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science 6

New translation, the Magna Carta

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science and technology 6

real world attacks using the web

“They also discovered that simple software could be launched to automatically recognize and fill in fields such as "name," "address" and "city," and then submit the catalog request online. "It could be set up to send 30,000 different catalogs to one person or 30,000 copies of one catalog to 30,000 different recipients," said Rubin. "This could create a great expense for the sender, a huge burden for local postal facilities and chaos in the mail room of a business targeted to receive this flood of materials."

Links to more detail provided.

related material
the turing test continues to be useful

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related material
the turing test continues to be useful




oh what fun—clones in any variety

“Researchers would then treat the ES cells with molecules that encourage them to develop into either sperm or eggs - the necessary signals, Jaenisch says, should soon be discovered. The resulting cells could be fused with the sperm or egg of the other partner by in vitro fertilization, and the embryo could then be implanted. "It's a technical problem, not a principle one," argues Jaenisch.”

So Daddy could be Mummy and Mummy could be Daddy, or Mummy could be both Daddy and Mummy, etc.

“"These are infertile couples with defective eggs or sperm, for whom current assisted-reproduction techniques do not work but who are desperate to bear a child that is genetically their own.
"Most don't want a clone - just a baby," says Wertz."”

No, they do not “just want a baybeee”.
I have to wonder at the ability (or is that eagerness) to likely pass on traits that made them infertile in the first place, quite apart from issues of ego.
This should give the amateur noseys a few sleepless nights, ‘thinking’ about the deep philosophy, I mean.

Opening on a street near you sometime soon, The Baybeee Boutique.
“$50 for the basic model, sir, madam; blonde hair $30 extra; brain overdrive with linked hard drive only $170.
“Yes, of course we do credit.”

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human-chimp genome percentage difference may require review

“The data call for some revision of the estimated genetic similarity between us and our closest relatives. Previously, human and chimp genetic sequences were quoted as being nearly 99% identical, with a difference of only a few DNA's letters. In fact, the similarity may be as low as 94-95%, says Todd Taylor of the RIKEN Genomic Sciences Center in Yokohama, Japan.”

Note: this is a shallow, sloppy report.

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here’s a neat piece about watching the microscopic

“The novelty of this study is that, for the first time, we've been able to watch the birth of microtubules in plants and watch them go streaking across the cell,”

Streaking across the cell?

“Time-lapse imagery revealed that an individual microtubule starts out in a random "pick-up stick" position, then treadmills across the cell at an average rate of 0.5 microns per minute (one micron equals one-millionth of a meter),”

A thousandth of a millimeter in 2 minutes! Two thousand minutes to move a millimeter, more than a day, as long as you work all night. And I know people who streak that fast when there is work to be done.

“Using time-lapse imagery, the scientists discovered that new microtubules emerged near the outer wall of the plant cell - not in the cell interior where animal microtubules originate. Time-lapse imaging also revealed that plant microtubules appear to move in the cell by a process known as "treadmilling," which occurs when bits of protein (known as "subunits") are added to the leading end of the microtubule and simultaneously removed from the trailing end.

“With treadmilling, the microtubule looks like it's moving in one direction, but in reality, one end is growing while the other is shortening," Ehrhardt noted.”

And here is some idea of how it is done, from Enc. Brit.—confocal scanning microscopy:

“In this technique, two microscopes are used, examining the same region of an object from opposite sides of the object. A small illuminated aperture is focused onto the object by the illuminating microscope. The receiving microscope is configured identically, with a photodetector following a small aperture in the magnified focal plane of the receiving microscope. The two microscopes are adjusted to focus on the same region in space. This effectively prevents any extraneous light or any light scattered at the confocal image region from reaching the detector. The object is then scanned to build up an image from the detected signal.

“The confocal scanning microscope has the unique ability to produce images of a single plane, or optical section, of an object. Because the rejection of scattered and extraneous light is excellent in the confocal arrangement, the image is formed only by light from a specific region. If several scans are made with the pair of microscopes successively focused upon different depth planes in the object, a three-dimensional structure can be inferred from this complete set of imagery.

And this lot are doing it with time-lapse photography—clever stuff!

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getting to know our backyard in space 3 GoldenYak (tm) Award

“The Heliosphere (APOD) Where does the Sun's magnetic influence end? The heliosphere extends past the orbits of Neptune and Pluto. How far, no one knows. The shape of the heliospheric current sheet affects space weather and the propagation of cosmic rays through the solar system.”

With several animations, illustrations and links.

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welcome the march of the droids

“The Hybrot, a small robot that moves about using the brain signals of a rat, is the first robotic device whose movements are controlled by a network of cultured neuron cells.”

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total eclipse of the moon, coming very soon
A link to a neat diagram with times in 3 zones.

Go here for NASA information, complete with technical descriptions of the events, on all four lunar and solar eclipses occuring in 2003. The diagram for the route of the May 16th moon eclipse is here.

A lunar eclipse naturally always occurs when there is a full moon (look at the linked diagram!). On the 30th May this year, at the time of the new moon, it will be a black moon; that is, the second new moon to occur during one calendar month.

A blue moon is the second full moon to occur in a calendar month. On average, every century there are 41 months that have two full moons, and 41that have two new moons. Thus, there is a blue moon once about every two and a half years, hence the folk saying “once in a blue moon” as an expression of rarity.

This site has a Blue Moon calculator.

When the moon actually looks blue, this is because of large quantities of dust that have been thrown up by volcanic eruptions or by forest fires. The dust particles scatter light from the moon (or sun) in every direction. However, red light is scattered more than blue light, so less red light will go straight through the dust or smoke. This results in the moon looking as if it tinted blue.

This is the reverse of the light scattering that occurs at sunrise or sunset, the reversal resulting from a different distribution of particle sizes. At sunrise or sunset, ‘ordinary’ dust particles scatter the light from the sun so much that it appears in a range of orange, red and pink hues.

the web address for this article is


a useful bit of technology advance to note—electro-flexing materials

“Nanomuscles weigh just one gram but can lift 140 grams, and are preferred
to electric motors as they are far cheaper to produce: 50 cents each
compared to US$300. They also make less noise and operate more smoothly.”

And they generate much less heat than motors.

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internet usage stabilising at about 60% in the usa

A general short summary

and .....

the full 46-page PDF report.

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the return of the ants

“In these countries ants had been used for centuries to control crop pests, but with the availability of cheap pesticides in the 1960s, the ants were edged out. Now, insecticides are becoming much more expensive - and so ants are once again an attractive option.”

An interesting article, recommended reading.

the web address for this article is


new data bank of dioxin contamination in vietnam promises analytic progress

“The new analysis, performed by a group led by Jeanne Mager Stellman at Columbia University in New York, provides the most detailed and sophisticated computerized maps ever produced of herbicide spraying in Vietnam. For the first time, the authors say, it is possible to calculate an exposure index for individuals and populations that is accurate enough for the epidemiological research that is needed for firm links with health data.”

the web address for this article is


a reasonable statement on depleted uranium
The first reasonable realistic report on this subject that I have seen in straight-forward language—recommended reading.

Most people worry too much, and about the wrong things:

From Danger Ahead by Larry Ludan, 0471134406:


“A study by the Rand Corporation suggests that a sedentary person can add 21 minutes to their life for each mile walked.”

Consider how long walking a mile will take you, especially if you change before and wash and change after. And if you drive to your walking place, of course, you will add to your risks.
[ I have even seen people exercising with a lighted dummy in their mouths.]

If every able-bodied American jogged for an hour a day, approximately 500 would die from the exertion (roughly 200,000 deaths a year).

From p.134

“If every american adult took a stress test before jogging, 15,000 to 20,000 would suffer a fatal coronary during the test.”

From p.80

estimated lifetime risk of cancer—
from food: 6.59%
from food additives—spices and flavourings, pesticides, drugs given to animals you eat, food preparation
total.—about •1%.


the web address for this article is


problems with cloning—this is no simple road

Pig clones reported to differ from the parent. The article suggests they will still breed as if they are original animal from which the clone was taken. I will wait and see.

Meanwhile, primate cloning has run into difficulties not experienced in non-primate cloning.

“Cloning has worked in mice, sheep and other animals because their eggs
contain back-up supplies of these proteins, says Schatten. The
conventional technique "will have to be modified" to make it work on
primates, including humans, agrees Roger Pedersen, who studies cloning at
the University of Cambridge, UK.”

Cells age with the body. I continue to wonder about the serious viability of clones developed from adult body cells. In my view, there is still a very great deal to learn.

the web address for this article is


increasing applications of uavs (unmanned aerial vehicles)

“... the Silver Fox will track, and provide evidence against, poachers of elephants and other endangered species. The plane also could fly in front of oil tankers and
ships to protect them from barriers. Mulligan said eventually the Silver
Fox would have a 1,500-mile range that would enable it to survey difficult
to explore regions, like the Arctic.”

“the craft first was meant for tracking whales, to protect the mammals from naval exercises.”

Drones have been used already in Afghanistan and Yemen to fire on hostiles.

Soon to be flying over your high street or back yard!

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