Category Archives: Technology

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


‘Back to the Future’ of photography.



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.


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…

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

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:

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

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.

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

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

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…

A Quick Note to Anti-Faith Intellectuals.

Ah, the beauty of a self-implied intellectual mind and its consistent suppression of any and all things faith-based. It seems brilliant scientists all over the world start each sentence with the fine response, “We had no idea…We couldn’t believe…We didn’t expect to see…We’re hoping to find…Theoretically, it should…We’re not sure exactly why…” and then feel justified by all you amateur ‘Physics’ cheerleaders who wave your mental pom-poms in different newsgroups screaming “Schrodinger’s Cat! Schrodinger’s Cat!!” to anyone who will listen while espousing the demonic virtues of all things faith-based.

MY GOD, MAN!! OF course, the earth is flat…oh, wait!

You support all that is intellectual and yet allow ZERO intellect toward what ‘MIGHT’ be possible. Of course, there can be NO GOD because my intellect says it’s silly (Oh yeah, and my daddy beat me as a child!) Open your mind, Newton-and by the way, Schrodinger’s Cat is more of a faith experiment than a thought-experiment. The very moment you observe it, everything changes. Only ONE OUTCOME can be observed even though, at one point, there was TWO outcomes. When you open the box, you SEE one…but you must BELIEVE that there was another. FAITH = a more intellectual way to look at the unknown.~~~~

Now, GIVE ME A ‘G’–G, GIVE ME AN ‘O’–O, GIVE ME A ‘D’–D…and what does that spell? Your “Finale!”

Be blessed, my friend……if you’re intellectual enough to ask for it.

Fox thriller anti hero Jack Bauer’s Parting Shots

ENTERTAINMENT – Fox thriller anti hero Jack Bauer’s Parting Shots.

Fox producer Howard Gordon had said a few weeks back that the viewer’s of thriller 24 should not have any expectation of a happy ending for its anti hero Jack Bauer. This is the same character that has seen colleagues and loved ones die around him, torturing the leads out of the suspects.For Jack, it was always at the cost of his own peace.
President Allison is disgraced for participating in a cover up and on the verge of resigning. While the program gained popularity, the political position lost its weight.
In the first two months of the show, it got its first President in the first President in season two. In times of crisis he was always ready, he was firm but not a pugilist and had natural leadership skills.When attempts were made to usurp his power, he was strong as ever. He had natural leadership skills and charisma.
Attempts were made to overthrow him and usurp his authority but he returned to power and forgave them all. Haydbert said in a recent interview that people on the road came up to him and said that they wanted the real president to be like him.
In the third season he was still in principled but he got involved in shady deals and that was a big hit for the President.  For a majority of season four John Keeler was in office but didn’t get much of a chance from the audience. This resulted in Charles Logan to graduate to the Oval Office.
Palmer was killed by an assassin, part of a grand conspiracy that could be traced back to President Logan himself.  The President was exposed and was forced to resign. He was replaced by Palmer’s younger brother Wayne.
24 returned after a long break due to writer’s strike and it returned with Taylor as the President.
She followed the most recent advise from one of her male friends.
The fall of the President was rooted in 24’s philosophy of raising the stakes every season. Bauer has been the rogue agent who has fought off his superiors when they lacked a fight for right cause. One of the terrorist plots unleashed each season. Despite al the heroics the writers had to give Bauer’s oppressors higher ranks and more authority. The show had sprung from the mind of the co creator Joel Surnow a vocal conservative who has been viewed as a dramatic delivery system.
Haybert has said on multiple occasions that he had taken part credit for getting America comfortable with the idea of a black president.  Given the current political climate the risk of the Tea Party, the sign off of the president could be seen as a repeat of the fact that presidents will let the people of the country down.
Also the high of electing an African American black president is a temptation in itself. Whether Jack Bauer lives, dies, or falls off the grid is ultimately of little consequence, but how people view their president has a colossal effect on how we feel about our country and our place in it


Thanks to Lostpedia for all the brilliant insight. And Here….we…..go!


I don’t know why people are having trouble understanding this, as it is CLEARLY explained in the final minutes of the finale episode by Christian Shephard (Jack’s dad). The original Oceanic 815 plane crash happened. Everything on the Island through seasons 1-6 happened. The “flash sideways” universe introduced in season 6 was a sort of stop-over point between life and afterlife (referred to here as the “purgatory universe”).

Each person in this “purgatory universe” created a reality for themselves based on their lingering issues in life – that which they could not “let go” of. For Jack it was Daddy issues; Kate, the guilt of murder; Sawyer, the quest to find “Sawyer” and be a better man; Sayid, the unrequited love of Nadia; Charlie, looking for something “real” in his hollow life of fame, etc…

Everyone was still attached to their Earthly concerns (we’re getting very Buddhist here, bear with me) – but when they made contact with those people they’d met on the Island, they remembered the journey and growth they had experienced because of the Island, and could finally understand the connections and “purpose” brought into their damaged lives by being there. With that greater understanding of themselves, they were each ready to “leave” or “move on” to the next phase of existence – i.e., the true afterlife.


Some people are convinced the final image during the end credits of the Lost finale was the “clue” to the characters being dead the whole time. OK, let’s think about this: The image appears during the closing credits, after the final appearance of the “LOST” logo. That means that the story had officially ended. Saying that the biggest reveal came while the end credits were rolling is like saying a movie’s climax happens during the end credits. Not bloody likely.

The image of the plane crash (if you look closely) has memorabilia from the Lostie’s time on the beach where they first made camp. Shacks, towels, etc… it was one part nostalgia (remember where it all began?) and also one part commentary on the circular nature of the Island.

Like the Black Rock ship that brought Richard to the Island (“Ab Aeterno“), or the downed plane with the heroin that had Mr. Ecko’s brother’s corpse inside of it (“The 23rd Psalm“), the remains of Oceanic 815 and the evidence of a small community built on the beach are just more monuments of the Island. The next time somebody crashes there, they’ll see that stuff and wonder what the “mystery” behind it is…

Then they’ll whine and complain about how unsatisfying the answer is. (“What? That’s how that mystical guy “Hurley” came to the Island? LAME.”)


One of the biggest things people seem to be questioning is how Desmond was able to “wake up” from the purgatory universe and how he had the know-how to “wake up” the other Losties. For that answer, you really just have to look back over the history of Desmond.

Desmond (specifically through his connection to Penny Widmore) is a sort of “constant” in the show. No matter what happens, when, or where, Desmond seems somehow immune to the Island’s energy (which has electromagnetic properties) and has a sort of awareness that can transcend space and time (his consciousness shifts seen in episodes like “The Constant“). These “shifts” and Widmore’s explanation that Desmond is special because of his resistance to the Island’s energies, imply that Desmond would even be able to “shift” his consciousness back and forth between this universe and the purgatory one, catalyzed by Widmore’s team placing him in that huge electromagnetic machine in the season six episode, “Happily Ever After“.

So, it does stand to reason (at least Lost reasoning) that Desmond – after having his consciousness “shifted” to the purgatory reality – would “wake up” after encountering HIS constant, Penny. It’s another fast and loose metaphysical explanation, but one that (for me) still works within the framework of the show.


Over the course of the show people have wondered about the mythology of the Island – where it came from, what it is and what are the “rules” that govern it and its mystical protectors? Admittedly, this is an area where the showrunners played things fast and loose, hoping that the momentum of the characters’ story arcs and the whole “good vs. evil” showdown would be enough to appease most fans. Alas, not so.

Season six of Lost did a great deal to semi-explain what the island was – a sort of container for a very important energy that seemingly links this world with worlds beyond… or something. That energy is represented by light and water, and if that light goes out and the water stops flowing, the world is basically screwed. Everything magical or fantastic about the Island stems from this energy, and many of the technological oddities found on the Island (the Swan Station from season 2) are a result of the Dharma Initiative trying to harness and control that energy (i.e., man trying to bend magic and mysticism to the will of modern science).

However, there are some things that were definitely left unexplained: Why did the Man In Black become a smoke monster when he was exposed to the light (was it a manifestation of his corrupted soul)?; What is the nature of the “rules” that governed certain aspects of the Island – who could come and go, who could kill who, who was healed from injury (Locke, Rose), who lived forever (Richard). How were these rules established and maintained?

The Jacob/MIB origin episode, “Across The Sea”, attempted to fill in that aspect of the Island mythology, but what we came away with were a lot of vague pseudo-explanations. The protector of the Island basically makes up the rules and once those rules are established they are set until somebody (a new protector?) changes them. This is the reason why the MIB was obsessed with “finding a loophole” in order to kill Jacob; it’s also why Jack was ultimately able to kill the MIB. Smokey was connected to the energy source, and when Jack had Desmond “turn off” that energy, Smokey lost his powers and was merely flesh and blood.


Ok… so there’s implication of what the Island’s “rules” are, but that gets a bit problematic when you think back to season 4 of Lost – which is basically about Charles Widmore sending operatives to the island to do what he cannot (get revenge on Ben Linus). There was that whole sub-plot about how it was ‘against the rules’ for Widmore to return to the Island, and how Widmore “changed the rules” by killing Ben’s adopted daughter, Alex. But why would the “rules” of the Island’s protectors apply to these two guys?

In the end, I think the showrunners went for an “It is what it is,” approach with the mystical rules governing the Island; they are convenient plot devices that support the story at various points, but don’t really hold up when looked at in conjunction with the entire series. The Widmore/Linus conundrum is simply one of those holes – a weak point of the Lost mythology, for sure.


Remember when Lost had African-Americans as part of its “groundbreaking international cast?” Yeah, I vaguely do too. One friend of mine (and I’m sure of yours) watched the finale chanting “They better bring back Walt!” over and over – but no such luck.

Walt and his father Michael did make latter season Lost appearances: Locke visited Walt off the Island in the season five episode “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” and Michael appeared to Hurley as a ghost in season six, explaining the whole “whispers on the Island” thing. Still, many fans wondered why Walt, Michael and the “tailie” priest, Mr. Eko, didn’t reunite with the other cast members at the purgatory all-faith church in the finale.

Well, Michael we know is stuck on the Island as a “whisper” because he can’t move on, due to his killing of Libby and Ana Lucia in season two. Walt was freed from the Island early on, so the journey that bonded the Oceanic passengers in the purgatory universe was one that Walt was never really part of.

As for Mr. Eko, his death in the season 3 episode “The Cost of Living” showed that Eko had come to peace with his life. When told by the ghost of his brother Yemi to “Confess his sins,” Eko refused, saying that he had no guilt to confess; in his life, he did what he had to do to survive. The smoke monster evaluated Eko, who stood resolute about himself, his sins and the faith and redemption he’d ultimately found. After smokey beat Eko to pulp, Eko’s last vision was his young self walking away with his brother, holding the soccer ball they used to play with.

In short: Eko, by finding his faith and coming to peace with himself, had no reason to be in the purgatory world with the others. Wherever his soul was going, it was prepared for that journey – unlike the other passengers, who still had to come to peace with themselves and their deaths.

That all sounds deep, sure, but I’m sure off-screen conflicts with the actors and the fact that Macolm David Kelley (the kid who played Walt) hit puberty were also major factors.


If you’re asking this question, you weren’t really paying attention to the show. Go rent Lost season 3 on DVD and see if you can’t figure out the polar bear “mystery” when the rest of us did… back in 2006. I’ll give you a hint: Dharma Initiative experiments.


In the season six episode “The Substitute” Un-Locke takes Sawyer down to “Jacob’s cave” on the cliff (where Jack ultimately killed MIB) and in that cave, Sawyer observes that Jacob’s list of “candidates” for his replacement – our Losties – have numbers by their names. The list of candidates (Sawyer, Jack, Locke, Hugo, Sayid and “Kwon”) equate to the numbers 4-8-15-16-23-42 – the numbers that both steered Hurley to the Island in the first place (he went to Australia to find out about them), and served as the code for releasing the Island’s tapped energy in The Swan station. The numbers also showed up again and again throughout the show (Danielle’s papers, on medicine Claire and Desmond take, on Mr. Eko’s stick, etc…).

So in the end the numbers had to do with fate, and were a nice little numerology motif for the showrunners to play with (and a mathematical mystery for fans to agonize over). THE END.


In the season 4 episode “The Shape of Things To Come” Ben Linus witnessed the murder of his daughter Alex at the hands of Charles Widmore’s mercenaries. Ben then accessed the secret room in his Dharma house and disappeared into a secret passage covered in hieroglyphics. When Ben returned, he brought the smoke monster with him, which murdered the team of Widmore’s assassins. Now we know the smoke monster was the Man In Black, but some viewers are still confused why Ben was able to “control the monster” in this season 4 episode, but not later in season six.

However, it is never said that Ben “controls” the smoke monster – the best word would be “summons.” This makes sense to the story, as Alex’s death is the event that makes Ben turn to the MIB for a favor – a favor which he later repays in season 5 by killing Jacob for the MIB. It’s the ultimate corruption of Ben Linus – the moment where he goes from being a blind servant of Jacob to serving evil. So I don’t quite consider this a loose end – just another case of misinterpretation by some viewers.


Ok, so this is MY major question. In one of my favorite Lost episodes, “The Man Behind The Curtain“, we learn all about Ben Linus’ childhood with the Dharma Initiative. The episode ends with the chilling revelation that Ben – conspiring with Richard – betrays “his people” in the initiative and mass murders them using nerve gas – including his own father. Ben then reveals to Locke what ultimately became of the Dharma Initiative: The Others threw their bodies into a gruesome mass grave.

Looking back from the series finale and the “Across The Sea” episode about Jacob’s past, I can’t help but wonder: did Jacob murder the Dharma Initiative?

We know that Richard is an emissary of Jacob – that is, Richard does Jacob’s bidding. So if Richard instructed Ben to kill the Dharma members, doesn’t that imply that Jacob instructed Richard to do so, much the same way Jacob’s “mother” slaughtered the men on the Island when the Man In Black got to close to them?

I find it hard to explain the death of the Dharma Initiative any other way, and that’s a huge narrative problem when you consider that our Losties – many of whom lived with and befriended the Dharma Initiative in the 70s – ultimately serve Jacob as well. They’re serving the man who most likely gave the order to murder their friends and co-workers!

It also blurs the lines between good and evil. Mass murder is never a good thing, so the fact that Jacob at least allowed the mass murder of the Dharma Initiative (it’s his role as “protector,” right?) is pretty ghastly when you think about it. This is the embodiment of “good” we’re supposed to root for? Makes you think the Man In Black wasn’t ALL bad…


For me this is also a major problem of the Lost mythology. For much of season 6, many fans assumed (based on the opening to the season six premiere, “LA  X“) that the bomb that Jack and Co. detonated in the 70s (the season 5 finale) resulted in the Island sinking and an alternate timeline being created, in which Oceanic 815 never crashed, and things were slightly different in the lives of the passengers.

Now we know that the “alternate timeline” was actually purgatory where the Losties  all met up when they were dead, and the whole “alternate timeline” bit was a red herring.  So what, exactly, did the bomb do?

The obvious answer is that the bomb propelled the Losties back through time to the present day, where the the Swan station (a.k.a. “The Hatch”) was now a slightly different version of its former imploded self (see the photos below).

Like most time travel narratives, the situation with the hatch raises a ton of logistical questions, such as: Would Desmond still be on the island if the hatch had been destroyed in the past? Wouldn’t that alteration to the time stream have a ripple effect that disrupted everything else regarding the Oceanic 815 crashing? And so on…

Instead what we got was a time travel scenario where that one location, the 70s Swan station, seemed to “overlap” on its present-day self, while leaving the rest of the time stream unaffected (or something like that). It’s confusing and very problematic – yet another reason why time travel is something you probably want to stay away from as a storyteller…

In the end though, the outcome is the same: Whatever conduit to the Island’s energy source that the Dharma Initiative tapped when they made the Swan station was ultimately exhausted. Whether it was exhausted by the bomb Juliet set off, or the the moment in season 3 when Locke lost his faith and refused to push the button (“Live Together, Die Alone“) the energy was released, and The Swan was destroyed. The Losties made it back to the present, and there was never two timelines, apparently.

Try not to think too hard about it, I guess… But it certainly is a major thread left dangling.

These are just some of the lingering question Lost has left us with. For those of you who feel cheated by the finale – did any of these explanations help?

FOUND: One ‘Lost’ reading list!

The show’s creators discuss literary influences, from Stephen King to Flannery O’Connor
May 14, 2010 | 7:00 am

Ever since Sawyer was shown reading “Watership Down” in Season One of “Lost,” an abundance of carefully placed works of literature have been featured on the show (in gym bags, on book shelves, in episode titles), spawning “Lost” book clubs and blogs filled with eager readers combing for clues to the fate of the stranded Oceanic Flight 815 survivors.

The unpredictable nature of the show left fans hungry for answers week after week and the referenced books have provided plenty of theorizing and heated discussions, even as the show moves towards its conclusion.

Executive producers and writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse grew up reading a lot of the same authors (Stephen King, John Steinbeck and Kurt Vonnegut) and have acknowledged literature’s influence in the way they have shaped the show.

“It’s a nod to that process,” Lindelof (who is also co-creator) explained last year. “We pick the books with a great deal of meticulous thought and specificity and talk about what the thematic implications of picking a certain book are, why we’re using it in the scene and what we want the audience to deduce from that choice.”

Because “Lost” was not a carbon-copy cop show, legal drama or medical show, there was not a lot of precedence for its unique structure. Lindelof and Cuse found inspiration in the making of the show in books as opposed to movies or other TV shows.

They noted Stephen King’s “The Stand” as a blueprint for early episodes. “It was this very long, character-oriented book that hung on a high-concept premise that the entire nation had been infected with this super-flu, and it was the equivalent of people crashing on this mysterious island. Both based on incredibly intricate and involved character dynamics,” Cuse said.

More than 70 books have been referenced during the six seasons, including heavy reads such as the 700-page “Ulysses” by James Joyce and “The Odyssey” by Homer. Whether it’s a plot line, character or theme, many elements seen in “Lost” can be traced back to a book: time travel (“A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking), alternate realities (“Alice in Wonderland,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” A Wrinkle in Time”), differing points of view and flashbacks (“Catch 22″) or simply the title of an episode (“Through the Looking Glass,” “Tale of Two Cities,” “There’s No Place Like Home”). All reflect the producers’ and writers’ fondness for great literature.

There are a few titles that have been referenced regularly throughout the series and undoubtedly for good reasons. “Watership Down,” Richard Adams’ novel about a society of rabbits searching for a safe place in a threatening world, is one.

“’Watership Down’ was the book that got me started reading the books on the show,” said James Brush, a high school English teacher in Austin, Texas, who started his own blog devoted to the books on “Lost.” “It always makes me think of Jack. He’s like the main character, Hazel. He’s not the biggest or strongest but he’s smart and grows wise.”

Rather than one all-encompassing book that sums up the entire series, each season seemed to have a few titles relevant to the storyline. “Each season had a book that has for me really resonated,” Brush said. “In Season 3 it was ‘Catch 22’ by Joseph Heller. Charlie was going to die and Desmond knew it. He was stuck in this loop of trying to get out of the current situation yet making it worse.”

Another Brush favorite: “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. “The characters are drawn with a lot of psychological depth. I found similarities to Jack, Locke and Sawyer,” he noted. “The theme of patricide connected and was reinforced with their serious father issues revealed in Season 2.”

The Sawyer factor. The most unlikely bookworm on the island is the one character we see reading the most, from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” to “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “The Fountainhead“ by Ayn Rand. In the Season 3 DVD, Lindelof mentions Sawyer’s similarities to the main character in “The Fountainhead,” Howard Roark. Both are rebels against the general culture of their society and prefer to be by themselves.

If one book was most influential on the show, it was probably “Alice in Wonderland.” “To say there is only one is unfair,” said Lindelof, “but we keep coming back to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ thematically. That was a book that both Carlton and I remember very specifically as children. It was a gateway drug to sci-fi and fantasy in many ways.”

Lindelof said he read a lot of Piers Anthony as a kid, and is an expert on “The Wizard of Oz.” One ode to the L. Frank Baum classic: when we first meet Ben, he uses the alias Henry Gale, the name of Dorothy’s uncle, and claims to have crashed on the island in a hot air balloon.

Cuse, known to be the “Narnia” scholar on the show, cited Flannery O’Connor as his greatest influence. “We have a lot of religious themes and sudden and striking violence and she was the master at that. I love her work.”

Jacob was seen reading O’ Connor’s collection of short stories, “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” in a flashback scene in Season 5. “In one story, ‘Judgment Day,’ a man imagines how he’ll fake his own death, take his coffin from New York City to the South and surprise his friends with the fact that he’s still alive,” Brush said. “That’s sort of what happened with Locke when he re-manifested himself. “

Brush noted that if “Lost” follows the trajectory of this or any of these stories, a happy ending isn’t likely.

Is there one single book’s plot that will predict the ending?

Some bloggers see clues in “Left Behind,” by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, in which several passengers aboard a plane suddenly and mysteriously disappear. They learn that Christ has come to take the faithful with him in preparation for the coming apocalyptic battle between good and evil and those left behind must decide to join the forces of Christ or the forces of darkness.

There’s no escaping the not-so-subtle references to “The Bible” with Jacob and the Man in Black, light vs. dark, mentions of sacrifice on the horizon and Richard shouting “We are in Hell!”

Brush believes that the heart of this season, lies within “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by Salman Rushdie and “Deep River” by Shūsaku Endō, a tale about finding balance. The premise of “Haroun” is that all stories come from a single source polluted by an evil lord. The stream of stories must be stopped by pulling a cork on all the other stories that have escaped. “If this season follows this model, one of two realities will cease to exist once one is defeated,” said Brush, referring to the sideways flashes.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that Locke is going to be defeated or be balanced out. Whoever is left on the island will be the sacrifice that saves the world.”


Our Universe at Home Within a Larger Universe? So Says Physicist’s Wormhole Research!

Such a scenario in which the universe is born from inside a wormhole (also called an Einstein-Rosen Bridge) is suggested in a paper from Indiana University theoretical physicist Nikodem Poplawski in Physics Letters B. The final version of the paper was available online March 29 and will be published in the journal edition April 12.

Poplawski takes advantage of the Euclidean-based coordinate system called isotropic coordinates to describe the gravitational field of a black hole and to model the radial geodesic motion of a massive particle into a black hole.

In studying the radial motion through the event horizon (a black hole’s boundary) of two different types of black holes — Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen, both of which are mathematically legitimate solutions of general relativity — Poplawski admits that only experiment or observation can reveal the motion of a particle falling into an actual black hole. But he also notes that since observers can only see the outside of the black hole, the interior cannot be observed unless an observer enters or resides within.

“This condition would be satisfied if our universe were the interior of a black hole existing in a bigger universe,” he said. “Because Einstein’s general theory of relativity does not choose a time orientation, if a black hole can form from the gravitational collapse of matter through an event horizon in the future then the reverse process is also possible. Such a process would describe an exploding white hole: matter emerging from an event horizon in the past, like the expanding universe.”

A white hole is connected to a black hole by an Einstein-Rosen bridge (wormhole) and is hypothetically the time reversal of a black hole. Poplawski’s paper suggests that all astrophysical black holes, not just Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen black holes, may have Einstein-Rosen bridges, each with a new universe inside that formed simultaneously with the black hole.

“From that it follows that our universe could have itself formed from inside a black hole existing inside another universe,” he said.

By continuing to study the gravitational collapse of a sphere of dust in isotropic coordinates, and by applying the current research to other types of black holes, views where the universe is born from the interior of an Einstein-Rosen black hole could avoid problems seen by scientists with the Big Bang theory and the black hole information loss problem which claims all information about matter is lost as it goes over the event horizon (in turn defying the laws of quantum physics).

This model in isotropic coordinates of the universe as a black hole could explain the origin of cosmic inflation, Poplawski theorizes.

Poplawski is a research associate in the IU Department of Physics. He holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. in physics from Indiana University and a M.S. in astronomy from the University of Warsaw, Poland.

Nikola Tesla, an Inventive Namesake


ODD, isn’t it, that the people at Tesla Motors named their company after a man who spent years trying to invent a death ray.

They didn’t, really. Or rather, they did, but honoring the man who wanted to build a directed-energy superweapon as a way to end wars probably wasn’t what Elon Musk and his fellow entrepreneurs had in mind. Nikola Tesla, the Serbian inventor who died at 86, nearly penniless, in a New York City hotel in 1943, also conceived of the alternating-current induction motor — the basic device, now much refined, that is at the heart of every Tesla electric car.

But it’s a testament to Tesla’s far-reaching intellect that he could be remembered as well for the weapon research (despite years of on-again, off-again work, the idea never came to fruition), or for the first patent for a speedometer, or for an early version of the points-and-breaker ignition system that was a feature of cars for decades, or for electric-arc lamps, radio, wireless transmission of electricity or any number of other inventions and ideas.

Tesla, who came to the United States in 1884, is regarded as one of the greatest electrical engineers of the early 20th century. He was Thomas Edison’s great rival, he worked with George Westinghouse to develop early lighting systems and he demonstrated a radio transmitter before Guglielmo Marconi. But he also had some strange ideas, and spent much of the latter part of his life exploring subjects like time travel and what he described as a theory of gravity.

What Tesla wasn’t very good at was managing his affairs. He got into lengthy disputes with Edison and Marconi, among others, and while he made a lot of money he also lost a lot of it, too. The people at Tesla Motors presumably didn’t choose to honor him for that.

The New York Times
February 4, 2010

Top Scientist Blends Science & Faith; Chemistry & God!

Jim Tour wanted to be a trooper. But now he’s a leading scientist at Rice, building on groundbreaking work of nanotechnology pioneer Rick Smalley.

As a teen pumping gas on a highway north of New York City, Jim Tour dreamed of becoming a state trooper. It beat filling tanks. The notion of Tour as a highway cop is almost laughably discordant with present-day reality. Three decades later, the trim, intense, 50-year-old Tour has established himself as one of the leading, if not premier, scientists at Rice University.

And he’s learned to dream big.

Four years after Nobel laureate Rick Smalley’s untimely death, it is the prolific Tour who as much as anyone has carried on Smalley’s groundbreaking legacy in the science of nanotechnology. Confirmation came last month when, among the more than 720,000 scientists who authored chemistry papers in academic journals during the last decade, Tour found himself among the 10 most-cited authors in the world. This means the 135 papers he wrote during the last decade had one of the 10 highest rates at which other scientists “cited” them in the references of subsequent research papers. And small wonder. Tour’s work spans an incredible breadth, from building tiny cars and trucks out of molecules, to making computer memory from graphite, building tiny missiles that carry drugs to tumors and trying to cure radiation sickness.

“He is just incredibly creative as a chemist,” said Wade Adams, director of Rice’s Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology. “He makes molecules dance.”

But it’s not all about the chemistry. Though Tour is clearly passionate about chemistry, he is passionate about God. In a world that increasingly associates scientists with atheism or agnosticism, Tour derives his inspiration from deep faith. He wakes up each morning at 3:30 a.m., he says, to spend his first two hours with his Bible. “I read the Bible from Genesis Chapter 1 to Revelation Chapter 22, and when I’m done I start again,” Tour said. “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. There is this amazing richness. I take a passage and I say, ‘Lord speak to me.’ And then it just comes alive.”

Attracted to law enforcement but ineligible to attend New York’s state police academy because of color blindness, Tour then considered forensic science. But his dad suggested he stick to basic chemistry to keep his options open. By the time he got to Syracuse University, Tour was hooked, especially on organic chemistry, the chemistry of carbon and life. “I just loved organic chemistry,” Tour said. “I would just spend hours and hours on Friday nights. I’d find an empty classroom and sit there and just write chemical structures and dream up syntheses of how I could build them. I understand that’s not the normal reaction to organic chemistry.”

In time Tour became a fine organic chemist, synthesizing molecules for vaccines and other applications, and joining the faculty at the University of South Carolina.

A breakthrough

By 1998 he had a breakthrough and an epiphany while tinkering in the field of molecular electronics, which seeks to build electronic components from the ground up with molecules — rather than from the top down with silicon. If fully realized, because of the small size of molecules, the field of molecular electronics has the potential to revolutionize computer technology.

Working with electrical engineer Mark Reed, Tour created the first reversible electronic switch out of molecules, a stunning achievement that landed him in the journal Science and caught the attention of Rick Smalley. The epiphany came when Tour realized he could transcend organic chemistry by turning his talents at synthesizing complex molecules toward materials science. After offers and counter-offers, Tour ended up at Rice in a brand-new building fully devoted to nanotechnology, one of the country’s first on an academic campus. Sitting in his immaculate office, it’s clear that one of Tour’s strengths is organization as he manages multiple research projects. His desk? Clear. His conference table? Clear.

Tour also seems to derive motivation from naysayers.

During the last few years he has garnered widespread acclaim for his nanocars, literally molecules that look and move like cars. “At first people laughed at us, saying it wasn’t really a car because it didn’t have a motor,” he said. “So we made a motorized car, and they laughed because it was so slow.”

The first nanocar motor turned over just 1.8 times a minute. A recent version makes 3 million revolutions per second.

“So now we’ve got one that rotates faster than you could ever build a macroscopic car,” he said, his eyes twinkling.

Tour credits his success, in part, to hard work. Six days a week, Tour says, he leaves for his office at 6 a.m., setting aside Sundays. Breakfast and lunch, most days, is dried dates and nuts. So meals take about a minute. After a midday break for 20 minutes at Rice’s on-campus chapel, it’s back to work until he leaves for home around 6 p.m.

Students contribute

He also cites his students’ contributions to his success. With a budget of $1.25 million annually from the Army, Navy and industrial grants, Tour has about two dozen graduate and postdoctoral students working under him.

“Besides his extraordinary abilities as an instructor, he is also a mentor of leaders,” said Jorge Seminario, an engineering professor at Texas A&M University who studied under Tour at South Carolina. “In every step of his leadership, he is teaching his associates and students how to be organized and look for the success of the project.”

And, finally, Tour credits his success to his faith. When he speaks about this, Tour’s angular features sharpen. He closes his eyes. His voice becomes more emotive. “I believe, fundamentally, that God creates us all,” he said. Colleagues say that Tour, a Messianic Jew who attends West University Baptist Church, does not wear his religion on his sleeve, but that he will bring it up if asked. And if asked, he does not hold back. As part of those views, Tour says he neither understands nor accepts the notion of macroevolution, that new species evolve on their own.

“I’ve asked people to explain it to me, and I still don’t understand it,” he said. “I hear their explanations and I don’t understand it. I understand better than most people how molecules come together, what they can and cannot do. … And I don’t understand how macroevolution occurs.”

Tour does not espouse “intelligent design,” which holds that certain features of living things are best explained by God, but he says not accepting macroevolution has caused problems for him in academia.

“When appointments are not made, when fellowships are not granted on this basis, that hurts,” he said. “I’m willing to stand up and say I don’t see any clothes on that emperor. I’m being very open. That bothers a lot of people. I don’t know why. I’m telling you it’s just been in the recent past. I’ve been a professor now for more than 20 years. I never saw it before.”

The Rice administration has remained steadfast behind Tour. And some of his students, such as Ashley Leonard, who just earned her Ph.D., say Tour’s faith helps make him a more complete mentor. “I always felt his doors were open to us,” she said. “I’m sure his faith created some of that hospitality there.”

It’s his faith that also has probably allowed Tour to take chances as a researcher, to not be afraid to fail.

That’s led to some successes and failures. After Smalley, Robert Curl and Harold Kroto did their Nobel Prize-winning work to synthesize buckyballs, spherical arrays of 60 carbon molecules, it was Tour’s lab that found a way to produce buckyballs in large quantities. On the other hand, his lab then failed in its efforts to produce diamonds, another form of carbon, by crushing buckyballs.

“We’ve done some pretty wild things,” Tour said. “But once in awhile you win. Once in awhile you hit something and the world says, ‘How did you think of that?’

“The answer is: We think of a lot of crazy things, and we try a lot of crazy things. I’ve been hurt by thinking too small, but I have never been hurt by thinking too big.”


‘Lifeless’ prions capable of evolutionary change and adaptation

ScienceDaily (Jan. 3, 2010) — Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have determined for the first time that prions, bits of infectious protein devoid of DNA or RNA that can cause fatal neurodegenerative disease, are capable of Darwinian evolution.

The study from Scripps Florida in Jupiter shows that prions can develop large numbers of mutations at the protein level and, through natural selection, these mutations can eventually bring about such evolutionary adaptations as drug resistance, a phenomenon previously known to occur only in bacteria and viruses. These breakthrough findings also suggest that the normal prion protein — which occurs naturally in human cells — may prove to be a more effective therapeutic target than its abnormal toxic relation.

The study was published in the December 31, 2009 issue of the journal Science Express, an advance, online edition of the journal Science.

“On the face of it, you have exactly the same process of mutation and adaptive change in prions as you see in viruses,” said Charles Weissmann, M.D., Ph.D., the head of Scripps Florida’s Department of Infectology, who led the study. “This means that this pattern of Darwinian evolution appears to be universally active. In viruses, mutation is linked to changes in nucleic acid sequence that leads to resistance. Now, this adaptability has moved one level down — to prions and protein folding — and it’s clear that you do not need nucleic acid for the process of evolution.”

The Scripps Research study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and by a generous donation to the Weissmann laboratory from the Alafi Family Foundation.

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Adapted from materials provided by Scripps Research Institute, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:

  1. Li et al. Darwinian Evolution of Prions in Cell Culture. Science, 2009; DOI: 10.1126/science.1183218

WOW!! And I can barely do a WHEELIE!

The Collider is Back Online!

(CNN) — “The LHC is back,” the European Organization for Nuclear Research announced triumphantly Friday, as the world’s largest particle accelerator resumed operation more than a year after an electrical failure shut it down.

Restarting the Large Hadron Collider — the $10 billion research tool’s full name — has been “a herculean effort,” CERN’s director for accelerators, Steve Myers, said in a statement announcing the success.
Experiments at the LHC may help answer fundamental questions such as why Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity — which describes the world on a large scale — doesn’t jibe with quantum mechanics, which deals with matter far too small to see. Physicists established a circulating proton beam in the LHC’s 17-mile tunnel at 10 p.m. (4 p.m. ET) Friday, CERN said, a critical step towards getting results from the accelerator.

“It’s great to see beam circulating in the LHC again,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “We’ve still got some way to go before physics can begin, but with this milestone we’re well on the way.”
Located underground on the border of Switzerland and France, the LHC has been inching towards operation since the summer.

It reached its operating temperature — 271 degrees below zero Celsius — on October 8 and particles were injected on October 23. Now that a beam is circulating, the next step is low-energy collisions, which should begin in about a week, CERN said. High-energy collisions will follow next year. The collider has been dogged by problems. It made headlines early this month when a bird apparently dropped a “bit of baguette” into the accelerator, making the machine shut down.

The incident was similar in effect to a standard power cut, said spokeswoman Katie Yurkewicz. Had the machine been going, there would have been no damage, but beams would have been stopped until the machine could be cooled back down to operating temperatures, she said.
The collider achieved its first full-circle beam last year on September 10 amid much celebration. But just nine days later, the operation was set back when one of the 25,000 joints that connect magnets in the LHC came loose and the resulting current melted or burned some important components of the machine, Myers said.
The faulty joint has a cross-section of a mere two-thirds of an inch by two-thirds of an inch.

“There was certainly frustration and almost sorrow when we had the accident,” he said. Now, “people are feeling a lot better because we know we’ve done so much work in the last year.”
Mark Wise, professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology, said he’s just as excited about the results that will come out of the LHC as he was last year and views the September 2008 accident as a delay rather than a devastating event.

Wise noted that Tevatron, the collider at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, has also had its share of failures but is generally considered to work just fine.
“It’s a horribly complicated piece of equipment, it’s not like there’s not going to be problems along the way,” he said. “They will surmount those problems.”

The LHC will probably be in operation more than 20 years, Myers said. But it won’t be that long before scientists could potentially discover new properties of nature. The as-yet theoretical Higgs boson, also called “the God particle” in popular parlance, could emerge within two or three years, Myers said.
Evidence of supersymmetry — the idea that every particle has a “super partner” with similar properties in a quantum dimension (according to some physics theories, there are hidden dimensions in the universe) — could crop up as early as 2010. For some theoretical physicists such as Wise, finding the Higgs boson and verifying every prediction of the Standard Model of physics would be the worst outcome. He wants the LHC to deliver surprises, even if that means no Higgs.

“When push comes to shove, the name of the game is ‘what is nature,’ and we’re not going to know until our experimental colleagues tell us,” Wise said. ATLAS and CMS are the general-purpose experiments designed to find the Higgs boson and other rare particles that have never been detected before. ALICE, another experiment, will explore the matter that existed some 10 microseconds after the Big Bang, said John Harris, professor of physics at Yale University and national coordinator of ALICE-USA. At that time, there was a “hot soup” of particles called quarks and gluons at a temperature of around 2 trillion degrees above absolute zero, he said.

Although they have never been directly seen, these particles are theoretically the building blocks of the bigger particles — protons, neutrons and electrons — that form the universe as we know it.

Close Call but all is well….

by Kathy Parks (Tribune)

8620.1 (1)Members of the community are reaching out in a show of support for Humble Mayor Donnie McMannes, who suffered a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 4, while on the golf course.
McMannes, in his early 70s, was taken to Memorial Hermann Northeast, in Humble, for surgery. He was given a stent and remained in the hospital for a several days, under close supervision.

“His condition after surgery was stable, and his prognosis for recovery is good,” said Assistant City Manager Mark Martin.

McMannes was with Humble Police Chief Gary Warman at the time of the incident. Martin said the mayor was feeling bad, but conscious, when the decision was made to go to the hospital.

“The mayor is in the office every day conducting city business and his absence, even for a couple days, is felt.”

McMannes, serving a third term as mayor of Humble, continues to see that Humble is a great place to live, work and play through the city’s Beautification Committee. Committee projects include the Adopt a City Street program, the erection of various welcome signs, restoration of the artesian well, restoration of the old cemetery, a new pocket park, the annual Christmas parade and coordination of the city’s annual spring cleanup effort.

McMannes grew up in the Humble area. He and his wife, Georgia, graduated from Humble High School. McMannes worked as an apprentice brick layer before establishing his career in law enforcement. He retired from the Harris County Precinct 1 in 1995. McMannes has one son, Michael, who is a teacher in Cy-Fair ISD. McMannes’ hobbies include cooking and playing golf.

© 2008

“Hold that door! Can you punch floor 23,115, please?”

‘Space elevator’ wins $900,000 NASA prize – space – 06 November 2009 – New Scientist.

A laser-powered robotic climber has won $900,000 in a competition designed to spur technology for a future elevator to space.



Building a space elevator would require anchoring a cable on the ground near Earth’s equator and deploying the other end thousands of kilometres into space. The centrifugal force due to Earth’s spin would keep the cable taut so that a robot could climb it and release payloads into orbit.

Though building a space elevator might require an initial investment of billions of dollars, proponents say once constructed, it would make for cheaper trips into space than is possible using rockets. But huge technological hurdles must first be overcome, including how to supply power to the robotic climber.

To that end, NASA offered $2 million in prize money in a competition called the Power Beaming Challenge, in which robotic climbers, powered wirelessly from the ground, attempt to ascend a cable as fast as possible.

Now, a robotic climber has made a prize-winning ascent worth $900,000, making it the first to win money in the competition, which has occurred annually since 2005.

Ted Semon, a volunteer with the Spaceward Foundation, a non-profit that organised the competition, and author of the Space Elevator Blog, says the feat shows space elevators are one step closer to getting off the ground. “We’ve done a lot here to demonstrate that this technology is possible,” he told New Scientist. “This is just enormously exciting.”

The winning climber was built by a team called LaserMotive, based in Seattle, Washington. Like the other two vehicles in the competition, it used solar cells to absorb energy from a ground-based infrared laser.

Unclaimed pot

On Wednesday, LaserMotive fired up its laser, powering the climber to ascend 900 metres up a cable suspended from a helicopter at Edwards Air Force Base in Mojave, California.

The climber reached the top in just over 4 minutes, for an average speed of 3.7 metres per second. The team’s climber repeated the feat at a slightly higher speed of 3.9 metres per second on Thursday.

On Friday, two other teams failed in their final attempted climbs. That means LaserMotive will receive the entire $900,000 NASA set aside for climbers that could make the climb faster than 2 metres per second.

The remaining $1.1 million in NASA prize money was reserved for climbs faster than 5 metres per second, which none of the competitors was able to achieve.

Lunar rovers

A climber entered by a team from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, stalled just a few metres up the cable in its final attempt on Friday and was unable to continue its climb.

A climber from a third team, called the Kansas City Space Pirates, also achieved only partial climbs.

NASA was expected to officially recognise LaserMotive as the winner of the $900,000 prize in an award ceremony later on Friday.

Though a space elevator remains a distant prospect, NASA is interested in wireless power transmission for other applications, like beaming power to lunar rovers travelling in shadowed craters, where solar energy is unavailable.

My Life Explained? No Reward for the ADHD!

ScienceDaily (Sep. 10, 2009) — A brain-imaging study conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory provides the first definitive evidence that patients suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have lower-than-normal levels of certain proteins essential for experiencing reward and motivation.

“These deficits in the brain’s reward system may help explain clinical symptoms of ADHD, including inattention and reduced motivation, as well as the propensity for complications such as drug abuse and obesity among ADHD patients,” said lead author Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a long-time collaborator on neuroimaging research at Brookhaven Lab.

The study, published in the September 9, 2009, issue of theJournal of the American Medical Association, also has important implications for treatment. “Finding ways to address the underlying reward-system deficit could improve adhd_brainthe direct clinical outcome of ADHD, and potentially reduce the likelihood of other negative consequences of this condition,” said study co-author Gene-Jack Wang, chair of Brookhaven’s medical department.

Prior to this study, it was not clear whether people with ADHD had abnormalities in the brain’s dopamine-mediated motivation/reward system. Previous studies were relatively small and may have been complicated by the fact that some ADHD patients had undergone treatments, or had a history of drug abuse or other conditions that can affect the dopamine system.

To strengthen the statistics and control for these factors, the current study looked at 53 adult ADHD patients who had never received treatment and 44 healthy control subjects — all of whom had been carefully screened to eliminate potentially confounding variables.

The scientists used positron emission tomography (PET) to measure two markers of the dopamine system — dopamine receptors, to which the chemical messenger binds to propagate the “reward” signal, and dopamine transporters, which take up and recycle excess dopamine after the signal is sent. Lying in a PET scanner, each patient was injected with a minute amount of a “radiotracer” compound — a chemical labeled with a radioactive form of carbon and designed to bind specifically to one of the targets. Different tracers were used for each target, and patients were scanned for each at separate times. By detecting the signal from the radiotracers, the PET machine can measure the receptor and transporter locations and concentrations in various parts of the brain.

The results clearly showed that, relative to the healthy control subjects, the ADHD patients had lower levels of dopamine receptors and transporters in the accumbens and midbrain — two key regions of the brain directly involved in processing motivation and reward. In addition, the measurements of dopamine markers correlated with measures of behavior and clinical observations of ADHD symptoms, such as reduced levels of attention as measured by standard psychological tests.

“Our findings imply that these deficits in the dopamine reward pathway play a role in the symptoms of inattention in ADHD and could underlie these patients’ abnormal responses to reward,” Volkow said.

“This pathway plays a key role in reinforcement, motivation, and in learning how to associate various stimuli with rewards,” she continued. “Its involvement in ADHD supports the use of interventions to enhance the appeal and relevance of school and work tasks to improve performance.


“Our results also support the continued use of stimulant medications — the most common pharmacological treatment for ADHD — which have been shown to increase attention to cognitive tasks by elevating brain dopamine,” she said.

The findings may also help explain why ADHD patients are more likely than control subjects to develop drug-abuse disorders and conditions such as obesity.

Said Wang: “Other studies from our group suggest that patients who abuse drugs or overeat may be unconsciously attempting to compensate for a deficient reward system by boosting their dopamine levels. Understanding how deficits in the dopamine system contribute to ADHD and finding ways to improve the functioning of the reward system could help mitigate these troubling consequences in the ADHD patient population.”

This research was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Intramural Research Program and by the National Institute on Mental Health. The Office of Biological and Environmental Research within DOE’s Office of Science provides infrastructure support for the radiotracer chemistry and imaging facilities at Brookhaven Lab. Brain-imaging techniques such as PET are a direct outgrowth of DOE’s long-standing investment in basic research in chemistry, physics, and nuclear medicine.

Creating Quantum Creatures in the Lab? Flu Monster? – Physics – New Scientist

Could we create quantum creatures in the lab? – physics-math – 15 September 2009 – New Scientist.

Quantum weirdness could soon invade the living world, if a scheme to give a flu virus a strange double life comes off.

Water bears, similar to the one pictured here, can survive in a vacuum and might be made to behave like quantum objects (Courtesy: Ralph O Schill)In quantum theory, a single object can be doing two different things at once. This so-called “superposition” is a delicate state, destroyed by any contact with the outside world. The largest objects that have been superposed so far are molecules. It is hard to put a much larger object such as a cat or human into a superposition because air molecules and photons are always bouncing off it. But it might be possible with a small life form, according to Oriol Romero-Isartof the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, and his colleagues. They hope to prove the concept with the flu virus, which exhibits some properties of life, because it can survive in a vacuum – solving the problem of pesky air molecules.

Laser hold

Their scheme would use two laser beams, whose light exerts a gentle force on matter. Where the two beams cross they form an “optical cavity” holding the virus in place. By adjusting the frequency of the beams, the laser photons can be made to absorb the vibration energy of the trapped virus about its centre of mass until it is slowed to its lowest possible energy state. In this “ground state” the virus is ready to go into a superposition. Sending a laser photon towards the trap should do the trick. Since a photon is a quantum entity it has more than one option open to it. Thus it will be both reflected and transmitted at the trap, putting it into a superposition.

By impinging on the virus, it forces it into a superposition of both its ground state and next vibrational energy state. Now the virus should be doing two different things at once – the equivalent of you simultaneously mowing the lawn and doing the shopping. “They have come up with a really neat experiment – inventive and I think feasible,” says Peter Knight of Imperial College London.

Romero-Isart and his colleagues speculate that they could pull off the same feat with a tardigrade, or water bear, an animal less than a millimetre in size that can survive extreme temperatures and a vacuumMovie Camera for several days.

Big questions

Making a living thing do two things at once is more than a physicist’s tour de force. It could answer fundamental questions about the nature of quantum theory. Most physicists believe that the reason quantum behaviour manifests itself only in small things is that objects are difficult to isolate from their surroundings. But the prominent physicist Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford believes instead that there is a critical size, or mass, at which bodies cease to become quantum.

According to Knight, experiments of the kind proposed by Romero-Isart’s team could finally offer a way to distinguish between the mainstream view and Penrose’s.


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