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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Search For Meaning

Convicted forger A. Schiller was serving his time in Sing
Sing prison in the late 1800s when guards found him dead in
his cell. On his body they found seven regular straight pins
whose heads measured the typical 47/1000ths of an inch or
1.17 millimeters in diameter. Under 500 magnification it was
found that the tiny etchings seen on the heads of the pins
were the words to The Lord's Prayer, which is 65 words and
254 letters long. Of the seven pins, six were silver and one
was gold - the gold pin's prayer was flawless and a true
masterpiece. Schiller had spent the last 25 years of his life
creating the pins, using a tool too small to be seen by the
naked eye. It is estimated that it took 1,863 sepatate carving
strokes to make it. Schiller went blind because of his

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Extending human rights to whales?

"Whales may share our kind of intelligence, researchers say after discovering brain cells previously found only in humans and other primates." Whales have bigger brains and more of those special brain cells we have before considered unique to primates.

According to this article in New Scientist, the kind of nerve cells in the human brain associated with complex social behavior and previously thought to define humans and great apes as different from other mammals has now been found in whales. More importantly, the number of these specialized cells is greater in whales even given that the whale brain is larger than the human brain.

"The cells occur in parts of the human brain that are thought to be responsible for our social organisation, empathy, speech, intuition about the feelings of others, and rapid “gut” reactions (see The cell that makes us human)." says New Scientist.

The article quotes Patric Hof of Mount Sinai Medical School in New York as saying, “They communicate through huge song repertoires, recognise their own songs and make up new ones. They also form coalitions to plan hunting strategies, teach these to younger individuals, and have evolved social networks similar to those of apes and humans.”

It is thought that whales developed these brain cells long before humans and other primates evolved theirs.

Like the development of the vertebrate eye in octopuses which are related to shell fish, this brain cell development in both whales and humans appears to be a case of "convergent evolution" and not the result of evolution from a common ancestor.

This finding is certain to raise many questions about what makes humans human as well as whether killing whales falls into a category more like murder than hunting. My grandmother used to say, "If it looks like a noodle, tastes like a noodle, cooks like a noodle, and feels like a noodle it is probably a noodle." So if it thinks like a human, acts like a human, feels like a human - is it a human?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Attention Birders

Birds are ready and waiting to be counted for Christmas census
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Costa Rican bird count next month looks to add to a list of 493 species already discovered.

Christmas bird counts are a traditional year-end activity begun by the National Audubon Society in the United States more than 100 years ago. The Audubon's mission is to conserve biodiversity and restore natural ecosystems, focusing of course on birds, but also other wildlife and habitats.

The bird count is a competition between teams. A circle 15 miles in diameter is marked and the area divided among teams of birders. All individual birds seen and heard are counted over the course of a 24-hour day

In Costa Rica, the longest running bird count is centered around Finca La Selva, the Organization for Tropical Studies' field station reserve near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí.
This will be its 22nd year. Last year alone 325 species and 6,372 individual birds were counted by 67 persons in 17 separate parties. The richest region for bird diversity has been around the reserve itself and also on the slopes of Volcan Barva.

Event organizers welcome both experienced and unexperienced birders to participate. The locations, dates and organizers for the bird counts are:

-Aerial Tram: Dec. 14. Daniel Torres, 711-0018, danieltorrescr@yahoo.com
-Cartago: Dec. 17. Julio Sánchez juliosanchez@yahoo.com
-Grecia: To be announced. Rafa Campos ticornis@yahoo.com
-Monteverde: To be announced.
-La Selva: Dec. 30. Rodolfo Alvarado ralva@sloth.ots.ac.cr 766-6565 ext 139
-Fila Costera (Pérez Zeledón): Jan. 3. Noel Ureña
filacostera@costaricabirdingtours.com 771-9686 or 354-9074

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Global Warming Debunker Debunked

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday November 14, @03:17PM
from the you're-getting-warmer dept.
Earlier this month we ran an article linking Christopher Monckton's attempt to discredit global warming. The submitter asked plaintively, "Can anyone out there go through this piece and tell me why it might be wrong?" George Monbiot has now done so. From the article: "This is a dazzling debunking of climate change science. It is also wildly wrong... In keeping with most of the articles about climate change in [the Sunday Telegraph], it is a mixture of cherry-picking, downright misrepresentation, and pseudo-scientific gibberish. But it has the virtue of being incomprehensible to anyone who is not an atmospheric physicist... As for James Hansen, he did not tell the US Congress that temperatures would rise by 0.3C by the end of the past century. He presented three possible scenarios to the US Senate — high, medium, and low. Both the high and low scenarios, he explained, were unlikely to materialise. The middle one was 'the most plausible.' As it happens, the middle scenario was almost exactly right. He did not claim, under any scenario, that sea levels would rise by several feet by 2000." And on the political front, the only major ally for Pres. Bush's stand on global warming, Australia's Prime Minister John Howard, is now willing to look at carbon trading.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Shrub's Resume


George W. Bush

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington , DC 20520



I was arrested in Kennebunkport , Maine , in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol. I pled guilty, paid a fine, and had my driver's license suspended for 30 days. My Texas driving record has been "lost" and is not available.


I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL. I refused to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use. By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in Vietnam


I graduated from Yale University with a low C average. I was a cheerleader.


I ran for U.S. Congress and lost. I began my career in the oil business in Midland , Texas , in 1975. I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in Texas . The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.

I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money. With the help of my father and our friends in the oil industry, including Enron CEO Ken Lay, I was elected governor of Texas .


I changed Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the Union .

During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the most smog-ridden city in America

I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas treasury to the tune of billions in borrowed money.

I set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history.

With the help of my brother, the governor of Florida , and my father's appointments to the Supreme Court, I became President after losing by over 500,000 votes.


I am the first President in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.

I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing cost of over one billion dollars per week.

I spent the U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted the U.S. Treasury.

I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in U.S. history.

I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.

I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.

I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the U.S. stock market.

In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues every month.

I'm proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in U.S. history. My "poorest millionaire," Condoleeza Rice, had a Chevron oil tanker named after her.

I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips by a U.S. President. I am the all-time U.S. and world record-holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations.

My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in U.S . History, Enron.

My political party used Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S. Supreme Court during my election decision.

I have protected my friends at Enron and Halliburton against investigation or prosecution.

More time and money was spent investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair than has been spent investigating one of the biggest corporate rip- offs in history.

I presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed.

I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history.

I changed the U.S. policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts.

I appointed more convicted criminals to administration than any President in U.S. history.

I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the largest bureaucracy in the history of the United States government.

I've broken more international treaties than any President in U.S. history.

I am the first President in U.S. history to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission.

I withdrew the U.S. from the World Court of Law. I refused to allow inspectors access to U.S . "prisoners of war" detainees and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Convention.

I am the first President in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 U.S. election).

I set the record for fewest numbers of press conferences of any President since the advent of television.

I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one-year period. After taking off the entire month of August, I presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history.

I garnered the most sympathy for the U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history.

I have set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protests against any person in the history of mankind.

I am the first President in U.S. history to order an unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. citizens, and the world community.

I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families-in-wartime.

In my State of the Union Address, I lied about our reasons for attacking Iraq and then blamed the lies on our British friends.

I am the first President in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security.

I am supporting development of a nuclear "Tactical Bunker Buster," a WMD. I have so far failed to fulfill my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden [sic] to justice.


All records of my tenure as governor of Texas are now in my father's library, sealed and unavailable for public view.

All records of SEC investigations into my insider trading and my bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my Vice-President, attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review. I am a member of the Republican Party.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Neanderthals in Gene Pool, Study Suggests

Neanderthals in Gene Pool, Study Suggests

Published: November 9, 2006

Scientists have found new genetic evidence that they say may answer the longstanding question of whether modern humans and Neanderthals interbred when they co-existed thousands of years ago. The answer is: probably yes, though not often.

In research being published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists reported that matings between Neanderthals and modern humans presumably accounted for the presence of a variant of the gene that regulates brain size.

Bruce T. Lahn of the University of Chicago, the report’s senior author, said the findings demonstrated that such interbreeding with relative species, those on the brink of extinction, contributed to the evolutionary success of modern humans.

Other researchers in evolutionary biology said the new study offered strong support for the long-disputed idea that archaic species like Neanderthals contributed to the modern human gene pool.

Two other reports of DNA studies of possible mixing of human and related genes are expected to be published in the next few weeks.

Both genetic and fossil studies show that anatomically modern humans emerged 200,000 years ago in Africa and migrated into Europe 40,000 years ago. In about 10,000 years, Europe’s longtime inhabitants, Neanderthals, became extinct. The mainstream interpretation is that modern humans somehow replaced them without interbreeding.

In previous research, Dr. Lahn and associates discovered that a gene for brain size called microcephalin underwent a significant change 37,000 years ago. Its modified variant, or allele, appeared to confer a fitness advantage on those who possessed it. It is now present in about 70 percent of the world’s population.

The new research focused on the two classes of alleles of the brain gene. One appeared to have emerged 1.1 million years ago in an archaic Homo lineage that led to Neanderthals and was separate from the immediate predecessors of modern humans. The 37,000-year date for the other variant immediately suggested a connection with Neanderthals.

Dr. Lahn said it did not necessarily show that interbreeding was widespread. It could have been a rare, perhaps even single, event.

When I first saw the bust of Socrates in a museum in Athens, Greece, I said to myself, "Chi, this guy looks exactly like the reconstruction of a Neanderthal bust I've seen in various museums." Since then I've met many Neanderthal appearing people and they were usually very, very bright. It makes sense to me that there would have been some sexual interaction between the two groups. Human males will happily have sex with almost anything. Consider how syphilis spread to humans. Yup! Sheep.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thinking Green

The article below is from New Scientist Magazine, Nov. 11, 2006. I have always thought this was the way to go since several millions of years of evolution have already done the research on the best way to trap sunlight for the production of energy. In fact, I don't see why we need to find synthetic mimics of the real thing. We should be able to use the actual product - deep sea algae for instance - grown in a medium such as agar agar. The trick would be in finding a way to convert the plant's energy into electricity or other forms of energy with producing greenhouse gases. We already use this green energy producer by way of burning wood or coal to produce heat which we then convert into electricity. Perhaps a simple combustion system which burns compacted algae so completely that very little particulate waste is produced and carbon dioxide could be reused to "fertilize" the algae would be possible.

Solar fuel cell
Solar fuel cell

IN JUST one hour enough solar energy reaches Earth's surface to meet all of our energy needs for an entire year. If we could come up with a way to harness this sunlight efficiently, it would solve all our energy problems at a stroke.

The trouble is: we are barely even beginning to exploit the full potential of solar energy. Solar cells only utilise a narrow range of frequencies, which means that even the most efficient and expensive cells typically convert only 17 per cent of the energy falling on them into electricity. Cheaper cells made of polymer coated with a thin film of titanium dioxide fare even worse, with an efficiency of just 10 per cent.

There is one notable exception to this inefficiency, however, a light-capturing technology that has the potential to revolutionise the rest of the field: plants. By developing synthetic versions of the pigment structures plants use to exploit even the faintest light levels, researchers believe they can make solar cells more efficient.

Some deep water algae, for example, have adapted to the tiny amount of sunlight they receive by growing rod-like structures called chlorosomes that contain thousands of light-harvesting pigment molecules. "They trap up to 97 per cent of the available photons," says Teodor Silviu Balaban of the Institute of Nanotechnology at the University of Karlsruhe in Germany.

In fact, all plants use similar "antennae" comprising stacks of pigment molecules, although most green leaves are more like 30 to 40 per cent efficient. Now Balaban and others are building artificial versions of these light-harvesting antennae. They plan to incorporate these into a new kind of solar cell, to develop photovoltaics that can absorb a greater amount of the available sunlight. Although they are unlikely to achieve the 97 per cent absorption rate of deep-water algae, the researchers hope to significantly improve on existing solar cells.

As a first step, a team led by Max Crossley at the University of Sydney in Australia has developed an antenna made up of synthetic porphyrins, a class of pigment molecules. The synthetic porphyrins absorb light across a broad range of frequencies, and more than 100 of the molecules can be assembled around a branching scaffold to mimic plant antennae, says Crossley. However, at the moment this process involves painstakingly constructing the antennae bond by bond, which is a slow process.

Much better, says Balaban, would be to find a way to make the antennae assemble themselves. One option for this is to use a technique called DNA origami to manipulate the molecules. This exploits the way that the complementary base pairs of DNA stick together, which is how the two sides of the double helix zip together. "It's been demonstrated that you can build 3D structures using DNA," says Rudy Diaz at the Arizona State University in Tempe, whose team has just received $1.1 million from the US National Science Foundation to develop the technique. By binding synthetic porphyrin molecules to unpaired DNA strands, and combining different strands, the team hopes to assemble 3D scaffolds containing large numbers of pigment molecules.

Balaban's group, in contrast, has gone a step further in mimicking plants, by uncovering the way antennae are constructed in nature. "I have copied nature's design for self-assembly," he says. The team studied natural plant antennae to identify how the pigment molecules bind together to create a stack. They were looking for the recognition groups - molecules that are attracted to porphyrins and so act like glue between the pigment molecules to bind them together. They identified a number of groups, including zinc, that form strong bonds with the pigment molecules, and are the key to antenna self-assembly. "They are like keys searching for their locks," says Balaban.

When the group began trying to construct artificial antennae by exposing the porphyrins to these molecules, they had no idea if the technique would work. "It was a gamble," he says. But it paid off: sure enough, the molecules bound together to form antennae. What's more, these antennae fluoresce when exposed to light, demonstrating that they are absorbing photons.

The cigar-shaped stacks can be tuned to harness specific frequency ranges of light by adjusting their size, says Balaban. To absorb light across the visible spectrum, the stacks typically need to be about 100 nanometres long, he says.

Balaban is now attempting to attach his antennae to a film of titanium dioxide, a vital step if the structures are to form the basis for low-cost thin-film solar cells. He also hopes to incorporate the light-harvesting structures in other existing types of solar cell, by coupling them to different semiconductor materials.

So how would the pigment molecules supply useful energy? In plants the light energy is transferred to a specialised chlorophyll molecule called P680, which releases a high-energy electron that can be used to reduce carbon dioxide to sugars. In a solar cell, the porphyrin molecules would transfer the photons to the semiconductor, where they would each knock loose an electron. Then, just as in a conventional photovoltaic device, these electrons would be corralled to generate a current.

However, improving the efficiency of solar cells by adding molecular antennae will not on its own turn solar power into a major energy source. What is also needed is a way to store solar energy so that it can be used at night or transported on demand, says Daniel Nocera at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Nocera is working with Nathan Lewis at Stanford University in California to address this issue. They too are building photon-absorbing antennae, but rather than generating electricity, they plan to use them to produce hydrogen, which is more easily stored. In their version, the electrons liberated by the photons are used along with a catalyst to split water into hydrogen and oxygen (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0603395103). The hydrogen would then be stored for later use in fuel cells, says Nocera. The entire process would be closer to the way photosynthesis splits water into oxygen and hydrogen ions.

The idea of using renewable energy sources to produce hydrogen is not new, but by combining the two steps in a single device, the team believe they can not only increase the efficiency of the solar cells, but also eliminate the losses caused by transmitting the electricity to a separate device for splitting water. "This is integrating storage into photovoltaics," says Nocera.

Bringing the two steps together will take time, he admits, but if the team can marry plants' light-gathering ability with their talent for using this energy to produce chemical fuel, it will be worth the wait.

From issue 2577 of New Scientist magazine, 11 November 2006, page 30-31

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Everyone makes verbal gaffs in public speaking. It's only human. But the quantity and quality of the errors is something which tells us a lot about the speaker. This is so especially when the speaker doesn't seem to be aware at all - even after the fact - that he or she has made the error. When there are just too many stupid statements from one person, we must assume the person in question is intellectually challenged in some way. Right? So what are we to think of the following list?

"The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country. "
- George W. Bush

"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."
- George W. Bush

"One word sums up probably the responsibility of any Governor, and that one word is 'to be prepared'. "
- George W. Bush

"I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future."
- George W. Bush

"The future will be better tomorrow. " George W. Bush

"We're going to have the best educated American people in the world. "
- George W. Bush

"I stand by all the misstatements that I've made."
- George W. Bush

" We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe.
We are a part of Europe."
- George W. Bush

"Public speaking is very easy."
- George W. Bush

"A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls." - George W. Bush

"We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur. "
- George W. Bush

"For NASA, space is still a high priority."
- George W. Bush

" Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children."
- George W. Bush

" It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it. "
- George W. Bush

"It's time for the human race to enter the solar system."
- George W. Bush

Saturday, November 04, 2006

New Stuff

I'm now starting to use the new Blogger Beta. It will allow me to label posts so that people can retrieve posts with the same label (subject matter) from the archives instead of having to look at everything that may not be of interest. Let's see how well it works. Please send comments if you like the new format (or not!).

Thursday, November 02, 2006


ShopTalk - The Computer Shopper Magazine Blog

Greenpeace to Apple: Clean Up Your Act


Greenpeace really wants Apple to be less iToxic--so much so it's created a mockup
of Apple's Web site to further push its point, fingering the iPod maker
for its use of toxic chemicals like polyvinyl chloride plastic and
brominated flame retardants. (You even get parodies of those "I'm a PC, I'm a Mac" ads you've been seeing on television.)

From the horse's mouth:

Apple's releasing more than new products these days,
they're also releasing tons of toxic chemicals. That's because under
their skin, apples are full of toxic chemicals. When they get tossed,
they can end up at the fingertips of children in developing world
countries, who dismantle them for parts. Take Action! Tell Steve Jobs
that you want a green apple.

Apple was recently ranked near the bottom of Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics--lower than Dell, HP, Nokia, and Sony--in terms of its recycling and toxic-chemical-elimination policies.

Filed under: Industry News

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BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | 'Only 50 years left' for sea fish
Only 50 years left' for sea fish
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

There will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a major scientific study.

Stocks have collapsed in nearly one-third of sea fisheries, and the rate of decline is accelerating.

Writing in the journal Science, the international team of researchers says fishery decline is closely tied to a broader loss of marine biodiversity.

But a greater use of protected areas could safeguard existing stocks.

"The way we use the oceans is that we hope and assume there will always be another species to exploit after we've completely gone through the last one," said research leader Boris Worm, from Dalhousie University in Canada.

"What we're highlighting is there is a finite number of stocks; we have gone through one-third, and we are going to get through the rest," he told the BBC News website.

Steve Palumbi, from Stanford University in California, one of the other scientists on the project, added: "Unless we fundamentally change the way we manage all the ocean species together, as working ecosystems, then this century is the last century of wild seafood."

Spanning the seas

This is a vast piece of research, incorporating scientists from many institutions in Europe and the Americas, and drawing on four distinctly different kinds of data.

Graph of fish decline.
Catch records from the open sea give a picture of declining fish stocks.

In 2003, 29% of open sea fisheries were in a state of collapse, defined as a decline to less than 10% of their original yield.

Bigger vessels, better nets, and new technology for spotting fish are not bringing the world's fleets bigger returns - in fact, the global catch fell by 13% between 1994 and 2003.

Historical records from coastal zones in North America, Europe and Australia also show declining yields, in step with declining species diversity; these are yields not just of fish, but of other kinds of seafood too.

Zones of biodiversity loss also tended to see more beach closures, more blooms of potentially harmful algae, and more coastal flooding.

Experiments performed in small, relatively contained ecosystems show that reductions in diversity tend to bring reductions in the size and robustness of local fish stocks. This implies that loss of biodiversity is driving the declines in fish stocks seen in the large-scale studies.

The final part of the jigsaw is data from areas where fishing has been banned or heavily restricted.

These show that protection brings back biodiversity within the zone, and restores populations of fish just outside.

"The image I use to explain why biodiversity is so important is that marine life is a bit like a house of cards," said Dr Worm.

"All parts of it are integral to the structure; if you remove parts, particularly at the bottom, it's detrimental to everything on top and threatens the whole structure.

"And we're learning that in the oceans, species are very strongly linked to each other - probably more so than on land."

Protected interest

What the study does not do is attribute damage to individual activities such as over-fishing, pollution or habitat loss; instead it paints a picture of the cumulative harm done across the board.

Even so, a key implication of the research is that more of the oceans should be protected.

Nets on tuna boat. Image: Wolcott Henry 2005/Marine Photobank
Modern fishing methods such as purse seine nets are very efficient

But the extent of protection is not the only issue, according to Carl Gustaf Lundin, head of the global marine programme at IUCN, the World Conservation Union.

"The benefits of marine-protected areas are quite clear in a few cases; there's no doubt that protecting areas leads to a lot more fish and larger fish, and less vulnerability," he said.

"But you also have to have good management of marine parks and good management of fisheries. Clearly, fishing should not wreck the ecosystem, bottom trawling being a good example of something which does wreck the ecosystem."

But, he said, the concept of protecting fish stocks by protecting biodiversity does make sense.

"This is a good compelling case; we should protect biodiversity, and it does pay off even in simple monetary terms through fisheries yield."

Protecting stocks demands the political will to act on scientific advice - something which Boris Worm finds lacking in Europe, where politicians have ignored recommendations to halt the iconic North Sea cod fishery year after year.

Without a ban, scientists fear the North Sea stocks could follow the Grand Banks cod of eastern Canada into apparently terminal decline.

"I'm just amazed, it's very irrational," he said.

"You have scientific consensus and nothing moves. It's a sad example; and what happened in Canada should be such a warning, because now it's collapsed it's not coming back."

Schematic map of research used.
1. Experiments show that reducing the diversity of an ecosystem lowers the abundance of fish
2. Historical records show extensive loss of biodiversity along coasts since 1800, with the collapse of about 40% of species. About one-third of once viable coastal fisheries are now useless
3. Catch records from the open ocean show widespread decline of fisheries since 1950 with the rate of decline increasing. In 2003, 29% of fisheries were collapsed. Biodiverse regions' stocks fare better
4. Marine reserves and no-catch zones bring an average 23% improvement in biodiversity and an increase in fish stocks around the protected area

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Short Sighted Past Hampers Costa Rica's Present and Future

Inside Costa Rica - National News

  • The clout of American big business in the 1940s and 1950s in Costa Rica can be seen in laws which continue today to prohibit private sector labor unions. The result is that Costa Rica is still 20 to 40 years behind the United States in technological and construction expertise among other important industries. United Fruit was a major contributor to what has become a huge imbalance between private and public sector power, productivity, and the future. Looking only at short-term interests, United Fruit and other American companies carried tremendous political and social clout in Costa Rica and American companies are now belately feeling the adverse affects. The Costa Rican infrastructure is crumbling, start-up companies in the high tech area are severely hampered by outdated national communications systems, ineffective legislation, and corrupt government. It will take many decades of dedicated effort to turn around this situation. - post by mbthorman

Violation of Union Deals is Denounced

Experts from the International Labour Organization denounced on Saturday that mass labour agreements are ignored in Costa Rica since the unionization of private sector workers is banned.

  • See InsideCostaRica.com at http://insidecostarica.com/dailynews/2006/october/08/nac02.htm - post by mbthorman

Goldin noted that the Costa Rica will change its international position as it implements changes.

The consultant added that ILO is extremely worried about the number of direct deals made with no union workers and the reduced quantity of mass agreements in the private sector, a situation that has not been seen in other nation.

What is reality? The human experience of existence.

Mind fiction: Why your brain tells tall tales - being-human - 07 October 2006 - New Scientist

  • Confabulation is not a disease condition. It appears to be a genetically programmed response in all human brains to "fill the gaps" in knowledge. We MUST know what is happening, where we are, why things are happening. - post by mbthorman

Mind fiction: Why your brain tells tall tales

  • http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/mg19225720.100;jsessionid=EFGGKOEJLAGP - post by mbthorman

  • http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/mg19225720.100;jsessionid=EFGGKOEJLAGP - post by mbthorman

  • URL: http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/mg19225720.100;jsessionid=EFGGKOEJLAGP - post by mbthorman

Honest falsehood: Confabulation has been documented in healthy people and in several neurological conditions

One of the last times I saw my grandmother in her nursing home she chatted cheerfully about her son, who was away studying at university. She spoke with complete conviction and considerable pride, despite seeming also to recognise that her only son - my father - sitting right beside me, was not far off retirement age. The impossibility of her tale caused her no apparent distress or confusion. Her story was lucid and complex. It was as though a perfectly plausible anecdote had been plucked from several decades earlier and woven into the void of her recent memory.

Many older people gradually develop amnesia about recent happenings while retaining a wealth of detail from their younger days. They may make up stories to cover their embarrassment about the blanks, and generally they know their memory is foggy. The kind of storytelling my grandmother did after a series of strokes is a little different.

Neurologists call it confabulation. It isn't fibbing, as there is no intent to deceive and people seem to believe what they are saying. Until fairly recently it was seen simply as a neurological deficiency - a sign of something gone wrong. Now, however, it has become apparent that healthy people confabulate too.

Children and many adults confabulate when pressed to talk about something they have no knowledge of, and people do it during and after hypnosis. This raises doubts about the accuracy of witness testimony (see "The unreliable witness").

In fact, we may all confabulate routinely as we try to rationalise decisions or justify opinions. Why do you love me? Why did you buy that outfit? Why did you choose that career? At the extreme, some experts argue that we can never be sure about what is actually real and so must confabulate all the time to try to make sense of the world around us.

  • The question of distinguishing "self" from "non-self" arises here. Also, it appears that we make our decisions on a subconscious level and later "rationalize" those decisions in the conscious mind. Are there any other animals that confabulate? - post by mbthorman

Confabulation is clearly far more than a result of a deficit in our memory, says William Hirstein, a neurologist and philosopher at Elmhurst College in Chicago and author of a book on the subject entitled Brain Fiction (MIT Press, 2005)

Armin Schnider, a neurologist from the Cantonal University Hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, says that the vast majority of confabulations he has heard from his patients over the years relate directly to their earlier lives. One of his patients, a retired dentist, worried while in hospital that he was keeping his patients waiting. Another, an elderly woman, talked regularly about her baby in the present tense. Most of these patients had damage to the temporal lobes of the brain, particularly the memory regions of the hippocampus, so it seemed likely that they had somehow lost the ability to make new memories and were retrieving old ones instead. The intriguing thing was that they didn't realise these memories were old - they seemed convinced by their stories, and sometimes even acted on them. So Schnider decided to study their memory in more detail.

He found that his patients certainly had poor recall. If asked to learn a list of words, half an hour later they would be unable to name any of them. But was the problem to do with making new memories or accessing them later? To find out, he showed each person a series of pictures and asked them to point out any that appeared twice. Some confabulating patients and all amnesiac non-confabulators failed the task, unable to learn new information as the images flashed past. Often, though, even profound confabulators could do the task well.

Reality check

The most revealing thing about the experiment emerged when Schnider repeated it an hour later with the same images presented in a different order and with different ones repeated. The subjects were asked only to report repeats in this particular viewing, forgetting the earlier run - again, normally a very easy task. The scores of amnesiac non-confabulators were identical to the first session, but confabulators all performed terribly this second time around. Often they said they had seen a picture earlier in the run, when actually it was one they had seen an hour before. So the problem for people who confabulate is not necessarily that they can't make new memories, but that they confuse memory and present reality. "They se

So the problem for people who confabulate is not necessarily that they can't make new memories, but that they confuse memory and present reality. "They seem unable to suppress memories irrelevant to ongoing reality," says Schnider.

  • There may be a relationship between this phenomenum and the inability to differentiate dreams from reality! - post by mbthorman

The decision process happens subconsciously, too early for awareness. Our brain sorts fact from fiction well before we know our own thoughts, he concludes.

  • Shoot first and ask questions later? Is this a basic human trait? - post by mbthorman

One rare condition can make people confabulate even more elaborate tales. Capgras's syndrome sometimes affects people after a stroke, and can leave them believing that their loved ones have been substituted by identical-looking impostors, so they make up stories of alien abduction and conspiracy in an attempt to explain this crazy situation. In similarly strange conditions people may lose the ability to recognise themselves in the mirror, or may even believe they or another person are dead, despite all evidence to the contrary. In each instance, the affected person confabulates to explain the weirdness, oblivious to the absurdity.

  • Disease conditions of the brain help us to understand more about how a normal brain functions. If it can happen in a diseased condition, the structure for the phenomenum is already in place in the brain. The differences are often a matter of inability to suppress or an inability to retrieve the phenomena. - post by mbthorman

What all these conditions have in common is an apparent discrepancy between the patient's internal knowledge or feelings and the external information they are getting from what they see. In all these cases "confabulation is a knowledge problem", says Hirstein. Whether it is a lost memory, emotional response or body image, if the knowledge isn't there, something fills the gap.

Helping to plug that gap may well be a part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex, which lies in the frontal lobes behind the eye sockets. The OFC is best known as part of the brain's reward system, which guides us to do pleasurable things or seek what we need, but Hirstein and Schnider suggest that the system has an even more basic role. It and other frontal brain regions are busy monitoring all the information generated by our senses, memory and imagination, suppressing what is not needed and sorting out what is real and relevant.

According to Morten Kringelbach, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford who studies pleasure, reward and the role of the OFC, this tracking of ongoing reality allows us to rate everything subjectively to help us work out our priorities and preferences.

People who confabulate may have damage to parts of the OFC itself that means it doesn't receive all the information, or perhaps doesn't rate that information properly. Or they may have damage to connected parts of the brain, such as memory regions, which means the OFC doesn't receive sufficient information on which to work. Either way, when the information the OFC receives is incomplete or contradictory, it may work overtime to try and make things fit. The result could well be fiction.

Kringelbach goes even further. He suspects that confabulation is not just something people do when the system goes wrong. We may all do it routinely. Children need little encouragement to make up stories when asked to talk about something they know little about. Adults, too, can be persuaded to confabulate, as Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and his colleague Richard Nisbett have shown. They laid out a display of four identical items of clothing and asked people to pick which they thought was the best quality. It is known that people tend to subconsciously prefer the rightmost object in a sequence if given no other choice criteria, and sure enough about four out of five participants did favour the garment on the right. Yet when asked why they made the choice they did, nobody gave position as a reason. It was always about the fineness of the weave, richer colour or superior texture. This suggests that while we may make our decisions subconsciously, we rationalise them in our consciousness, and the way we do so may be pure fiction, or confabulation.

Even when we think we are making rational choices and decisions, this may be illusory too. The intriguing possibility is that we simply do not have access to all of the unconscious information on which we base our decisions, so we create fictions upon which to rationalise them, says Kringelbach. That may well be a good thing, he adds. If we were aware of how we made every choice we would never get anything done - we cannot hold that much information in our consciousness. Wilson backs up this idea with some numbers: he says our senses may take in more than 11 million pieces of information each second, whereas even the most liberal estimates suggest that we are conscious of just 40 of these.

Nevertheless it is an unsettling thought that perhaps all our conscious mind ever does is dream up stories in an attempt to make sense of our world. "The possibility is left open that in the most extreme case all of the people may confabulate all of the time," says Hall.

  • Yes, no doubt about it! In my work with brain damaged and emotionally ill people, I noticed that many were able to access that kind of information which is stored in the subconscious yet not available ordinarily in the waking state. This may well explain why we have dreams which help us to resolve problems or have "clairvoyance" or even "prescience." We pick up all this information and store it, but the conscious mind ignores most of it. During the dream state when the subconscious seems to have access to the conscious in some manner, the bits and pieces of information overlooked by the conscious mind, come together - to give us insight. Suddenly we have a dream in which we know someone we know is in love and about to get married. That person has told us nothing to the effect. Yet many subtle signals are given unconsciously be the person we dream about and these are picked up by the subconscious mind. Body language, facial expressions, and even the choice of words you to describe something totally unreelated are all clues. We may have even picked up a bit of a telephone conversation while passing a room and never been aware of it consciously. So when someone is particularly tuned into his or her dreams and makes a clairvoyant or predictive declaration, it might seem like magic, withcraft, or a sixth sense to others more successful in maintaining the divide between reality (conscious awareness) and confabulation or dream states (subconscious awareness). - post by mbthorman

The unreliable witness

Our tendency to confabulate - to believe a fictitious story or memory - is a serious concern when it comes to trusting an eyewitness.

Another controversial forensic technique is hypnosis. Its reliability was tested experimentally in the 1980s by psychologist Jane Dywan of Brock University in Ontario, Canada, at a time when hypnosis was increasingly being used, with little opposition, to "refresh" eyewitness memory. She showed people pictures and then tested their recall over the following days. After a week, she hypnotised the same people and asked them again what they could remember. They all "recalled" more, but almost all the newly volunteered information was wrong.

Dywan says that hypnosis increases the focus of our attention and so increases the vividness and the ease with which information comes to mind. This may give us the sense of confident familiarity for false memories that we would normally only get with true ones. Hypnosis seems to interfere with our ability to judge what is real and what is not. Combine this confidence with increased recall, and you have set up a very dangerous situation, she says.

  • People seem more willing to accept hypnosis (which has been medically approved, so to speak) than they are to accept the so-called psychic phenomena. Under hypnosis, though, a person may develop a "confabulation" which is then given positive reinforcemen by virtue of the fact that they confabulated under a medically approved technique. Many people know that something bad happened to them at an earlier time, but have successfully blocked the conscious recall of the events. When "given permission" to seek the event in the subconscious mind, they may "mix-up" true memories with fleeting thoughts, movies, other people's tales, and so forth. They create a reality which did not exist exactly as they recall it, but which seems "right" to them as a way of explaining the emotional consequences of the true event. They have been abused sexually by someone in the past, for example. But the kind of abuse and the abuser may not be true to reality when they recall it later in a dream-like state in which they have allowwed the barriers between the conscious and the subconscious to break down. But those newly created conscious memories become very real to them. Once created and accepted, these new memories are vehemently defended. A person must have confidence in what they perceive as reality in order to be comfortable. However horrible the newly created memory is, it is less horrible than the idea that what we KNOW as fact is not fact. Our sense of self is at stake. - post by mbthorman

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Big Lies of The Military-Industrial Complex

Nuclear meltdown may have caused cancers - Yahoo! News

  • I have been writing for decades about the dangers of nuclear energy and the testing that has been carried out across the nation by the military-industrial complex. Not only are we all very vulnerable to radiation leaks, but toxic chemicals at these sites have been handled as ordinary waste water or garbage for decades. - post by mbthorman

The report by an independent advisory panel estimated it was likely that radiation released during the meltdown caused about 260 cases of cancer within a 60-square-mile area around the reactor.

The lab's former owner, Rocketdyne, has said for years that no significant radiation was released. But the independent advisory panel said the incident released nearly 459 times more radiation than a similar one at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island in 1979.

The Energy Department, Boeing and the state have been involved in efforts to decontaminate the site. The state has estimated that more than 1.73 million gallons of toxic trichloroethylene was dumped on the grounds and that 500,000 gallons have saturated the bedrock beneath the lab.

The panel's conclusion contradicts several previous studies that found there wasn't a radiological issue, said Mike Lopez, project manager for the Energy Department's cleanup efforts at the site.
The US Environmental Protection Agency
reviewed the site in 2003 and concluded there was no risk, Lopez said.

  • Another example of the continuing BIG LIES. We, the citizens of the United States of America, don't matter to the powerful millitary-industrial complex that is supposed to be guarding us from danger, but is really placing all of us at very high risk of severe illness and death because its HIDDEN AGENDA is all about making large amount of money for those in power! - post by mbthorman

Saturday, September 23, 2006

GMO Problems - the Tip of the Iceberg

EU chases GMO-tainted rice strain in four countries - Yahoo! News
By Jeremy Smith Thu Sep 21, 1:45 PM ET

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's problems with shipments of unauthorized genetically modified (GMO) rice have taken a turn for the worse as two U.S. shipments tested positive for an illegal biotech strain, the EU executive said.

The Belgian food safety agency said it was likely that some of the rice had been eaten by consumers but the food did not constitute an "imminent threat to public health."

The two bargeloads within a 20,000-tonne cargo that had passed through the Dutch port of Rotterdam in August had first tested negative for the LL Rice 601 strain, developed by Germany's Bayer AG as resistant to a herbicide.

But Dutch counter-tests contradicted those first results,
European Commission spokesman Philip Tod told a news briefing on Thursday, adding that EU procedures for testing U.S. long-grain rice imports would now be strengthened.

"In the light of these developments, the European Commission intends to take further action to strengthen the measure ... requiring the testing of U.S. long-grain rice imports for LL 601," he said, declining to specify what action was envisaged.

In August, the EU tightened requirements on U.S. long-grain rice imports to prove the absence of LL Rice 601. Its decision followed the discovery by U.S. authorities of trace amounts of LL Rice 601 in long-grain samples targeted for commercial use.

No biotech rice is allowed to be grown, sold or marketed on the territory of the 25
European Union countries.

Then, EU authorities were informed about a shipment loaded in New Orleans that arrived in Rotterdam in late August carrying the equivalent of one month's average EU imports of U.S. long-grain rice.

Later, one EU official said France, Britain, Germany and Belgium had been asked to conduct checks to trace any rice from the bargeloads. That was because the shipments were accompanied by certificates showing they were GMO-free, he said.

One of the two consignments that the Dutch tests revealed as carrying the LL Rice 601 strain is still under the control of the Dutch authorities. The other was sent to Belgium, where it is also being held by the national authorities.

A further 11 consignments that were initially certified as GMO-free were sent to Britain, France and Germany, he said.

"We have asked the authorities in those countries to carry out counter-tests," he told reporters.

"There are a lot of questions to which we don't have answers," he said. "All we know is that they were in possession of valid certificates and that is why they were released."

The Rotterdam cargo was split into 30 consignments each equating to the volume of one barge. In 2005, EU states imported 300,000 tonnes of U.S. rice, of which 85 percent was long grain.

The above problems with keeping GMO out of other similar crops is but a tiny tip of the problems Genetically Modified Organisms can (and probably WILL) cause in the future. It is impossible to keep GM seeds, or even pollen out of non-GM fields. Many farmers have been complaining about this, since patents are held on the GM crops and testing is regularly done by the patent holders to make sure no one is "stealing" their work. But wind, rain, and animals spread GM crops to the fields of farmers who are not using and do not want to use the patented food products. The patent holders are nevertheless intent upon charging them for the use of the patented product! What is even worse is that many if not most of the GMO's have a built-in sterility factor which causes subsequent plantings to produce no seed at all. Farmers everywhere depend on the previous year's production to also provide the seeds for the next year. When the GMO goes wild, every farmer is at risk. This is true especially in the huge "under-developed" world where the GMOs are being aggressively marketed. Poor farmers expecting to pay once for the product, find themselves forever dependent on the GMO provider to ensure continuing production of their crops. Those who may be aware of the dangers or who don't want to become dependent on foreign suppliers, will be forced to do so because the GMO product travels from the original fields to others. The clincher is that these GMOs are often designed to make the plant resistent to certain chemical control agents (weed control, pest control, disease control. Once the crop is introduced, the chemical control must also be used because the natural unmodified crops are destroyed by the chemicals. And like the spores and pollen of the GM food crops, the chemical controls are spread by wind and other factors killing non-modified crops. A very lucrative cycle is thus set up by the patent holder of the GMOs who are usually also the patent holders of the chemical controls! Imagine that all our food crops become hostage to one or two huge multinational chemical companies and what do you foresee? Who controls the world? Obviously, whoever controls the food supply, controls the world!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Grand Prize Winner:
When a cat is dropped, it always lands on its feet, and when toast is
dropped, it always lands with the buttered side facing down. I propose to
strap buttered toast to the back of a cat; the two will hover, spinning
inches above the ground. With a giant buttered cat array, a high-speed
monorail could easily link New York with Chicago.
If an infinite number of rednecks riding in an infinite number of pickup
trucks fire an infinite number of shotgun rounds at an infinite number of
highway signs, they will eventually produce all the worlds great literary
works in Braille.
Why Yawning Is Contagious: You yawn to equalize the pressure on your
eardrums. This pressure change outside your eardrums unbalances other
people's ear pressures, so they must yawn to even it out.
Communist China is technologically underdeveloped because they have no
alphabet and therefore cannot use acronyms to communicate ideas at a faster
The earth may spin faster on its axis due to deforestation. Just as a
figure skater's rate of spin increases when the arms are brought in close
to the body, the cutting of tall trees may cause our planet to spin
dangerously fast.
Honorable Mentions:
Birds take off at sunrise. On the opposite side of the world, they are
landing at sunset. This causes the earth to spin on its axis.
The reason hot-rod owners raise the backs of their cars is that it's easier
to go faster when you're always going downhill.
The quantity of consonants in the English language is constant. If omitted
in one place, they turn up in another. When a Bostonian "pahks" his "cah,"
the lost r's migrate southwest, causing a Texan to "warsh" his car and
invest in "erl wells."
Source: U.S., U.K. at odds over timing of arrests
British wanted to continue surveillance on terror suspects, official says
By Aram Roston, Lisa Myers, and the NBC News Investigative Unit
NBC News
Updated: 6:13 p.m. MT Aug 12, 2006
LONDON - NBC News has learned that U.S. and British authorities had a significant disagreement over when to move in on the suspects in the alleged plot to bring down trans-Atlantic airliners bound for the United States.
A senior British official knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.
In contrast to previous reports, the official suggested an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports.

All of these are legitimate companies that didn't spend quite enough time considering how their online names might appear ... and be misread.
1. Who Represents is where you can find the name of the agent that represents any celebrity. Their Web site is: www.whorepresents.com
2. Experts Exchange is a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views at www.expertsexchange.com
3. Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island at www.penisland.net
4. Need a therapist? Try Therapist Finder at www.therapistfinder.com
5. There's the Italian Power Generator company, www.powergenitalia.com
6. And don't forget the Mole Station Native Nursery in New South Wales, www.molestationnursery.com
7. If you're looking for IP solutions, there's always www.ipanywhere.com
8. The First Cumming Methodist Church Web site is www.cummingfirst.com
9. And the designers at Speed of Art await you at their wacky Web site, www.speedofart.com

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Valid Point
Think About This One!!! It's short but very interesting!
A car company can move its factories to Mexico and claim it's a free market.
A toy company can out source to a Chinese subcontractor and claim it's a
free market.
A shoe company can produce its shoes in south east Asia and claim it's
free market.
A major bank can incorporate in Bermuda to avoid taxes and claim it's a
free market.
We can buy HP Printers made in Mexico.
We can buy shirts made in Bangladesh.
We can purchase almost anything we want from 20 different countries BUT,
heaven help the elderly who dare to buy their prescription
drugs from a Canadian pharmacy.. That's called un-American! And you think
the pharmaceutical companies don't have a powerful lobby? Think again!
Forward this to every person you know over age 50. It is an interesting
thought. Maybe this is an issue that should come up in the next election!
Forget the 50, send it to everyone. We're all in this boat together!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Scientists Say They?ve Found a Code Beyond Genetics in DNA

Published: July 25, 2006
Researchers believe they have found a second code in
DNA in addition to the genetic code.

Loren Williams/Chemistry and Biochemistry, Georgia Institute of Technology
In a living cell, the DNA double helix wraps around a nucleosome, above center, and binds to some of its proteins, known as histones.

The genetic code specifies all the proteins that a cell makes. The second code, superimposed on the first, sets the placement of the nucleosomes, miniature protein spools around which the DNA is looped. The spools both protect and control access to the DNA itself.
The discovery, if confirmed, could open new insights into the higher order control of the genes, like the critical but still mysterious process by which each type of human cell is allowed to activate the genes it needs but cannot access the genes used by other types of cell.
The new code is described in the current issue of Nature by Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute in Israel and Jonathan Widom of
Northwestern University in Illinois and their colleagues.
There are about 30 million nucleosomes in each human cell. So many are needed because the DNA strand wraps around each one only 1.65 times, in a twist containing 147 of its units, and the DNA molecule in a single chromosome can be up to 225 million units in length.
Biologists have suspected for years that some positions on the DNA, notably those where it bends most easily, might be more favorable for nucleosomes than others, but no overall pattern was apparent. Drs. Segal and Widom analyzed the sequence at some 200 sites in the yeast genome where nucleosomes are known to bind, and discovered that there is indeed a hidden pattern.
Knowing the pattern, they were able to predict the placement of about 50 percent of the nucleosomes in other organisms.
The pattern is a combination of sequences that makes it easier for the DNA to bend itself and wrap tightly around a nucleosome. But the pattern requires only some of the sequences to be present in each nucleosome binding site, so it is not obvious. The looseness of its requirements is presumably the reason it does not conflict with the genetic code, which also has a little bit of redundancy or wiggle room built into it.
Having the sequence of units in DNA determine the placement of nucleosomes would explain a puzzling feature of transcription factors, the proteins that activate genes. The transcription factors recognize short sequences of DNA, about six to eight units in length, which lie just in front of the gene to be transcribed.
But these short sequences occur so often in the DNA that the transcription factors, it seemed, must often bind to the wrong ones. Dr. Segal, a computational biologist, believes that the wrong sites are in fact inaccessible because they lie in the part of the DNA wrapped around a nucleosome. The transcription factors can only see sites in the naked DNA that lies between two nucleosomes.
The nucleosomes frequently move around, letting the DNA float free when a gene has to be transcribed. Given this constant flux, Dr. Segal said he was surprised they could predict as many as half of the preferred nucleosome positions. But having broken the code, ?We think that for the first time we have a real quantitative handle? on exploring how the nucleosomes and other proteins interact to control the DNA, he said.
The other 50 percent of the positions may be determined by competition between the nucleosomes and other proteins, Dr. Segal suggested.
Several experts said the new result was plausible because it generalized the longstanding idea that DNA is more bendable at certain sequences, which should therefore favor nucleosome positioning.
?I think it?s really interesting,? said Bradley Bernstein, a biologist at
Massachusetts General Hospital.
Jerry Workman of the Stowers Institute in Kansas City said the detection of the nucleosome code was ?a profound insight if true,? because it would explain many aspects of how the DNA is controlled.
The nucleosome is made up of proteins known as histones, which are among the most highly conserved in evolution, meaning that they change very little from one species to another. A histone of peas and cows differs in just 2 of its 102 amino acid units. The conservation is usually attributed to the precise fit required between the histones and the DNA wound around them. But another reason, Dr. Segal suggested, could be that any change would interfere with the nucleosomes? ability to find their assigned positions on the DNA.
In the genetic code, sets of three DNA units specify various kinds of amino acid, the units of proteins. A curious feature of the code is that it is redundant, meaning that a given amino acid can be defined by any of several different triplets. Biologists have long speculated that the redundancy may have been designed so as to coexist with some other kind of code, and this, Dr. Segal said, could be the nucleosome code.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


American Management Today - Idiots?

A magazine recently ran a "Dilbert Quotes" contest. They were looking for people to submit quotes from their real-life Dilbert-comic-strip-type managers. These were voted the top ten quotes from the managers we work for in corporate America, circa 2004:

  • "As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday, andemployees will receive their cards in two weeks." (This was the winningquote from Fred Dales, Microsoft Corp. in Redmond WA)
  • "What I need is an exact list of specific unknown problems we might encounter." (Lykes Lines Shipping)
  • "E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be usedonly for company business." (Accounting manager, Electric Boat Company)
  • "This project is so important we can't let things that are more importantinterfere with it." (Advertising/Marketing manager, United Parcel Service)
  • "Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule." (Plant Manager,Delco Corporation)
  • "No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We've been workingon it for months. Now go act busy for a few weeks and I'll let you knowwhen it's time to tell them." (R&D supervisor, Minnesota Mining andManufacturing/3M Corp.)
  • Quote from the Boss: "Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say."(Marketing executive, Citrix Corporation)
  • My sister passed away and her funeral was scheduled for Monday. When I toldmy Boss, he said she died on purpose so that I would have to miss work onthe busiest day of the year. He then asked if we could change her burial toFriday. He said, "That would be better for me." (Shipping executive, FTDFlorists)
  • "We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going todiscuss it with the employees." (Switching supervisor, AT&T Long LinesDivision)


Thanks to Wikipedia -

The Peter Principle is a theory originated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter. It states that successful members of a hierarchical organization are eventually promoted to their highest level of competence, after which further promotion raises them to a level at which they are not competent. The term is a pun on Sigmund Freud's theory of the pleasure principle.

The theory was set out in a humorous style in the book The Peter Principle, first published in 1969. Peter describes the theme of his book as hierarchiology. The central principle is stated in the book as follows:

In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.

Senators Can't Use Email

It is becoming apparent that our Senators and Congressmen are technology challenged. This is bad because they have to write laws protecting consumers and making sure that the INTERNET is in accordance with the Constitution of the United States. It is also very SCARY! Our lawmakers seem to be totally clueless in regard to anything that has become a part of our world since 1986. They have shown ignorance in regard to basic concepts of life and death, medical and scientific processes, the difference between religion, politics, and science, the basics of ecology, energy production and use, and more. This article in "Wired" is just another example.

About Me

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I live on the Pacific slopes of the Talamanca mountain range in southern Costa Rica. My adult children live in the United States. I have a Masters Degree in Gerontology but have worked as a migrant laborer, chicken egg collector, radio broadcaster, secretary, social worker, research director, bureaucrat, writer, editor, political organizer, publicist, telephone operator, and more. My hobby of photography has garnered some awards.

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