more intelligent, life extension becomes a more important goal, and more achievable.

The popular leftist denial of important genetic behavioural and intelligence differences between populations is the equavalent of shooting oneself in the head to relieve a headache. In the name of a faux "equality" that never existed, leftist zomboids in academy, government, and the media prevent the type of understanding that is required to eventually allow anyone who wishes to become more intelligent. A better example of idiocracy is hard to find.

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Intelligence and Genes: The Inconvenient Truth

Researchers have found that people with high intelligence scores tend to have certain regions of the cortex that are larger than average. Shaw expects that some of those patterns will turn out to be the result of the environment. But these regions of the cortex tend to be the same size in twins, indicating that genes are responsible for some of the difference as well.

In recent years, scientists have also published a number of studies in which they claim to have found distinctive patterns of brain functioning in people who score high on intelligence tests. Recently Haier and Rex Eugene Jung of the University of New Mexico surveyed 37 studies examining regional brain size or activity to look for an overall pattern to their results. As Plomin would have predicted, Haier and Jung found no one “intelligence spot” in the brain. Instead they identified a number of significant regions scattered around the cortex. Other studies have implicated each of these regions in different kinds of cognition. “It looks like intelligence is built on these fundamental cognitive processes, like attention and memory, and maybe language ability,” Haier says.

Along with describing the gray matter tissue that makes up the cortex, these studies also find the signature of intelligence in the white matter that links distant parts of the cortex to one another. People with high intelligence tend to have tracts of white matter that are more organized than other people. “The white matter is like the wiring,” Haier says. “If you think about it, you know, intelligence really requires processing power and speed; the white matter would give it the speed; the gray matter would give it the processing power.” _Intelligence In Genes SciAm
Despite the growing body of evidence linking genes and intelligence, there will always be cranks and still more cranks who cannot let go of their attachment to blank slate pretensions to knowledge. But evolution and genuine science care nothing for these political objections. If allowed to work, science and the truth will eventually out.

The genes are able to influence a person's intelligence via several distinct means. From the time that African pygmies split genetically from their African neighbors, 50,000 years ago, humans have been splitting genetic branches from the homo sapiens trunk. As distinct breeding populations separated, they adapted to their differing environments through natural selection. Natural selection can make important changes in human populations much more quickly than we previously believed -- sometimes after only hundreds of years.

Different populations of humans can have distinctly different genetic records, which reflect the vastly different experiences that the distinct populations passed through over the tens of thousands of years since they split from the main trunk. Science understands this, although political correctness continues to hysterically deny the obvious -- turning educated persons who might otherwise make reasonable scientists, into blathering cranks.
Russian scientists showed in the 1990s that a strong selection pressure (picking out and breeding only the tamest fox pups in each generation) created what was — in behavior as well as body — essentially a new species in just 30 generations. That would correspond to about 750 years for humans. Humans may never have experienced such a strong selection pressure for such a long period, but they surely experienced many weaker selection pressures that lasted far longer, and for which some heritable personality traits were more adaptive than others. It stands to reason that local populations (not continent-wide "races") adapted to local circumstances by a process known as "co-evolution" in which genes and cultural elements change over time and mutually influence each other. The best documented example of this process is the co-evolution of genetic mutations that maintain the ability to fully digest lactose in adulthood with the cultural innovation of keeping cattle and drinking their milk. This process has happened several times in the last 10,000 years, not to whole "races" but to tribes or larger groups that domesticated cattle.

Recent "sweeps" of the genome across human populations show that hundreds of genes have been changing during the last 5-10 millennia in response to local selection pressures. (See papers by Benjamin Voight, Scott Williamson, and Bruce Lahn). No new mental modules can be created from scratch in a few millennia, but slight tweaks to existing mechanisms can happen quickly, and small genetic changes can have big behavioral effects, as with those Russian foxes. We must therefore begin looking beyond the Pleistocene and turn our attention to the Holocene era as well – the last 10,000 years. This was the period after the spread of agriculture during which the pace of genetic change sped up in response to the enormous increase in the variety of ways that humans earned their living, formed larger coalitions, fought wars, and competed for resources and mates. _Edge.org
Indeed. The last 10,000 years have exerted enormous evolutionary pressure upon the various distinct breeding populations of Earth. Of course, some populations that existed in more remote areas of the world, may have evaded most of these evolutionary stresses -- until now. That, of course, is the rub. That is why leftist cranks must continue to deny what is directly in front of their noses. The inconvenient truth of intelligence and genes.

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19 April 2009

Sometimes Evolution Can Work Quickly

Psychologists and educational researchers have pegged their [Ashkenazi's] average IQ at 107.5 to 115. That's only modestly higher than the overall European average of 100, but the gap is large enough to produce a huge difference in the proportion of geniuses. When a group's average IQ is 100, the percentage of people above 140 is 0.4%; when the average is 110, the genius rate is 2.3%.

Though Jews make up less than 3% of the U.S. population, they have won more than 25% of the Nobel Prizes awarded to American scientists since 1950, account for 20% of this country's chief executives and make up 22% of Ivy League students, the pair write. _LAT
IQ is important, it is real, and it is largely determined by a person's genes (working together with his environment). It is important to the political left for IQ to be unrelated to a person's genes. Since the political left dominates academia, the media, and most governments of the developed world, the plain truth about genes and IQ is often studiously ignored, papered over, and denied belligerently (but without evidence).

But whenever science is allowed to work without political interference, it discovers some fascinating things. For instance, the fact that natural selection can make some very important changes in a small breeding population of humans over the course of hundreds or a few thousands of years.
Jews first came to Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries, long before they were known for intellectual prowess, Cochran and Harpending say. They worked as traders before taking financial jobs made available by Christians who were forbidden by the Church from charging interest. By 1100, local registries listed most Ashkenazi Jews as lenders.

That set the stage for natural selection to do its work, Cochran and Harpending theorized. Jews didn't intermarry, keeping their gene pool closed. They were subjected to periodic persecution, which kept the population from outgrowing its professional niche.

According to the theory, the smartest individuals made the most money, and the wealthiest families had the most surviving children. The genes of the most intelligent Jews spread most, slowly raising the average IQ of the entire group.

Over 40 generations -- roughly 1,000 years -- an increase of just 0.3 points per generation would have added up to a cumulative advantage of 12 points, Cochran and Harpending theorized. Some of their other models projected a benefit of 16 to 20 IQ points. _LAT
Consider it a natural experiment in eugenics, with a very big payoff for humanity as a whole. Trickle down eugenics, if you will, where the benefits flowing from the scientific discovery and commercial enterprise of highly intelligent persons are propagated to society at large via western civilisation's slow enlightenment.

The coexistence of high rates of disease genes with high rates of genius within this population might be considered unfortunate. It is important for researchers to learn how to separate the beneficial effects of the genes from the disease-causing effects as soon as possible. But in a "politically correct" world of blindered leftists, who will fund the research?
It would be easy to test the theory, said Steven Pinker, a Harvard cognition researcher: "See if carriers of the Ashkenazi-typical genetic mutations score higher on IQ tests than their noncarrier siblings."

Cochran and Harpending readily acknowledge the need for such experiments. But they have no plans to do them. They say their role as theorists is to generate hypotheses that others can test.

"One criticism about our paper is 'It can't mean anything because they didn't do any new experiments,' " Cochran said. "OK, then I guess Einstein's papers didn't mean anything either." _LAT
The left is frightened of what scientists might find, should they be allowed to proceed with research that seeks out links between genes and intelligence. They have constructed a nice neat habitat of denial which suits their tastes. Card construction is not durable -- particularly with foundations of sand -- but it can last quite a long time with all the clown's horses and all the clown's men propping it up. Failure to prop up would mean loss of ideological purity, leading to an inevitable exile into outer darkness.

Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence (PDF) Cochran, Hardy, Harpending

The 10.000 Year Explosion by Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending Official Website

Order The 10,000 Year Explosion at Amazon.com

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18 April 2009

That Will be $80 Trillion -- Cash or Charge?

It's impossible to know the government's real liabilities right now, thanks to all of the off-balance sheet items and quasi-governmental insurance groups. But you can make a rough estimate...

Let's say $20 trillion for the on-balance sheet spending. Another roughly $50 trillion is coming for unfunded entitlement programs, and probably another $10 trillion for all of the various guarantees to PBGC, FDIC, and Fannie/Freddie. That gets us to something around $80 trillion by 2019 – and my estimate is likely too conservative by a large percentage because it assumes tax revenues can grow substantially. _Source
That is just the government butcher's bill. In the private sector, things are not looking so hot, either, thanks to labour unions and their killer "defined pensions." Time for Americans to come back to reality. No one can guarantee your future, your secure retirement. Particularly now that the Obama / Pelosi reich have taken a wrecking ball to the US economy. The sooner you learn that you are on your own, the better.
I submit that people who think defined-benefit pensions – any other type of “guaranteed” retirement plan -- are the solution to the country's retirement insecurity are not seeing the whole picture. What we have learned from defined-benefit pensions, and Social Security, is that it’s very difficult to keep them solvent, either due to the difficulty in forecasting the future or to the ease of kicking the hard choices down the road. Either way, the result is that such programs have to be shored up later, often at the expense of those who are still working.

Perhaps the real lesson is that the retirement of the future will be "guaranteed" (note the quotes) only for people who save and learn like mad. _MotleyFool
You may never have to "go John Galt", but if you take the time to be sure that you could do so if you had to, you might rest a bit easier at night.

The economy is broken, and with Obama, the government is broken. Your future security is up to you now.

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Forget Stem Cells! Switch Cell Types by Simply Changing the Messenger RNA

"What's new about this approach is that we didn't have to make the host cell pluripotent, that is the ability to develop into any of three major tissue types, we can directly convert from one cell type to another, without the intermediate step," explains Eberwine. _Physorg
This sounds much too easy to be true, so it probably won't be that simple. But something interesting is happening when you can turn a neuron into an astrocyte simply by injecting astrocytic mRNA into the neuron.
By simply flooding one cell type, a nerve cell, with the an abundance of a specific type of messenger RNA (mRNA) from another cell type, the investigators changed a neuron into an astrocyte-like cell, a star-shaped brain cell that helps to maintain the blood-brain barrier, regulates the chemical environment around cells, responds to injury, and releases regulatory substances.

James Eberwine, PhD, Elmer Holmes Bobst Professor of Pharmacology, Junhyong Kim, PhD, Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Endowed Professor of Biology and first author Jai-Yoon Sul, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology, and colleagues report their findings online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This approach offers the possibility for a new type of cell-based therapy for neurodegenerative and other diseases.

"In some ways, this is akin to what a virus does," explains Eberwine, "When a virus infects a cell it affects the host cell genome and the RNAs that it can make." By putting the RNA of one cell type, in the correct amounts, into another cell type, we were able to change its function."

"This research overturns the notion that all cells are permanently hardwired with little ability to change their physiology," notes Sul. _PO
This is just the beginning, of course. With better tools for manipulating the molecules of life inside living tissues and cells, the learning shifts into warp speed.

Soon, artificially created viruses will be performing these tasks like tiny nanobots, driving cell and tissue development in animals, plants, large-scale tissue vats, etc. It is time for biology to start getting a little respect.

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17 April 2009

Stand By to Repel Boarders! 10 Hi Tech Ways

"Standard maritime doctrine is that crews should not resist once boarders are on deck," he says. "The [Somali] pirates are really just after the ransom money, so it's best to keep things as calm as possible." _Source
In today's politically correct world, using deadly force to repel pirates is simply not done -- at least in polite international maritime company. That means that politically correct captains and crew must find non-lethal means to repel unwelcome guests on the high seas. Here are a few:
Fire hoses. The simplest way to repel boarders is to train high-pressure hoses on them. Spraying them straight down the sides of the ship at bad guys trying to climb aboard usually works. But there's a catch — if there's more baddies standing in the speedboats aiming guns at the crew, then you have to give up.

Remote-controlled fire hoses. To get around that logistical problem, several companies market high-pressure water cannons that can wash pirates overboard without exposing anyone to enemy fire.

Molotov cocktails. If ships' crews aren't given weapons, they can always make their own. In December, Somali pirates shadowed the Zhenhua 4, a Chinese cargo ship, for days, giving its crew ample time to prepare a stockpile of Molotov cocktails using empty beer bottles.

The baddies got on board, but the crew used the homemade bombs and fire hoses to fend them off for six hours, enough time for Malaysian Navy helicopters to show up and scare the pirates away.

Sonic weapons. In November 2005, the cruise ship Seabourn Spirit in the western Indian Ocean fended off pirate speedboats, partly by blasting them with an long range acoustic device (LRAD), which is designed to cause painful level of sound up to 300 meters away. (The Seabourn Spirit also ran over one of the speedboats.)

Slippery foam. Boat decks are wet places. Somali pirates are often barefoot. Hence the need for what the acronym-happy Marine Corps calls its Mobility Denial System (MDS), also known as Non-Lethal Slippery Foam (NLSF) or Anti-Traction Material (ATM).

Basically, it's water, drilling-mud additive (used for boreholes) and a flocculent, an electrically charged suspension of solids that makes liquids even more slippery. No one's actually deployed this stuff yet, but a few serious squirts would send pirates sliding around helplessly like happy penguins on an ice floe.

Rubber bullets. Riot police typically fire non-lethal projectiles from real guns, which wouldn't be allowed on many ships. But high-powered air guns could fire plastic or rubber bullets almost as easily, causing pain if not serious injury to boarders hit in the torso or limbs. Head shots could cause injury or even death, however, and there's always the chance they could be used in a mutiny.

Electric fencing. At least one company sells a high-voltage fence that sticks horizontally outward from a ship's sides, zapping any would-be boarders like so many wayward cattle.

"Only a few [ships have that] so far," says Quick. "I don't know if it's worked or not. In the long run, nothing will against a persistent group of pirates."

Nets. In the same way that police lay out nail strips to stop speeding cars, ships could launch small nets into the water to entangle the propellers of the pirate speedboats. The Coast Guard and the Dept. of Defense are testing these by dropping these from helicopters, but it's possible smaller versions could be launched from the stern of a cargo ship using the sort of catapults that launch clay pigeons in skeet shooting.

Blinding weapons. Airline pilots already deal with jokers who shine laser pointers into the cockpits of landing planes. Pirates might have to face the Dazzle Gun, a futuristic-looking laser rifle designed by the Air Force that temporarily blinds adversaries who get too close to bases and personnel.

The pain ray. The Air Force had fun a couple of year ago bringing reporters to a test facility at Moody Air Force base in Georgia and zapping them with the Active Denial System, a truck-mounted weapon that focuses a tight beam of electromagnetic waves on your skin.

Basically, it's like sticking your hand in a microwave oven. It's nonlethal and very painful. There's a smaller version as well that's effective up to 500 yards, which might work against pirates coming up to a ship. _FoxNews
A final, top-secret method of repelling pirates is related to the blinding weapons mentioned above. A highly trained maritime model, such as the one pictured to the left, will use a secret tooth-whitening agent [advertisement] prior to every voyage. As soon as pirates approach the ship, the model will release a dazzling smile, temporarily blinding the pirates and allowing the ship and crew to escape. Amazingly enough, the method works in either direct sunlight or overcast -- even at night. All that is required is for a small LED-style flashlight to be directed at the maritime model's highly whitened teeth.

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