Archive for January, 2008

A sign of how little we know about biology

January 30, 2008

BBC NEWS | Health | Alzheimer’s helmet therapy hope:

It delivers low levels of infra-red light, which researchers at the University of Sunderland, believe may stimulate the growth of brain cells. Tests in mice showed it improved learning ability and a study in humans is due to begin in the summer.

If we knew anything at all it would either be possible to say why it might work or to dismiss it out of hand. Then again, it’s not the kind of study that’s going to be that expensive or hurt anyone much…

Perhaps they don’t mean “functional” as in actually works

January 30, 2008

Note those last two sentences:

the news that BAE Systems has delivered a functional, 32-megajoule Electro-Magnetic Laboratory Rail Gun (32-MJ LRG) to the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., is exciting. Installation of the laboratory launcher is currently under way, and according to BAE, this is the first step toward the Navy’s goal of developing a tactical 64-megajoule ship-mounted weapon. The lab version doesn’t look particularly menacing — more like a long, belt-fed airport screening device than like a futuristic cannon — but the system will fire rounds at up to Mach 8, drawing on tremendous amounts of electricity to generate the current for each test shot. That, of course, is the problem with rail guns: Like lasers, they’re out of step with modern-day generators and capacitors. Eight and 9-megajoule rail guns have been fired before, but providing 3 million amps of power per shot has been a limitation. At 32 megajoules, this new system appears to be the most powerful rail gun ever built, and the Office of Naval Research is installing additional capacitors at the Dahlgren facility to support it.

And embarass the hell out of people undergoing cancer treatment

January 25, 2008

Cell phone sensors detect radiation to thwart nuclear terrorism:

 Researchers at Purdue University are working with the state of Indiana to develop a system that would use a network of cell phones to detect and track radiation to help prevent terrorist attacks with radiological “dirty bombs” and nuclear weapons.

I wonder if these things will let us plot the position of every smoke detector and glowing watch dial in the country too…

No road trip this summer

January 25, 2008

Ramak Fazel – Storefront for Art and Architecture – Art – New York Times:

Shaving was one of the last things on Mr. Fazel’s mind when, on Aug. 7, 2006, he set out on a photographic and philatelic odyssey from his mother’s home in Fort Wayne, Ind. His mission was to photograph each of the nation’s 50 state capitol buildings and dispatch a postcard from each city, using postage stamps from a childhood collection. Each postcard would be mailed to the next state on his journey, where he would pick it up, continuing until he had gone full circle back to Indiana.

This story is pretty amazingly terrifying. And Fazel is amazingly cool about it, even though a bunch of his tormentors really ought to be in jail.

We don’t need no steenkin’ badges

January 25, 2008

This is really much simpler than declaring someone an enemy combatant:

“The burden of proof is on the individual to show they’re legally entitled to be in the United States,” said ICE spokeswoman Kice.

Among the terrifying things here is that US citizens don’t really need any documentation at all. Social security numbers aren’t mandatory, and births ought to be recorded but there’s no penalty to the baby whose appearance wasn’t documented. So the Immigration people are basically saying that once a doubt gets into their minds about whether you’re a citizen, you’re toast.

And smaller fleas…

January 25, 2008

Netcraft: Mr-Brain: Stealing Phish from Fraudsters:

Only a very basic knowledge of programming is required to configure the PHP scripts to send victims’ details to the fraudsters’ chosen electronic mail address. Deploying one of these fully working kits can be done in as little as one minute – another factor that adds to their appeal. Tricking the Fraudsters Mr-Brain’s intentions are to encourage as many people as possible to use their phishing kits, for all is not what it seems at first glance. Careful inspection of the configuration script reveals deceptive code that hides the true set of electronic mail addresses that are contacted by the kit – every fraudster who uses these kits will unwittingly send a copy of each victim’s details back to the Mr-Brain group.

I was only saying his 15 years ago

January 23, 2008

ETech 2008: DIY Drones: An Open Source Hardware and Software Approach to Making “Minimum UAVs” — O’Reilly Conferences:

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or, in the military, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs), are perhaps the most promising new frontier for amateur robotics

Of course, then it was the professional side, but having a medium where you don’t actually have to interact with the world via effectors does make some things a lot easier.

Old but good

January 23, 2008

Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma related to gravitational challenge: systematic review of randomised controlled trials — Smith and Pell 327 (7429): 1459 — BMJ:

The effectiveness of an intervention has to be judged relative to non-intervention. Understanding the natural history of free fall is therefore imperative. If failure to use a parachute were associated with 100% mortality then any survival associated with its use might be considered evidence of effectiveness. However, an adverse outcome after free fall is by no means inevitable. Survival has been reported after gravitation challenges of more than 10 000 metres (33 000 feet). In addition, the use of parachutes is itself associated with morbidity and mortality.

Who will watch the terminally crazy?

January 23, 2008

State says developmentally disabled violent offender is too difficult to house:

The motion for amending the conditions of Sumner’s release was prompted by the fact that DAIL, the state agency that supervises developmentally disabled offenders found incompetent to stand trial, recently told the court it will no longer provide services for Sumner.Sumner has twice been committed under Act 248, which provides that developmentally disabled individuals who have been charged with violent crimes, who likely committed those crimes and have been found incompetent to stand trial, be held in the custody of the commissioner of DAIL indefinitely, even though they have not been convicted.

Gotta laugh

January 23, 2008

And I like the music