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science 2

New translation, the Magna Carta
article archives at abelard's news and comment zonescience archives
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science and technology 2

if you think cloning is simple, think again

“Jaenisch and his colleagues have found that 70-80 genes that are normally expressed in developing mouse embryos are either inactive or underactive in embryos cloned from adult cells. It's not clear what all of these genes do, but they are usually switched on around the same time as another gene, called Oct4.”

the web address for this article is





improved technology—using germ viruses for vaccines

“Using bacteriophages to deliver vaccine components offers several advantages over vaccination with naked DNA, says March. The DNA is protected inside the protein shell of the virus making it longer lasting and easier to store. In addition, bacteriophages have a large cloning capacity, making large-scale production cheap, easy and extremely rapid”

the web address for this article is


logic and dna studies steadily merging

“In order for the body to grow, reproduce and remain cancer free, the cells of the body must have a mechanism for both detecting DNA damage and a feedback mechanism for telling the rest of the cell's machinery to stop what it's doing until the damage may be fixed. This feedback mechanism relies on checkpoints during different stages of the cell's division cycle.”

the web address for this article is


Happy birthday, DNA — 50 years today Two GoldenYak (tm) award

“on 28 February 1953, Francis Crick walked into the Eagle pub in Cambridge, UK, and announced something for which he would later share a Nobel Prize.

"We have found the secret of life...." ”

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Bye-bye, Pioneer!

“After more than 30 years, it appears the venerable Pioneer 10 spacecraft has sent its last signal to Earth. Pioneer's last, very weak signal was received on Jan. 22, 2003.

NASA engineers report Pioneer 10's radioisotope power source has decayed, and it may not have enough power to send additional transmissions to Earth.”

“Originally designed for a 21-month mission, Pioneer 10 lasted more than 30 years. It was a workhorse that far exceeded its warranty, and I guess you could say we got our money's worth...”

Pioneer 10 was launched on March 2, 1972.

the web address for this article is


new camera image sensor technology claims

This article is an interesting discussion of the technology. The comments on current CCD (charge-coupled device) technology are a bit too ‘disparaging’. A good 3 Mb digital camera is a remarkably efficient, flexible and light piece of kit.

This new camera sensor technology will have to show serious advantages to draw a premium price and compete. The greatest nuisances with a good CCD camera are slowness of responses in some circumstances and slowness in processing dense images.

I wish the article had mentioned the number of pixels required to store a picture. I shall look further. My current guess is around 10 million pixels, clearly the real number will be an important issue in the storage of images. The claimed parallel processing could improve the recycling time between shots, relative to CCD technology, but presently I have insufficient details. (These problem issues do not tend to be emphasised by marketing departments!)

Here is the manufacturer’s news release.

(Lead from Limbic)

related material
orange is tertiary: the theory of colour

the web address for this article is


related material
orange is tertiary: the theory of colour

claims of future dna computing—breakthrough

For a newsy report

“The machine is so small that a tiny droplet could hold up to three trillion of these DNA computers, in total performing 66 billion operations a second.”

“It was the first programmable autonomous computing machine in which the input, output, software and hardware were all made of DNA molecules. It can perform a billion mathematical operations a second with 99.8% accuracy, the team said.

Most importantly, the new design incorporates a previously unknown biochemical process that generates enough heat energy to power the device, meaning in principle that a DNA computer can work without an external energy source. ”

Abstract available here
with access to pdf document for $5 (paper not examined).

for the technically minded.

the web address for this article is


new technology nuclear engines

“The AFRL now has other ideas, though. Instead of a conventional fission reactor, it is focusing on a type of power generator called a quantum nucleonic reactor. This obtains energy by using X-rays to encourage particles in the nuclei of radioactive hafnium-178 to jump down several energy levels, liberating energy in the form of gamma rays.”

Weight is currently a problem.

the web address for this article is


on machine intelligence
far better presented than the common media drivel Two and a half GoldenYak (tm) award

"We don't understand enough about how our own human software works to come even close to replicating it on a computer," says Holland.

According to Holland, advances in software have not kept pace with the exponential improvements in hardware processing power, and there are many artificial intelligence problems that cannot be solved by simply performing more calculations. While hardware performance continues to double almost every year and a half, the doubling time for software performance is at least 20 years.

"In the final analysis, hardware is just a way of executing programs," says Holland. "It's the software that counts." Comparisons between the brain and electronic hardware are also difficult to draw. For example, the issue of "fanout" demonstrates the complexity of the brain over even today's most sophisticated computers. Fanout refers to the number of connections an element in a network can have to another element of a network. Today's most complicated computers have a fanout factor of about 10. The human brain, however, has a fanout of 10,000."

related material
the Turing test and intelligence

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related material

the Turing test and intelligence

27gb dvd store coming next

“Blu-ray Disc technology allows for 27GB storage capacities on a single-sided 12cm disc. DVDs hold 4.7GB of data”

“Blu-ray technology uses a short-wavelength blue-violet laser instead of the red lasers in current optical drives to read data off discs. The higher-capacity Blu-ray discs will enable the recording of high-definition broadcasts, which offer better picture quality than the more broadly available TV broadcasts”

the web address for this article is


the rise and rise of the net

complete with copious, gorgeous charts.

“While nearly three-quarters of users consider the Internet to be a very important or extremely important source of information – a ranking higher than for books, television, radio, newspapers, or magazines – only half of users believe that most or all of the information online is reliable and accurate. Even worse, more than one-third of users say that only about half of the information they find online is reliable and accurate.”

This is not ‘even worse’, this is very positive news. People are far too willing to trust what is in the media. Any intelligent, educated population will take anything in print, anywhere, with considerable due caution.

the web address for this article is


interesting high tech telescope was pointed at columbia

“The precision of the imagery comes from a computerized system that constantly corrects for distortions in the atmosphere by readjusting the optics. A laser beacon is focused above the atmosphere creating an "artificial star" as a reference point.

“From the ground, its fluctuations, like a real star's twinkling, are continually monitored, and the information is used to make microscopic adjustments to a telescope mirror. Hundreds of mechanical fingers push and pull on the surface of the glass, changing its shape thousands of times a second and compensating for the distortion.”

And here is the photo in question.

the web address for this article is


setback for australian astro-scientists—
Canberra bushfire destroys Mount Stromlo Observatory

“The historic 1.3 metre-diameter Great Melbourne Telescope, built in 1868 and upgraded a decade ago to become one of the most sophisticated in Australia, was lost, as was a larger, 1.9-metre instrument.”

“Destroyed was a $5million imaging spectrograph in Mount Stromlo's workshop that was almost ready to be installed in Hawaii's gigantic Gemini Observatory”

“Since 2000, Mount Stromlo has also been involved in a search for swarms of small "Pluto-like" planets believed to dwell on the edge of the solar system”

the web address for this article is


arms race and ant-ibiotics in the world of farmer ants

“By studying DNA sequences from ants, garden fungi and fungal weeds, the research team was able to peer millions of years into the past to see how this co-evolutionary system evolved. The researchers learned that the ants, their garden fungi and the parasitic fungal weeds have been living in a co-evolved, complex system for a very long time, probably 50 million years or longer. During that time, they have been locked in a never-ending evolutionary "arms race," in which the ants and garden fungi are perpetually evolving new ways to control the parasitic fungal weeds, and the weeds are perpetually developing new ways to continue to infect fungus gardens.

“There is a fourth factor in the ant colonies, a kind of bacteria that the ants cultivate on the outsides of their bodies. These bacteria produce an antibiotic that specifically suppresses the growth of the weed fungi, and the ants use this antibiotic to keep their gardens healthy.”

the web address for this article is

decisions in herd animals

Another useful piece of data towards understanding decision processes among herd animals; in this case among small groups with some dominance structure.

For the very simple rules under which flocking (co-operative) behaviour can be simulated, see the item on ‘boids’ and other links to modelling and game theory.

Note that, while individuals that compete maybe be at an advantage in some situations, groups that co-operate among themselves will be more successful than groups that compete (do not co-operate) among themselves. For more detail see ‘intelligence’: the misuse and abuse of statistics.

[lead from Limbic]

the web address for this article is


satellite surveys of wisconsin’s 8000 lakes Four GoldenYak (tm) award
(Wisconsin is between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior; that is, it is a northern Mid-West state.)

“To aid in the satellite inventory, Self-Help volunteers took secchi readings on lakes for the past three years while the Landsat satellite passed overhead, gathering its own electronic images of these and other lakes. Back at UW-Madison, researchers correlated the conventional water-clarity data with the corresponding Landsat data. Lillesand says in this way, secchi readings from fewer than 400 lakes made it possible to estimate the clarity of all other lakes in the satellite’s images without sampling each of them by hand.

“Landsat uses picture elements, or pixels, that are 98 feet square at ground level. It takes approximately 160 million of these pixels to cover the entire state.”

Steadily, satellite imaging is increasing in usage for land and sea management, for fire watch and control, tracking land usage, polluting by tankers at sea etc. This site shows the work on the ground being used to improve the interpretation of satellite mapping. Doubtless, the methods will bring great benefits to much human activity and monitoring.
The site is also demonstrates excellent use of the web.

Further interesting pages:

  • Index page with many link including maps and satellite images.
  • An index with thumbnails to all manner of interesting satellite images from around the state giving some idea of potential use of the resource.
  • A zoomable and modifiable map is available here.

Note: There are many ways of measuring light attenuation in the oceans. A common method involves the use of a Secchi disk, a weighted round white disk about 30 centimetres in diameter. The Secchi disk is lowered into the ocean to the depth where it disappears from view; its reflectance equals the intensity of light backscattered from the water. [from Enc. Brit.]

the web address for this article is


is re-evolution possible?

“It appears that the genetic instructions to make wings has been preserved from the group's (stick insects) collective cockroach ancestry. In evolution, there is a principle that boils down to use it or lose it, Whiting said. If a species no longer needs a particular trait, for example legs, future generations would gradually be born legless.

“Over 50 million years, the genetic code for growing wings in stick insects should have degraded or started to disappear. Of the roughly 3,200 species of stick insects, about 40 percent have wings today.

“ "These insects show that the underlying blueprint is preserved in working order," Whiting said. ”

the web address for this article is


the bio-chemical genie struggles to get out of the bottle

Another exciting move forward as the artful human monkey starts to fiddle with the nature of life.

“Expanding the genetic code: the world’s first truly unnatural organism.”

Look out Quatermass, they’re catching you up.

the web address for this article is


The ultimate fibre dream – spider silk

But spiders can’t be farmed. They’re cannibalistic. So....

“Goats bred by Nexia Biotechnologies in Montreal contain a spider gene that causes a spider-gene protein to be expressed in their milk. The protein is being used in a new fiber that’s five times as strong as steel, with potential application in bulletproof vests.”

“The spider has taken the same amino acids that are in your hair, skin, body and has put them together to make a beautiful continuous filament with perfect crystillinity. And it’s truly biological, no high temperatures or noxious chemicals needed for manufacturing.”

[National Geographic Magazine,pp. 60,66,67; January 2003]

the web address for this article is


butterfly uses all aerodynamic principles known

More here on insect flight.

and potential applications
toys, exploring difficult environments and, inevitably, spying.

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a ring around ‘our’ galaxy
looks to be of interest—but not something i understand!

“The stars weigh, on average, more than our sun. The ring is estimated to contain a mass equal to about 1 billion suns, which would represent only about 1 percent of the galaxy’s total mass, .....”

Bluddy nora, it’s big out there!

the web address for this article is


new truffle genus found

“An Australian scientist has made a discovery which is electrifying world fungal biology....”

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a step towards understanding the biological clock

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clearing ice from power lines

“It runs off small power units placed along the lines every 100 kilometres or so. The signal does not reduce electricity transmission through the cables, and because it uses around 50 watts per 100 kilometres of line it should cost a fraction of what it normally takes to keep the lines clear.”

More unemployment!

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