Human Malware

The H5N1 Virus [snag]

First human ‘infected with computer virus’. ‘Dr Mark Gasson from the University of Reading contaminated a computer chip which was then inserted into his hand.

The device, which enables him to pass through security doors and activate his mobile phone, is a sophisticated version of ID chips used to tag pets.

In trials, Dr Gasson showed that the chip was able to pass on the computer virus to external control systems.

If other implanted chips had then connected to the system they too would have been corrupted, he said.’ (BBC)

Many Food Allergies May Be ‘All in the Mind’

Rubber Ducky #00

‘Why do more people seem to suffer more allergic reactions than in the past?

A new report, commissioned by the federal government, finds the field is rife with poorly done studies, misdiagnoses and tests that can give misleading results.

While there is no doubt that people can be allergic to certain foods, with reproducible responses ranging from a rash to a severe life-threatening reaction, the true incidence of food allergies is only about 8 percent for children and less than 5 percent for adults, said Dr. Marc Riedl, an author of the new paper and an allergist and immunologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Yet about 30 percent of the population believe they have food allergies. And, Dr. Riedl said, about half the patients coming to his clinic because they had been told they had a food allergy did not really have one.

Dr. Riedl does not dismiss the seriousness of some people’s responses to foods. But, he says, “That accounts for a small percentage of what people term ‘food allergies.’ “‘ (New York Times )

Rove Rides Again

Karl Rove Assistant to the President, Deputy C...

Bush’s former strategist is secretly seizing control of the GOP: ‘One afternoon in late April, Karl Rove welcomed an elite group of conservative political operatives and moneymen into his home in Washington, D.C. Along with his protégé Ed Gillespie, who succeeded him as George W. Bush’s top political adviser, Rove had gathered together the heavyweights of the GOP’s fundraising network. In attendance were the political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as the leaders of two new megadollar campaign groups loyal to Rove: American Crossroads and the American Action Network. Rove’s plan was straightforward: to seize control of the party from Michael Steele, whose leadership of the Republican National Committee was imploding in the wake of a fundraiser at a lesbian bondage club. By building a war chest of unregulated campaign cash – an unprecedented $135 million to be raised by these three groups alone – Rove would be able to wage the midterm elections on his own terms: electing candidates loyal to the GOP’s wealthiest donors and corporate patrons. With the media’s attention diverted by the noisy revolt being waged by the Tea Party, the man known as “Bush’s brain” was staging a stealthier but no less significant coup of the Republican Party.’ (Rolling Stone)

Annals of Emerging Diseases

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Ebola vaccine closer after monkey trials: ‘Ebola, a viral disease that kills as many as 90% of infected humans, may be one step closer to a cure.

Researchers at government institutions in the U.S. have created a vaccine that successfully immunises monkeys against the two most lethal strains of the disease, and have found that it also protects against a newer strain not represented in the vaccine.’ (Cosmos)

Hubble Finds Star Eating a Planet

Hubble Finds a Star Eating a Planet

‘”The Star That Ate My Planet” may sound like a B-grade science fiction movie title, but this is really happening 600 light-years away. Like a moth in a candle flame, a doomed Jupiter-sized planet has moved so close to its sunlike parent star that it is spilling its atmosphere onto the star. This happens because the planet gets so hot that its atmosphere puffs up to the point where the star’s gravity pulls it in. The planet will likely be completely devoured in 10 million years. Observations by Hubble’s new Cosmic Origins Spectrograph measured a variety of elements in the planet’s bloated atmosphere as the planet passed in front of its star. The planet, called WASP-12b, is the hottest known world ever discovered, with an atmosphere seething at 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit.’ (HubbleSite)

Mind Reading and the Evolution of Vision

This image (when viewed in full size, 1000 pix...

A fascinating insight from an interview with theoretical neurobiologist Mark Changizi, who thinks about vision:

‘I was intrigued by the “mind reading” aspects of vision. In a nutshell, how does this work, and how do humans benefit from this ability?’

‘Our color vision fundamentally relies upon the cones in our retina, and I argue in my research that color vision evolved in us primates for the purpose of sensing the emotions and states of those around us. We primates have an unusual kind of color vision – our cones sample the visible spectrum in a peculiar fashion – and I have shown that one needs that kind of peculiar color sense in order to pick up the color modulations that occur on our skin when we blush, blanch, redden with anger, and so on. Our funny primate variety of color vision turns out to be optimized for seeing the physiological modulations in the blood in the skin that underlies our primate color signals.

So, we evolved special mechanisms designed for sensing the emotions and states of others around us. That sounds a lot like the evolution of a “mind-reading” mechanism, which is why I (only half in jest) describe it that way.’ (N e u r o n a r r a t i v e)

Never Wait on Call for a Customer Service Rep Again

LucyPhone: Sign up for a free account then search their growing database online for the company you want to call.

LucyPhone then calls you via the phone number specified in your profile (cell, work etc.), Google Voice-style. Once the hold process begins, simply press **, hang up the phone and go about your business.

Once a real live customer service rep picks up, no matter how much later, LucyPhone calls you back.

Former Church of Scientology members who have spoken out

Anonymous protest against the Church of Scient...
Anonymous protest against the Church of Scientology

‘The following is a list of people that have left the official Church of Scientology organization and have spoken out publicly against it. Although some of them still believe in the validity of the core precepts and practice them outside of the the Church of Scientology, all of them have denounced the legitimacy of the organization itself. The names are listed alphabetically by last name. As of the last count, there are 1059 names on this list. The purpose of this list is to give courage to others who are still in to finally leave, or those who have already left to speak out. Also, perhaps those that are still in may recognize a name they may have known before and are unaware they have left. It is also important to show how extensive this list is, especially now that some senior former members have come forward.’

via Why We Protest Wiki.

Jupiter loses a stripe

Original Caption Released with Image: This pro...

Jupiter has lost one of its prominent stripes, leaving its southern half looking unusually blank. Scientists are not sure what triggered the disappearance of the band.

Jupiter’s appearance is usually dominated by two dark bands in its atmosphere – one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere.

But recent images taken by amateur astronomers show that the southern band – called the south equatorial belt – has disappeared.

The band was present at the end of 2009, right before Jupiter moved too close to the sun in the sky to be observed from Earth. When the planet emerged from the sun’s glare again in early April, its south equatorial belt was nowhere to be seen.’ (New Scientist)

Lord Jesus Christ Run Down In Crosswalk

Ary Scheffer: The Temptation of Christ, 1854
Ary Scheffer: The Temptation of Christ, 1854

Did he turn the other cheek? ‘Police say a Pittsfield woman has been cited for running down a man named Lord Jesus Christ as he crossed a street in Northampton on Tuesday. The 50-year-old man is from Belchertown. Officers checked his ID and discovered that, indeed, his legal name is Lord Jesus Christ. He was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor facial injuries.’ (NPR)

Socratic Supper?


If You’re Going To Eat A Carrot From Your Garden Be Sure It’s Not Hemlock. It’s great that you’re a locavore and all that but, before you run out and eat stuff that is growing in your yard, look carefully and make sure it’s not hemlock, a poisonous plant that, according to Wikipedia, can kill you by the time you’re on about your 6th delicious leaf. (Ok, it takes longer than that, but you get the idea. It’s bad for you.)

A medical investigator says that a mysterious death back in April may have been the result of hemlock poisoning after the woman “apparently put hemlock in a salad she ate, thinking it was something else.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened recently. Another guy thought hemlock (a member of the carrot family) was actually a carrot and added it to a bowl of fermented veggies. He lived, but is lucky he wasn’t killed. (Hemlock is the same poison that killed Socrates.)’ (TheConsumerist)

A Winning Formula for Traditional Espresso

A photo of a cup of coffee.

An Italian master barista says you are probably not drinking espresso at all, even if you think you are (in the US): “The biggest mistake I’ve seen is an enormous quantity of coffee being used—way too much. I’m talking about 20 to 25 grams of coffee for a single espresso shot! It is like making a mojito with half a mint leaf, one ice cube, a few grains of sugar, and a gallon of rum. Undrinkable!

Espresso made this way—well, it’s not espresso, but I’ll call it that—turns out overly concentrated, and because of that it cannot delight the drinker with the magnificent aromas of toasted bread, chocolate, red fruit, orange, and jasmine flowers that are all present in a high-quality blend.

The beverages I tasted were almost syrups, full-bodied but with a very sour, almost salty taste. I suspect that beans that were roasted too recently played a part. After roasting, beans need a few days to breathe and mature. These too-young beans are a big problem. Also, I’ve visited too many coffee bars that don’t heat cups before serving, and in the process sacrifice flavor and aroma. Or that serve in wet cups, an espresso sin.

An espresso, a real one, requires seven to eight grams of freshly ground coffee roasted two to three days in advance, or preserved using pressurization. The water can’t be too soft, and must not exceed 200 degrees F to avoid burning, nor be lower than 190 F in order to extract all the best aromatic components.

The grind is also fundamental. A too-fine grind can create burnt coffee and extract unpleasantly bitter and woody flavors. This is why so many people describe espresso’s taste as “bitter.” An overly coarse grind doesn’t permit full extraction of certain key elements. The proper, medium grind permits extraction of one ounce of aromatic black liquid in 25 to 30 seconds, the ideal amount of time.

If all these variables are respected (amount of coffee, temperature, time, and volume), along with the right pressure (around nine atmospheric units or 130 psi), you get an opaque, perfumed liquid containing microscopic oil droplets releasing precious coffee aroma, set fully free on your taste buds.”
(The Atlantic)

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Do ‘Family Values’ Weaken Families?

Citizens registered as an Independent, Democra...

‘To define the divide in a sentence: In red America, families form adults; in blue America, adults form families..

One of the oddest paradoxes of modern cultural politics may at last be resolved. The paradox is this: Cultural conservatives revel in condemning the loose moral values and louche lifestyles of “San Francisco liberals.” But if you want to find two-parent families with stable marriages and coddled kids, your best bet is to bypass Sarah Palin country and go to Nancy Pelosi territory: the li. beral, bicoastal, predominantly Democratic places that cultural conservatives love to hate.

The country’s lowest divorce rate belongs to none other than Massachusetts, the original home of same-sex marriage. Palinites might wish that Massachusetts’s enviable marital stability were an anomaly, but it is not. The pattern is robust. States that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in both 2004 and 2008 boast lower average rates of divorce and teenage childbirth than do states that voted for the Republican in both elections.

…Six of the seven states with the lowest divorce rates in 2007, and all seven with the lowest teen birthrates in 2006, voted blue in both elections. Six of the seven states with the highest divorce rates in 2007, and five of the seven with the highest teen birthrates, voted red. It’s as if family strictures undermine family structures.’ (National Journal Magazine)


"Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp&quot...
From psychologist Vaughan Bell’s excellent Mind Hacks weblog:

‘There is a long-standing myth that before the Enlightenment, all the experiences and behaviours we would now classify as madness were thought to be due to demonic possession.

This idea has been comprehensively debunked and it is now clear that both of these concepts have run side-by-side and medieval courts often went to great lengths to try and distinguish the two ‘states’.

I’ve just read a fascinating article about ‘Demonology, Neurology, and Medicine in Edwardian Britain’ from the Bulletin of the History of Medicine that showed that this tendency continued well into the modern age.’

Endangered Language Alliance

‘Welcome to the new website of the Endangered Language Alliance. We are a non-profit organization whose mission is to further the documentation, description, maintenance, and revitalization of threatened and endangered languages, and to educate the public about the causes and consequences of language extinction. You can read more about us here.’

Lie-Detection Brain Scan Could Be Used in Court for First Time

A scan of the brain using fMRI

‘A Brooklyn attorney hopes to break new ground this week when he offers a brain scan as evidence that a key witness in a civil trial is telling the truth, has learned.

If the fMRI scan is admitted, it would be a legal first in the United States and could have major consequences for the future of neuroscience in court.’ (Wired Science)

Russian president asked to investigate alien claims

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a Russian businessman and ...

‘A Russian MP has asked President Dmitry Medvedev to investigate claims by a regional president that he has met aliens on board a spaceship.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the leader of the southern region of Kalmykia, made his claim in a television interview.

MP Andre Lebedev is not just asking whether Mr Ilyumzhinov is fit to govern.

He is also concerned that, if he was abducted, he may have revealed details about his job and state secrets.’ (BBC News)

DIY Home Surgery to Implant Prosthetics in Your Body

Creation of Adam, hands in detail

Scrapheap Transhumanism: “I’m sort of inured to pain by this point. Anesthetic is illegal for people like me, so we learn to live without it; I’ve made scalpel incisions in my hands, pushed five-millimeter diameter needles through my skin, and once used a vegetable knife to carve a cavity into the tip of my index finger. I’m an idiot, but I’m an idiot working in the name of progress: I’m Lepht Anonym, scrapheap transhumanist. I work with what I can get.” (h+ Magazine)

Fungal Disease Spreads Through Pacific Northwest

C. gatti“Climate change may be responsible for the spread of a virulent new strain of a mysterious fungal disease. First found on Vancouver Island, B.C., 11 years ago, Cryptococcus gattii is spreading south through Washington and Oregon, and several dozen people have died.” (NPR)