Archive for the ‘science’ Category

German scientist Herman Freibach achieved a world first this Thursday, when he successfully combined florescent genes from jellyfish and reindeer. Said Freibach, “This will make all the children of the world interested in science again this Christmas season.” After the formal interview he added: “I’m just glad it came out like the song. I was half expecting a jellyfish with horns.” The reindeer (named Rudolph of course) is doing well in his temporary pen on the outskirts of the Black Forest, but several major U.S. retail chains have already made bids to have the cheery science experiment displayed in their windows in New York City. When asked if he would sell, Freibach said, “I can always make more!”

is…This Week in Science! Available at www.twis.org or on iTunes for free. This podcast covers some of the most interesting, mind-blowing, cool science stories from all across the spectrum. I now carry a small notebook in my back pocket when I’m listening to it so I can jot down some of the coolest tidbits for use in my stories, or things I want to tell people about.

Nephilim

a novel

By Dan Mumford

 

The screen flickered to life, showing blips and graphs. Six different sets of vital signs sprang into focus. Tom watched the soldiers they belonged to move about the small room through the feeds in their headset cams, preparing equipment and re-checking their gear. Sun shone in from a window onto a bare dirt floor. Little swirls of dust swished about the room as the team readied themselves for the upcoming operation. (more…)

Climate change. Does it exist? Yes. Can we do something about it? Maybe. What the world needs now (besides love, as they say) is concerted action. We need to educate people on the true consequences of their actions, and what they can do to reduce their impact on the planet. For a few things you can do individually, check these out:

1) Live close to work & play. I know that for many people, they are settled in to where they are living. But the average American only lives in a house for seven years. So you still may be able to do this at some point in the future. Look at where you live now, and how far you commute. Can you live closer to where you work? Can you get a new job closer to where you live? When my wife and I were buying our first home, we took this into consideration. We decreased her commute time from 30 minutes to 20 minutes, and I was close enough to ride my bike to work most days.

2) Ride a bike. If you are physically able to ride a bike to do short errands, do it. Many car trips in the U.S. are for distance of less than a mile. Have to run down to the drugstore for something small? Take a bike. This alone will reduce your carbon footprint a great deal. Plus it may be quicker. What? you ask incredulously. Yes. My commute was 12 minutes by car and 7 minutes by bike…because of all the traffic. I can always go to the front of the line at a ed light, and speed by cars that are bumper to bumper.

3) Get an energy audit for your home. Many companies that deal in windows, insulation, or heating will offer these for free. A technician will come in and go around your house check for leaks. Not leaks from water in pipes, places where heat is leaking out. They seal off your front door with a big plastic gasket with a fan inside. This creates negative pressure in the house, so any place where heat would have been going out is now coming in. They use a thermal IMG_0251imaging camera to spot areas of cold. (white is hot, black is cold. You can see in the picture that the bottom panel of our back door is very cold, and cold air is seeping in underneath the door.) It was very cool to follow him around and see cold seeping in through the baseboards and around the door to the attic. Then I knew exactly where to seal with caulk or expanding foam. We also got our furnace replaced with a 95% efficient model and insulated all the exterior walls with blown-in cellulose insulation. This cut our utility bills in half! I wrote in more detail about that here.

There are so many other things you can do, so I will say that the biggest one is:

4) Read. Educate yourself on how you can live a better life for yourself, and the environment. You’re doing it right now! There are tons of simple things you can do. There are also things that many people believe will affect the climate a great deal, but actually don’t.

I focused on only one small part of the climate change issue, but there are myriad facets to this. I expect to read posts from other people doing Blog Action Day today about how coastal regions may be affected, our food supply, desertification, water shortages, international policy changes, new advancements in science, and much more. So just try and do your part, and we can make some change for the good of us all.

For more info, go here:

http://www.blogactionday.org/

I just watched the LCROSS Mission bomb the moon live on NASA TV. Wow! Pretty lame. They didn’t even show the explosion or the plume of dust that would show the evidence of water-ice on the lunar surface. I’m sure a better video will surface on youtube in an hour. Just a computer simulation and a camera getting closer and closer to the surface. No shot from space of a spectacular explosion of dust. No plume 30 miles high. They were too busy adjusting the infrared levels on their cameras. I hope a better video will surface. I’m sure one of the thousand independent obsevatories watching will upload one soon.

Since it’s so popular right now, I give you: More Space Pictures! (as taken by NASA’s Hubble space telescope)

The Horsehead nebula:

horsehead_tan_big

M42 (a different view of the Orion Nebula):

m42_christensen_big

The Rosette Nebula:

rosette_gendler_big

The Eta Carinae Nebula:

EtacarinaeSGL_gendler

The Veil Nebula, sometimes called witch’s broomstick:

veil_noao_big

M31 galaxy (messier object 31, better known as the Andromeda Galaxy):

m31_gendler_Nmosaic1

Beautiful Awesome Universe

Posted: September 24, 2009 in Art, design, sci-fi, science, space opera
Tags: , ,

I just wanted to share my most recent favorite picture with you. This is the Orion Nebula as taken by the Hubble Telescope.

When I tell people about how I made my own wallet to protect myself from arphid snoopers, they look at me like I’m crazy. When I say it has aluminum foil in it to block the signals, they know I’m crazy. Like tin-foil hat so the Government can’t hear my thoughts, crazy. And maybe, in a way, I am. Crazy like a FOX!

IMG_2317

RFID, or Arphid in lingua franca, stands for Radio Frequency Identification. They are tiny computer chips implanted in things like hotel key-cards, quick-fill gasoline keychains, ID badges, and easy-pay credit cards. This last one concerned me the most. Ever since I opened a new account a few years ago, my new credit card has the “convenient” Pay Pass option. When I go through a grocery store checkout, instead of going through the labor-intensive process of getting my card entirely out of my wallet, I an just hold my wallet up to the Arphid Reader on the register, and it will scan my card and read all the relevant information it needs. Bank account numbers, my name, date of birth, etc. Quick and easy. Great! Right?

Wrong! With a little know-how (easy to glean from teh intarnets these days), and some cheap hardware, any punk kid can make their own arphid scanner/cloner. These devices are usually about as big as a pack of cards and can easily fit into a pocket. With an antenna coiled in the palm of his hand, an arphid hacker could brush up next to you in a supermarket aisle, and walk away with all your bank account and credit card numbers. You would not feel them touch you, they would just need to be close (2-4 inches). The arphid chips themselves do not actively transmit your vital information at all times, and do not have their own internal power source, but when in close proximity to a reader, they will transmit all they know to whoever just gave them a little wireless elbow in the ribs.

So what can you do about it? Do what I did. Make a radio frequency proof wallet. At first, I didn’t believe that the whole tinfoil thing would work. I mean, I read it on the internet. Home to crazy conspiracy theorist who where tinfoil hats. But I found a site with simple instructions, and more importantly, a way to test it. When you’re all done, slip you cell phone into the dollar section of the wallet and watch as the signal strength drops to zero. Close the wallet completely with your phone inside and get someone else to call it. It shouldn’t ring.* ( the very first time I tried this, my phone rang, and I was mightily disappointed. I made sure the flaps were closed, waited 15 seconds or so, and tried again. No ring.) But the best way to test it is out in the real world. I went to Wegman’s and brought a pack of gum up to the register. When it was time to pay, I said, “Here goes!” and held my closed wallet right up to the arphid reader. Nothing. I flipped it over and tried again. Nothing. I pumped my arm in the air and said, “Yes!” while the cashier just looked at me funny. Why was I happy about my card not working? Still holding my wallet up to the reader, I pulled up my credit card from the little pocket. As soon as it cleared the top of the wallet, the reader picked it up and the transaction went through. Whoo hoo!

So make sure that you protect your privacy by covering your Arphid devices so no one can steal your precious information (and maybe even your money!) You’re welcome.

maars_robot_large It’s real! It’s also one of the coolest things I heard all week. A steam powered, organic bio-mass eating, military robot. It’s steampunk (which is very IN right now), it’s robot (also in) and it can eat humans! (zombies also in) which all add up to make it the coolest robot around. ( I know technically it’s not a zombie, because how can a machine be un-dead, but still. It can EAT people!)

The EATR (Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot) will be an autonomous robotic platform that forages for fuel by ingesting bio-mass, be it grass, wood, or dead soldiers on the battlefield. Put a laser, a tactical shotgun, and a self-aware military computer network on that bad boy and we got our first generation of Terminators. Whah hoo!

Update: Alright, I can see this is going to be a popular post so maybe I should do some actual homework and make it good. The EATR was design by Robotic Technology Inc. (future site of mainframe computer that enslaves humanity). It uses an award winning Cyclone engine to create power by burning biomass and using the steam to power pistons to convert that energy into electricity to charge its batteries. A complete overview is available here.

In order to assuage public concern, the CEO of Cyclone had this to say:

“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” stated Harry Schoell, Cyclone’s CEO. “We are focused on demonstrating that our engines can create usable, green power from plentiful, renewable plant matter. The commercial applications alone for this earth-friendly energy solution are enormous.”

Righhhhht. “Green Power” Well you know what Soilent Green was? Huh? Do ya? It was people!!! Of course the CEO won’t give away their plans for world domination and subjugation of the human species. He may already be a cyborg. Maybe even THE cyborg that will rule us all with a titanium fist.

In all seriousness though, I’m glad that the military is looking at alternatives for fueling their war machine. The artificial intelligence aspect of the EATR looks promising as well. While I can see this working out in the field, I can’t imagine that all of our cars will be powered this way. Then we won’t have any forests left.

RobotEating

298x232-dna_genetic_test-298x232_dna_genetic_testA new company, Pathway Genomics, is offering affordable genetic testing for only $250. Some competitors charge $400 or more, up to $1,000. All you do is spit in a test tube, and drop it in an envelope in the mail. You recieve a report detailing what major diseases you could be at risk for, which medications might affect you more, and even your genetic history as far back as 150,000 years. I’m only slightly sceptical about that last one. My grandmother traced our ancestry back to England in the 1500’s with paper research, but it would be cool to see if I was in fact, part aboriginal, or asian. If you go back that far though, how could you not be?

Of course some people might be scared by this new accessibility to people’s genes. I mean, look at the company’s name. Pathway Genomics? How about, secret government black project to make genetically superior super-soldiers with a well placed, genetically tailored trigger in the public water supply. I’m not paranoid, just a sci-fi author. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

You can read the Yahoo article by Glenn Chapman here.

healthcareI know that there are downsides to socialized medicine, (and please feel free to tell me what they are) but I want to write about the upsides, and maybe the sidesides.

From my uninsured, and non-expert opinion, I think that the U.S. having Universal Health Care is a good idea. The main reason is that we have 50,000,000 people who are uninsured right now. We live in the richest nation in the world, and yet 16% of our population can’t get the help they need when it comes to health problems. The United States pays the most for health care, more than any other country, yet on almost any scale you choose to measure, we rank last. Out of Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the USA, we rank last on quality care, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives.

I started getting interested in this subject when I got Michael Moore’s “Sicko” out from the library. Now I know what you’re thinking.

“That is a load of democratic socialist propaganda!”

Maybe. So I also watched this Frontline report that also tackles the issue of Universal Health Care with a more dispassionate, intelligent approach. T.R.Reid (Washington Post reporter) goes around to the second and third wealthiest nations, among others, and investigates their health care systems. He evaluates each system on how much it costs to the public, the effects on the insurance and drug companies, the level of care, and most telling of all, how many people in that country go bankrupt every year from medical bills. ( None, as opposed to 700,000 in the U.S.) He tries to take the best of each program and apply it to the U.S. One of the interesting points was that not all countries have total government owned hospitals. Japan and Germany have privately owned doctors offices, hospitals, and insurance companies. Hmm, maybe we can do this in America after all.

When most people hear “Universal Health Care,” they automatically think, “Total Government Control! Big Brother! Waiting months to see a doctor!” The reality is much less alarming. In fact, we already have government run health care in America. Just look at the care we provide our Veterans. Putting the scandal a few years ago aside, the network of VA hospitals offers some of the best care in the country. Don’t believe me? read this excerpt about the VA.

The Annals of Internal Medicine in 2004, published a a study that compared Veteran’s health facilities with commercial managed care systems in their treatment of diabetes patients. In seven out of seven measures of quality, the VA provided better care. A RAND Corporation study published in the same journal concluded that VA outperforms all other sectors of American health care in 294 measures of quality.

One of the big complaints that people have with government run health care, is that people have to wait a long time to be helped. Really? Cause when I took my Mom to the Emergency Room at a local hospital in NY with a severe cut to her forearm at 10:00 p.m., we had to wait until 3:30 a.m. for her to be taken care of. And it was not a bustling downtown ER with gunshot victims. I find it hard to imagine that we would have to wait more than five hours to be seen somewhere in Europe.

From what I’ve read, seen, heard from friends, and (gasp) in fact experienced myself, medical care overseas is prompt, professional, and cheap. When I traveled to Ireland, I got in infection (sparing details) that made my ears feel like I was fifty feet underwater. We went to a small clinic in a seaside village where I was seen immediately. I was a foreigner, and yet they saw me right away, proscribed medicine, and only charged me seven pounds ($15). If the situation were reversed, I’m sure that the sick Irishman would have to pay at least $150 for the appointment, that is, if they agreed to treat him in the first place without the consent of an American insurance company.

I’m going to post this now, but will be adding to this article as I learn more.

Pure03Resveratrol3DI want to explore the different methods available for life extension technology. Now, this post could be a pages-long research paper, or I could do what most bloggers do and make up half-remembered facts from Wikipedia. I will strive to strike a balance between these two extremes and present information in short but accurate form. (more…)

Check it out here.

Chapter 5. (more…)