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a way to cut homicides?

The following is a comment made by “Benny King (Ex Pat), Minneapolis, Minnesota” to an article about the variations in crime rate statistics in the UK. The data used has been derived from the results of the Seventh United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (1998 - 2000).

“While it has been noted that a 5.56 per 100,000 homicide rate in the USA is exceedingly high it should be noted that that rate is down from 5.64 in 2001 and that the US is in 6th place, far behind the world leaders South Africa with 50.14 and Russia with 21.40. Also, it is disingenuous to split Scotland from England and Wales, lowering Englandís place on the table to 22nd and leaving Scotland at 16th. The problem is the UKís murder rate is going the wrong way, upward instead of downward. It should be noted that in 36 of the 50 states any law abiding citizen can apply for and receive a permit to carry a gun in public. Statistics show that every state that enacts such a law sees a decrease in violent crime. Over and above that there are a few cities that have enacted laws requiring households to own a gun and these cities have seen dramatic falls (more than 90%) in violent crime and so far the streets are not flowing with blood, it seems that the crooks donít want to risk being hurt.”

the web address for the article above is




more than just parroting words?

“The bird, a captive African grey called N'kisi, has a vocabulary of 950 words, and shows signs of a sense of humour.

“He invents his own words and phrases if he is confronted with novel ideas with which his existing repertoire cannot cope - just as a human child would do.”

“When he first met Dr Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee expert, after seeing her in a picture with apes, N'kisi said: "Got a chimp?" ”

the web address for the article above is

diabetes breakthrough? - the auroran sunset

“Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.”

“The researchers caution they have yet to confirm their findings in people, but say they expect results from human studies within a year or so. Any treatment that may emerge to help at least some patients would likely be years away from hitting the market.”

“They also discovered that their treatments curbed the insulin resistance that is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes, and that insulin resistance is a major factor in Type 1 diabetes, suggesting the two illnesses are quite similar.”

The article has interesting background explanation of diabetes and what the experimenters did. One injection working for at least four months in mice. Links with multiple sclerosis and various other inflammatory diseases.

the web address for the article above is

better economics claimed from divers wild crops

“To see if native grassland species, such as indiangrass and big bluestem, could provide a better alternative to these alternative fuel sources, a team of ecologists at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul grew 18 different species of prairie plants in 152 test plots, beginning in 1994. The researchers varied the species composition--sometimes plotting only a single species, sometimes plotting an array of species--on no-longer-productive agricultural lands in northern Minnesota. They then compared the biofuel energy yield when the plants were grown alone or in those different combinations. The most diverse plots produced 238 percent more bioenergy yield than the average plot containing a single species, says team leader David Tilman. Although the yield of biofuels from prairie grasses was about 33% lower per hectare than from cultured crops such as corn, the inputs (fertilizer, fuel for tractors, etc.) required to grow them are much lower. So the net energy output from native grasses is actually about five-fold compared to 1.25-fold for corn and 1.93-fold for soybeans. As a bonus, three-quarters of the prairie grasses' mass is in their root structure, allowing the plants to store a net 4.4 metric tons of carbon per hectare every year, a relatively large amount in the fight against climate change. The team reports its findings tomorrow in Science.”

Related material
Fossil fuel replacements

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arson convictions based on wrong assumptions

“It was a textbook case, and Lee was dealt a guilty verdict and a life sentence.

“Except the textbooks were wrong. Within a few years of Lee's conviction, scientific studies smashed decades of earlier, widely accepted beliefs about how fires work and the telltale trail they leave behind.

“Today, fire investigators are taught that the clues relied upon in the 1989 investigation of the cabin fire don't prove anything more than an accident.”

“It wasn't until 1992, when a guide to fire investigations by the National Fire Protection Association ó "NFPA921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations" ó clearly laid out, in a document relied upon by authorities nationwide, that the earlier beliefs were wrong.

“ "It's not that they're bad investigators or there's been any conspiracy to promulgate erroneous conclusions ó it's just the way it was," says Custer, the former associate director of the national Fire Research Laboratory and one of the principal editors of the 1992 guide.

“ "How many years did we think the Earth was flat?"”

“There are 500,000 structure fires overall a year; 75,000 of them are labeled suspicious. Lentini, who has campaigned widely to improve investigators' knowledge, says most experts he talks with believe the accuracy of fire investigators is at best 80 percent ó meaning as many as 15,000 mistaken investigations each year.”

Not only were the assumptions about the physical evidence wrong, but also the psychological assumptions were based on other people’s emotions rather than real-world evidence.

Lee has been in prison for more than 15 years. The article states that 187 people have already been released because of faulty investigation. This is not a narrow problem, limited to arson, but ranges widely across the criminal system. The unreliabilty of ‘evidence’ is a hidden iceberg of judicial systems. The arrogant belief in the reliability of human judgments, the ever-present emotionalism, hysteria and ambition of individual police, media and politicians, the sheep-like following of rigid instructions (clear in the article) and the awful willingness to hang on to dogmatic assumptions are still only too rife in human society. Despite modern arrogance, enlightenment still has a long road to travel.

“State Trooper Thomas Jones, doubling as county fire marshal, wrote in his report a week later: "Mr. LEE remained almost emotionless and while in view of this officer made no attempts to console his wife (when she arrived from New York later that day). Mrs. LEE on the other hand was being escorted to the scene and upon nearing the burnt building almost collapsed and had to be physically assisted from the scene."

“Prosecutor E. David Christine Jr. held Lee's demeanor against him.

“ "Helping her up wouldn't be an admission of emotion, would it, ladies and gentlemen?" he asked during his closing arguments. "That is what a husband does to his wife when their daughter is dead, and only a few hours dead?"

“Several jurors later acknowledged how much that swayed them.

“But Koreans say that men traditionally don't express much emotion, and never in public. And Lee is nothing if not traditional, his wife and surviving daughter say.”

“"I found that I just lost my spirit and my mind there. It felt like all the blood drained out of my body," he says. "In Korea, men are not allowed to cry. If your daughter is suddenly found dead, there's nothing you can do. You just lost your soul. You can't even think." ”

Related material
the logic of ethics, including Pierre (Peter) Abelard on ethics
Lie detection

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on that recent us report about iraq

The ‘report’ now being trumpeted around the world looks merely like a summary of what was underway any road.

There is no serious change of course, just normal adaptation to the problems as they arise;


it is a vehicle for the pols to grandstand and pretend they are suddenly going ‘to do something’ (other than they are already doing);


this is another step towards educating the public in the handling of this complex action to civilise the Middle East.

That is, the report is packed with statements of the obvious, and seasoned with political double-talk.

P.S. the report can be found here should anyone be bored enuf to delve!

the web address for the article above is

and do your hands melt away when you touch it?

“The researchers developed a polymer coating that forms spiky structures as it dries. The spikes, which each consist of 12 carbon atoms pointing directly up from the surface, work on the fatty outer envelope of the flu virus "like a needle popping a balloon", explained Kablinov.

“When its protective envelope is destroyed, the virus is rendered inactive. The spikes also kill bacteria, rupturing their cell membrane.”

the web address for the article above is

amazing innumeracy: 450GB of data on an A4 sheet of paper!
researched by the auroran sunset

Here’s an example of someone who fell for it:

“With new "rainbow technology", devised by Sainul Abideen who has just completed an MCA degree in Kerala, data can be encoded into coloured geometric shapes and stored in dense patterns on paper.

“Files such as text, images, sounds and video clips are encoded in "rainbow format" as coloured circles, triangles, squares and so on, and printed as dense graphics on paper at a density of 2.7GB per square inch. The paper can then be read through a specially developed scanner and the contents decoded into their original digital format and viewed or played. The encoding and decoding processes have not been revealed.”

And here’s the debunking:

  • “How did he make his paper disk?, though the reporter missed to ask this question directly, it seems he used some sort of printer (laser or inkjet). So if we take the best printer available and try to print a digital photo with such a high resolution so that its size is 450 GB, will you be able to print that with out losing its resolution?
  • “Even if a printer is able print at that high resolution, the paper is made of fibre which has an uneven surface. Think about your CD or DVD being rough like paper, will the drives read it? When you want to store such a huge amount of data, even micron level of difference does matter a lot.
  • “Some people were suggesting, by using different colours, one can squeeze in more data, but what about error tolerance then? This guy is questioning the fundamental reason why digital / binary technology became popular, it's because it's either 0 or 1, so it's mostly fool proof. We could have used different voltages and instead of binary, use 0 1 2 3 4, but then it will not be fool proof.
  • “This guy is claiming he used circles and triangles to store data, but so even for triangle he has to use 3 co-ordinates, that itself utilizes 3 bits, so how is he saving space?
  • “Barcode companies did their maximum when they tried to develop 2 D barcodes and the maximum they could get was around 2000 bytes of data!!
  • “These types of scams happen regularly in India, a guy claimed he got alien cells from rain, someone else developed gasoline from leaves ands started selling it in large quantities.”

Other net heavyweights such as Computerworld and The Register have also been taken in by this claim, at least to some degree.

the web address for the article above is

interesting claims on sun power

Worth a scan.

“The desert land is plentiful and cheap but, more importantly, there is roughly three times as much sunlight in hot deserts as in northern Europe. This is why the reports recommend a collaboration between countries of Europe, the Middle East and Africa to construct a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) grid for the sharing of carbon-free energy. Alternating current cables, which now form the main electricity grids in Europe, are not suitable for long distance transport of electricity because too much is lost on the way. Dr Trieb, of the German Air and Space Agency, says the advantage of DC cables is that the loss in transport is only about 3% per 1,000 kilometres, meaning losses between North Africa and Britain of about 10%.”

related material
another interesting looking energy book - yet again yak herders lead the world

the web address for the article above is

keeping up: more species in tropics due to earlier colonisation?

“What causes the difference in species numbers between tropical and temperate regions is not something special about the tropics that leads to more rapid speciation, but rather that the temperate areas were colonized more recently, leaving less time for species to originate and accumulate in these regions.”

“[...] thus, the high species richness of tropical regions seems to be explained by the ancient origin of many groups in the tropics, more recent colonization of temperate regions, and by the inability of most tropical species to tolerate the variable temperatures of temperate areas.

“According to John Wiens, the study has important conservation implications: "If the pattern we see in treefrogs holds true for most other groups, then the tropics may have more ancient lineages and more genetic diversity per species than temperate regions. So there may be far more loss of diversity going on as we lose tropical rainforests than would be suggested by the number of species alone."”

the web address for the article above is

keeping up: 10,000 atmospheres and a dose of x-rays produces a new kind of very high energy ‘ice’

“Researchers looking for better ways to make and store hydrogen have accidentally discovered an entirely new kind of ice. Made of molecular oxygen and hydrogen, the highly energetic and as-yet-unnamed compound currently exists only under rarefied laboratory conditions. It is different from the 17 known forms of ice, but researchers think its discovery could advance understanding of the nature of water under extreme conditions, such as in the interior of planets and even inside nuclear reactors. It also might help to spawn new rocket fuels.”

the web address for the article above is