Friday, May 26, 2017

kunstler knocks another one outta the park

A most curious feature in the current low state of American politics is the delusional thinking at both ends of the political spectrum. Both factions have gone off the rails mentally, and the parties they represent race toward oblivion like Thelma and Louise in their beater car. More ominously, there are no new factions with a grip on reality even beginning to form anywhere in the background — as in the 1850s when the Whigs foundered and the party of Lincoln segued into power.
To see the Democrats go on about “Russian collusion” you would think we were watching a rerun of the John Birch Society in its heyday. Americans who have done business in Russia as private citizens are being persecuted as though they were trading with the enemy in wartime. Newsflash: we are not at war with Russia, which, by the way, is no longer the Soviet Union. It is one of many European countries that Americans are entitled to do business in — even in the case of General Mike Flynn accepting a $20,000 speaking fee from the RT news company. Has anyone noticed that Ben Bernanke routinely  takes $200,000-plus speaking fees in many foreign countries whose interests are not identical to ours and no one is persecuting him.
[Ed. - Please click the link above... this snippet is simply the opening teaser of his whole article]

Monday, May 22, 2017

blockchain tech can prevent 'corruption' - hmm, would require everyone to use it though

Wired | A Curious Plan to Save the Environment With the Blockchain
MAGIC INTERNET MONEY—ALSO known as cryptocurrency—is at an all-time high. The experts who watch this stuff predict that one bitcoin (the most famous cryptocurrency) will soon be worth $2,000.
The big selling point of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin is their use of something called the blockchain to make any transaction mossstly trustworthy. In a cryptocash economy, the blockchain renders treasuries, banks, credit cards, and other financial organs vestigial. Enthusiasts believe these decentralized, cryptographically-sealed databases could starve inefficient middlemen from virtually any system. And today in Nature, conservation biologist Guillaume Chapron argues that blockchains can even save the planet.
Basically, all a blockchain does is assign any piece of information a unique signature. If someone alters that information, that unique code no longer works, and you know something fishy is afoot. In bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies, the whole community then reviews every attempted transaction, to ensure each is unique—preventing shenanigans like spending the same money twice. But it can come in handy elsewhere. Wal-Mart recently launched a trial using a blockchain to fight food poisoning and waste by tracking food from supplier to shelf. Say a salmonella outbreak hits Sioux City, Iowa. Wal-Mart’s supply chain blockchain would let it irrefutably trace the tainted product back to a spinach farm in Salinas, California.
“One reason why we have environmental crises, like the overexploitation of natural resources, and pollution, is because the global economy is full of actors who are doing business without much accountability,” says Chapron. “When you go buy something, you have no idea where it comes from, how it’s made. There are so many intermediaries, and it’s very easy to cheat.” Cheating, in this case, means more than companies lying about where they dump their garbage. And actors can be anyone, including nation-states.

Friday, May 19, 2017

now how do you run a car on it???

OilPrice.com | Energy Breakthrough? China Has Successfully Mined ‘Fire Ice’ From The Sea
China has successfully extracted gas from gas hydrates—also known as ‘fire ice’ or ‘flammable ice’—in the northern part of the South China Sea, the China Geographical Survey said on Thursday.
Gas hydrate, methane hydrate in particular, is a cage-like structure of crystallized ice, inside of which are trapped molecules of methane, the chief constituent of natural gas. If methane hydrate is either warmed or depressurized, it reverts back to water and natural gas.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), global estimates vary, but the energy content of methane in hydrates is “immense, possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels”. But no methane production other than small-scale field experiments has been documented so far.
Today, the China Geographical Survey said that it managed to collect samples from the Shenhu area in the South China Sea in a test that started last Wednesday. Every day some 16,000 cubic meters (565,000 cubic feet) of gas, almost all of which was methane, were extracted from the test field.

Friday, May 12, 2017

overcome what no longer serves you

GeekWrapped | Cognitive Bias Survival Guide

What are Cognitive Biases?

You know the feeling: Every day you get flooded with new ideas and information. You barely have enough time to process it all. Sure, you’re a smart and rational person that puts a lot of thought into the decisions you make. But the brain still takes decision-making shortcuts all the time. It especially happens when you need to act quickly, there is too much information, or limited memory.

Here’s the deal: Research suggests that there are a number of intellectual stumbling blocks which can get you entangled in wrong judgment without you even noticing. They are called Cognitive Biases. The result is er
rors and irrational decisions that can hold you back. To help all of us escape this mental quicksand we’ve put together this real-world Cognitive Bias Survival Guide. It’s designed to reduce wrong conclusions and bad choices, plus protect you from charlatans trying to exploit ignorance. Think of it as anti-virus software for the brain!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

excitement at hanford

Gizmodo | Tunnel Collapses at Nuclear Facility Once Called 'an Underground Chernobyl Waiting to Happen'
Managers at the Hanford Site in Washington State told workers to “take cover” Tuesday morning after a tunnel leading to a massive plutonium finishing plant collapsed. The emergency is especially worrisome, since Hanford is commonly known as “the most toxic place in America,” with one former governor calling it “an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen.” Worrisome might actually be an understatement. The Deparment of Energy declared a state of emergency at the site.
The accident occurred near the 200 East Area, the home of several solid waste sites. The tunnel that collapsed ran to the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility (PUREX) facility and was filled with highly radioactive train cars that once carried spent fuel rods containing deeply dangerous plutonium and uranium from a reactor on the Columbia River to the processing facility. Those reactors once produced plutonium for America’s nuclear arsenal, though production ended in 1980. The cleanup process that followed has gone on for nearly 30 years.

but they are only 1/3 the cost!

Aspiring Minds | National Programming Skills Report

It is our pleasure to present the first edition of Automata report. Programming Ability skill is the key for jobs in IT centric world. 

In the last few years, thanks to jobs becoming global, the importance of good programmers has increased manifold. It has over the years become an important criteria of hiring for most of the IT software companies, both at the international and intra-national levels. A candidate with good programming skills is so important , because there are cases where one doesn’t understand the program statement and if does then fails to implement it properly. 

The report tries to identify patterns in employability across different regions, analyzing in detail the distribution of employability across various roles. Herein, it studies how employability varies across different groups: We do the first systematic study of Programming Ability of engineers across India. The study is based on Automata, an automated tool measuring programming skills used across the world by industries. Automata is a 60 minute test taken in compiler integrated environment. It rates the candidates on multiple parameters of Programming Ability , Programming Practices, run-time complexity and test case coverage. It uses advanced artificial intelligence technology to automatically grade programming skills. 

The report follows the tradition of our National Employability Reports to uncover the gaps in Programming Ability by gender, tier of college, top 100 colleges vs. rest of the colleges, etc. Based on the reports, we have come up with specific suggestions on how to improve Programming Ability in various parts of the country. 

With commitment to the development and progress of higher education in India!

Friday, April 21, 2017

cure for flu

Cell - Immunity | An Amphibian Host Defense Peptide Is Virucidal for Human H1 Hemagglutinin-Bearing Influenza Viruses

Highlights

  • The frog skin peptide urumin is virucidal for H1 HA-bearing human influenza A viruses
  • Urumin specifically targets the conserved stalk of H1 hemagglutinin
  • Urumin is effective at neutralizing drug-resistant H1 influenza viruses
  • Urumin protects naive mice from lethal influenza infection in vivo

Summary

Although vaccines confer protection against influenza A viruses, antiviral treatment becomes the first line of defense during pandemics because there is insufficient time to produce vaccines. Current antiviral drugs are susceptible to drug resistance, and developing new antivirals is essential. We studied host defense peptides from the skin of the South Indian frog and demonstrated that one of these, which we named “urumin,” is virucidal for H1 hemagglutinin-bearing human influenza A viruses. This peptide specifically targeted the conserved stalk region of H1 hemagglutinin and was effective against drug-resistant H1 influenza viruses. Using electron microscopy, we showed that this peptide physically destroyed influenza virions. It also protected naive mice from lethal influenza infection. Urumin represents a unique class of anti-influenza virucide that specifically targets the hemagglutinin stalk region, similar to targeting of antibodies induced by universal influenza vaccines. Urumin therefore has the potential to contribute to first-line anti-viral treatments during influenza outbreaks.

are you woke?

Neuroscience News | What a Trip: First Evidence for Higher State of Consciousness Found

Summary: Researchers observe a sustained increase in neural signal diversity in people under the influence of psychedelics.

Source: University of Sussex.

Scientific evidence of a ‘higher’ state of consciousness has been found in a study led by the University of Sussex.

Neuroscientists observed a sustained increase in neural signal diversity – a measure of the complexity of brain activity – of people under the influence of psychedelic drugs, compared with when they were in a normal waking state.

The diversity of brain signals provides a mathematical index of the level of consciousness. For example, people who are awake have been shown to have more diverse neural activity using this scale than those who are asleep.

This, however, is the first study to show brain-signal diversity that is higher than baseline, that is higher than in someone who is simply ‘awake and aware’. Previous studies have tended to focus on lowered states of consciousness, such as sleep, anaesthesia, or the so-called ‘vegetative’ state.

The team say that more research is needed using more sophisticated and varied models to confirm the results but they are cautiously excited.

Professor Anil Seth, Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex, said: “This finding shows that the brain-on-psychedelics behaves very differently from normal.

“During the psychedelic state, the electrical activity of the brain is less predictable and less ‘integrated’ than during normal conscious wakefulness – as measured by ‘global signal diversity’.

“Since this measure has already shown its value as a measure of ‘conscious level’, we can say that the psychedelic state appears as a higher ‘level’ of consciousness than normal – but only with respect to this specific mathematical measure.”

Thursday, April 6, 2017

more impressed with cephalopods than myself - taking consciousness to the next level!

Wired | Science Reveals Yet Another Reason Octopuses and Squid Are So Weird
OCTOPUSES ARE ALIENS living on Earth. They solve puzzles, use tools, and communicate with color. They also squirt ink, open jars, and occasionally pull a prank or two. Given their remarkable intelligence and cunning ways, it takes a lot to surprise the biologists who study these wonderful creatures and their equally weird cousins the squids and cuttlefish.
But when Stanford University geneticist Jin Billy Li heard about Joshua Rosenthal’s work on RNA editing in squid, his jaw dropped. That’s because the work, published today in the journal Cell, revealed that many cephalopods present a monumental exception to how living things use the information in DNA to make proteins. In nearly every other animal, RNA—the middleman in that process—faithfully transmits the message in the genes. But octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish (but not their dumber relatives, the nautiluses) edit their RNA, changing the message that gets read out to make proteins.
...
Subbing out one spot in the code may seem like a minor switcheroo, but it can change how—or whether—a protein functions. Theoretically, it changes the genome’s level of complexity: Humans possess just two copies of a given gene, but add a few RNA editing sites and the number of protein variants rises exponentially. An animal could use RNA editing to change how its proteins work if its environment changes. For instance, some RNA in squid get edited when the weather changes so that their proteins work properly at different temperatures.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

2 go out, 1 comes back

Washington Post | Half of Americans are responsible for only 3 percent of health care costs
Here’s a simple reason crafting health policy is so devilishly hard: Most Americans are pretty healthy and a few are really sick.
The top 1 percent of health-care spenders use more resources, collectively, than the bottom 75 percent, according to a new study based on national surveys. Slice the data a different way, and the bottom half of spenders all together rack up only about 3 percent of overall health care spending — a pattern that hasn’t budged for decades. This creates a fundamental inequality in the country's health spending that is the crux of the challenge policymakers face: They need a system that works for people who are ill, but is attractive to those who are healthy and spend little on health care.
The political debate over health care often focuses on how a new system will meet the needs of the sick: Will cancer patients or people with diabetes access and afford care when they need it? But the Health Affairs study, “Most Americans have good health, little unmet need and few health care expenses,” shows just how important the healthy people who spend very little on health care are. The message you draw from that, however, may depend on your politics.
“The key takeaway message really is most people are in good health; they don’t spend a lot of money, and yet it’s important to have them be part of our insurance system. If they’re left out of the system, we’re not going to have the funds to take care of people who are very sick,” said Marc Berk, a health policy researcher and contributing editor of Health Affairs who led the analysis.

Monday, April 3, 2017

not enough tech talent nonsense getting due treatment

Bloomberg | Trump Visa Changes Toughen Hiring of Foreign Programmers
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency issued a memorandum that makes it harder for companies to bring foreign technology workers to the U.S. using the H-1B visa process.
The new guidelines, issued late Friday, require additional information for computer programmers applying for the work visa to prove the jobs are complicated and require more advanced knowledge and experience. The new policy is effective immediately, so it will change how companies apply for the visas in an annual lottery process that begins Monday.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

here's how you defeat the us military

BBC | Small drone 'shot with Patriot missile'
A Patriot missile - usually priced at about $3m (£2.5m) - was used to shoot down a small quadcopter drone, according to a US general.
The strike was made by a US ally, Gen David Perkins told a military symposium.
"That quadcopter that cost 200 bucks from Amazon.com did not stand a chance against a Patriot," he said.
Patriots are radar-targeted weapons more commonly used to shoot down enemy aircraft and ballistic missiles.
"Now, that worked, they got it, OK, and we love Patriot missiles," the general said.
Recently, there have been reports that some groups, for example in Iraq, have taken to attaching weapons to small, commercial drones and using them against security forces.
However, Gen Perkins suggested deploying large surface-to-air missiles as a defence was probably not economically wise.
"I'm not sure that's a good economic exchange ratio," he told an audience at the Association of the United States Army's Global Force symposium in Alabama.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

yeast genome synthetically created

Science | Design of a synthetic yeast genome

We describe complete design of a synthetic eukaryotic genome, Sc2.0, a highly modified Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome reduced in size by nearly 8%, with 1.1 megabases of the synthetic genome deleted, inserted, or altered. Sc2.0 chromosome design was implemented with BioStudio, an open-source framework developed for eukaryotic genome design, which coordinates design modifications from nucleotide to genome scales and enforces version control to systematically track edits. To achieve complete Sc2.0 genome synthesis, individual synthetic chromosomes built by Sc2.0 Consortium teams around the world will be consolidated into a single strain by “endoreduplication intercross.” Chemically synthesized genomes like Sc2.0 are fully customizable and allow experimentalists to ask otherwise intractable questions about chromosome structure, function, and evolution with a bottom-up design strategy.

presidential debate gender inversion experiment - backfires

NYU | What if Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Had Swapped Genders?
Salvatore says he and Guadalupe began the project assuming that the gender inversion would confirm what they’d each suspected watching the real-life debates: that Trump’s aggression—his tendency to interrupt and attack—would never be tolerated in a woman, and that Clinton’s competence and preparedness would seem even more convincing coming from a man.
But the lessons about gender that emerged in rehearsal turned out to be much less tidy. What was Jonathan Gordon smiling about all the time? And didn’t he seem a little stiff, tethered to rehearsed statements at the podium, while Brenda King, plainspoken and confident, freely roamed the stage? Which one would audiences find more likeable?
The two sold-out performances of Her Opponent took place on the night of Saturday, January 28, just a week after President Trump’s inauguration and the ensuing Women’s March on Washington. “The atmosphere among the standing-room-only crowd, which appeared mostly drawn from academic circles, was convivial, but also a little anxious,” Alexis Soloski, a New York Times reporter who attended the first performance, observed. “Most of the people there had watched the debates assuming that Ms. Clinton couldn’t lose. This time they watched trying to figure out how Mr. Trump could have won.”
Inside the evening’s program were two surveys for each audience member to fill out—one for before the show, with questions about their impressions of the real-life Trump–Clinton debates, and another for afterward, asking about their reactions to the King–Gordon restaging. Each performance was also followed by a discussion, with Salvatore bringing a microphone around to those eager to comment on what they had seen.
“I’ve never had an audience be so articulate about something so immediately after the performance,” Salvatore says of the cathartic discussions. “For me, watching people watch it was so informative. People across the board were surprised that their expectations about what they were going to experience were upended.”
Many were shocked to find that they couldn’t seem to find in Jonathan Gordon what they had admired in Hillary Clinton—or that Brenda King’s clever tactics seemed to shine in moments where they’d remembered Donald Trump flailing or lashing out. For those Clinton voters trying to make sense of the loss, it was by turns bewildering and instructive, raising as many questions about gender performance and effects of sexism as it answered.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

amazon rainforest, just like eastern u.s. before europeans, was a gigantic forest garden

ars tecnica | The Amazon forest is the result of an 8,000-year experiment
Though the Amazon forest may appear wild and uncharted, a new comprehensive study has revealed that it's actually the result of some of humanity's earliest experiments with farming. People have been living in the Amazon for more than 10,000 years, building some of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world. They also dramatically changed the Amazon forest in ways that are still obvious today.
Wageningen University environmental science researcher Carolina Levis and a large international team of ecologists and archaeologists contributed to a study for Science that is bound to transform our view of the Amazon. "People arrived in the Amazon at least 10,000 years ago, and they started to use the species that were there. And more than 8,000 years ago, they selected some individuals with specific phenotypes that are useful for humans,” Levis told the Atlantic's Robinson Meyer. “They really cultivated and planted these species in their home gardens, in the forests they were managing." These early cultivators were domesticating trees at roughly the same time that Neolithic peoples in the Levant were first domesticating wheat and barley.
Working with data from the Amazon Tree Diversity Network, Levis and her colleagues identified 85 domesticated tree species out of 4,962 species in the Amazon. But these 85 species had an outsized influence on the composition of the forest itself. "We found that 20 of these 85 domesticated species are hyperdominants: five times higher than the number of hyperdominant species expected by chance," they write in Science. Overall, about 20 percent of all species in the Amazon forest today are the result of ancient domestication. In areas where large ancient civilizations existed, the numbers of domestics are closer to 30 percent.
Favored trees of Amazonian people 8,000 years ago included rubber, cocoa, Brazil nut, caimito, acai palm, cashew, and tucuma palm. These trees and others were essential as food and building materials for pre-Columbian societies.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

there is no shortage of hi tech american workers, only low-paid ones...

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services | USCIS Will Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions
Starting April 3, 2017, USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. This suspension may last up to 6 months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. We will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions.

Who Is Affected

The temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. Since FY18 cap-subject H-1B petitions cannot be filed before April 3, 2017, this suspension will apply to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption (the “master’s cap”). The suspension also applies to petitions that may be cap-exempt.
While premium processing is suspended, we will reject any Form I-907 filed with an H-1B petition. If the petitioner submits one combined check for both the Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B fees, we will have to reject both forms.
We will continue to premium process Form I-129 H-1B petitions if the petitioner properly filed an associated Form I-907 before April 3, 2017. Therefore, we will refund the premium processing fee if:
  1. The petitioner filed the Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before April 3, 2017, and
  2. We did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing period.
This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to other eligible nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.

Monday, January 30, 2017

all corn diet makes hamsters cannibalistic

The Royal Society | Diets derived from maize monoculture cause maternal infanticides in the endangered European hamster due to a vitamin B3 deficiency

From 1735 to 1940, maize-based diets led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people from pellagra, a complex disease caused by tryptophan and vitamin B3 deficiencies. The current cereal monoculture trend restricts farmland animals to similarly monotonous diets. However, few studies have distinguished the effects of crop nutritional properties on the reproduction of these species from those of other detrimental factors such as pesticide toxicity or agricultural ploughing. This study shows that maize-based diets cause high rates of maternal infanticides in the European hamster, a farmland species on the verge of extinction in Western Europe. Vitamin B3 supplementation is shown to effectively restore reproductive success in maize-fed females. This study pinpoints how nutritional deficiencies caused by maize monoculture could affect farmland animal reproduction and hence their fitness.