Archive for September, 2009

I’ve got a better idea

September 23, 2009

thanks, Atrios

Bank of America Misses Congressional Deadline – DealBook Blog –

The committee’s chairman, Representative Edolphus Towns of New York, is deciding whether to issue a subpoena to force compliance, but first he plans to meet with the bank’s chief strategy and marketing officer, Anne Finucane, on Tuesday.

Mr. Towns indicated that he planned to tell Ms. Finucane that the bank must comply with the request, and if it does not, a subpoena may be forthcoming.

How about just calling in the sergeant at arms and a backup of capitol police and telling the — wait, chief strategy and marketing officer?!? not the general counsel or the CEO or someone who actually has power to turn over the papers in question? — that the little anteroom over there is going to have a cot in it until the documents are turned over?

It was bad enough when the executive branch treated congressional requests having the force of law with contempt, but this is a bank that the federal government already owns. We the people could send the entire executive suite out on the street with the stroke of a pen. And they still couldn’t care less.

Let’s encourage the others.


The smell of death

September 18, 2009

Universal ‘Death Stench’ Repels Bugs of All Types | Wired Science |

Scientists have discovered that insects from cockroaches to caterpillars all emit the same stinky blend of fatty acids when they die, and this sinister stench sends bugs of all kinds running for their lives.

Interesting that even the insects that feed on corpses are affected by this. I wonder if some chemical company can produce it in quantity as a bug repellent and within a few generations undo hundreds of millions of years of evolution.

Before the industrial revolution there were no peasants

September 11, 2009

BBC NEWS | Health | Bed sharing ‘bad for your health’

One study found that, on average, couples suffered 50% more sleep disturbances if they shared a bed.

Dr Stanley, who sleeps separately from his wife, points out that historically we were never meant to share our beds.

He said the modern tradition of the marital bed only began with the industrial revolution, when people moving to overcrowded towns and cities found themselves short of living space.

Before the Victorian era it was not uncommon for married couples to sleep apart. In ancient Rome, the marital bed was a place for sexual congress but not for sleeping.

And primitive people certainly never slept huddled together in family groups to conserve warmth, or with kids piled into the same space as adults.

It may well be that such things do in fact disturb our sleep, but painting modern living as a a space-constrained historical anomaly is really, hard to do with a straight face.

Old biomed tab dump

September 4, 2009

Donor eggs (sort of) for mitochondrial defects BBC NEWS | Health

The genetic fault is contained in structures in the egg called the mitochondria, which are involved in maintaining the egg’s internal processes.

If an egg with faulty mitochondria is fertilised the resulting child could have any of hundreds of different diseases including anaemia, dementia, hypertension and a range of neurological disorders.

Previous failures

US researchers have previously tried and failed to correct this defect by adding healthy donated mitochondria into the eggs of patients wishing to have children.

But these attempts resulted in birth defects – probably because mitochondria are so delicate that they are damaged when they are transplanted from one egg to another.

PLoS Biology: Reawakening Retrocyclins: Ancestral Human Defensins Active Against HIV-1

Our study reveals for the first time, to our knowledge, that human cells have the ability to make cyclic theta-defensins. Given this evidence that human cells could make theta-defensins, we attempted to restore endogenous expression of retrocyclin peptides. Since human theta-defensin genes are transcribed, we used aminoglycosides to read-through the premature termination codon found in the mRNA transcripts. This treatment induced the production of intact, bioactive retrocyclin-1 peptide by human epithelial cells and cervicovaginal tissues. The ability to reawaken retrocyclin genes from their 7 million years of slumber using aminoglycosides could provide a novel way to secure enhanced resistance to HIV-1 infection.

Brain radiotherapy affects mind [confirming something everyone who has known a bain-irradiated patient already knew]

It is known that radiation treatment in the brain causes some damage to normal tissue and the study’s researchers suspected it could lead to decline in mental function.

A previous study in the same patients done six years after treatment found no difference in aspects like memory, attention and the speed at which people could process information, in those who had received radiotherapy.

But the latest research, carried out more than a decade after original treatment, did find significant variation in the results of several mental tests between those who had had radiotherapy and those who had not.

In all, 53% of patients who had radiotherapy showed decline in brain function compared with 27% of patients who only had surgery.

The most profound differences were in tests to measure attention

This Blue Rat May Have the Secret to Avoid Spinal Cord Injuries – Blue dye – Gizmodo

That secret is Brilliant Blue G dye, a variant of Blue Number One, which is a common and harmless food coloring product. Scientists dropped weights on the rats’ backs to break their little spinal cords, injecting the Brilliant Blue G dye in their bodies. The dye turned their skins blue, but within weeks all motor functions returned to normal. The rat could walk, run, jump, have sex, and do whatever it wanted.

All your base etc

September 4, 2009

New Attack Cracks Common Wi-Fi Encryption in a Minute by PC World: Yahoo! Tech

The earlier attack, developed by researchers Martin Beck and Erik Tews, worked on a smaller range of WPA devices and took between 12 and 15 minutes to work. Both attacks work only on WPA systems that use the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) algorithm. They do not work on newer WPA 2 devices or on WPA systems that use the stronger Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm.

As more and more functions get pushed into embedded devices that don’t get updated on a regular basis, this problem is going to get worse and worse. Anybody else have routers and such that are 5 years old?

Old tech tab dump

September 4, 2009

Self-Balancing eniCycle is Like a Segway for the Circus – Enicycle – Gizmodo

The eniCycle’s electric-powered 1000 watt motor kicks into gear as you lean forward—similar to riding a Segway. The gyroscopes help you stay upright while measuring your vertical angle 100 times a second.

“Help” is the operative word there — there’s not much the thing can do it you lean too far or start to go over sideways. But still pretty damn cool.

Security Engineering – A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems

My goal in making the first edition freely available five years after publication was twofold. First, I wanted to reach the widest possible audience, especially among poor students. Second, I am a pragmatic libertarian on free culture and free software issues; I think that many publishers (especially of music and software) are too defensive of copyright. (My colleague David MacKay found that putting his book on coding theory online actually helped its sales. Book publishers are getting the message faster than the music or software folks.) I expect to put the whole second edition online too in a few years.

Ross Anderson is a brilliant guy. Enough said.

The Invisible Flash That Takes Clear Pictures at Night – dark flash – Gizmodo

. First, they modified the flashbulb to emit light in a wider spectrum and filter out visible light. Then, they removed the UV and IR filters normally present in camera sensors. This apparently results in making everyone in photos look like a Yugoslavian mafia goon’s mug shot. Or maybe just a normal infrared image:

Then, an algorithm adds color: The two scientist make the camera take another photo immediately after the first one, this time without the dark flash. That photo results in the usual grainy picture, but the resulting color information gets combined with the first image to get the image you see at the beginning of the article.

Roadside Dope Tester Promises To Make You Even More Paranoid – Dope tester – Gizmodo

The cartridge has two components: a sample collector for gathering saliva and a measurement chamber containing magnetic nanoparticles. The particles are coated with ligands that bind to one of five different drug groups.

After 90 seconds, the device delivers its verdict on a color-coded readout.

But officer, I was sucking on a $20 bill and it was contaminated with cocaine…

FAQ – TinEye

TinEye is a reverse image search engine. You can submit an image to TinEye to find out where it came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or to find higher resolution versions. TinEye is the first image search engine on the web to use image identification technology rather than keywords, metadata or watermarks.

Draganfly X4 UAV: Tiny, Camera-Packing, UFO-Looking ‘Copter Is Cheaper Than Ever – Draganfly x4 – Gizmodo

Like the X6—featured in Giz Gallery 2008—the X4 is a carbon fiber-bodied UAV with four carbon fiber rotating blades. The 680-gram (with battery) copter is capable of using a still/video camera (in this case, a Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot), an infrared camera and a low-light camera, all of which can be controlled from the ground. The X4 also features three accelerometers, three gyroscopes, three magnetometers and a barometric pressure sensor, and the controller is based on an OLED touchscreen. The X4 only has four motors to the X6’s six, but that comes at a big boon to the pricey ‘copter: The X6 checked in at about $15,000, and the X4 should be more like $10,000.

Genome Sequencing Gets 99.9833% Price Cut – Human genome – Gizmodo

it chops the fundamental units of DNA, the bases, into short strands, slaps them onto a specially treated glass plate, and proceeds to read the sequences.

After these steps are completed, a series of computers will assemble all the DNA strands into a genome while comparing it to previously compiled genomes. According to an algorithm used by the team, this sequencing process results in genomes which are about 95% complete. (This is on par with previous sequencing technology.)