Friday, December 16, 2016

live long and prosper

The Guardian | Ageing process may be reversible, scientists claim
Wrinkles, grey hair and niggling aches are normally regarded as an inevitable part of growing older, but now scientists claim that the ageing process may be reversible.
The team showed that a new form of gene therapy produced a remarkable rejuvenating effect in mice. After six weeks of treatment, the animals looked younger, had straighter spines and better cardiovascular health, healed quicker when injured, and lived 30% longer.
Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who led the work at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, said: “Our study shows that ageing may not have to proceed in one single direction. With careful modulation, ageing might be reversed.”
The genetic techniques used do not lend themselves to immediate use in humans, and the team predict that clinical applications are a decade away. However, the discovery raises the prospect of a new approach to healthcare in which ageing itself is treated, rather than the various diseases associated with it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

guessing the deep state gonna escalate things before trump takes office

The Aviationist | NATO hunting at least one Russian Navy Oscar II Class submarine that is chasing aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean Sea
According to military sources close to The Aviationist, a big hunt is underway in the eastern Med: several MPA aircraft, including U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon jets operating from NAS Sigonella, Sicily, are looking for one, possibly two, Russian Navy submarines operating in the vicinity of a group of warships of the NATO Maritime Group.
What makes the news even more interesting is the fact that the Russian Navy submarine would be an Oscar II Class, that is to say a “carrier killer” sub, designed with the primary mission of countering aircraft carrier battlegroups. Among the NATO vessels in proximity of the Oscar II there is also the French Charles De Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the USS Eisenhower is not too far away either.
Therefore a massive Cold War-style hide-and-seek in underway, keeping both sides quite busy.

first india, now venezuala - and venezuela shutting it's borders to stop the peasants

CNN | Venezuela shuts border with Colombia as cash crisis escalates
President Nicolas Maduro announced Monday night that he's closing the country's border with Colombia for 72 hours as Venezuelans rush to exchange bills before they become invalid later this week. He accused "mafias" of moving Venezuelan money into Colombia.
It's the latest twist in a crisis that symbolizes Venezuela's severe economic depression, which is having a brutal impact on its citizens' lives.
The Venezuelan government said in a statement that shutting the border with Colombia was necessary "to counteract the criminal attacks against our currency."
Some Venezuelans are going to border towns in Colombia to exchange their currency, the bolivar, for U.S. dollars or to spend their money -- while they still can -- in Colombia where food, toiletries and other basics are plentiful.

Monday, December 12, 2016

we may yet get our jackboots and crisp uniforms under trump

Global Guerrillas | WARNING: The Electoral Coup is Underway
This may be the most important thing I've ever written.  
On December 19, 2016 the electoral college will vote.  
Based on the vote, Trump should receive 306 votes and Clinton will have 232.  
However, it is possible for many electors to change their vote.  They aren't bound by it.  
There's currently a very well funded attempt to influence electors to flip their votes on December 19th to change the outcome of the election.
Despite expectations it has a high chance of success in one of three outcomes: 
  1. Trump falls short of the electoral count (270) to become President and the election is sent to Congress for a decision.
  2. Clinton gets more than 270 electoral votes and becomes the President.
  3. A dark horse candidate (Kaisitch, etc.) would get the votes to become President.
In my view:  all of these outcomes would end in a disaster.

it was always about the networking...

Backchannel | The Thiel Fellowship was created to prove that a college degree doesn’t matter. It became one of the most elite credentials for young entrepreneurs.
Jesse Leimgruber has 22 employees, and every last one is older than him. He tells me this over coffee at a downtown San Francisco Starbucks that is equidistant from his company’s coworking space and the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his girlfriend. Leimgruber is the CEO of NeoReach, a digital marketing tools firm he started in 2014 with his brother and a friend; they have raised $3.5 million so far, and last year they did over a million dollars in sales. He is 22.
Leimgruber is one of 29 people who make up this year’s class of Thiel Fellows — the crazy smart youth paid by Peter Thiel to double down on entrepreneurship instead of school. Leimgruber has dramatic eyebrows, longish hair, and the kind of earnest perma-grin that creeps across his face even when he’s trying to be serious. He speaks with the authority of a three-time CEO who has learned a lot on the job, explaining a challenge particular to fellows like him: “A common piece of advice is, don’t hire your peers; They probably aren’t qualified.”
Welcome to the 2016 version of Peter Thiel’s eponymous fellowship. What began as an attempt to draw teen prodigies to the Valley before they racked up debt at Princeton or Harvard and went into consulting to pay it off has transformed into the most prestigious network for young entrepreneurs in existence — a pedigree that virtually guarantees your ideas will be judged good, investors will take your call, and there will always be another job ahead even better than the one you have. “We look for extraordinary individuals and we want to back them for life,” says executive director Jack Abraham. He speaks with the conviction of a man who sold a company by age 25, has spent the entirety of his professional life in the cradle of the upswing of the technology revolution, and only just turned 30. With no irony, he adds: “We consider ourselves a league of extraordinary, courageous, brilliant individuals who should be a shining light for the rest of society.”
This is not what Thiel endeavored to build. In 2010, when he set out to take down higher education by plucking kids from the ivory towers of the Ivy League and transporting them to San Francisco, he had his eye on teenagers. In a hastily conceived plan that he announced at a San Francisco tech conference, Thiel said he’d pay $100,000 to 20 people under the age of 20 to drop out of school for two years, move to the Bay Area, and work on anything they wanted. His goal was to jumpstart the kind of big tech breakthroughs — walking on the moon, desktop computing — that he believed the contemporary Valley lacked. He also meant to prove that college was often counterproductive; it required kids to take on debt while laying out a set of overly prescriptive options for their futures. A college diploma, he once said, was “a dunce cap in disguise.”

what does abe know that we don't?

Reuters | Japan ratifies TPP trade pact to fly the flag for free trade
Japan on Friday ratified the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade pact aimed at linking a dozen Pacific Rim nations, hoping it will one day take effect despite President-elect Donald Trump's pledge that the United States will withdraw from it.
The TPP, which aims to cut trade barriers in some of Asia's fastest-growing economies but does not include China, can not take effect without the United States.
The deal, which has been five years in the making, requires ratification by at least six countries accounting for 85 percent of the combined gross domestic product of the member nations.
Given the sheer size of the American economy, the deal cannot go ahead without U.S. participation.
It has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate and Trump last month promised to withdraw from it after he is inaugurated in January. Instead, he would replace it with bilaterally negotiated trade deals.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the TPP would be "meaningless without the United States".

Friday, December 9, 2016

nuclear energy to make renewables, see also nuclear waste as diamond batteries

Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis | Nuclear-Renewable Hybrid Energy Systems Can Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Industry and Support the Power System
Nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems (N-R HESs) can enable low-carbon, on-demand electricity while providing reduced-emission thermal energy for industrial processes. However, the economic feasibility of these systems may depend on future natural gas prices, electricity market structures, and clean energy incentives. N-R HESs are physically coupled facilities that include both nuclear and renewable energy sources and produce electricity and another product such as a fuel, thermal energy, hydrogen, and desalinated water. Energy and materials flows among energy production and delivery systems are dynamically integrated so that the production rate of each product can be varied.
A series of new reports from the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) examines various hybrid system configurations to provide a basis to identify opportunities for clean energy use and examine the most economically viable configurations.
In one report, Generation and Use of Thermal Energy in the U.S. Industrial Sector and Opportunities to Reduce its Carbon Emissions, researchers from INL and the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) identify key greenhouse gas (GHG) emission sources in the industrial sector and propose low-emitting alternatives using targeted, process-level analysis of industrial heat requirements. The report examines emissions generated during process heat generation from the industrial sector. The study focuses on the 14 industries with the largest emissions as reported under the Environmental Protection Agency's Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program in 2014. Approximately, 960 plants from those industries represent less than one half of one percent of all manufacturing in the U.S., but they emit nearly 25 percent of all industrial sector emissions—5 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2014. The report also identifies non-GHG-emitting thermal energy sources that could be used to generate heat without emissions. Those potential sources include small modular nuclear reactors, solar heat for industrial processes, and geothermal heat. The report identifies potential opportunities for each source, identifies implementation challenges, and proposes analyses to identify approaches to overcome the challenges.
In a second report, Status on the Component Models Developed in the Modelica Framework: High-Temperature Steam Electrolysis Plant & Gas Turbine Power Plant, INL details a modeling and simulation framework to assess the technical and economic viability of an N-R HES. INL, with support from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory, developed a dynamic, physics-based modeling capability of N-R HESs using the Modelica programming language. The report presents details on newly developed high-temperature steam electrolysis (for hydrogen production) and gas turbine power plant subsystems. Simulations of several case studies show that the suggested control scheme could maintain satisfactory plant operations even under rapid variations in net load. The study finds that the N-R HESs modeled could provide operational flexibility to participate in energy management at the utility scale by dynamically optimizing the use of excess plant capacity.
In a third report, The Economic Potential of Three Nuclear-Renewable Hybrid Energy Systems Providing Thermal Energy to Industry, NREL researchers explore the economics of an N-R HES that sells a thermal product (steam or a high-temperature heat transfer fluid) to one or more industrial customers. Under each scenario examined, the economically optimal system configuration includes a nuclear reactor generating a thermal product such as steam or a heat transfer fluid — a configuration that can economically reduce GHG emissions from industry. In addition, configurations that include a thermal power cycle can support resource adequacy for the electricity grid while maximizing production of the thermal energy product if the markets sufficiently incentivize that option.

snow in Hawaii

USA Today | Hawaii's forecast: Icy and dangerous conditions. No, really.
Forget the swimsuits for Hawaii and pack raincoats and winter parkas.
The National Weather Service issued a winter-storm warning until 6 p.m. Saturday local time, with heavy, flooding rainfall across the chain of Pacific islands and up to 30 inches of snow on the peaks of the Big Island.
Drifting snow, freezing fog and gusting wind are forecast for the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes above 11,000 feet. Visibility could be less than a quarter-mile, making driving and hiking dangerous.
“A winter storm warning means significant amounts of snow,” the weather service said early Friday local time. “This will make travel very hazardous or impossible.”

you humans know when you've lost your usefulness

NPR | Life Expectancy In U.S. Drops For First Time In Decades, Report Finds
One of the fundamental ways scientists measure the well-being of a nation is tracking the rate at which its citizens die and how long they can be expected to live.
So the news out of the federal government Thursday is disturbing: The overall U.S. death rate has increased for the first time in a decade, according to an analysis of the latest data. And that led to a drop in overall life expectancy for the first time since 1993, particularly among people younger than 65.
"This is a big deal," says Philip Morgan, a demographer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who was not involved in the new analysis.
"There's not a better indicator of well-being than life expectancy," he says. "The fact that it's leveling off in the U.S. is a striking finding."

stigmergy and collective behavior - metacomputation

Wired | Why Did Donald Trump Get Elected? Ask the Bees
WHAT DO DONALD Trump and a bee hive have in common?
While this might sound like the setup to a bad joke or bit of political punditry, it’s an important and meaningful academic question. To a collective behavior scientist, electing a president or choosing a new nest site are both choices that arise from the interactions of a large number of individuals.
When bees need to find a new nest site, scouts will visit several potential locations. When they return, if they like the site they dance excitedly in a way that tells others where it is located. This dancing may recruit more scouts to check out the site, who likewise visit the site and start dancing to express support for the location. Bees will butt heads with dancers advocating for an opposing location. Through these interactions, they eventually settle on a nest site, often a very good one. The amazing thing is that this process allows a hive to measure the relative quality of nest sites, without any single bee knowing which is best.

best you mind your diet

Science News | Protein linked to Parkinson’s travels from gut to brain

Over the course of months, clumps of a protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease can travel from the gut into the brains of mice, scientists have found.

The results, reported November 14 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, suggest that in some cases, Parkinson’s may get its start in the gut. That’s an intriguing concept, says neuroscientist John Cryan of the University College Cork in Ireland. The new study “shows how important gut health can be for brain health and behavior.”

three blind mice... not anymore

Science Daily | New gene-editing technology partially restores vision in blind animals

Salk Institute researchers have discovered a holy grail of gene editing -- the ability to, for the first time, insert DNA at a target location into the non-dividing cells that make up the majority of adult organs and tissues. The technique, which the team showed was able to partially restore visual responses in blind rodents, will open new avenues for basic research and a variety of treatments, such as for retinal, heart and neurological diseases.
"We are very excited by the technology we discovered because it's something that could not be done before," says Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory and senior author of the paper published on November 16, 2016 in Nature. "For the first time, we can enter into cells that do not divide and modify the DNA at will. The possible applications of this discovery are vast."
Until now, techniques that modify DNA -- such as the CRISPR-Cas9 system -- have been most effective in dividing cells, such as those in skin or the gut, using the cells' normal copying mechanisms. The new Salk technology is ten times more efficient than other methods at incorporating new DNA into cultures of dividing cells, making it a promising tool for both research and medicine. But, more importantly, the Salk technique represents the first time scientists have managed to insert a new gene into a precise DNA location in adult cells that no longer divide, such as those of the eye, brain, pancreas or heart, offering new possibilities for therapeutic applications in these cells.

no such thing as waste: high quality input -> low quality output, transformation by another system, middle quality input -> lower quality output, repeat -> heat death of the universe

New Atlas | Diamonds turn nuclear waste into nuclear batteries
How to dispose of nuclear waste is one of the great technical challenges of the 21st century. The trouble is, it usually turns out not to be so much a question of disposal as long-term storage. If it was simply a matter of getting rid of radioactive material permanently, there are any number of options, but spent nuclear fuel and other waste consists of valuable radioactive isotopes that are needed in industry and medicine, or can be reprocessed to produce more fuel. Disposal, therefore is more often a matter of keeping waste safe, but being able to get at it later when needed.
One unexpected example of this is the Bristol team's work on a major source of nuclear waste from Britain's aging Magnox reactors, which are now being decommissioned after over half a century of service. These first generation reactors used graphite blocks as moderators to slow down neutrons to keep the nuclear fission process running, but decades of exposure have left the UK with 95,000 tonnes (104,720 tons) of graphite blocks that are now classed as nuclear waste because the radiation in the reactors changes some of the inert carbon in the blocks into radioactive carbon-14.
Carbon-14 is a low-yield beta particle emitter that can't penetrate even a few centimeters of air, but it's still too dangerous to allow into the environment. Instead of burying it, the Bristol team's solution is to remove most of the c-14 from the graphite blocks and turn it into electricity-generating diamonds.
The nuclear diamond battery is based on the fact that when a man-made diamond is exposed to radiation, it produces a small electric current. According to the researchers, this makes it possible to build a battery that has no moving parts, gives off no emissions, and is maintenance-free.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

production cuts right before privatization...

CNBC | Oil prices surge as source says OPEC has agreed to plan to cut output
Oil prices jumped as much as 8 percent on Wednesday to a five-week high as some of the world's largest oil producers agreed to curb oil output for the first time since 2008 in a last-ditch bid to support prices.
Brent crude futures for delivery in January were up $3.63, or 7.8 percent, at $50.01 a barrel by 10:55 a.m. ET (1555 GMT), recovering from a drop of nearly 4 percent on Tuesday and on course for their biggest one-day move in nine months. Brent crude for delivery in February was up $3.63 at $50.95 a barrel.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose $3.23, or 7.1 percent, to $48.46 a barrel, a one-week high.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has agreed its first output limiting deal in eight years, an OPEC source told Reuters as the debates continued in Vienna on the exact size of each member's cuts.

Monday, November 21, 2016

they're responsible for the current oil glut, so what is this on about? | Are The Saudis About To Reveal The Best Kept Secret In Oil?
One of the oil world’s longest and best kept secrets may finally be revealed. Saudi Arabia is preparing to unveil how much oil it holds, a closely guarded state secret that has been kept quiet for decades.
The decision to bring such important data to light comes as Saudi Aramco is preparing to partially privatize its assets, an IPO that could bring in some $100 billion. The IPO will be a monumental event, one that the Wall Street Journal says could offer Wall Street some of the largest fees in history.
Saudi Arabia often trades off with Russia – and more recently, with the U.S. – as the world’s largest oil producer. But while it produces at similar levels as Russia and the U.S., it is long been a vastly more influential player in the oil world. That is because of two reasons – the size of its reserves, and the ability to use latent spare capacity to quickly adjust supply, affording it an outsized influence on crude oil prices.
But while everyone believes Saudi Arabia has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, perhaps rivaled only by Venezuela, there has been a lot of uncertainty and skepticism over exactly how much sits beneath the Saudi desert. The world’s largest oil field, Ghawar, has been producing since the 1950s, raising speculation about the longevity of the supergiant oilfield. It alone is thought to hold around 75 billion barrels, and it churns out more than 5 million barrels every single day. Surely, it cannot continue like this indefinitely, but the Kingdom has not revised its official reserves for years, which have stood at 260 billion barrels since the 1980s. It is hard to overstate how valuable this information is, and how fiercely Saudi leadership protected it.
However, the collapse of oil prices since 2014 has pushed the Saudi budget deep into the red. The Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is undergoing an historic transformation of the Saudi economy, a multi-decade plan to diversify the country’s economic base and create new sources of revenue. At the heart of the plan is spinning off roughly 5 percent of Saudi Aramco, the most valuable oil company in the world. Saudi officials believe that the company is worth between $2 and $3 trillion.

But in order to settled on a valuation and launch an IPO of some of Aramco’s assets, investors need to get a look beneath the hood. That is why Saudi Arabia is now prepared to unveil not just its financials, but also the long sought after data surrounding its oil reserves. “Everything that Saudi Aramco has, that will be shared, that will be verified by independent third parties,” Khalid al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, told theFinancial Times in an interview. That would include, “reserves … costs [and] profitability indicators.” He went to lengths to emphasize Saudi Arabia’s seriousness about the IPO, in an effort to dampen skepticism. “This is going to be the most transparent national oil company listing of all time,” he said.

Caught on Tape! Photosynthesis...

Green Car Congress | Detailed snapshots of photosynthesis at room temperature using SLAC’s X-ray laser show water-splitting reaction
One of its molecular mysteries of photosynthesis involves how the photosystem II protein complex harvests energy from sunlight and uses it to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
Now, an international team of researchers has used femtosecond pulses from an X-ray free electron laser (XFEL) at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to capture the highest resolution room-temperature (RT) images of this protein complex, allowing scientists to watch closely how water is split during photosynthesis at the temperature at which it occurs naturally. A paper on the work is published in the journal Nature.

Monday, November 14, 2016

are americans ready to consume less?

I'm fascinated to see how Trump responds. This will be how we get jobs back to America, but is the middle class willing to pay more for their trinkets? Are they willing to do without during the transition? Many of the raw materials in modern devices are primarily sourced from China - does Trump have alternative sourcing ideas? Will Trump create incentives to move industries back to the US before the trade war starts? Will China resort to the financial nuclear option - US Treasury bond dumping?
The Guardian | China threatens to cut sales of iPhones and US cars if 'naive' Trump pursues trade war
US president-elect Donald Trump would be a “naive” fool to launch an all-out trade war against China, a Communist party-controlled newspaper has claimed.
During the acrimonious race for the White House Trump repeatedly lashed out at China, vowing to punish Beijing with “defensive” 45% tariffs on Chinese imports and to officially declare it a currency manipulator.

“When they see that they will stop the cheating,” the billionaire Republican, who has accused Beijing of “the greatest theft in the history of the world”, told a rally in August.
On Monday the state-run Global Times warned that such measures would be a grave mistake.
“If Trump wrecks Sino-US trade, a number of US industries will be impaired. Finally the new president will be condemned for his recklessness, ignorance and incompetence,” the newspaper said in an editorial.
The Global Times claimed any new tariffs would trigger immediate “countermeasures” and “tit-for-tat approach” from Beijing.
“A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted. China can also limit the number of Chinese students studying in the US.”
“Making things difficult for China politically will do him no good,” the newspaper warned.

China’s foreign ministry has used more diplomatic language to caution Trump not to square up to Beijing.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told reporters last week: “I believe that any US politician, if he takes the interests of his own people first, will adopt a policy that is conducive to the economic and trade cooperation between China and the US.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

g.o.d. in mushrooms and they are f'ing amazing

The Ascender | The Macro of Myco
Reaching the lush science campus involved heading south from Delhi, just over the state border, along the trash-strewn Faridabad Road. The alkaline fields of dust along the side of the highway are poisonous to most plants, hospitable only for patches of the most rugged and ragged of species. Cars honked, buffalos labored, and I coughed. A fence loomed along the left side, opposite a temple and a rundown snack stand. On the other side of that fence, scientists were mass-producing spores that are rescuing broken down lands just like this one.
The auto rickshaw was still sputtering as I stepped out. I handed the driver some rupees and walked up the driveway to the guarded gates of The Energy and Resources Institute. As I stepped through TERI’s fence line, I took in the spectacle of an oasis. To my left was a gleaming green golf course. Caddies stirred, mistaking my interest for that of a golfer. A guard told me cricket ovals were off to the right, past the trees and the solar panel-covered parking lot. Ahead was a wide path that disappeared into jungle.
Somebody ought hand me a drink with a miniature umbrella.
Out of the shadows of the jungle appeared an electric buggy. Internal combustion engines are banned on the campus. The buggy ferried me quietly down the path and through the half mile of acacia trees, gardens, bamboo and rows of palm trees to Alok Adholeya’s laboratory on the other side.
If green-thumbed people ever got together to vote on who had the greenest thumb, this guy might win. The microbiologist is a maestro of mycorrhizae – the name given to an ancient subterranean union between fungi and plants.
“What you see here is all reclaimed land,” Adholeya said proudly, welcoming me to his research station of more than a quarter of a century.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

curious, curious... magnetite implicated in Alzheimer's

Lancaster University | Toxic air pollution nanoparticles discovered in the human brain
[Editor's note: now why would a magnetic particle get lodged in and around neurons?]
Tiny magnetic particles from air pollution have for the first time been discovered to be lodged in human brains– and researchers think they could be a possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers at Lancaster University found abundant magnetite nanoparticles in the brain tissue from 37 individuals aged three to 92-years-old who lived in Mexico City and Manchester. This strongly magnetic mineral is toxic and has been implicated in the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) in the human brain, which are associated with neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.
Professor Barbara Maher, from Lancaster Environment Centre, and colleagues (from Oxford, Glasgow, Manchester and Mexico City) used spectroscopic analysis to identify the particles as magnetite. Unlike angular magnetite particles that are believed to form naturally within the brain, most of the observed particles were spherical, with diameters up to 150 nm, some with fused surfaces, all characteristic of high-temperature formation – such as from vehicle (particularly diesel) engines or open fires.
The spherical particles are often accompanied by nanoparticles containing other metals, such as platinum, nickel, and cobalt.

beta test - zika pesticide killing bees

The Guardian | US beekeepers fear for livelihoods as anti-Zika toxin kills 2.5m bees
Huddled around their hives, beekeepers around the south-eastern US fear a new threat to their livelihood: a fine mist beaded with neurotoxin, sprayed from the sky by officials at war with mosquitos that carry the Zika virus.
Earlier this week, South Carolina beekeepers found millions of dead honey bees carpeting their apiaries, killed by an insecticide. Video posted by a beekeeper to Facebook showed thousands of dead insects heaped around hives, while a few survivors struggled to move the bodies of fellow bees.
“This is what’s left of Flowertown Bees,” a despondent keeper says in the video. Company co-owner Juanita Stanley told the Associated Press her farm looked “like it’s been nuked” and estimated 2.5 million bees were killed.
In another Facebook post, South Carolina hobbyist Andrew Macke wrote that he had lost “thousands upon thousands of bees” and that the spraying had devastated his business. “Have we lost our mind,” he wrote, “spraying poison from the sky?”
Around the US, bees and other pollinators contribute an estimated $29bn to farm income. Clemson University’s department of pesticide regulation is investigating the incident.
The program head, Dr Mike Weyman, said that though South Carolina has strict rules about protecting pollinators, county officials were using the neurotoxin, Naled, under a clause exempting them in a “clear and public health crisis”.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

big fan of g.o.d. but this strikes me as a very,very bad idea - extra credit to anyone who can tell me why!

 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences | Light-driven carbon dioxide reduction to methane by nitrogenase in a photosynthetic bacterium


One of the most important life-sustaining metabolisms that results from a net reduction reaction is the conversion of nitrogen gas to ammonia by nitrogenase in a process known as nitrogen fixation. A nitrogenase variant has been described that converts carbon dioxide to methane in vitro. Here, we expressed this variant in an engineered strain of the photosynthetic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris and showed biological light-driven methane production. Its ability to reduce carbon dioxide at ambient temperature and pressure with a single enzyme and energy provided by light makes the methane-producing strain of R. palustris an excellent starting point to understand how a biological system can marshal resources to produce an energy-rich hydrocarbon in one enzymatic step.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

explosion of microcephaly in brazil from zika DID NOT OCCUR

Globe and Mail | Brazil opens probe as cases of Zika babies defy predicted patterns
Brazil’s Ministry of Health has launched an investigation into the cluster of babies born with brain defects linked to the Zika virus, after an expected “explosion” of cases across the country did not occur.
The bulk of the cases of congenital Zika syndrome – fetal brain defects that sometimes cause microcephaly, or abnormally small skulls – remain clustered in the northeast region of the country where the phenomenon was first identified last October, the ministry says.
And that has epidemiologists and infectious disease experts asking what is going on: Is it Zika and another virus working together that damages the fetal brains? Is it Zika and an environmental factor? Or something about the women themselves whose fetuses are affected?
The research in Brazil won’t have conclusions for months, but will have implications across the Americas, where the Brazilian experience and the rapid spread of Zika has caused governments to take protective measures and even warn women to delay getting pregnant.
“We can see there is a kind of cluster in [part of] the northeast region with high prevalence and high severity, of miscarriage and congenital malformation that is really severe,” said Fatima Marinho, co-ordinator of epidemiological analysis and information at the ministry.
“But we didn’t find this in other states – even the [adjacent] states didn’t see the same situation as in the epicentre.… We were preparing for an explosion and it didn’t come.
“So we started to think that in this central area maybe more than Zika is causing this intensity and severity.”

how about now...

UC Berkeley | Sprinkling of neural dust opens door to electroceuticals
University of California, Berkeley engineers have built the first dust-sized, wireless sensors that can be implanted in the body, bringing closer the day when a Fitbit-like device could monitor internal nerves, muscles or organs in real time.
Because these batteryless sensors could also be used to stimulate nerves and muscles, the technology also opens the door to “electroceuticals” to treat disorders such as epilepsy or to stimulate the immune system or tamp down inflammation.
The so-called neural dust, which the team implanted in the muscles and peripheral nerves of rats, is unique in that ultrasound is used both to power and read out the measurements. Ultrasound technology is already well-developed for hospital use, and ultrasound vibrations can penetrate nearly anywhere in the body, unlike radio waves, the researchers say.
“I think the long-term prospects for neural dust are not only within nerves and the brain, but much broader,“ said Michel Maharbiz, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and one of the study’s two main authors. “Having access to in-body telemetry has never been possible because there has been no way to put something supertiny superdeep. But now I can take a speck of nothing and park it next to a nerve or organ, your GI tract or a muscle, and read out the data.“

how long until this is implantable...

Ars Technica | IBM creates world’s first artificial phase-change neurons
IBM Research in Zurich has created the world's first artificial nanoscale stochastic phase-change neurons. IBM has already created a population of 500 of these artificial neurons and used them to process a signal in a brain-like (neuromorphic) way.
This breakthrough is particularly notable because the phase-change neurons are fashioned out of well-understood materials that can scale down to a few nanometres, and because they are capable of firing at high speed but with low energy requirements. Also important is the neurons' stochasticity—that is, their ability to always produce slightly different, random results, like biological neurons.
Enough fluff—let's talk about how these phase-change neurons are actually constructed. At this point, it might help if you look at the first diagram in the gallery.
...Like a biological neuron, IBM's artificial neuron has inputs (dendrites), a neuronal membrane (lipid bilayer) around the spike generator (soma, nucleus), and an output (axon). There's also a back-propagation link from the spike generator back to the inputs, to reinforce the strength of some input spikes.
The key difference is in the neuronal membrane. In a real neuron, this would be a lipid bilayer, which essentially acts as both a resistor and a capacitor: it resists conductance, but eventually, with enough electricity along the input dendrite, it builds up enough potential that its own spike of electricity is produced—which then flows along the axons to other neurons—and so on and on.
In IBM's neuron, the membrane is replaced with a small square of germanium-antimony-tellurium (GeSbTe or GST). GST, which happens to be the main active ingredient in rewritable optical discs, is a phase-change material. This means it can happily exist in two different phases (in this case crystalline and amorphous), and easily switch between the two, usually by applying heat (by way of laser or electricity). A phase-change material has very different physical properties depending on which phase it's in: in the case of GST, its amorphous phase is an electrical insulator, while the crystalline phase conducts.
With the artificial neurons, the square of GST begins life in its amorphous phase. Then, as spikes arrive from the inputs, the GST slowly begins to crystallise. Eventually, the GST crystallises enough that it becomes conductive—and voilĂ , electricity flows across the membrane and creates a spike. After an arbitrary refractory period (a resting period where something isn't responsive to stimuli), the GST is reset back to its amorphous phase and the process begins again.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

would you? i just might...

Would you want to alter your future children’s genes to make them smarter, stronger or better-looking? As the state of the science brings prospects like these closer to reality, an international debate has been raging over the ethics of enhancing human capacities with biotechnologies such as so-called smart pills, brain implants and gene editing. This discussion has only intensified in the past year with the advent of the CRISPR-cas9 gene editing tool, which raises the specter of tinkering with our DNA to improve traits like intelligence, athleticism and even moral reasoning.
So are we on the brink of a brave new world of genetically enhanced humanity? Perhaps. And there’s an interesting wrinkle: It’s reasonable to believe that any seismic shift toward genetic enhancement will not be centered in Western countries like the U.S. or the U.K., where many modern technologies are pioneered. Instead, genetic enhancement is more likely to emerge out of China.