links for 2009-05-01

  • “There has been a small outbreak of “zombism” in London due to mutation of the H1N1 virus into new strain: H1Z1.Similar to a scare originally found in Cambodia back in 2005, victims of a new strain of the swine flu virus H1N1 have been reported in London. After death, this virus is able to restart the heart of it’s victim for up to two hours after the initial demise of the person where the individual behaves in extremely violent ways from what is believe to be a combination of brain damage and a chemical released into blood during “resurrection.”The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alert to phase six, its highest level, and advised governments to activate pandemic contingency plans. “
  • “Scientists have rendered objects invisible under near-infrared light. Unlike previous such “cloaks”, the new work does not employ metals, which introduce losses of light and result in imperfect cloaking. Because the approach can be scaled down further in size, researchers say this is a major step towards a cloak that would work for visible light. “
  • “EVER since James Watson and Francis Crick first described the structure of DNA in the 1950s, people have been trying to come up with a metaphor that properly captures what this complex molecule does. There have been no shortage of contenders, from “double helix” (which describes its shape rather than function) to “blueprint”, “chemical building block”, “alphabet of life”, “book of life”, “computer code of life” and even “symphony of life”. One author even likened DNA to Israeli kibbutzniks getting married and setting up new communes.”
  • “Evolutionary success is all about looking out for number one – or so most biologists would tell you. The genes that do the best job of passing themselves along to the next generation, whether by brute selfishness or canny cooperation, are the ones that flourish – a view most memorably championed by Richard Dawkins more than 30 years ago in his bestselling book The Selfish Gene.

    This relentless focus on the gene may not tell the whole story, however. A small but growing coterie of evolutionary biologists argue that it leaves us blind to crucial evolutionary processes at higher scales – among groups, species and even whole ecosystem. If they are right, the popular view of evolution and the biological world needs a radical shake-up.”

  • “INTIMATE secrets hidden in your DNA could be stolen without you even realising. By taking a glass from which you have drunk, a “genome hacker” could obtain a comprehensive scan of your genome, revealing DNA variants that help determine your susceptibility to a wide range of diseases, from a common form of blindness to Alzheimer’s disease.

    That’s the disturbing finding of a New Scientist investigation, in which one of us – Michael Reilly – “hacked” the genome of the other – Peter Aldhous – armed with only a credit card, a private email account and a home address.”

  • “SPERM should be subject to the same product liability laws as car brakes, according to a US judge who has given a teenager with severe learning disabilities the go-ahead to sue the sperm bank that provided her with a biological father.

    Brittany Donovan, now 13 years old, was born with fragile X syndrome, a genetic disorder causing mental impairment and carried on the X chromosome. She is now suing the sperm bank, Idant Laboratories of New York, under a product liability law more commonly associated with manufacturing defects, such as faulty car brakes.”

  • “Sexual precociousness is in our genes, new research suggests. A unique study of twins separated at birth finds a genetic link to the age at which a person first engages in sexual intercourse.

    “It’s not like there’s a gene for having a sex at a certain date,” says Nancy Segal, a psychologist at California State University in Fullerton who led the new study. Instead, heritable behavioural traits such as impulsivity could help determine when people first have sex, she says.”

  • “A cloned beagle named Ruppy – short for Ruby Puppy – is the world’s first transgenic dog. She and four other beagles all produce a fluorescent protein that glows red under ultraviolet light.

    A team led by Byeong-Chun Lee of Seoul National University in South Korea created the dogs by cloning fibroblast cells that express a red fluorescent gene produced by sea anemones.”

  • “Scientists have developed a wheelchair controlled by the power of thought.The robotic chair could revolutionise life for those with severe disabilities who are unable to use a conventional joystick. It works by creating a three-dimensional picture of the area around it, with a laser scanner. This is displayed on a screen in front of the user.
  • GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).
  • In the midst of ongoing wars, accelerating economic collapse, and cascading environmental ruin, it’s easy to dismiss futurism as self-indulgence, a superficial pastime devoted to spotting the next hot gizmo or telling us all how some coming development changes everything. What really matters is the here-and-now. Serious people know that thinking about the future is frivolous; anyone (or any business) not focusing laser-like on the problems of today is wasting time and money. Right?
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One response to “links for 2009-05-01

  1. Monkey in an oxcart, monkey in a space shuttle, ’tis still just a monkey.

    Is it an ill or fine monkey?

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