Saturday, April 22, 2006
Apple today announced an expansion of its successful recycling program, offering free computer take-back and recycling with the purchase of a new Macintosh system beginning in June. US customers who buy a new Mac through the Apple Store (www.apple.com) or Apples retail stores will receive free shipping and environmentally friendly disposal of their old computer as part of the Apple Recycling program. Equipment received by the program in the US is recycled domestically and no hazardous material is shipped overseas. Earlier this week, Apple was named a Forward Green Leader, one of the top ten environmentally progressive companies recognized by the Sierra Club and its investment advisor, Forward Management.
Apple's free take-back program will extend Apple's existing US recycling program, which has recycled more than 90 percent of electronic equipment collected since 2001. Apple also operates a free drop-off recycling location at its headquarters in Cupertino for used computer systems and selected home electronics.
Information on Apples recycling programs and industry-leading environmental policies is available online here.
Go Apple! This is yet another great reason for me to make the switch to a Mac.
Friday, April 21, 2006
-That Socom still rocks, even after playing it for a few months.
-That the weekend is here!
-That the Silent Hill movie is finally out.
-Getting a decentish night's sleep last night.
-Misty, foggy mornings where everything looks surreal & Silent Hill like.
-Modern plumbing, especially showers!
-That I got everything I needed for work together last night.
-That the leaves are starting to unfurl.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Oh, and Asshole, no I don't want to train New Girl, especially with this particularly irritating bit of miserable shit I'm working on! If I wanted to train people, I would have stayed in my management position at fucking Kinko's, you retard. One of the (many) reasons I took this job is because I am not a good teacher, & I hate trying to train people. That's why you're the supervisor, you hapless bastard.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Monday, April 17, 2006
But, despite the President's stern disapproval of mixed-species clones, we may soon find food products derived from them not just in our research labs, but on our kitchen tables within the next year.
A Dutch biotechnology company called Pharming has genetically engineered cows, outfitting females with a human gene that causes them to express high levels of the protein human lactoferrin in their milk. According to Pharming's website, the proteinwhich is naturally present in human tears, lung secretions, milk and other bodily fluidsfights against the bacteria that causes eye and lung infections, plays a key role in the immune system of infants and adults and improves intestinal microbial balance, promoting the health of the gastro-intestinal tract.
Scientists have tested the toxicity of the proteinisolated from the cows' milkon rats. They found thateven at the high level of 2,000 mg recombinant human lactoferrin per kg body weightorally consumed human lactoferrin has no adverse effects to complement all the supposed benefits already mentioned.
Pharming has, therefore, filed a notification with the FDA asking that their lactoferrin be labeled "Generally Recognized As Safe" (GRAS). If the FDA approves this product, human lactoferrin derived from these cloned cows could be in America's yogurt, popsicles, sports drinks and snack bars within months.
To create human lactoferrin-lactating cows, Pharming's scientists introduce human DNA coding for the protein's production into the nuclei of fertilized bovine eggs. The cells that successfully incorporate the foreign DNA or "transgene" are then selected, and each is fused with a second egg cell that has had its nucleus removed. The fused cells are then implanted in a surrogate cow's uterus. If all goes well, the cow becomes pregnant with a transgenic calf that, upon maturity two years later, will produce milk containing human lactoferrin. Despite that one component of its milk, the calf is all bovinebut technically remains an example of the dastardly human-animal hybrid.
The "humanness" of the protein may be both its strongest selling point and the label that will delay and possibly squash its eventual release to the marketplace. Surveys consistently show that Americans are wary of using genetically modified animals, specifically cloned animals, for food. In fact, a 2005 survey by the Pew Initiative On Food And Biotechnology found that only 23% of American consumers believe that food from cloned animals is safe, while 43% believe it is unsafe.
Despite the public sentiment, the FDA is still working out its official policy on transgenic animals. The agency currently asks that any company looking to introduce transgenic animals into the food supply contact the Center for Veterinary Medicine for instructions on how to prepare an investigational file. It has not yet approved any food from transgenic animals, but according to Singh, the organization has approved a handful proteins made through mammalian cell culture technology, where cells are cultured in a synthetic environment.
"The Federal policy on transgenic animals is under discussion at the White House level," said an FDA spokesperson via e-mail. "Those discussions will ultimately produce a seamless interagency approach to the regulation of genetically engineered animals."
Products from transgenic animals have seen no real success in passing through any approval agencies, thus far. According to the BBC, in February, the European Medicines Agency turned down an application to license Atryn, an anti-clotting agent collected from the milk of transgenic goats, because of insufficient scientific research into its safety and benefit. California-based Ventria Bioscience filed a GRAS notification on human lactoferrin produced in rice back in December, 2004. The status of the application is still listed as pending—every other notification from 2004 was closed by mid-2005. Singh isn't worried that his human lactoferrin protein will face a similar fate.
"Regulatory agencies both in the US and Europe have not said to companies who are working with this sort of technology that they have any issues with the technology itself," Singh said. "There are different uses and different applications; I think this is a relatively straightforward application. If there aren't any issues with the protein itself, I would expect the regulatory agencies would not have any serious concerns."
As for the President's State of the Union remarks, the FDA had no comment. Singh said he'd received feedback from others in the biotechnology industry that Bush was not talking about these sort of transgenic animals but rather about animals created purely for human organ harvesting, such as mice capable of growing human ears on their backs.
Even though Pharming has run multiple tests on their protein to ensure it is safe, and the FDA's claims that it's open to transgenic technology, human lactoferrin from transgenic cows faces an uphill climb from the lab in the Netherlands to the shelves at your local grocery store. The people at Pharming are just hoping that regulatory agencies recognize that transgenic milk does a body good. Very good.
For Heather Perlmutter, a 41-year-old investment portfolio manager in Manhattan, the Web site with the whimsical name made perfect sense. Like many Americans, she found herself awash in CD's, DVD's and VHS tapes that were seldom if ever played anymore. They just took up valuable space in the Upper West Side apartment where she lives with her husband and two young children.
Then a friend of a friend told her about Zunafish, a new Web site that matches people with discs and tapes to trade and video games and paperback books, too.
"You feel like you're getting something special, that you're getting the better part of the deal," Ms. Perlmutter said. "Wow, somebody wants your stuff. I guess it's one man's trash is another man's treasure."
That was certainly the thinking of Dan Elias and Billy Bloom, the unlikely founders of Zunafish.
In a highly competitive era, independent tinkerers who are convinced they have a big idea can face big problems getting the idea to market. Even video games, once famous for whisking their creators from makeshift workshops to fast fortunes and expensive cars, are mostly made today by corporate teams of designers and programmers in sprawling office parks.
But Mr. Elias, a television news anchor in western Massachusetts, and Mr. Bloom, the owner of a volleyball league in New York City, both self-described amateurs at creating a digital service and company, spawned Zunafish, a singularly simple-to-use media trading site.
"We have no background in technology," said Mr. Elias, a 45-year-old native New Yorker who now lives in Northampton, Mass. "I think we always thought from the start that it was a big idea. There are hundreds of billions of dollars of idle media materials sitting in people's homes."
Mr. Bloom, 47, said of the company's humble origins, "If we lived in the country, it would have literally been created in one of our garages."
The site, which looks remarkably similar to a prototype Mr. Bloom sketched on notebook paper four years ago with Mr. Elias, trades only one-for-one items within the same category CD's, DVD's, VHS tapes, video games, audio books or paperback books. No item (for example, a seven-disc DVD set of the first season of the television series "24") is worth more than any another (say, a DVD of Peter Jackson's "King Kong").
Traders using the site determine the relative value of an item by choosing to swap or not. No one is ever forced to make a trade, Mr. Elias noted.
Each trader pays Zunafish $1 through credit or debit card for each trade. The site then calculates the postage costs and creates addressed mailing labels that can be downloaded and printed out. Each trader, Mr. Bloom said, is responsible for paying the postage and mailing the item promptly.
Like buyers and sellers on eBay, the traders on Zunafish rate each other, providing a confidence index for future transactions.
One notable feature is how easy it is to post items on Zunafish to be traded.
Mr. Bloom said Zunafish used a database that was updated weekly. Type in the name of an item or its universal product code (usually found near an item's bar code) or the I.S.B.N. number for books and the database pulls up a full description of the item and a digital photograph of its cover. If the match is correct, the user clicks O.K. and the item is posted.
There are other online trading sites, including Peerflix and BarterBee, which started last summer, that offer trading in similar categories. But other sites tend to offer a more limited range of items, or they use more complicated systems, requiring points and memberships to execute trades.
Jason Niccum told The Longmont Times-Call that he bought a device that let him change traffic lights from red to green, called an Opticon, on eBay for $100.
He told the newspaper the device "paid for itself" in the two years he had it, helping him cut his time driving to work.
Niccum was cited on March 29 after police said they caught him using the strobe-like device to change traffic signals. Police confiscated the Opticon, and informed Niccum it was illegal to possess it.
"I'm always running late," police quoted Niccum as saying in an incident report.
An Opticon shines a strobe light on the optical sensors set atop some traffic signals, causing lights to jam.
City traffic engineer Joe Olson said traffic engineers plan to update the city's system this year to block unauthorized light-changing signals. He estimated that a new system, which would be able to block out all unauthorized light-changing signals, will cost taxpayers about $75,000.
The Opticon devices, which are becoming more commonplace, are marketed through many different avenues. Dealers are instructed to sell only to "authorized users" such as volunteer first responders, doctors and security personnel, but it is easy for anyone to buy the devices online.
Human volunteers this week began signing up for an experimental HIV vaccine developed at Atlanta's Emory University.
Twelve people are expected to take part in the trial at four participating research centers.
Volunteers should begin getting shots any day now, said Don Hildebrand, the chief executive of GeoVax Inc., the Atlanta biotechnology firm that licensed the vaccine.
It's a phase one trial, in which healthy, uninfected volunteers are given low doses in a check for safety and immune response, Hildebrand said Friday.
A second, higher-dose trial _ with 36 people _ is expected to begin in a few months.
If these trials are successful, future trials will be done to see if the vaccine actually prevents the virus from causing AIDS, he said.
The GeoVax product is one of more than 30 preventive AIDS vaccines in early stages of human clinical trials in approximately two dozen countries, according to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, a not-for-profit organization devoted to AIDS prevention.
One of the furthest along is a Merck & Co. vaccine, which tries to build immunity using a modified cold virus. About 3,000 people are being enrolled in Merck's phase two trial of the vaccine.
The GeoVax vaccine is administered in four doses, spread over the course of about two months. The first two doses contain fragments of HIV DNA, which prime the patient's immune response system. The second two doses contain an altered poxvirus designed to boost the immune system, Hildebrand said.
It was developed by a scientific team led by Harriet Robinson of Emory's Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Emory researchers began working on the vaccine in 1997. It worked in rhesus macaques, protecting 22 of 23 vaccinated monkeys from AIDS for more than 3 1/2 years.
In 2003 and 2004, the DNA component of the vaccine was tested in 30 HIV-negative volunteers in Birmingham, Seattle and San Francisco. It was deemed safe, Hildebrand said. The new trials are testing both the components, he explained.
This little application lets you spell correct from any system or computer that has Internet access. Spell check is avalible in 28 languages.
I have to say, I find spell checking in 28 languages pretty impressive, although I doubt ever needing to spell check in anything but english.
A chunk of ice dropped out of the sky and left a huge hole in the ground this weekend at Oakland's Bushrod Park in California, and not even astronomy experts know where it came from.
Jacek Purat, a witness to the falling ice, grabbed a piece and is storing it in his freezer. He says it came out of the southwestern sky, slammed into the ground and exploded into pieces.
It burrowed about two-and-a-half feet into the ground, where Oakland firefighters retrieved it.
"They just pulled it out and threw it on the sidewalk and it broke into pieces," Purat said.
Ron Wilson, an aviation consultant for ABC7/KGO-TV in San Francisco, said it probably didn't come from an aircraft. He believes the only possible way it could have come from an airplane is if the plane's valve for freshwater had leaked at a high elevation.
The other possibility is that it is a chunk of ice from space.
"It's very unlikely for a piece of a comet to make it down to our surface, mainly because of the shock waves it encounters as it's entering our atmosphere," said Ryan Diduck at the Chabot Space and Science Center.
If the ice contains chlorine, it more than likely came from an airplane's freshwater tank. If not, scientists would like to see if it contains impurities from space that make up the solar system, like dust and dirt.
"It produced some little bit of inflammation, sensation of the tips of your fingers as if it had a little bit acid maybe or something like that," Purat said.
So far, no one has asked to analyze Mr. Purat 's chunk of mysterious ice.
Falling ice perplexes scientists
Theories abound after 2 chunks land in state in a week.
The skies are raining big chunks of ice, and experts ranging from scientists to federal investigators are scrambling to learn what's going on.
For the second time in a week, California was the victim of an aerial, icy assault, the latest being early Thursday when a chunk of ice the size of a microwave oven plunged out of a cloudless sky into the San Bernardino County town of Loma Linda. The ice punched through the metal roof of a recreation center, leaving a hole up to 2 1/2 feet wide, then fragmented into opaque, brilliant white chunks, one as big as a bowling ball. No one was hurt.
The simplest, least controversial hypothesis is that the ice was dropped from airplanes, but there's little direct support for that view. A few experts who study such phenomena have suggested that similar occurrences around the world owe more to exotic causes, perhaps even global warming.
In both cases, the ice was clear or whitish -- not bluish, as one would expect of ice that had leaked from an airplane's restroom, for instance.
Legends about plunging ice go back for centuries. They didn't begin to receive serious scientific attention until a few years ago, however, when Spain and other countries were pelted by the mystery intruders.
Possible explanations range from the mundane to the bizarre.
One theory is that ice is somehow forming on the outside of aircraft, perhaps in areas that aren't protected by deicing equipment, said David Travis, a climatologist at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. Last year, he and 11 others co-wrote an article on the ice-fall mystery in the Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry.
Lead author Jesus Martinez-Frias of the Planetary Geology Laboratory in Madrid and his colleagues have collected reports of 40 cases around the world since 1999 of puzzling falling ice, or "megacryometeors," as they call the strange objects.
Martinez-Frias hypothesizes that the ice forms in the upper atmosphere by a process similar to the formation of hail inside thunderstorms but without a thunderstorm. But how can ice fall from a cloudless sky? Martinez-Frias speculates that global warming is causing the lower part of the atmosphere -- the troposphere, where we live -- to expand and rise. This means that the tropopause, which is the so-called roof of the troposphere, is forced to a greater height, where it cools more than normal.
Thus, he suggests, the new, steeper temperature difference between warm and cold air in the upper atmosphere generates turbulent up-and-down winds that repeat the hail-formation process, without a thunderstorm.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Think you know you know your science? Recently, several science gurus -- Nobel Prize winners, institute heads, teachers and others who spend most of their time thinking about science -- were asked, "What is one science question every high school graduate should be able to answer?"
Take their quiz and see how you do.
1. What percentage of the earth is covered by water?
ROBERT GAGOSIAN, WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTE
2. What sorts of signals does the brain use to communicate sensations, thoughts and actions?
TORSTEN WEISEL, ROCKEFELLER INSTITUTE, NEW YORK
3. Did dinosaurs and humans ever exist at the same time?
ANDREW C. REVKIN, NEW YORK TIMES SCIENCE REPORTER
4. What is Darwin's theory of the origin of species?
JONATHAN WEINER, 1995 PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING AUTHOR
5. Why does a year consist of 365 days, and a day of 24 hours?
LESLIE SAGE, NATURE MAGAZINE
6. Why is the sky blue?
ROY GLAUBER, 2005 NOBEL PRIZE WINNER; HARVARD UNIVERSITY
7. What causes a rainbow?
KIM KASTENS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
8. What is it that makes diseases caused by viruses and bacteria hard to treat?
HELLE GAWRYLEWSKI, JOHNSON & JOHNSON (AND THE AUTHOR'S MOTHER)
9. How old are the oldest fossils on earth?
PAUL NURSE, 2001 NOBEL PRIZE WINNER; ROCKEFELLER INSTITUTE
10. Why do we put salt on sidewalks when it snows?
ARTHUR KNUDSEN, BRIDGETON, N.J., SCHOOLS
Extra credit: What makes the seasons change?
If this quiz wasn't as easy as you thought it would be, you're not alone. According to a recent National Science Board survey, 90 percent of Americans are interested in science, but only 15 percent consider themselves well-informed. In high schools, only 60 percent of students complete a general biology class, while only 40 percent complete a general chemistry class and a scant 27 percent complete a physics class, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
1. About 71 percent of the earth's surface is covered by water.
2. The single cells in the brain communicate through electrical and chemical signals.
3. No. Dinosaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago. Modern humans did not appear until around 200,000 years ago.
4. Darwin's theory of species origination says that natural selection chooses organisms that possess variable and heritable traits and that are best suited for their environments.
5. A year, 365 days, is the time it takes for the earth to travel around the sun. A day, 24 hours, is the time it takes for the earth to spin around once on its axis.
6. Solar radiation sunlight is scattered across the atmosphere by a process called diffused sky radiation. The sky is blue because much more short-wave radiation -- blue light -- is scattered across the sky than long-wave radiation -- red light.
7. Rainbows can be seen when there are water droplets in the air and the sun is shining. Sunlight, which contains all colors, is refracted, or bent, off the droplets at different angles, splitting into its different colors of red, yellow, blue, etc.
8. Influenza viruses and others continually change over time, usually by mutation. This change enables the virus to evade the immune system of its host so that people are susceptible to influenza virus infection throughout their lives. Bacteria mutate in the same way and can also become resistant if overtreated with antibiotics.
9. About 3.8 billion years; they're bacteria-like organisms.
10. Adding salt to snow or ice increases the number of molecules on the ground surface and makes it harder for the water to freeze. Salt can lower freezing temperatures on sidewalks to 15 degrees from 32 degrees.
Extra credit: Seasons occur because the earth is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees. At certain times of year the top half of the earth leans to the sun and therefore gets more sun and has summer. When that same half of the earth leans away from the sun it gets less light and has winter.
Beneath the waves of the South Pacific lies a volcanic realm nearly as strange as that featured in TV's hit drama Lost.
But instead of a mysterious island, scientists have found a bubbling submarine volcano whose weird features include a swirling vortex, a host of strange animals, and a fearsome zone of toxic waters dubbed the Moat of Death.
The volcano sits within the crater of a gigantic underwater mountain rising more than 4,500 meters (15,000 feet) from the ocean floor near the island of Samoa.
The seamount, called Vailulu'u, is an active volcano, with a 2-mile-wide (3.2-kilometer-wide) crater. The cone rising within it has been dubbed Nafanua, for the Samoan goddess of war.
Five years ago Hubert Staudigel of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, and his colleagues mapped the mountain using remote-sensing techniques.
When they returned to the site in 2005 for a more thorough study with submersible vehicles, the scientists found that the seamount had grown a new, 300-meter (1,000-foot) lava cone, a sign of renewed volcanic activity.
The peak of the cone, 700 meters (2,300 feet) below sea level, turned out to be teeming with life.
"It was just full of eels," Staudigel said. "When we sent the submersible down, we found hundreds of eels scurrying out of the rock. Normally you'd see one or two."
Moat of Death
The moat lies between Vailulu'u's encircling crater and the rim of the cone inside it.
It's an extremely toxic environment, Staudigel said, where oxygen levels are dangerously low and volcanic vents fill the water with iron soot "almost like underwater smog."
The volcano is also spewing liquid carbon dioxide, which combines with seawater to make a deadly acidic mix.
In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots. That's the conviction that inspired Greenpeace's first voyage up the spectacular rocky northwest coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen bombs in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.
Look at it this way: More than 600 coal-fired electric plants in the United States produce 36 percent of U.S. emissions -- or nearly 10 percent of global emissions -- of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Nuclear energy is the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce these emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power. And these days it can do so safely.
And although I don't want to underestimate the very real dangers of nuclear technology in the hands of rogue states, we cannot simply ban every technology that is dangerous. That was the all-or-nothing mentality at the height of the Cold War, when anything nuclear seemed to spell doom for humanity and the environment. In 1979, Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon produced a frisson of fear with their starring roles in "The China Syndrome," a fictional evocation of nuclear disaster in which a reactor meltdown threatens a city's survival. Less than two weeks after the blockbuster film opened, a reactor core meltdown at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear power plant sent shivers of very real anguish throughout the country.
What nobody noticed at the time, though, was that Three Mile Island was in fact a success story: The concrete containment structure did just what it was designed to do -- prevent radiation from escaping into the environment. And although the reactor itself was crippled, there was no injury or death among nuclear workers or nearby residents. Three Mile Island was the only serious accident in the history of nuclear energy generation in the United States, but it was enough to scare us away from further developing the technology: There hasn't been a nuclear plant ordered up since then.
Today, there are 103 nuclear reactors quietly delivering just 20 percent of America's electricity. Eighty percent of the people living within 10 miles of these plants approve of them (that's not including the nuclear workers). Although I don't live near a nuclear plant, I am now squarely in their camp.
The original article is more in-depth, and includes some common myths & concerns about nuclear energy.
Xena, unofficially called the 10th planet, is the second-most-shiny known object in the solar system, new observations show. Scientists are scrambling to explain where Xena got its sparkle. Some suggest that it might have enough heat to belch methane, despite being in the coldest region of the solar system.
The new notion of Xena arises from Hubble Space Telescope images that were released this week. The images reveal that Xena, the most distant known object in our solar system, isn't quite the big shot that scientists had thought it was.
Researchers have difficulty determining the size of remote denizens of the solar system because a large object that reflects a small amount of sunlight looks the same as a small object reflecting a lot of light.
But for Xena, the sharp Hubble pictures erase that ambiguity.
The relatively small size shown in those images indicates that the body reflects 86 percent of sunlight. Brown says he was "thoroughly shocked" by that finding. Researchers had assumed that Xena's surface was similar to that of Pluto, which reflects 60 percent of sunlight. Saturn's moon Enceladus, recently shown to be shooting out a geyser of water vapor is the only solar system object known to have a higher reflectivity, notes Brown.
The distant sun shines on Xena, often called the 10th planet, in this illustration. Inset: The Hubble Space Telescope image that revealed Xena's size for the first time.
A. Schaller, NASA, ESA; (Inset) Brown, NASA, ESA