Scientists create new memories by directly changing the brain

Scientists create new memories by directly changing the brain.

Research led by senior author Norman M. Weinberger, a research professor of neurobiology & behavior at UC Irvine, and colleagues has shown that specific memories can be made by directly altering brain cells in the cerebral cortex, which produces the predicted specific memory. The researchers say this is the first evidence that memories can be created by direct cortical manipulation.
Study results appeared in the August 29 issue of Neuroscience.
During the research, Weinberger and colleagues played a specific tone to test rodents then stimulated the nucleus basalis deep within their brains, releasing acetylcholine (ACh), a chemical involved in memory formation. This procedure increased the number of brain cells responding to the specific tone. The following day, the scientists played many sounds to the animals and found that their respiration spiked when they recognized the particular tone, showing that specific memory content was created by brain changes directly induced during the experiment. Created memories have the same features as natural memories including long-term retention.
“Disorders of learning and memory are a major issue facing many people and since we’ve found not only a way that the brain makes memories, but how to create new memories with specific content, our hope is that our research will pave the way to prevent or resolve this global issue,” said Weinberger, who is also a fellow with the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory and the Center for Hearing Research at UC Irvine.
The creation of new memories by directly changing the cortex is the culmination of several years of research in Weinberger’s lab implicating the nucleus basalis and ACh in brain plasticity and specific memory formation. Previously, the authors had also shown that the strength of memory is controlled by the number of cells in the auditory cortex that process a sound.


Superman and Batman together on Big Screen in 2015!

ImageOn the heels of the worldwide success of “Man of Steel,” director Zack Snyder is bringing together the two greatest Super Heroes of all time—Batman and Superman—for the first time on the big screen. The announcement was made today by Greg Silverman, President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production, and Sue Kroll, President, Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

The current hit, “Man of Steel,” has taken in more than $630 million at the worldwide box office to date, and climbing. Along with its star, Henry Cavill, the upcoming film brings back Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane. The new Batman has yet to be cast. Snyder is co-writing the story with David S. Goyer, who will then pen the screenplay. Production is expected to begin in 2014, with an anticipated release date in Summer 2015.

Silverman stated, “Zack Snyder is an incredibly talented filmmaker, but beyond that, he’s a fan first and he utterly gets this genre. We could not think of anyone better suited to the task of bringing these iconic Super Heroes to the screen in his own way.” Kroll added, “We are thrilled to be back in business with Zack and his team on this next movie. The success of ‘Man of Steel’ is a wonderful testament to the love and support that both fans and new audiences, worldwide, have for these characters. We are very excited to see what Zack has in store for all of us.”

Diane Nelson, President, DC Entertainment, noted, “Superman and Batman together on the big screen is a dream come true for DC fans everywhere. All of us at DC Entertainment could not be more excited for Zack’s continuing vision for the DC Universe.”

Zack Snyder, who made a surprise appearance at Comic-Con today, breaking the news to audiences there, later said, “I’m so excited to begin working again with Henry Cavill in the world we created, and I can’t wait to expand the DC Universe in this next chapter. Let’s face it, it’s beyond mythological to have Superman and our new Batman facing off, since they are the greatest Super Heroes in the world.”

The new film brings back Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder as producers. This time, Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas are serving as executive producers, along with Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. Thomas offered, “Whilst our ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy is complete, we have every confidence that Zack’s fresh interpretation will take the character in a new and exciting direction. His vision for Superman opened the door to a whole new universe and we can’t wait to see what Zack does with these characters.” The film is based on Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, and Batman characters created by Bob Kane, published by DC Entertainment


The universe or the brain: Where does math originate?

The universe or the brain: Where does math originate?.

‘Back to the Future’ of photography.

Why Dwight Howard to Houston makes so much sense | Houston Rockets Blog | ClutchFans

Clutchfans – When it comes to star pursuits, Rockets fans have grown accustomed to disappointment the past several years.

There was the Chris Bosh IPad delivery, the bronze medal finish for Carmelo Anthony, Dwightmares I and II and the Chris Paul trade… without getting Chris Paul. And let’s just agree not to talk about Nene, which would be like trying to justify the fashion sense you showed in 6th grade.

But James Harden changed everything. The Rockets are no longer the pimple-faced dweeb desperately asking any mildly popular female out for a date — they now are the hot chick. They can afford to be picky.

The Dwight Mare?‘You need a star to get a star’ and nothing illustrates this better than seeing how the attitude of one Dwight Howard has changed about Houston in less than a year. Last June, David Aldridge reported that there was “not a chance” Dwight would re-sign with Houston if traded here. Today, numerous reports suggest the Laker free agent is strongly considering coming here of his own free will.

And justifiably so. This could be a very good marriage as it looks like a perfect fit for both the Rockets and the 27-year old center.

Why it makes perfect sense for the Rockets



Star Trek: Into Darkness

The Write Savage

star-trek-into-darkness-posterWhat a wild ride! Star Trek: IntoDarknessis a triumph. From the opening scene with a race again hostile natives and an erupting volcano to the ending with the hope of new discoveries, this movie has it all–epic bromance, humor, genetically enhanced beings, Klingons, a wannabe warlord, suicide bomber, explosions, death, mayhem, space battles, violence, and other good stuff. It was a handwringer to be sure and I had to consciously stop myself from doing it. But beyond the non-stop action was the visual pleasure this movie provides. The cinematography was beautiful, and while several shots were reminiscent of J. J. Abrams first Star Trek movie, this entire film was a feast for the eyes.

Benedict Cumberbatch is chilling as Kahn, taking this villain to a whole new level. He’s intelligent, ruthless, and cold. His voice, his look, everything about him screams formidable adversary. As a genetically enhanced being…

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Poor sleep in old age prevents the brain from storing memories!

UC Berkeley neuroscientists have found that the slow brain waves generated during the deep, restorative sleep we typically experience in youth play a key role in transporting memories from the hippocampus — which provides short-term storage for memories — to the prefrontal cortex's longer term “hard drive.” However, in older adults, memories may be getting stuck in the hippocampus due to the poor quality of deep 'slow wave' sleep, and are then overwritten by new memories, the findings suggest.

“What we have discovered is a dysfunctional pathway that helps explain the relationship between brain deterioration, sleep disruption and memory loss as we get older — and with that, a potentially new treatment avenue,” said UC Berkeley sleep researcher Matthew Walker, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and senior author of the study to be published Jan. 27, in the journal Nature Neuroscience.The findings shed new light on some of the forgetfulness common to the elderly that includes difficulty remembering people's names.

“When we are young, we have deep sleep that helps the brain store and retain new facts and information,” Walker said. “But as we get older, the quality of our sleep deteriorates and prevents those memories from being saved by the brain at night.”

Healthy adults typically spend one-quarter of the night in deep, non-rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. Slow waves are generated by the brain's middle frontal lobe. Deterioration of this frontal region of the brain in elderly people is linked to their failure to generate deep sleep, the study found. The discovery that slow waves in the frontal brain help strengthen memories paves the way for therapeutic treatments for memory loss in the elderly, such as transcranial direct current stimulation or pharmaceutical remedies. For example, in an earlier study, neuroscientists in Germany successfully used electrical stimulation of the brain in young adults to enhance deep sleep and doubled their overnight memory.

UC Berkeley researchers will be conducting a similar sleep-enhancing study in older adults to see if it will improve their overnight memory. “Can you jumpstart slow wave sleep and help people remember their lives and memories better? It's an exciting possibility,” said Bryce Mander, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of this latest study.

For the UC Berkeley study, Mander and fellow researchers tested the memory of 18 healthy young adults (mostly in their 20s) and 15 healthy older adults (mostly in their 70s) after a full night's sleep. Before going to bed, participants learned and were tested on 120 word sets that taxed their memories. As they slept, an electroencephalographic (EEG) machine measured their brain wave activity. The next morning, they were tested again on the word pairs, but this time while undergoing functional and structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans.

In older adults, the results showed a clear link between the degree of brain deterioration in the middle frontal lobe and the severity of impaired “slow wave activity” during sleep. On average, the quality of their deep sleep was 75 percent lower than that of the younger participants, and their memory of the word pairs the next day was 55 percent worse. Meanwhile, in younger adults, brain scans showed that deep sleep had efficiently helped to shift their memories from the short-term storage of the hippocampus to the long-term storage of the prefrontal cortex.

No need to be #1….unless, of course, #1 starts messing everything up!

That’s where I step in! 🙂

I’m the Anti-Hero

Alone, broody, and so insanely cool it hurts.
Which character are you? Find out at

‘INTO DARKNESS’ arrives! Trailer teases “…Epic and Apocalyptic!” new Star Trek film!

wpid-Photo-Dec-6-2012-906-AM.jpgA trailer for JJ Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness has just hit YouTube. Menacingly narrated by Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch as the nemesis of the Enterprise crew. Likely, Cumberbatch will be playing Gary Mitchell, Kirk’s friend who turns on StarFleet and Kirk himself after acquiring near ‘God-like’ powers, although Khan, another baddy from Trek lore, could be in the mix as well. The trailer depicts a number of the Starfleet crew in distress along with the customary hype music. A longer version (complete with Japanese subtitles) ends with a nod to Wrath of Khan that might just be the worst spoiler to feature in an announcement trailer ever — or perhaps it’s just JJ Abrams toying with Star Trek fans by throwing them a valentine. Both videos are included below. For the revealing scene, watch the last :20 seconds of the Japanese version.International trailer:Japanese trailer:

Jeremy Lin and James Harden are the NBA’s best backcourt. Do not argue!!

You know these guys. (Getty Images)ATLANTA — “Is there water in my beard?”

James Harden fluffed his beard, the shorthand symbol of his identity, as he prepared to speak to a collection of media that reached legitimate throng status. The beard is the easy signifier, a Halloween prop come to life. You see a guy rocking a beard the size of a cafeteria tray, you figure he's a clown, a throwback to Dennis Rodman and other stars whose flash overwhelmed their substance.

And then he takes the court, and you start to rethink your opinion. Harden, in the first games of his fourth year, is on the very edge of superstar status, and he's looking like he's ready to assume the role.

This time last year, Harden was a role player on an ascending Oklahoma City team. But abreakout playoff performance, a Sixth Manaward and an Olympic gold medal (plus a little notoriety at the elbow of Metta World Peace) and Harden solidified his credentials enough that the Thunder decided he'd be better off as trade asset than employee. So Harden packed his bags and his beard and journeyed about 500 miles down Interstate 45.

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of]

Harden thus gave Houston its second straight meteor hit, following the Rockets' summer signing of instant phenom Jeremy Lin. And with Harden and Lin, the Rockets now have — hey, why not call it like it is? — the finest backcourt in the NBA.

Granted, two games is not exactly a representative sample size. But in their first 96 minutes together, Harden and Lin have exceeded every expectation, forming a no-look, pick-and-rolling machine that's accounting for the overwhelming majority of Houston's points. They've got youth and an array of skills, facets that other top duos (Kobe/Nash in L.A., Manu/Parker in San Antonio, Deron/Joe Johnson in Brooklyn) just can't match. Not yet, anyway.

On Friday night, in a thorough 109-102 dismantling of the Atlanta Hawks, Harden and Lin demonstrated that they deserve every bit of the praise ladled on them. Harden scored 45 points on 14-of-19 shooting. Lin came within three assists of a triple-double, posting a 21-10-7 line. And while both of them have their quirks — Harden dribbles like the floor is sticky, Lin sometimes takes on the fling-up-everything role of a rec league ballhog — the bottom line is that these two have the kind of complementary games that could make Houston a very tough opponent, at least in two positions.

The media loves to saddle players with ready-made storylines, to reduce every guy dribbling a ball to a one-word characteristic: ASCENSION. DOMINATION. REDEMPTION. For Harden and Lin, the prepackaged storyline is REVENGE. Lin's gonna want revenge on the New York Knicks for letting him twist in the wind! Harden's gonna tear the Oklahoma City Thunder a new one for shipping him out of town!

If that's the storyline, someone needs to slip Lin and Harden a script. Neither one seems particularly interested in the vendetta concept. Hell, these guys have had just three practices together; they're probably more concerned with remembering each other's roles in the playbook.

“I go from coming off the bench to having the offense run through me,” Harden said. “It's an adjustment. But it's my job. I'll be fine.”

If anything, they're focused on how to lead a very young team.

[Also: Eric Gordon out 4-6 weeks with knee injury]

“You saw our youth today,” Lin said, talking about the 14-point lead that the Rockets let vanish. “We got leads and we gave them back. Great teams don't do that. I'm just glad we stuck it out … Sometimes you've got to win ugly, and that's what we did tonight.”

As the media surrounded first Harden and then Lin in Philips Arena's tiny locker room, Houston's Royce White looked around, shook his head and said, “Wow.” But he had no doubts about the value of the media circus that he'll see at every road stop.

“It's good for our organization, it's good for Houston, it's good for the team,” he said. “Everybody's young. James is playing like a veteran even though it's only his fourth year. Lin is playing really well. That young factor helps them gel really well.”

They're also happy to heap praise like Thanksgiving seconds. “He does a great job of creating and making plays, both for me and for himself,” Harden said of Lin. “He can get me the ball where I need it. That's what makes us so good together.”

“I can't say enough about him,” Lin said. “It's not just me (he helps). He frees everyone up.” Lin paused and smiled a grateful smile. “We're just thankful he showed up.”

-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.


Tombstone Video & Richard Marx Audio = The Western Re-Imagined!

Click the link above for video)

My favorite movie. Period. I wanted to see if I could make a quick video using only facial motions and expressions…well mostly those things. Anyway, it’s a retelling and though not the best, it is a retelling nonetheless! 🙂

LSD 4U? LSD 4ME? R those Melting Walls I C?

THE HERETIC by Tim Doody

For decades, the U.S. government banned medical studies of the effects of LSD. But for one longtime, elite researcher, the promise of mind-blowing revelations was just too tempting.

Credit: Jonathan Castro
At 9:30 in the morning, an architect and three senior scientists—two from Stanford, the other from Hewlett-Packard—donned eyeshades and earphones, sank into comfy couches, and waited for their government-approved dose of LSD to kick in. From across the suite and with no small amount of anticipation, Dr. James Fadiman spun the knobs of an impeccable sound system and unleashed Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68.” Then he stood by, ready to ease any concerns or discomfort.
For this particular experiment, the couched volunteers had each brought along three highly technical problems from their respective fields that they’d been unable to solve for at least several months. In approximately two hours, when the LSD became fully active, they were going to remove the eyeshades and earphones, and attempt to find some solutions. Fadiman and his team would monitor their efforts, insights, and output to determine if a relatively low dose of acid—100 micrograms to be exact—enhanced their creativity.


Star Trek Science: Here comes the Impulse Engine!

Star Trek fans take note: Have a seat before you read the next sentence or prepare to swoon.

University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) aerospace engineers working with NASA, Boeing and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are investigating how to build fusion impulse rocket engines for extremely high-speed space travel.

“Star Trek fans love it, especially when we call the concept an impulse drive, which is what it is,” says team member Ross Cortez, an aerospace engineering Ph.D. candidate at UAH’s Aerophysics Research Center.

Stay seated Trekkies, because there’s more.

“The fusion fuel we’re focusing on is deuterium [a stable isotope of hydrogen] and Li6 [a stable isotope of the metal lithium] in a crystal structure. That’s basically dilithium crystals we’re using,” Cortez says, referring to the real-world equivalent of the fictional element used to power Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise.

While this engine, if produced, wouldn’t generate a fraction of the velocity as the faster-than-light warp drives envisioned in the TV shows, books and movies, it could produce speeds that exceed other not-science-fiction-based systems that rocket scientists are investigating.

Their ultimate goal is to develop a nuclear fusion propulsion system by 2030 that can spirit spacecraft from Earth to Mars in around three months—about twice as fast as researchers think they could go with a nuclear fission engine, another scheme that is being investigated but has not yet been built.

Their current design has a spacecraft with the impulse engines being built in low Earth orbit, so the thrusters and ship wouldn’t need to cope with the atmosphere or achieving escape velocity. That doesn’t mean it would be a lightweight when fully assembled, though. Cortez says the craft could tip the scales at almost 500 tons.

Major problems to solve

There’s a big gap between hopes and goals, though. For decades, nuclear fusion researchers have worked to harness the huge amounts of energy generated from slamming atoms together so hard they fuse. Their efforts have led to scientific progress, but the goal of getting more energy out of a fusion reaction than what is required to smash them together at amazingly high speeds has so far proven elusive.

Last week, Sandia National Laboratory investigators said they are getting closer to “break-even,” the holy grail of research that will see the same amount or more energy released from a nuclear fusion reaction than that which was put in.

“We’re interested in deep-space exploration,” says Dr. Jason Cassibry, a UAH engineering professor and the head of the research team. “Right now humans are stuck in low Earth orbit, but we want to explore the solar system. We’re trying to come up with a system that will demonstrate break-even for thermonuclear propulsion.”

To really start getting around the solar system, spacecraft will need to go much faster than they do now.

According to astronomy professor Courtney Seligman, the next date Earth will be closest to Mars after the team’s 2030 objective will be in May 2031, when the two planets will be 51.4 million miles apart. For the team’s fusion-powered spacecraft to reach the red planet in three months at that point, it would have to travel at almost 24,000 miles per hour, or about 10 times the muzzle velocity of a bullet fired from an assault rifle.

(conceptual diagram of the team’s fusion impulse engine. Image courtesy Ross Cortez/UAH)

Z-pinch fusion and magnetic nozzles

To hit this phenomenal speed, the researchers are investigating something called z-pinch fusion as a source of propulsion. Cortez says the technique takes a cylindrical array of super-thin lithium wires and puts a massive electric current through them. The electricity—millions of amps are being sent through the wires in 100 nanosecond pulses, which could produce 3 terawatts of output power—creates a magnetic field around the array and vaporizes the wires to form plasma. The magnetic field pinches the plasma until it collapses on a core of deuterium and lithium, which they hope will cause its atoms to fuse and result in a massive release of energy.

“What we’re aiming for is to get enough compression and heat in the z-pinch implosion to cause the fusion fuel to react,” Cortez says. “With the energy that would release, we could get millions of pounds of thrust out the back of this thing—on the order of Saturn-V-class thrust.”

After achieving the proper speed, the engines would be shut down and the craft would coast to its target.

Besides figuring out the fusion problem, another obstacle to their goal is how to contain and direct the resulting energy to generate thrust—no small task because the reaction would create temperatures in the millions of degrees Celsius, enough to vaporize any known material. To solve this problem, part of the team is working on another line of research, which seeks to develop a “magnetic nozzle.” This would use directed magnetic fields to guide the energy out of the engine.

“We’re facing some pretty heavy problems to getting this thing working; it won’t be a cinch,” Cortez says. “But we’re very ambitious and we’ve got a lot of great ideas. Put enough bright people to work on it and you’re going to get gold or, in this case, fusion.”

But even if they don’t reach their objective of developing the z-pinch fusion propulsion system, the group’s work will likely be useful in the global effort to develop terrestrial fusion reactors as a source of clean, limitless energy.

The major hurdles have not yet shaken Cortez’s optimism, because he keeps thinking of what success might mean: “How could I not stay interested? With this work, eventually, I might have the chance of seeing Jupiter up close or help humanity colonize Mars.”

(UAH doctoral candidate Ross Cortez assembles a device that generates massive bursts of electricity for fusion propulsion research.)

Top Image: A conceptual model of the University of Alabama-Huntsville’s fusion impulse propulsion spacecraft. Courtesy Ross Cortez/UAH.

Michael Keller is the Managing Editor of Txchnologist. His science, technology and international reporting work has appeared online and in newspapers, magazines and books, including the graphic novel Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Reach him at

NASA Mars Rover Targets Unusual Rock!

NASA Mars Rover Targets Unusual Rock Enroute to First Destination

ScienceDaily (Sep. 19, 2012) — NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has driven up to a football-size rock that will be the first for the rover’s arm to examine.  Curiosity is about 8 feet (2.5 meters) from the rock. It lies about halfway from the rover’s landing site, Bradbury Landing, to a location called Glenelg. In coming days, the team plans to touch the rock with a spectrometer to determine its elemental composition and use an arm-mounted camera to take close-up photographs.

Both the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the mast-mounted, laser-zapping Chemistry and Camera Instrument will be used for identifying elements in the rock. This will allow cross-checking of the two instruments. The rock has been named “Jake Matijevic.” Jacob Matijevic (mah-TEE-uh-vik) was the surface operations systems chief engineer for Mars Science Laboratory and the project’s Curiosity rover. He passed away Aug. 20, at age 64. Matijevic also was a leading engineer for all of the previous NASA Mars rovers: Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity. Curiosity now has driven six days in a row. Daily distances range from 72 feet to 121 feet (22 meters to 37 meters). “This robot was built to rove, and the team is really getting a good rhythm of driving day after day when that’s the priority,” said Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Richard Cook of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The team plans to choose a rock in the Glenelg area for the rover’s first use of its capability to analyze powder drilled from interiors of rocks. Three types of terrain intersect in the Glenelg area — one lighter-toned and another more cratered than the terrain Curiosity currently is crossing. The light-toned area is of special interest because it retains daytime heat long into the night, suggesting an unusual composition. “As we’re getting closer to the light-toned area, we see thin, dark bands of unknown origin,” said Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. “The smaller-scale diversity is becoming more evident as we get closer, providing more potential targets for investigation.” Researchers are using Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) to find potential targets on the ground. Recent new images from the rover’s camera reveal dark streaks on rocks in the Glenelg area that have increased researchers’ interest in the area. In addition to taking ground images, the camera also has been busy looking upward. On two recent days, Curiosity pointed the Mastcam at the sun and recorded images of Mars’ two moons, Phobos and Deimos, passing in front of the sun from the rover’s point of view. Results of these transit observations are part of a long-term study of changes in the moons’ orbits. NASA’s twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which arrived at Mars in 2004, also have observed solar transits by Mars’ moons. Opportunity is doing so again this week. “Phobos is in an orbit very slowly getting closer to Mars, and Deimos is in an orbit very slowly getting farther from Mars,” said Curiosity’s science team co-investigator Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, College Station. “These observations help us reduce uncertainty in calculations of the changes.” In Curiosity’s observations of Phobos this week, the time when the edge of the moon began overlapping the disc of the sun was predictable to within a few seconds. Uncertainty in timing is because Mars’ interior structure isn’t fully understood. Phobos causes small changes to the shape of Mars in the same way Earth’s moon raises tides. The changes to Mars’ shape depend on the Martian interior which, in turn, cause Phobos’ orbit to decay. Timing the orbital change more precisely provides information about Mars’ interior structure. During Curiosity’s two-year prime mission, researchers will use the rover’s 10 science instruments to assess whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. For more about Curiosity, visit: and You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: and



‘STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS’ — New Movie Poster Leaked?

Is this the New Poster for JJ’s new movie? Maybe so…Maybe Not… Either way, next year’s sequel to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” reboot officially has a name: “Star Trek Into Darkness.” 


According to IFC,  the title will deviate from the previous series’ sequel-naming formula by omitting the colon previously used in titles like “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” instead going into territory that the “Dark Knight” and “Die Hard” have explored before. Damon Lindelof, who co-wrote the script with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, had previously promised that the sequel title would drop the colon.

“There have been more conversations about what we’re going to call it than went into actually shooting it at this point,” he told MTV News at Comic-Con,  adding that it can’t be “Star Trek 2″ because that’s what “Wrath of Khan” is technically called. “That was the genius of Nolan. There was ‘Batman Begins,’ and now they’re just going to be the ‘Dark Knights’ and not going to have 2′s. It’s hard to do movies without colons.”

He added, “There’s no word that comes after the colon after ‘Star Trek’ that’s cool. Not that ‘Star Trek: Insurrection’ or ‘First Contact’ aren’t good titles, it’s just that everything that people are turned off about when it comes to ‘Trek’ is represented by the colon.”

“Star Trek Into Darkness”flies theaters on May 17, 2013. In a June interview while promoting their drama “People Like Us,” Kurtzman and “Star Trek” star Chris Pine gave me a hint of what to expect in the sequel:

“What was really kind of fun for all of us on the first movie is that we basically got to show the bridge crew coming together. And I think that the mistake that we didn’t want to make in the sequel was assuming that just because they’re together they’re the finely tuned machine that you fell in love (with) from the original series. They still have a lot of work and a lot of growing to get to that place,” Kurtzman said.

“So it’s a lot of fun I think to watch the characters struggle through a lot of insanely huge challenges. I can certainly speak to the scope of the movie — and as big as the first one was, the second one’s even bigger. And the key for all of us was making sure we were holding on to character the whole time, but I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

“I think the film takes people on a journey from Point A to Point B, and Kirk is still on his way to Z, let’s say. He’s still on his way to becoming the captain that we all know him to be,” Pine added.

“So you’ll probably find pieces of that rebellious Kirk in the new installment, but I think really what Kirk’s personal adventure is about is learning how to be a captain, learning what it means to be a leader of men and women, learning what it means to be a true, responsible kind of fully realized man in a position of incredible responsibility.

“I think the (special) effects and explosions are just as great if not greater in this new installment, but I think it’s matched by really strong and really interesting character development.”

For more Star Trek movie news…

Obama’s facts vs. Fact Checker McMannes

First of all, the job report numbers for August 2012 came in at 96,000 jobs. Horrific. But unemployment went down because, AGAIN, people are dropping out of the job hunting market. Obama knew these numbers last night…but didn’t say anything. Why? Well, of course, that’s why.

Second thing is the is a fantastic fib that Obama’s deputy campaign manager told about job growth under the current president. Here’s Stephanie Cutter’s quote in full from MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” just so no one can accuse anyone of taking anything out of context:
“Well, I think that worker probably has a good understanding of what’s happened over the past four years in terms of the president coming in and seeing 800,000 jobs lost on the day that the president was being sworn in, and seeing the president moving pretty quickly to stem the losses, to turn the economy around. And over the past, you know, 27 months we’ve created 4.5 million private-sector jobs. That’s more jobs than in the Bush recovery (or) in the Reagan recovery.”

You’d think that if the Obama campaign wanted to peddle outright fabrications, they’d at least do it so they weren’t so easily debunked. But you don’t have to look very hard to see that Cutter, as Obama might say, is “just making stuff up.”

She starts counting private-sector job growth under Obama in February 2010 and, sure enough, in the 29 months since then (not 27 as Cutter says), there have been 4.5 million private-sector jobs created, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But keep in mind that February 2010 was fully eight months into the economic recovery. So Cutter has simply picked the worst month under Obama as her starting point, in order to make Obama’s job growth look as impressive as possible.

So, in fairness, let’s do the same for Reagan and Bush:

In the aftermath of the 1981-82 recession, private-sector jobs bottomed out in December 1982, the month after that recession ended. Twenty-nine months later, the private sector under Reagan had created 8 million jobs — nearly twice as many as under Obama.

How about Bush? Surely job growth during his administration was worse. After all, the president keeps telling us that his predecessor’s policies “resulted in the most sluggish job growth in decades.”

Except if you use the Cutter method, the private sector created 4.7 million jobs in the 29 months after July 2003, when the job market bottomed. In other words, Bush beat Obama by his own preferred measuring technique by 200,000 jobs.

It’s worth noting, too, that jobs started growing under Bush ONE MONTH after he signed his second major tax cut into law. It chopped capital gains and dividend tax rates and accelerated the schedule for the Bush income-tax rate cuts.

80,000 year old Siberian girl comes back to ‘Life’….almost.

Make no mistake, at some point in the future we will be able to completely reanimate the human body based on only the smallest fragment of DNA code. That code will be, in my estimation, dumped into a sort of pre-designed template of stem cells and the like that can be manipulated into accepting any and all DNA. That template will then become the basis for reconstructing the exact duplicate of that DNA. The difference, though, in my opinion, will be this: the recovered DNA will be found to have traces of electric current. In my view, that archaic electricity will provide holographic-like directions for repairing and recovering memories and the like, as well as the essence of consciousness itself. Could quantum computers be the next step in processing this amount of information? Could human beings be brought back completely and wholly? I believe so. Could this be another step in that direction? Possibly….

via McMannes

“We’ve known little of the genetic sequences of our precursors, despite having found many examples of their remains: the requirement for two strands in traditional DNA sequencing isn’t much help when we’re usually thankful to get just one. The Max Planck Institute has devised a new, single-strand technique that may very well fill in the complete picture. Binding specific molecules to a strand, so enzymes can copy the sequence, has let researchers make at least one pass over 99.9 percent of the genome of a Siberian girl from roughly 80,000 years ago — giving science the most complete genetic picture of any human ancestor to date, all from the one bone you see above. The gene map tells us that the brown-skinned, brown-eyed, brown-haired girl was part of a splinter population known as the Denisovans that sat in between Neanderthals and ourselves, having forked the family tree hundreds of thousands of years before today. It also shows that there’s a small trace of Denisovans and their Neanderthal roots in modern East Asia, which we would never have known just by staring at fossils. Future discoveries could take years to leave an impact, but MPI may have just opened the floodgates of knowledge for our collective history.”

via Wired

altruism is dead — Long Live Altruism!

The time is coming when the paper pellet must be replaced by the golden bullet and altruism, with all its good intention, is to be taken barn side and shot in the head. There it shall remain buried until further notice. It is of no benefit for a man to attempt a conviction of my soul from this point forward. No man will dictate that I give to my neighbor, nor will he plead to my mind the largeness of his own needs or the usefulness of my donations, nor will an elected official argue the point that I must pay more in order to adhere to the moral responsibility I have to my brother. I have no moral responsibility to my brother, other than that which I deem to be moral. I have no moral responsibility to anyone but myself, nor does my neighbor have a moral responsibility to me. With that, both he and I, can now exist knowing that what we give to each other, we give freely from our hearts, not because a governmental body has decided to play the role of clergyman and convict our souls while tugging at our heartstrings, all the time sneaking in and about our purse strings. But along the way, I suspect that altruism will attempt an escape from his grave and look to rise from his confinement back to his moral high-ground. But when he does, I will be there. On bended knee, my mouth will let drip whispers and suggestions that will saturate the very dirt through which his compassion claws away. Leave me alone, I will tell him…leave me be and I will take a step toward you on my own, in my own time, at my own pace. Though while you wait, my altruistic friend, take notice of your precious Collectivism waiting in the hand basket as your Russian revolution burns away in hell. Yesterday’s rebel is awake and it wasn’t your science that saved me, it was the way that He and they prayed and prayed for me and now I am no longer THEY or WE…I am individual…I am I. — Mike McMannes 2012

Key to burning fat faster discovered

Key to burning fat faster discovered.

ScienceDaily (Aug. 22, 2012) — Enzymes involved in breaking down fat can now be manipulated to work three times harder by turning on a molecular switch recently observed by chemists at the University of Copenhagen. Being able to control this chemical on/off button could have massive implications for curing diseases related to obesity including diabetes, cardio vascular disease, stroke and even skin problems like acne. But the implications may be wider.

Possibly the most important discovery in enzymology

The results suggest that the switch may be a common characteristic of many more enzymes. Since enzymes are miniscule worker-molecules that control a vast variety of functions in cells, if the switches are standard, it may well be one of the most important discoveries in enzymology.

“If many enzymes turn out to be switched on in the same way as the ones we’ve studied, this opens a door to understanding- and maybe curing, a wide range of diseases,” says professor Dimitrios Stamou.

Stamou heads a multidisciplinary team of scientists at the Nanoscience Center and Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen who published their discovery in the scientific journalJournal of the American Chemical Society.

Switch contradicts previous understanding

The discovery of the enzymatic ignition key contradicts previous ideas of how cells control the function of enzymes such as the fat eating lipase used in the current study.

Researchers used to think that these enzymes work continuously at varying levels of efficiency. But in fact they are quite lazy. Very much like construction workers they work at a fixed efficiency for a given amount of time (working hours), and then they rest. And that’s good news for enzyme designers.

Tripping their newfound switch resulted in tripling the working hours of lipase enzymes, from 15 percent of the time to 45 percent by the Copenhagen team.

Function follows form

In enzymes, function is decided by the shape of the molecule. So making them more efficient would have required a major reconstruction. In some cases so difficult that it is on the order of transforming a handsaw into a chainsaw, says the chemist, Assistant Professor Nikos Hatzakis, who was deeply involved in the scrutiny of the enzymes.

“Changing the fundamental shape of a tool is always difficult. Whether it’s saw or an enzyme. But working longer hours with the same tool is infinitely easier. What we’ve achieved, is to make enzymes work longer hours” explains Hatzakis.

Scrutiny on the Nanoscale

Observing that enzymes even have an on-off switch may sound easy, but first the Bio Nano- team had to devise a way to study individual enzyme molecules. These are so small, that there are trillions in just a drop of water. So measuring the work of only one enzyme could be compared to looking down from the moon to detect each time a carpenter in a building in Copenhagen swings his hammer.

Light-emitting fat

To perform their studies the researchers chose a fat degrading lipase enzyme model system in collaboration with Danish industrial enzyme producer Novozymes.

They used “fat” that would emit light each time the enzyme took a bite. This way they could monitor each and every catalytic cycle or single movement of work. To ensure realism the enzymes were placed on an artificial cell wall. An “in vivo like membrane system,” says Stamou.

“Natural enzymes live in cells. Looking at them in a non native environment, would tell us as much as looking at a carpenter working in outer space wearing a space suit would tell us about builders,” explains Dimitrios Stamou and concludes:

“Now that we have understood how to switch enzymes on and off we could use this knowledge in the future both for curing diseases but also to design novel enzymes for industrial applications.”

The research was supported by the Danish Research Councils and the Lundbeck foundation.

Mars Rovers Goes Viral: ‘I’m NASA and I know it’


It’s sexy to be a scientist.


A new viral video set to the tune of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” is making the rounds, paying a hilarious tribute to NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity team in the wake of the country’s obsession with its landing on Aug. 5.

The spoof video shows a group of “NASA” members hard at work on landing the Mars rover, touting their space skills in rap form.

“I got stars on my ‘hawk and I ain’t afraid to show it,” sings a spiky-haired impersonator of NASA’s leading heartthrob, Bobak Ferdowsi, who shot to nationwide fame after video of him the night of the landing lit up the Internet.

The chorus of the catchy tune, of course, is, “We’re NASA and we know it.”

In the video, the group — suited up in NASA-esque blue polo shirts and sitting in a dummy control room dance through the streets and rap their space terms alongside the beat.

“This is how I rove, bakin’ red rocks in my nuclear stove,” one lyric goes, accompanied by cute animations. The faux NASA nerds also show off some synchronized dance moves, featuring a woman in an American flag bikini and a man in an astronaut-style orange jumpsuit.

The video was put together by Seattle-based comedy group Satire, with the role of Bobak played by web video comedian David Hudson. It got a stamp of approval from both NASA’s official Twitter account and the verified account for the rover itself, which both retweeted the link to the legions of space fans who have been extremely vocal in their passion for all things Curiosity since the Mars landing.

“This fan-made video is AWESOME (and I know it.)” the rover tweeted, adding the hashtag “#wiggle #wiggle #wiggle as another nod to the LMFAO song. The Mohawk man himself also gave the video a thumbs up.

“Well played!” Ferdowsi tweeted.

“Video is hilarious & awesome, but don’t know that we can dance like that (see high5s for ref),” he added, poking fun at himself and his team for their well-chronicled awkward high-fives the night of the Rover landing.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2012, 12:47 PM
Read more:

Matt Damon, Elton John join in praise for George W. Bush

Elton John joins Matt Damon in praise George W. Bush’s anti-AIDS efforts | Texas on the Potomac | a blog.

Singer Elton John is not the first person you would expect to applaud the actions of former president George W. Bush—however, last week, that’s exactly what happened.

The singer, who once called Bush “the worst thing that ever happened to America,” has developed a newfound respect for the former president after meeting him recently, and praised him for his efforts in fighting HIV and AIDS.

Elton John speaks at the 2012 international AIDS conference. (Jim Watson/AFP photo)

John said that Bush, as well as other conservative politicians have made a great impact in the lives of AIDS victims.

“We’ve seen George W. Bush and conservative American politicians pledge tens of billions to save the lives of Africans with HIV—think of all the love, think of where we’d be without it,” John said last Monday to participants of the International AIDS Conference, which took place in Washington D.C. from June 22-27.

The “Crocodile Rock” singer is not the only democratic celebrity to praise Bush’s AIDS-fighting efforts recently.

Actor Matt Damon, who supported Barack Obama in 2008 and has since become a critic, due largely in part to what he deems insignificant action in the cause of poverty and disease in Africa and elsewhere.

In a news conference during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York earlier this year, the actor praised the former president for his work with PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).

“I would kiss George W. Bush on the mouth for what he did on PEPFAR,” Damon said.

PEPFAR originated in 2003 under the Bush Administration, is a “U.S. Government initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world,” according to

Hope Solo Loses Twitter Fight With Brandi Chastain | The Stir

Hope Solo Loses Big-Time in Twitter Fight With NBC Announcer Brandi Chastain | The Stir.

Hope Solo is not only a great soccer goalie and all-around fun to watch on the field — she’s always seemed like the type of person who would be a blast to hang around with. She’s outspoken and not afraid to put herself out there, like posing naked for ESPN, go on Dancing With the Stars, and kick soccer balls at cabs with David Letterman. What a riot! But then she kinda got caught up in that doping thing she managed to talk her way out of, and started talking about what goes on at those Olympic parties, and it makes you go hmmm. And now this very silly Twitter cat fight betweenSolo and commenter Brandi Chastain. One starts to consider that maybe it’s time to consider hopping off that fan wagon.

Hope Solo Loses Big-Time in Twitter Fight With NBC Announcer Brandi Chastain | The Stir

In a very mature move, Solo took to Twitter yesterday to complain about some comments that Chastain, the NBC commenter for women’s soccer, was making about Team USA’s defense and goalkeeping — i.e. — Solo. What’s really weird is that Chastain is not just some random sports announcer that never played the sport, she was the hero of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, you know, the one that got the game-winning goal and ripped her shirt off at the end of the game? Yeah, she was a really good player who, I think it’s safe to say, knows the game pretty intimately.

Solo basically attacked someone in her own family. Solo has always been a little touchy when it comes to criticism, as a lot of athletes are, but this just seems so high school. After all, the women’s team won the first two games, the first one against France 4-2, and yesterday’s game against Colombia 3-0. There was really no reason for comments like this:

“Its 2 bad we cant have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game @brandichastain! #fb”


“Lay off commentating about defending and gking until you get more educated @brandichastain the game has changed from a decade ago. #fb”

The Olympics doesn’t need this type of attention, and Solo has to learn to channel her frustration/anger/jealousy/forthcoming book publicity stunt … whatever, on the field and not in social media.

Chastain hasn’t responded so far, and probably won’t. She should just keep on calling them as she sees them and let Solo have her little high school rants. Actions — even the action of not reacting — speak much louder than words, like this, Chastain’s famous goal. It’s always worth seeing this again and again. Could you have blocked this one, Hope Solo?

Are you becoming a little less enamoured of Hope Solo after hearing this?

Image via Global Sports Forum/Flickr

Video via espnfrontrow/YouTube

Archaeologists from Bonn discover in Mexico the tomb of a Maya prince!

WEBWIRE – Monday, July 30, 2012

Cup provided the clue!

Archaeologists from the Department of Anthropology of the Americas at the University of Bonn have been excavating for the past four years together with the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History in the Maya city of Uxul in Campeche, Mexico. The aim of the excavation project under the direction of Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube and Dr. Kai Delvendahl is to investigate the process of centralization and collapse of hegemonic state structures in the Maya Lowlands using the example of a mid-sized classic Maya city (Uxul) and its ties to a supra-regional center (Calakmul). Research at Uxul, located close to the border with Guatemala, is being funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

Since 2011, excavations have concentrated on the royal palace complex, which is located directly south of the main plazas in the center of Uxul. The palace extends 120 x 130 meters and consists of at least eleven individual buildings which surround five courtyards. “The palace complex was built around 650 AD, a time when the neighboring ruling dynasty from Calakmul was extending its influence over large areas of the Maya Lowlands” explains Professor Grube. In 2011, six sculpted panels were discovered during excavations of the southern stairway of the largest building of the group, Structure K2. Four of these panels depict kings from Calakmul, playing ball. The similarities in the layout of the centers of Calakmul and Uxul and especially of the main palace complexes in the two cities let the researchers to suggest that Uxul, originally a smaller independent kingdom, may have been temporarily ruled and inhabited by members of the Kaan Dynasty of Calakmul. Through recent excavations in several of Uxul´s central buildings, the changes in the physiognomy of the city´s center can be linked directly to the time of military and political expansion of the Kaan Dynasty during the reign of Yukno´m Ch´een II, in the first half of the 7th century. However, the influence subsided after 705 AD, and there is a strong likelihood that a local ruling family came back to power for a few generations. At the start of the 9th century, Uxul was almost completely abandoned.

“During this year´s excavation below one of the southern rooms of Structure K2, we have discovered a richly furnished tomb, which can be dated to the time right after the influence of Calakmul in Uxul had ended” explains Dr. Delvendahl. The walls of the crypt are made of rough stone and the chamber was covered with a corbel vault, typical for the Maya culture. In the interior of this tomb chamber which dates back about 1,300 years, the remains of a young man were discovered who was buried on his back with his arms folded. Deposited around him were four ceramic plates and five ceramic vases in an exceptionally preserved state, some of which were decorated with spectacular paintings and moldings. A unique plate, painted in the famed Codex-Style, was covering the skull of the deceased.

Vessel with dedication may point to the identity of the deceased.

“On one of the vases, there was a simple dedication, written in elegantly molded hieroglyphics, which read: ’[This is] the drinking vessel of the young man/prince’. Also a second molded vessel appears to mention a young man or prince” says Professor Grube. Although these references are not definite clues as to the identity of the departed, the location of the tomb and the absence of certain status markers, such as jade jewelry, would indicate that the deceased was a young male member of the ruling family who was not in direct line for the throne. A possible date on one of the vessels corresponds to the year 711 AD; therefore the death of the young prince and the construction of his tomb can be dated back to the second or third decade of the 8th century. The exceptionally preserved ceramics in particular make this tomb one of the most significant discoveries of its kind in the entire Maya Lowlands.

Ancient Aliens? Relics on the Moon?

Has NASA known all along? Were Masons involved? Were rituals involving Osiris and ancient Egypt conducted before landing? Is the reason why we haven’t been told simply because we are not ready to hear?



Competition Matters, Mr. President!

First off, let me say that I do not hate Pres. Obama like some of the right-wing nut jobs in our country. I also don’t automatically disagree with everything he says or does, like those aforementioned nut jobs (I mean, nobody could be wrong 100% of the time even if they tried!!). But DAMN, Mr. President, you talk on television about how you’ve lowered taxes for three years, yet directly underneath you are the words, BUSH TAX CUTS! Two months ago, you were opposed to ANY extension of these Bush tax cuts, but now…now, it’s re-election time and its time to do what works, what sells.

So what does work? More jobs? Less taxes? No….what works is ‘the government getting the hell out of the way’ and letting people compete. Capitalism…not socialism. I understand that this is his ‘FIRST’ job but surely someone has advised him on the particulars of how a job is created, right? Surely he realizes who creates these jobs, right? Certainly he must grasp the fact that high taxes, forced healthcare, more restrictions, and more regulations will hurt this country, right? Well, obviously not. Wait, you don’t think he’s doing this on purpose, do you?
Just as a chain letter or Ponzi scheme can’t work in the long run, likewise, collectivism, socialism, etc…is unsustainable in the long run because it is based on a theory that is flawed. Socialism and heavy government run systems that fail because they disregard basic principles of human behavior: incentives and competition. What’s happening in Europe, the US, and now China, can be traced back to one specific flaw that guarantees failure – governments eliminating incentives. We can feel that happening here in the US; our mentality becoming a “Why should I?” mentality.
In our economy, incentives are the backbone of driving our our country forward. Capitalism is based on the theory that COMPETITION IS REQUIRED and that INCENTIVES MATTER!
Under socialism (or liberalism) incentives play almost no role and are virtually disregarded. Socialism (or liberalism) is a philosophy that goes against the very fabric of human nature and is therefore must fail. Socialism is based on the theory that COMPETITION IS IRRELEVANT and that INCENTIVES DON’T MATTER!
Capitalism will be the biggest player in this global revival of liberty and freedom and prosperity because it prods humanity, inspires creative thinking, and instills the enterprising spirit in all human beings. Providing incentives promotes desire, effort, and efficiency. Capitalism creates wealth. Period. The government does not, never has, and all the evidence you need is in the history books…and those books speak volumes to this.
I understand some people ‘feel better’ by thinking of themselves as fair-minded and kind and wanting everyone to get everything they want. But that mentality is crippling – that type of ‘kindness’ is destructive. People must compete. People must win. People must lose. It’s in our nature, at our very core. The lazy man should not be rewarded on par with the working man. Our president disagrees with that. I understand that and I will never hate him as a person because of it. That’s a terrible thing. But facts are facts, Mr. President – – the difference between my capitalism, my Reagan-omics, my trickle-down, my less govt. and your be-all, do-all, tax-all, everything-for-all socialism is this: Capitalism works. Your philosophy does not. It never has. Never.

Higgs-Boson Gives Time Travel Idea New Life!

Once thought a dead issue, the idea of time travel was given new life this week as scientists interpret new data.

In March of 2011, Gadling reported time travel was to be tested at Vanderbilt University. Using the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator, scientists hoped to find the mysterious Higgs Boson particle, the particle that physicists invoke to explain why particles like protons, neutrons and electrons have mass.

“One of the major goals of the collider is to find the elusive Higgs boson. If the collider succeeds in producing the Higgs boson, some scientists predict that it will create a second particle, called the Higgs singlet, at the same time,” reported Vanderbilt’s research news.

Professor Tom Weiler and graduate fellow Chui Man Ho thought these singlets should have the ability to jump into an extra, fifth dimension where they can move either forward or backward in time and reappear in the future or past.

“One of the attractive things about this approach to time travel is that it avoids all the big paradoxes,” Weiler said at the time. “Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example.”

This week, researchers from the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, analyzed data from the Large Hadron Collider and are “almost certain that they had proven the existence of the Higgs boson, the most sought-after particle in all of physics,” says a CNN report.

The new information comes after Illinois researchers said earlier in the week that scientists had come closer to proving that the particle exists but had been unable to reach a definitive conclusion.

No information yet on the Higgs singlet. But proving the existence of the Higgs boson would most likely give new life to the idea of time travel. Not much new life, but some. Professor Weller noted, “if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future.”

Baby steps.

by Chris Owen (RSS feed) on Jul 5th 2012

Day Dreaming Good for You? Reflection Is Critical for Development and Well-Being!

ScienceDaily (July 2, 2012) — As each day passes, the pace of life seems to accelerate — demands on productivity continue ever upward and there is hardly ever a moment when we aren’t, in some way, in touch with our family, friends, or coworkers. While moments for reflection may be hard to come by, a new article suggests that the long-lost art of introspection — even daydreaming — may be an increasingly valuable part of life. 

In the article, published in the July issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientist Mary Helen Immordino-Yang and colleagues survey the existing scientific literature from neuroscience and psychological science, exploring what it means when our brains are ‘at rest.’

To read more…



Simulating reality: Less memory required on quantum computer than on classical computer, study shows

Simulating reality: Less memory required on quantum computer than on classical computer, study shows.

Researchers have discovered that complex systems can be less complex than originally thought if they allow quantum physics to help: quantum models of complex systems are simpler and predict their behaviour more efficiently than classical models.

A good measure of the complexity of a particular system or process is how predictable it is. For example, the outcome of a fair coin toss is inherently unpredictable and any resources (beyond a random guess) spent on predicting it would be wasted. Therefore, the complexity of such a process is zero.

Other systems are quite different, for example neural spike sequences (which indicate how sensory and other information is represented in the brain) or protein conformational dynamics (how proteins — the molecules that facilitate biological functions — undergo structural rearrangement). These systems have memory and are predictable to some extent; they are more complex than a coin toss.

The operation of such complex systems in many organisms is based on a simulation of reality. This simulation allows the organism to predict and thus react to the environment around it. However, if quantum dynamics can be exploited to make identical predictions with less memory, then such systems need not be as complex as originally thought.

Dr Wiesner added: “On a more fundamental level, we found that the efficiency of prediction still does not reach the lower bound given by the principles of thermodynamics — there is room for improvement. This might hint at a source of temporal asymmetry within the framework of quantum mechanics; that it is fundamentally impossible to simulate certain observable statistics reversibly and hence with perfect efficiency.”

What is Dimension?

Dimensional analogy

To understand the nature of four-dimensional space, a device called dimensional analogy is commonly employed. Dimensional analogy was used by Edwin Abbott Abbott in the book Flatland, which narrates a story about a square that lives in a two-dimensional world, like the surface of a piece of paper. From the perspective of this square, a three-dimensional being has seemingly god-like powers, such as ability to remove objects from a safe without breaking it open (by moving them across the third dimension), to see everything that from the two-dimensional perspective is enclosed behind walls, and to remain completely invisible by standing a few inches away in the third dimension.

By applying dimensional analogy, one can infer that a four-dimensional being would be capable of similar feats from our three-dimensional perspective. Rudy Rucker illustrates this in his novel Spaceland, in which the protagonist encounters four-dimensional beings who demonstrate such powers.


A useful application of dimensional analogy in visualizing the fourth dimension is in projection. A projection is a way for representing an n-dimensional object in n − 1 dimensions. For instance, computer screens are two-dimensional, and all the photographs of three-dimensional people, places and things are represented in two dimensions by projecting the objects onto a flat surface. When this is done, depth is removed and replaced with indirect information. The retina of the eye is also a two-dimensional array of receptors but the brain is able to perceive the nature of three-dimensional objects by inference from indirect information (such as shading, foreshortening, binocular vision, etc.). Artists often use perspective to give an illusion of three-dimensional depth to two-dimensional pictures.

Similarly, objects in the fourth dimension can be mathematically projected to the familiar 3 dimensions, where they can be more conveniently examined. In this case, the ‘retina’ of the four-dimensional eye is a three-dimensional array of receptors. A hypothetical being with such an eye would perceive the nature of four-dimensional objects by inferring four-dimensional depth from indirect information in the three-dimensional images in its retina.

The perspective projection of three-dimensional objects into the retina of the eye introduces artifacts such as foreshortening, which the brain interprets as

depth in the third dimension. In the same way, perspective projection from four dimensions produces similar foreshortening effects. By applying dimensional analogy, one may infer four-dimensional “depth” from these effects.

Skin cells directly switched into neural processors.

Skin cells turned into neural precusors, bypassing stem-cell stage.

ScienceDaily (Jan. 30, 2012) — Mouse skin cells can be converted directly into cells that become the three main parts of the nervous system, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The finding is an extension of a previous study by the same group showing that mouse and human skin cells can be directly converted into functional neurons.

First quantum jiggles detected in solid object – New Scientist

Happy Birthday, Genghis!

I am frustrated with mom. Not MY mom, mind you, but the word itself. You see, I understand that Mom, Ma, Mum, Mother are all commonly-used, affectionate nicknames for the female parent and yet, for some reason, I hardly ever use them (save the word ‘mama’). Instead, my years have been spent calling that person ‘Genghis’ & ‘Geeg’ as opposed to the simplistic, technical-sounding word ‘mother’ or ‘mom’.

I do get frustrated with the words mom, mother, and the like, because they have no layers, the reveal no depth of feeling or expression, and that’s something I need when I speak of, or to, that one particular person in my life. The one who is simply Georgia McMannes.

When I call Georgia McMannes ‘mom’, when others hear me say it, it’s irritating they equate that to nothing more than any other person addressing their mother…and therein lies my frustration. You see, this woman is not like any of your moms, your mothers, your mamas…she’s better than them, sweeter than them, kinder than them, smarter than them…and I, literally, could go on for days. In matter of fact, she’s a better woman than anyone who walks the planet today, and though it’s not been documented yet, it will be. I’m sure of it.

I mean, this woman is the world to me. My best friend. My heart. My encouragement. My advisor. My safety net. From childhood to manhood, she’s always been my ‘I will NEVER let this world hurt you’ and my ‘I would lay down my LIFE for you’. What’s even more rare is that she allows me to be the same to her, to be her best friend, advisor, her heart, and everything else.

I thank the Lord for my ‘mother’ and pray for her daily, though I understand that tears have no impact and my vocabulary has no real meaning. My prayers are answered because I know that the Spirit himself intercedes and hears the silent prayers of my heart and recognizes my ‘groans too deep for words’.

But how does one express these things to someone so very special in a normal way and still deliver at least a fragment of the intended impact? How do you tell someone what they mean to you to where they understand the root and the foundation of it? How do you transcend normal vocabulary and say something like, “THANK YOU FOR MY VERY LIFE!” I really don’t know…but I will try.

Mother, Mom, Mama…Genghis, Geeg – listen to me as I tell you this honestly, and from my heart: Long before I was ever born to the countless millennia that follow hereafter, somewhere, somehow…you will be with me, as nothing in this universe has the power to separate one of us from the other. We are interminable.

With that being said, I want to wish a Happy Birthday to my beloved MOM! I love you, Genghis. 🙂


Yao Ming goes into politics

Associated Press
SHANGHAI — Retired NBA star Yao Ming has added another line to his post-basketball resume — politician — becoming a member of an advisory body to Shanghai’s legislature.

Since the 31-year-old Yao announced last July that injuries had ended his career with the Houston Rockets, he has become a university student and set up a wine business to go with owning a professional basketball team in China.

Photos in official media on Monday showed Yao at the weekend closing ceremony for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Shanghai Committee.

“There are about 142 members in the group, and Yao is the youngest,” Kong Rong, who works in the service office of committee, was quoted as saying by the China Daily.

The advisory committee does not have any real power, but the newspaper said Yao is supposed to attend regular meetings, and can make suggestions for the advisory body and government departments.

Yao was quoted as saying “raising proposals is very serious business, and I do not want to be hasty.”

It is common for sports figures to move into politics in China. Olympic gold medal hurdler Liu Xiang is a member of both the Shanghai and national political advisory bodies.

Yao, one of the most popular celebrities in China from his eight seasons in the NBA, is a student at Jiaotong University, one of the top universities in his hometown Shanghai.

In November, he released the first-ever bottles of his new Yao Ming-branded wine, a 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon currently available only in mainland China, where the market for imported wines has boomed over the past decade.

Terrific Trio takes Texans to the Top!

The stadium rocked. A struggling team rebounded. Another rematch was set in motion.

A tie to the old era of Houston’s NFL football beamed.

“It’s just a great feeling to know that Houston’s back,” proclaimed Bum Phillips, coach of the Luv Ya Blue Oilers and father of Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

The Texans’ best players played best Saturday at Reliant Stadium in a 31-10 thrashing of the Bengals that propelled Houston forward in the NFL playoffs to a Jan. 15 game in Baltimore. Houston lost to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Oct. 16, 29-14. After clinching the AFC South with a Dec. 11 victory at Cincinnati, the Texans sputtered, dropping their final three regular-season games, though the finale meant nothing to their playoff standing.

“We kind of got back to what we were doing during that seven-week stretch [Oct. 23 through Dec. 11, when we were 7-0],” coach Gary Kubiak said. “We played great defense, we found a way to run the ball, we never really hurt ourselves as a team. That was the key.”

The game had plenty of heroes, including efficient rookie quarterback T.J. Yates and cornerback Johnathan Joseph. Three of the team’s other top players, though, produced first-rate efforts worth a deeper look.

ARIAN FOSTER———-After Foster popped an 8-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to tie the score at 7-7, he changed sports as he celebrated.

A Lakers fan who apologizes to Houstonians for his NBA affection, he was talking to fans via Twitter during a recent Lakers-Rockets game. If the Rockets won, he pledged he’d do a touchdown celebration paying homage to them.

The Lakers won and got him off the hook. But Foster decided to follow through with the idea anyway. He celebrated with Hakeem Olajuwon’s “Dream Shake” — a hard stop with a ball fake, followed by a reversal and fade-away jumper he tossed over the crossbar.

Foster finished with 24 carries for 153 yards and two scores. He was only the third undrafted running back in league history to eclipse 100 yards in his first playoff game, joining Ryan Grant (2007) and Paul Lowe (1960).

The Texans’ blocking was tremendous. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 102 of Foster’s rushing yards came prior to initial contact. That’s two-thirds of his total.

The second touchdown, a 42-yard ramble, was his most impressive run of the day. He got to the right sideline and looked to have no chance to stay in bounds. But he followed one good block and surprised strong safety Chris Crocker with his balance and ability to navigate the sideline as he slowed down, then hit the jets.

“I guess he thought I was going out of bounds,” Foster said

J.J. WATT———————Shortly after Jake Delhomme signed with the Texans on Nov. 30, the veteran quarterback was running the offense at a walk-through. Watt batted down several of his passes at the slow-paced practice, and felt guilty for doing so.

“He was kind of mad at me,” Watt said. “And I was like, ‘That’s kind of what I do, that’s my thing.’”

He did his thing to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton with 52 seconds left in the first half, but rather than knocking down the ball thrown from point-blank range, he caught it. And before many people on the field realized where it was, he was carrying it to a 29-yard touchdown that put Houston ahead 17-10.

Coaches and teammates said while reporters and fans don’t see it, Watt snares balls like that all the time at practice.

And while several pass-catchers wouldn’t go so far as to say they’d struggle to make the same play, the guy with the best hands on the team wasn’t too proud to say otherwise.

“It’s almost impossible,” fullback James Casey said. “You’re so close to the ball and obviously the guy is throwing it hard to have it on that trajectory. To be able to catch it like that is remarkable, that’s why you never see it happen.

“Guys bat balls down but they don’t actually catch it. I’d catch zero out of 10. Maybe out of 100 I’d catch one every now and then just getting lucky.”

Watt followed up that giant play by tracking Dalton as he fled the pocket and sacking him on the final play of the first half.

It was Watt’s first touchdown since high school. He didn’t score one as a tight end at Central Michigan or as a defensive end at Wisconsin.

Denver’s Von Miller or San Francisco’s Aldon Smith will win defensive rookie of the year, but Watt didn’t trail them by much in terms of overall initial impact. Miller will have a chance to match Watt’s postseason pace in a game Sunday.

ANDRE JOHNSON——————–He missed nine games this season with two different hamstring injuries. The Texans gave him a chance to knock some rust off last week. But he and Yates were out of sync for a good portion of this game.

The always-calm Johnson has been waiting for a playoff game since 2003, when he was the Texans’ top pick in the franchise’s second season. He admitted to being antsy and overly anxious to make a play. After one failed pass attempt, he returned to the bench and slammed his helmet to the turf.

Late in the third quarter, though, he and Yates made a connection that sealed the game. Lined up on the left, Johnson put a double move on Adam Jones, who bit, slipped and moved laterally instead of back as he recovered.

Johnson was wide open and Yates delivered a ball that hit him in stride for a 40-yard touchdown that gave the Texans a 24-10 lead.

In the end zone, he stopped and looked to be enjoying a contemplative moment to take it all in and consider all that had come in his career before the big moment.

But that wasn’t it at all.

“I’ve jumped in the stands a few times here and I’ve been grabbed by the facemask and everything,” he said. “So I was kind of thinking about jumping, that’s what the pause was for.”

He jumped.


Fiction for Beginners

The best writing comes after you’ve thoroughly revised your draft over a period of months (or years) with feedback from peers and/or editors along the way. Because writing is a long process, don’t hold back; release your creative juices and see where your imagination takes you. You’ll often find that taking chances with your writing will bring your story to new and interesting places that you never anticipated. Don’t be afraid to fail the first, second or third time — writing is all about delayed gratification!

Find a place to write where you feel comfortable, a place where you know you can concentrate. Try turning off your cell phone and don’t check your email. Allot a block of time to just focus on writing.

Begin your story in the middle of an action. What is at stake? Avoid a story where your character(s) spends the whole time pondering ideas, questioning or worrying instead of confronting the issue head on. Consider themes such as loss, ethics, morals, religion, secrets and lies.

Keep it simple. Instead of wasting your time trying to invent a novel plot, start by creating an unusual character who has quirks, defining traits and desires. From here, you can give dimension to your character by introducing his/her family and friends with whom they can interact and figure out how to escape a predicament. Your story will build off of this strong foundation of characters who have different human flaws and desires.

Most importantly, make your story entertaining. Readers want to be surprised, uncomfortable, happy, annoyed, etc. Stay truthful to your audience and make your plot and characters relatable. Make your characters struggle, fail, achieve goals and learn.
You can write a successful story with one plot track. However, as you become a more confident writer, try to incorporate multiple plot tracks or points of view. This will deepen the complexity of your story as the tracks and points of view work off each other.

Bring all your important characters into the same room. Watch them interact. Increase the tension. Make your characters learn something about him/herself or each other.
Cut chunks (yes, I mean multiple pages) if they’re not working well. Try deleting the first five pages of your initial draft; writers often use this space to get familiar with the characters and plot tracks. You might have spent hours slaving over those pages but your piece will be better off in the long run.

Step away from your work for a day or two. This doesn’t mean you should forget about your story; brainstorm ideas as you’re running in the park or cooking dinner. Keep a pen and paper handy if an idea pops into mind.

Get over your fear of letting others read your writing. Peer editing is essential for checking the meaning, sense and clarity of your piece. You may be surprised to find that one person’s interpretation of a scene is drastically different from your own.
Don’t worry about writing the “perfect” ending until the rest of your story is exactly where you want it to be. Make sure your story expands outward; you don’t have to tell the reader everything but give enough clues so that the reader understands what will happen in the future. Your ending should be surprising yet inevitable.

‘Curiosity’ headed for Mars this weekend; The Search for Life is underway!

New NASA rover to scout for life’s habitats on Mars
By Irene Klotz
2011/11/24 at 1:22 am EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida, Nov. 24, 2011 (Reuters) — A nuclear-powered rover as big as a compact car is set to begin a nine-month journey to Mars this weekend to learn if the planet is or ever was suitable for life. The mission is the first since NASA’s 1970s-era Viking program to directly tackle the age-old question of whether there is life in the universe beyond Earth.

“This is the most complicated mission we have attempted on the surface of Mars,” Peter Theisinger, Mars Science Lab project manager with NASA prime contractor Lockheed Martin, told reporters at a pre-launch press conference on Wednesday.

The consensus of scientists after experiments by the twin Viking landers was that life did not exist on Mars. Two decades later, NASA embarks on a new strategy to find signs of past water on Mars, realizing the question of life could not be examined without a better understanding of the planet’s environment.

“Everything we know about life and what makes a livable environment is peculiar to Earth,” said astrobiologist Pamela Conrad of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and a deputy lead scientist for the mission.

“What things look like on Mars are a function of not only the initial set of ingredients that Mars had when it was made, but the processes that have affected Mars,” she said.

Without a large enough moon to stabilize its tilt, Mars has undergone dramatic climate changes over the eons as its spin axis wobbled closer or farther from the sun. The history of what happened on Mars during those times is chemically locked in its rocks, including whether liquid water and other ingredients believed necessary for life existed on the planet’s surface, and if so, for how long.

In 2004, the golf cart-sized rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on opposite sides of Mars’ equator to tackle the question of water. Their three-month missions grew to seven years, with Spirit succumbing to the harsh winter in the past year and Opportunity beginning a search in a new area filled with water-formed clays. Both rovers found signs that water mingled with rocks during Mars’ past.

The new rover, nicknamed Curiosity, shifts the hunt to other elements key to life, particularly organics.

“One of the ingredients of life is water,” said Mary Voytek, director of NASA’s astrobiology program. “We’re now looking to see if we can find other conditions that are necessary for life by defining habitability or what does it take in the environment to support life.”

The spacecraft, which is designed to last two years, is outfitted with 10 tools to analyze one particularly alluring site on Mars called Gale Crater. The site is a 96-mile (154-kilometer) wide basin that has a layered mountain of deposits stretching 3 miles above its floor, twice as tall as the layers of rock in the Grand Canyon. Scientists do not know how the mound formed but suspect it is the eroded remains of sediment that once completely filled the crater.

Curiosity’s toolkit includes a robotic arm with a drill, onboard chemistry labs to analyze powdered samples and a laser that can pulverize rock and soil samples from a distance of 20 feet away.

If all goes as planned, Curiosity will be lowered to the floor of Gale Crater in August 2012 by a new landing system called a sky crane. Previously, NASA used airbags or thruster jets to cushion a probe’s touchdown on Mars but the 1,980-pound (900-kilogram) Curiosity needed a beefier system.

“There are a lot of people who look at that and say, ‘What are you thinking?'” Theisinger said. “We put together a test program that successfully validated that from a design standpoint it will work. If something decides to break at that point in time, we’re in trouble but we’ve done everything we can think of to do.”

The rover, which is twice as long and about three times heavier than the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, also needed more power for driving at night and operating its science instruments. Instead of solar power, Curiosity is equipped with a plutonium battery that generates electricity from the heat of radioactive decay.

Similar systems have been used since the earliest days of the space program, including the Apollo moon missions, the Voyager and Viking probes and more recently in the Cassini spacecraft now circling Saturn and NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons mission.

Radiation monitors have been installed through the area around the Cape Canaveral launch site in case of an accident, though the device has been designed to withstand impacts and explosions, said Randall Scott, director of NASA’s radiological control center at the Kennedy Space Center.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Bill Trott)
Copyright Reuters 2008.

Memory Loss Reversible? Study says ‘Yes!’…if I remember correctly.

ScienceDaily (July 28, 2011) — Yale University researchers can’t tell you where you left your car keys — but they can tell you why you can’t find them.

A new study published July 27 in the journal Nature shows the neural networks in the brains of the middle-aged and elderly have weaker connections and fire less robustly than in youthful ones. Intriguingly, the research suggests that this condition is reversible.

“Age-related cognitive deficits can have a serious impact on our lives in the Information Age as people often need higher cognitive functions to meet even basic needs, such as paying bills or accessing medical care,” said Amy Arnsten, Professor of Neurobiology and Psychology and a member of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience. “These abilities are critical for maintaining demanding careers and being able to live independently as we grow older.”

As people age, they tend to forget things more often, are more easily distracted and disrupted by interference, and have greater difficulty with executive functions. While these age-related deficits have been known for many years, the cellular basis for these common cognitive difficulties has not been understood. The new study examined for the first time age-related changes in the activity of neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the area of the brain that is responsible for higher cognitive and executive functions.

To read the entire article:

Star Trek collides into first-ever crossover with DC Comics.

Star Trek DC
San Diego, CA (July 21, 2011) – The original Starship Enterprise has traveled across time and space on its five-year mission, but it will be entering the DC Universe for the first time this summer. IDW Publishing is proud to announce its first-ever crossover with DC Comics’ Super Heroes in STAR TREK/LEGION OF SUPERHEROES, a six-issue monthly series beginning in October 2011.

STAR TREK/LEGION OF SUPERHEROES tells the tale of the original crew of the Starship Enterprise, who beam down to a planet only to discover that the planet isn’t their intended destination, or even in the right universe. At the same time, a group of “Great Darkness Saga” Legionnaires inside a time sphere find themselves cast into the 23rd century, but it’s not the 23rd century as they know it, either. STAR TREK/LEGION OF SUPERHEROES is a galaxy-spanning adventure that draws both teams together to face a menace that includes Khunds, Klingons, Borg, and other threats that aren’t quite as they should be. The egalitarian United Planets in one universe and a United Federation of Planets in another is now the Imperial Planets of Terra, a dark empire focused on war and conquest, and that’s just the beginning for this special series.

The birthday of THE writer – Cormac McCarthy

from Writer’s Almanac (Garrison Keillor, Minnesota Public Radio list serv):

Today is the birthday of Cormac McCarthy (1933), born Charles McCarthy Jr. in Providence, Rhode Island. His novels tend to follow the Southern Gothic tradition, and he’s been compared to William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote. Richard Woodward, of the New York Review of Books, wrote, “A man’s novelist whose apocalyptic vision rarely focuses on women, McCarthy doesn’t write about sex, love or domestic issues.” He’s known for his “Border Trilogy”: All the Pretty Horses (1992), The Crossing (1994), and Cities of the Plain (1998). Blood Meridian (1985) commonly turns up on “Best Novels of the 20th Century” lists, and The Road (2006) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

He grew up outside Knoxville; his dad was a lawyer who used to work for the Tennessee Valley Authority. The McCarthys lived in a big white house on a fair-sized bit of land and were considered rich, since most of their neighbors lived in shacks. He had a remarkable number of hobbies as a kid, but reading and writing weren’t on the list until his early 20s. He sent his first novel, The Orchard Keeper (1965), to Random House, because that was the only publisher he’d ever heard of. Somehow, the manuscript found its way to William Faulkner’s former editor, Albert Erskine. Erskine bought the book and was McCarthy’s editor for 20 years.

McCarthy likes to be left alone, and he grants very few interviews. When he does, he rarely wants to talk about his work, preferring one of the hundreds of other subjects he’s interested in. “Writing is way, way down at the bottom of the list.” He’s said that he doesn’t understand authors who don’t want to tackle “life and death” themes, and that he much prefers the company of scientists to that of writers.

Activating ‘Curiosity’ GPS — Location: Mars 2012

New Mars rover arrives at Florida launch site
By Irene KlotzPosted 2011/06/23 at 5:52 pm EDT

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida, June 23, 2011 (Reuters) — NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory, a nuclear-powered, car-sized rover designed to assess the planet’s suitability for life, reached the Kennedy Space Center for launch preparations, officials said on Thursday.

Technicians check the wiring of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover ‘Curiosity’, where it is undergoing pre-flight tests, in the ‘clean room’ of the spacecraft assembly facility at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California September 16, 2010. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Aboard the Air Force cargo plane with the rover, named Curiosity, was the complicated landing system it will use for a pinpoint touchdown on Mars in August 2012.

Curiosity is about four times bigger and has many more science instruments than NASA’s last Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which reached the Red Planet in 2004 for what were expected to be three-month missions.

Seven years later, Spirit is no longer working, but Opportunity remains operational. Those rovers were dispatched to look for signs of past water on Mars.

The new rover’s bigger size and more robust science capabilities are intended to answer a thornier riddle: Does the Red Planet have, or has it ever had, the right conditions for microbial life to arise?

The rover is designed to spend at least one Martian year — the equivalent of almost two Earth years — surveying the selected region to assess habitability.

Problems developing the “sky crane” descent system forced NASA to miss its original launch opportunity in 2009 and added $800 million to the project.

“The design and building part of the mission is nearly behind us now,” David Gruel, manager of Mars Science Lab’s assembly, test and launch operations at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.

The agency’s inspector general warned earlier this month that NASA was in danger of missing this year’s launch opportunity as well, a period that opens November 25 and runs through December 18 when Earth and Mars are favorably aligned for interplanetary transport.

But NASA said it had resolved issues by the June 8 report and is in good shape for meeting the opening of the probe’s launch window.

NASA is in the midst of a final assessment of four potential landing sites.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Sandra Maler)

Remembering your Coffee!

ScienceDaily (June 21, 2011) — A yet unidentified component of coffee interacts with the beverage’s caffeine, which could be a surprising reason why daily coffee intake protects against Alzheimer’s disease. A new Alzheimer’s mouse study by researchers at the University of South Florida found that this interaction boosts blood levels of a critical growth factor that seems to fight off the Alzheimer’s disease process.

The findings appear in the early online version of an article to be published June 28 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Using mice bred to develop symptoms mimicking Alzheimer’s disease, the USF team presents the first evidence that caffeinated coffee offers protection against the memory-robbing disease that is not possible with other caffeine-containing drinks or decaffeinated coffee.
Previous observational studies in humans reported that daily coffee/caffeine intake during mid-life and in older age decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The USF researchers’ earlier studies in Alzheimer’s mice indicated that caffeine was likely the ingredient in coffee that provides this protection because it decreases brain production of the abnormal protein beta-amyloid, which is thought to cause the disease.

The McGill Daily » New horizons for physics

The McGill Daily » New horizons for physics

A little over 100 years ago, a patent worker by the name of Albert Einstein came up with the theory of relativity, stating that the speed of light is constant and unattainable, and completely revolutionizing physics in the process. Great theories followed his work, and we now have a better understanding of black holes, the possibility of multiple universes, and the beginning of our own universe. Physics has given us the ability to develop technologies like GPS satellites and particle accelerators, but in many fundamental areas of study we have consistently failed to find the right answers and to devise equations that work all the time.

The theory of everything

By the 20th century, scientists were already on a quest to find a theory of everything. The discovery of the laws of electromagnetism by James Maxwell in the late 19th century, and the development of the special theory of relativity by Einstein in 1905 have encouraged scientists’ attempts to unify the laws of physics.

However, no such unifying theory has yet been verified. The strongest candidate – string theory – hasn’t yet been proven in an experimental setting and would require an atom smasher the size of the galaxy for us to test it.

What would a theory of everything serve? Its development would give us an enormous power to answer some of the oldest and most puzzling questions about the universe. What came before the Big Bang? Was there even such a thing as before? How many dimensions are there, and why can’t we see the higher ones? Such a theory might also be able to give us the basic tools to construct a wormhole, a hypothetical bridge in the curvature of spacetime that could give us the ability to travel back in time (but only to the point where the time machine was built) or help us make interstellar travel that exceeds the speed of light a feature of daily life.

The origin of the universe

Ultimately, the Big Bang is the holy grail of physics. It can unlock the final frontier of human understanding of the universe, and a lot has been going on in the last few decades to uncover these secrets. The real mystery, however – and the discovery that could bring us even closer to the moment of the Big Bang – are gravitational waves. Predicted by Einstein in 1916, gravitational waves are fluctuations in the curvature of spacetime, which propagate as a shock wave.

Matt Dobbs, professor of Physics at McGill, is trying to detect the trace of gravity waves left from the increased inflation in the beginning of time. His team is currently working on the EBEX project, which aims to send a balloon to the stratosphere in order to investigate for these traces, and try to push our picture of the Big Bang up until 10-35 seconds after the event. When asked by The Daily, Dobbs affirmed that these waves do in fact exist, adding that he’s hopeful they will be detected in the next twenty to thirty years.

Dark energy

A long-standing problem for physicists dating back to Isaac Newton is the inexplicable behaviour of gravity on a large scale. If the gravity force is always attractive, then why doesn’t the universe collapse into itself? This question was put to Newton by a priest, who believed that in order to maintain this “metastable” state the universe must be a gigantic clock, wound up by God at the beginning of time and obeying the laws of physics. Later on in the 20th century, the mechanical clock was replaced by a cosmological constant, an antigravity force pushing the stars apart. We now know this cosmological constant simply by the name of dark energy, which accounts for 73 per cent of the total mass-energy in the universe.

Finding the true nature of dark energy will reveal the ultimate fate of the universe – whether it will expand indefinitely until it freezes, or reverse the expansion and be crushed into itself.

However, for Dobbs, dark energy is one of the biggest unknowns, given that it is still a hypothetical form of energy. Dark energy also can’t explain anything about the initial state of the universe, because it first appeared at a much later time. One of the things that his research is trying to uncover are pockets of dark energy, by using large telescopes such as the South Pole Telescope, even if such methods presume gravity is exactly as described in Einstein’s general relativity. A slight deviation in our measurements of relativity might lead to fundamental change in theoretical physics, and the relativity equations might have to be modified, if possible.

But is the theory of general relativity wrong, and what would this mean for physics? According to Reg Cahill, professor of Physics from Flinders University in Australia, there are numerous sets of experiments that show the effects of changes in the speed of light. But such results are not yet recognized because for now, error probability in terms of measurement of the mass of Earth, the moon, or the sun, is inserted. Cahill explains this with the artificial creation of the dark energy concept, to account for the extra gravitation pull. If there are errors in relativity, this would effectively deal a great blow to dark energy. And mostly it would mean that that the laws of physics might have to be reworked, and that the last 100 years have given us a lot of unproven theories, but not enough solid ground to build on towards a theory of everything.

Whether we would be able to answer all of the fundamental inquiries about the universe is without importance in the face of the growing divisions within physics. A unification of gravity and quantum mechanics is needed in order to be able to answer the growing questions. Only then could we have as clear a picture of physics as Newton had, and start discovering ideas and inventions that could completely revolutionize our lives.

Christmas 2010

Shape Shifters on the way? Next up: Klingon Cloaking Device!

Michio Kaku: Shape-Shifting Technology Is Coming
Big Think Editors on October 12, 2010, 12:00 AM

Physicist and Big Think blogger Michio Kaku is the closest thing the world has to real-life wizard. With his shocking white hair, he makes prophesies about fantastic technologies that science is close to unlocking. On “The Colbert Report” this summer, for instance, Kaku said that we would soon have invisibility cloaks like in the “Harry Potter” books.

During his most recent Big Think interview, we asked Dr. Kaku what other futuristic technologies we could hope to see within our lifetimes. His answer: shape-shifting. Science is already making huge advances in so-called “programmable matter,” he says. “Atoms can slide over atoms, rearrange themselves, but what happens if atoms are replaced by chips, chips that are so small they’re smaller than the head of a pin and you can change their electric charge? By changing the electric charge they bind and reform in different ways and they’re intelligent because each dot is a computer chip perhaps as powerful as a PC.” This may sound like science fiction, but the computer chip manufacturer Intel is already leading the charge toward developing this kind of programmable matter. In the future it could be used to build entire cities instantaneously. “If I have a clump of clay made of thousands of millions of little dots I push a button then the charges rearrange themselves to form a statue, a car, whatever you want,” Kaku says. “This means that I can push another button and this clay turns into a house or I push another button and a whole city rises out of the desert.”

Kaku also discussed the prospect of a technological singularity, a point at which robots will become smarter than humans—resulting in explosive scientific innovation. Based on Moore’s Law, which says that computer technology doubles every 18 months, some have projected that the singularity will take place as soon as 2029. But Kaku calls these predictions inaccurate because at some point Moore’s Law will hit a wall. There will be a point at which silicon transistors will physically not be able to get smaller or more powerful, he says. Scientists will need to find a replacement for silicon if computers will continue to improve. And even if scientists do overcome this, Kaku isn’t too worried that robots will take over and enslave us. “Right now our machines are as smart as insects,” he says. “Probably by the end of the century, who knows, they’ll be as smart as monkeys. At that point they could become potentially dangerous because monkeys can formulate their own plans; they don’t have to listen to you. They can formulate their own strategies, their own goals and I would say therefore at that point let’s put a chip in their brain to shut them off if they get murderous thoughts.”

But robots aren’t the only thing that could destroy mankind. We are more than capable of doing that job ourselves, he says. And what happens over the next 100 years will determine the fate of mankind. Kaku says we are currently a “type zero” civilization; we rely on fossil fuels and have nationalistic governments. But in about 100 years we will become a “type one” civilization, a planetary civilization with global governments and institutions. “We’ll be able to harness all the energy output of the planet earth,” he says. “We’ll play with the weather, earthquakes, volcanoes. Anything planetary we will play with.” And this formative next century is so dangerous because we still have sectarian, fundamentalist ideas circulating alongside nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that could wipe life off the planet. Terrorists are a reaction against a type one civilization, which is beginning to emerge with organizations like the European Union and a global language like English. “What they’re reacting to is the fact that we’re headed toward a multicultural tolerant scientific society and that is what they don’t want. They don’t want science. They want a theocracy. They don’t want multiculturalism. They want monoculturalism.”

Rockets, Scola bring hope to man battling cancer!

Rockets, Scola brighten day of man battling cancer!
By Clutch of

This article and much more can be found at
Kaes Maish’s life was turned upside-down nearly 5 years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer. The father of four has been through the harsh treatments — chemo, radiation and most recently proton therapy — but each time he takes a step forward, it seems to knock him two steps back.

Luis Scola and the Maish family.

Eight months ago, he learned that the cancer had become leukemia.

“For me, cancer has been a nightmare that just doesn’t go away,” said Maish. “It’s been stressful [but] it doesn’t hurt me as much as it does my family, especially my children.”

Watching the Rockets has been a nice escape, helping the family forget for a few hours about the daily struggle. Their favorite player? That’s an easy one — Luis Scola.

“When my daughter watches the game, she wants to know how Luis is playing,” said Maish. “When he’s not in, she wants to know why he’s not playing.”

Back in February, Rockets Director of Marketing Ken Sheirr invited Kaes and his daughter to a game against the Warriors, and the team surprised them midway through the contest with a Scola jersey autographed by Luis.

They didn’t forget the situation either. Ken asked periodically how Kaes was doing, and when the preseason got going, invited him and his family out to another game… only this time, the seating location was a bit of a shock.

Row A, Seats 1, 2, 3 and 4.

“It was unbelievable,” said Maish. “I’ve never sat that close. It was like getting on a rollercoaster for the first time.”

The vantage point was great, they caught a Rockets hat and the Cavaliers Daniel Gibson even gave one of his sons a headband. There was only one problem — Scola didn’t play in the game. Rockets coach Rick Adelman wanted to rest his starting frontcourt before a brutally long flight to China that night.

The Rockets took care of that, too. The organization arranged for his family to meet Scola outside the locker room after the game.

“Out of the corner of my eye this enormous man came up to us,” said Maish. “When I realized it was Luis I was just starstruck. He was just so nice, introducing himself to my kids. They haven’t stopped talking about it since.”

Maish said all he could think about afterwards was just how grateful he was for the experience, wanting to specifically thank Ken as well as Gretchen Sheirr and Ragnar Hartzheim for arranging the meeting and giving them a tour of the Toyota Center.

“I can’t thank the Rockets enough,” added Maish. “It’s moments like this in my life that keep me going.”

‘Tractor beam’ one step closer to reality: Laser moves small particles

‘Tractor beam’ one step closer to reality: Laser moves small particles.

Professor Andrei Rode’s team from the Laser Physics Centre at ANU have developed a laser beam that can move very small particles up to distances of a metre and a half using only the power of light. Whilst the laser beam won’t work in the vacuum of space, the breakthrough has many important uses on Earth, such as the assembly of micro machines and electronic components.
Professor Rode said his team used the hollow laser beam to trap light-absorbing particles in a ‘dark core’. The particles are then moved up and down the beam of light, which acts like an optical ‘pipeline’.

“When the small particles are trapped in this dark core very interesting things start to happen,” said Dr Rode.
“As gravity, air currents and random motions of air molecules around the particle push it out of centre, one side becomes illuminated by the laser whilst the other lies in darkness.
“This creates a tiny thrust, known as a photophoretic force that effectively pushes the particle back into the darkened core.
“In addition to the trapping effect, a portion of the energy from the beam and the resulting force pushes the particle along the hollow laser pipeline.”

Professor Rode added there are a number of practical applications for this technology.
“These include, directing and clustering nano-particles in air, the micro-manipulation of objects, sampling of atmospheric aerosols, and low contamination, non-touch handling of sampling materials.
“On top of this, the laser beam could be used for the transport of dangerous substances and microbes, in small amounts,” he said.

Gay Marriage…OR…Same-Sex Marriage?

Everyone finds this topic so fascinating. Here’s my take and please don’t let issues with God cloud this. California voted to ban same-sex marriage and a lone judge over ruled it…most likely for 15 minutes of spotlight. People have the right to vote based on “It just ain’t right”… just as a judge can rule on pornography by saying “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it.”

Lest we forget, just because someone disagrees wth someone, it doesn’t mean they’re a bigot…it just means they disagree. Someone who voted to keep marriage in the traditional format doesn’t mean they hate gays or are homophobic, they just exercised their right to vote.

Personally, I say why not be for same-sex marriage, and make no mistake, that’s what this is. It’s not GAY marriage but same-sex marriage. You see, in same-sex marriage, you can actually marry your father and avoid paying any inheritance or death taxes. Sounds funny but it is the case…and ultimately, isn’t same-sex marriage simply about money? It’s not about love. You don’t need the federal govt. to legalize love. I loved my wife before we were married – we just followed tradition. This is about money, taxes, etc… Otherwise, why would anyone want to force their way into a situation like marriage? Why would anyone want to scream in someones face – I’M GETTING MARRIED SO DEAL WITH IT! I mean, why join a club of bigots? Plus, marriage has taken a huge hit by divorce and is a shell of what it was. If same-sex couples want in on that? What is the appeal?

So, who should care? No one really..because few care about marriage anyway and if anyone ever says it aint about the money, you can bet everything you own it IS about the money.

Honestly, I don’t really care. If I can tell the govt. that I’m gay and save tens upon tens of thousands of dollars by marrying my father, then why not? If gay people want to be married, then they should fight to be married. If straight people want it to stay as the tradition it has been, then they should fight for their beliefs. Everyone is entitled to FIGHT…everyone is NOT entitled to anything.California voted on this and were very clear. ONE judge orders an “INJUNCTION” with a STAY, which means, absolutely NOTHING! But hey, it’s california and this judge gets his 15 minutes of fame.

But I often wonder this about America…why is it that the 10% can get anything they want but the 90% gets nothing. The USA has polled at 80-20 against forced health care and yet the govt. shoves it down our throat. I guess if 10% of people were against health care, then maybe we actually could get that albatross from around our necks.

Ultimately…who cares. Live life – be happy – treat others kindly. Done.

A Couple of my Favorite Skits from SNL…

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