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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 149654 times)
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5070 on: Sep 18th, 2011, 11:17am »

Declassified US Spy Satellites Reveal Rare Look at Secret Cold War Space Program

Roger Guillemette, SPACE.com Contributor
Date: 18 September 2011

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The massive KH-9 Hexagon spy satellite on display at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center, after being declassified on Sept. 17, 2011. Longer than a school bus at 60 feet in length and weighing 30,000 pounds at launch, 20 KH-9 Hexagons were launched by the National Reconnaissance Office between 1971 and 1986.
CREDIT: Roger Guillemette/SPACE.com


CHANTILLY, Va. – September 17, 2011 -Twenty-five years after their top-secret, Cold War-era missions ended, two clandestine American satellite programs were declassified Saturday (Sept. 17), with the agency unveiling three of the United States' most closely guarded assets: the KH-7 GAMBIT, the KH-8 GAMBIT 3 and the KH-9 HEXAGON spy satellites.

The vintage National Reconnaissance Office satellites were displayed to the public Saturday in a one-day-only exhibit here at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, Va. The three spacecraft are the centerpiece of the NRO's invitation-only 50th Anniversary Gala celebration held at the center later that evening.

The KH-9 HEXAGON, often referred to by its popular nickname "Big Bird," lived up to its legendary expectations. As large as a school bus, the KH-9 HEXAGON carried 60 miles of high resolution photographic film for space surveillance missions.

The Hexagon's panoramic cameras rotated as they swept back and forth while the satellite flew over Earth, a process intelligence officials referred to as "mowing the lawn."

Each 6-inch-wide frame of HEXAGON film captured a wide swath of terrain covering 370 nautical miles — the distance from Cincinnati to Washington — on each pass over the former Soviet Union and China. The satellites had a resolution of about 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to nearly 1 meter), according to the NRO.

According to documents released by the NRO, each HEXAGON satellite mission lasted about 124 days, with the satellite launching four film return capsules that could send its photos back to Earth. An aircraft would catch the return capsules in mid-air by snagging their parachutes following the canisters' re-entry.

The NRO launched 20 HEXAGON satellites from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base from June 1971 to April 1986.

http://www.space.com/12996-secret-spy-satellites-declassified-nro.html
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5071 on: Sep 18th, 2011, 12:15pm »

Good morning Swamprat. cheesy

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« Reply #5072 on: Sep 18th, 2011, 12:27pm »

LA Times

Drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in U.S., data show

Fueling the surge are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol.

By Lisa Girion, Scott Glover and Doug Smith, Los Angeles Times
2:55 PM PDT, September 17, 2011

Propelled by an increase in prescription narcotic overdoses, drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States, a Times analysis of government data has found.

Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people nationwide, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are an exception. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes. By contrast, traffic accidents have been dropping for decades because of huge investments in auto safety.

Public health experts have used the comparison to draw attention to the nation's growing prescription drug problem, which they characterize as an epidemic. This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979.

Fueling the surge in deaths are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol. Among the most commonly abused are OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma. One relative newcomer to the scene is Fentanyl, a painkiller that comes in the form of patches and lollipops and is 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Such drugs now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

"The problem is right here under our noses in our medicine cabinets," said Laz Salinas, a sheriff's commander in Santa Barbara, which has seen a dramatic rise in prescription drug deaths in recent years.

Overdose victims range in age and circumstance from teenagers who pop pills to get a heroin-like high to middle-aged working men and women who take medications prescribed for strained backs and bum knees and become addicted.

A review of hundreds of autopsy reports in Southern California reveals one tragic demise after another: A 19-year-old Army recruit, who had just passed his military physical, took a handful of Xanax and painkillers while partying with friends. A groom, anxious over his upcoming wedding, overdosed on a cocktail of prescription drugs. A teenage honors student overdosed on painkillers her father left in his medicine cabinet from a surgery years earlier. A toddler was orphaned after both parents overdosed on prescription drugs months apart. A grandmother suffering from chronic back pain apparently forgot she'd already taken her daily regimen of pills and ended up double dosing.

Many died after failed attempts at rehab — or after using one too many times while contemplating quitting. That's apparently what happened to a San Diego woman found dead with a Fentanyl patch on her body, one of five she'd applied in the 24 hours before her death. Next to her on the couch was a notebook with information about rehab.

The seeds of the problem were planted more than a decade ago by well-meaning efforts by doctors to mitigate suffering, as well as aggressive sales campaigns by pharmaceutical manufacturers. In hindsight, the liberalized prescription of pain drugs "may in fact be the cause of the epidemic we're now facing," said Linda Rosenstock, dean of the UCLA School of Public Health.

In some ways, prescription drugs are more dangerous than illicit ones because users don't have their guard up, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Opferman, head of a county task force on prescription drug-related crimes. "People feel they are safer with prescription drugs because you get them from a pharmacy and they are prescribed by a doctor," Opferman said. "Younger people believe they are safer because they see their parents taking them. It doesn't have the same stigma as using street narcotics."

Lori Smith said she believes that's what her son might have been thinking the night he died six months shy of his 16th birthday. Nolan Smith, of Aliso Viejo, loved to surf, sail and fish with his brother and father. He suffered from migraines and anxiety but showed no signs of drug abuse, his mother said.

The night before he died in January 2009, Nolan called his mother at work, asking for a ride to the girls basketball game at Aliso Niguel High School. Lori told him she couldn't get away.

When Nolan didn't come home that evening, his parents called police and his friends. His body was found the next morning on a stranger's front porch.

A toxicology test turned up Zoloft, which had been prescribed for anxiety, and a host of other drugs that had not been prescribed, including two additional anti-anxiety drugs, as well as morphine and marijuana.

All investigators could give the family were theories.

"They said they will have parties where the kids will throw a bunch of pills in a bowl and the kids take them without knowing what they are," Lori said. "We called all of his friends, but no one would say they were with him. But he must have been with someone. You just don't do that by yourself."

The triumph of public health policies that have improved traffic safety over the years through the use of seat belts, air bags and other measures stands in stark contrast to the nation's record on prescription drugs. Even though more people are driving more miles, traffic fatalities have dropped by more than a third since the early 1970s to 36,284 in 2009. Drug-induced deaths had equaled or surpassed traffic fatalities in California, 22 other states and the District of Columbia even before the 2009 figures revealed the shift at the national level, according to the Times analysis.

The Centers for Disease Control collects data on all causes of death each year and analyzes them to identify health problems. Drug-induced deaths are mostly accidental overdoses but also include suicides and fatal diseases caused by drugs.

The CDC's 2009 statistics are the agency's most current. They are considered preliminary because they reflect 96% of death certificates filed. The remaining are deaths for which the causes were not immediately clear.

Drug fatalities more than doubled among teens and young adults between 2000 and 2008, years for which more detailed data are available. Deaths more than tripled among people aged 50 to 69, the Times analysis found. In terms of sheer numbers, the death toll is highest among people in their 40s.

Overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers, including OxyContin and Vicodin, and anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium and Xanax more than tripled between 2000 and 2008.

The rise in deaths corresponds with doctors prescribing more painkillers and anti-anxiety medications. The number of prescriptions for the strongest pain pills filled at California pharmacies, for instance, increased more than 43% since 2007 — and the doses grew by even more, nearly 50%, according to a review of prescribing data collected by the state.

Those prescriptions provide relief to pain sufferers but also fuel a thriving black market. Prescription drugs are traded on Internet chat rooms that buzz with offers of "vikes," "percs" and "oxys" for $10 to $80 a pill. They are sold on street corners along with heroin, marijuana and crack. An addiction to prescription drugs can be costly; a heavy OxyContin habit can run twice as much as a heroin addiction, authorities say.

On a recent weekday morning, Los Angeles County undercover sheriff's deputies posing as drug buyers easily purchased enough pills to fill a medicine cabinet on a sidewalk a few blocks south of Los Angeles City Hall.

The most commonly abused prescription drug, hydrocodone, also is the most widely prescribed drug in America, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Better known as Vicodin, the pain reliever is prescribed more often than the top cholesterol drug and the top antibiotic.

"We have an insatiable appetite for this drug — insatiable," Joseph T. Rannazzisi, a top DEA administrator, told a group of pharmacists at a regulatory meeting in Sacramento.

In April, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy announced initiatives aimed at stanching prescription drug abuse. The plans include a series of drug take-back days, modeled after similar programs involving weapons, in which consumers are encouraged to turn leftover prescription drugs in to authorities. Another initiative would develop voluntary courses to train physicians on how to safely prescribe pain drugs, a curriculum that is not widely taught in medical schools.

Initial attempts to reverse the trend in drug deaths — such as state-run prescription drug-monitoring programs aimed at thwarting "doctor-shopping" addicts — don't appear to be having much effect, experts say.

"What's really scary is we don't know a lot about how to reduce prescription deaths," said Amy S.B. Bohnert, a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School who is studying ways to lower the risk of prescription drugs.

"It's a wonderful medical advancement that we can treat pain," Bohnert said. "But we haven't figured out the safety belt yet."

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-drugs-epidemic-20110918,0,2557221,full.story

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« Reply #5073 on: Sep 18th, 2011, 12:30pm »

Boston Herald

New Hampshire notes 50th anniversary of UFO abduction story

By Associated Press
Sunday, September 18, 2011 | http://www.bostonherald.com | Local Coverage

LINCOLN, N.H. — Fifty years after Betty and Barney Hill reported seeing a cigar-shaped craft hovering over them in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the state has formally recognized their close encounter with a UFO.

Returning from a vacation in Canada on Sept. 19, 1961, the Hills arrived home in Portsmouth puzzled by stains and tears on Betty’s dress, scuffs on Barney’s shoes and shiny spots on their car. They said they had lost two hours of time. They made a report to the Air Force.

Under hypnosis in 1964, they recalled being abducted and examined by "men" who didn’t appear to be human.

A state historical marker says the account is the nation’s first widely-reported UFO abduction report. The Hills’ niece, Kathleen Marden, is speaking at a gathering at a local resort Sept. 23-25.

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1366875

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« Reply #5074 on: Sep 18th, 2011, 12:33pm »

Bleeding Cool

Super-Rare Uncut Version Of The Shining To Screen In New York

Submitted by Brendon Connelly on September 18, 2011 – 11:47 am

Back when The Shining was released, distribution patterns were very different than today. During their first week, films would be found in just a few cinemas, and not the thousands that are now typical.

Stanley Kubrick certainly liked to take advantage of this. Perhaps most famously he axed 19 minutes from 2001: A Space Odyssey shortly after it had premiered; scenes that went undiscovered until last December and, as yet, have not be screened publically again.

He also re-edited The Shining a few days after it first started screening, in this case trimming away around four minutes. I’m not sure how often this first of the film’s three versions has been seen, but it won’t have been a lot.

So you’ll believe me when I tell you that I really wish I could be in New York this October 22nd.

Here’s a little bit of program information from the website of the Dryden Theatre, who will be screening the film on that date:

An unstable writer (Jack Nicholson) takes a winter caretaking job at a snowed-in mountain lodge, quickly succumbs to “cabin fever” — or is it something far worse? — and terrorizes his hapless wife (Shelley Duvall) and creepy, psychic son (Danny Lloyd). A brilliant study of domestic abuse and possession — demonic, creative, and familial — this is Kubrick’s horror masterpiece as you’ve never seen it, complete with a chilling coda cut from the original release.

As I was saying, this coda did actually play for a few days in cinemas (some say three, some four) before Stanley got busy with the scissors.

The scenes in question come directly before the film’s climactic push-in towards the photo.

Firstly, there’s a little moment where some state troopers look for Jack, frozen in the ice, but don’t seem to be seeing him – for whatever reason.

Then a longer scene. It’s set in a hospital, where Ullman, the Overlook’s manager, tries to convince Wendy and Danny that nothing supernatural had happened in his hotel. He explains that Jack’s body was not recovered, and he gives Danny a tennis ball – presumably the same one that he followed into room 237.

A few still images from the shooting of the hospital scene were published in Taschen’s Stanley Kubrick Archives, and proved easy to find online, but there’s no public record – that I can find – of the dialogue in the scene. So, if you’re going along in October, please take a notepad.

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/09/18/super-rare-uncut-version-of-the-shining-to-screen-in-new-york/

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« Reply #5075 on: Sep 19th, 2011, 08:09am »

New York Times

September 19, 2011
British Police Announce Terrorism Arrests
By RAVI SOMAIYA and ALAN COWELL

LONDON — The British police said Monday that officers arrested six men and a woman overnight on terrorism-related charges in the central city of Birmingham. The arrests followed a “large, intelligence-led counter-terrorism operation,” the police said.

The men were aged between 25 and 32 and the woman, accused of failing to disclose information, was 22, the West Midlands Police said in a statement.

The men were arrested by unarmed officers in raids in five neighborhoods between 11:00 p.m. Sunday and 1 a.m. Monday, while the woman was detained at 6:30 a.m. Monday. The BBC said the investigation, believed to have drawn in Britain’s MI5 domestic security service, had uncovered links to Islamic militancy and was part of the most significant counterterrorism operation so far this year.

A West Midlands police official, who requested anonymity because he was discussing a still unfolding operation , said that initial speculation the arrests were linked to Irish republicanism was unfounded. The official declined to confirm the BBC report that those arrested were Islamic extremists, but said the operation was “linked to international cases as much as local.”

The police statement said the men were arrested “on suspicion of preparing or instigating an act of terror,” and police were searching their homes and seven other locations in Birmingham, Britain’s second-largest city which has an ethnically mixed population. The arrests took place in a range of areas from impoverished inner city neighborhoods to comfortable suburbs.

Marcus Beale, the West Midlands assistant chief constable, declined to elaborate on the nature of the suspected attack. “The operation is in its early stages so we are unable to go into detail at this time about the nature of the suspected offenses,” he said in a statement. “However, I believe it was necessary to take action at this time in order to ensure public safety.”

Britain’s Press Association news agency said the arrests were apparently unrelated to the annual party conference of the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition, which is under way in Birmingham.

The arrests were the first of their kind reported since April when five men were arrested near the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the north of England under antiterrorism laws. They were released later.

Last December, police officials said they had charged nine of 12 men they had arrested a week earlier in a case that seemed to be a sign that Europe’s concerns over potential terrorist attacks were spreading.

The nine, including five who British news reports said were of Bangladeshi origin, were accused of offenses that included reconnoitering targets, conspiring to cause explosions and testing incendiary material.

News reports at the time of the arrests said that the men were accused of plotting attacks to coincide with the Christmas holidays and had reconnoitered targets like the American Embassy, the London Stock Exchange and religious and political leaders.

Last July, Britain lowered its assessment of the threat posed by international terrorism from severe to substantial, meaning there is a “strong possibility” of an attack.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/world/europe/british-police-announce-terrorism-arrests.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #5076 on: Sep 19th, 2011, 08:20am »

Guardian

Fukushima protesters urge Japan to abandon nuclear power
Tens of thousands join Fukushima protest march in Tokyo amid continuing fears over radiation

Associated Press in Tokyo
guardian.co.uk, Monday 19 September 2011 08.48 EDT

Tens of thousands of people marched in central Tokyo on Monday chanting "Sayonara nuclear power" and waving banners to call on Japan's government to abandon nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The demonstration underscores how deeply a Japanese public long accustomed to nuclear power has been affected by the 11 March crisis, when a tsunami caused core meltdowns at three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex.

The disaster – the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl – saw radiation spewed across a wide part of north-eastern Japan, forcing the evacuation of about 100,000 people who lived near the plant and raising fears of contamination in everything from fruit and vegetables to fish and water.

"Radiation is scary," said Nami Noji, a 43-year-old mother who came to the protest on this national holiday with her four children, aged eight to 14. "There's a lot of uncertainty about the safety of food, and I want the future to be safe for my kids."

Police estimated the crowd at 20,000 people, while organisers said there were three times that many people.

In addition to fears of radiation, the Japanese public and corporate world have had to put up with electricity shortages amid sweltering summer heat after more than 30 of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors were idled over the summer to undergo inspections.

Japan's prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, who took office earlier this month, has said Japan will restart reactors that clear safety checks. But he has also said the country should reduce its reliance on nuclear energy and explore alternative sources of energy.

Before the disaster, the earthquake-prone country derived 30% of its electricity from nuclear power. Yet Japan is also a resource-poor nation, making it difficult for it to come up with viable alternative forms of energy.

Mari Joh, a 64-year-old woman who travelled from Hitachi city to collect signatures for a petition to shut down the Tokai Daini nuclear plant not far from her home, acknowledged that shifting the country's energy sources could take 20 years.

"But if the government doesn't act decisively now to set a new course, we'll just continue with the status quo," she said on Monday. "I want to use natural energy, like solar, wind and biomass."

Before the march, the protesters gathered in Meiji park to hear speakers address the crowd, including one woman from Fukushima prefecture, Reiko Muto, who described herself as a "hibakusha," an emotionally laden term for survivors of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Those evacuated from around the plant remain uncertain about when, if ever, they will be able to return to their homes.

An AP-GfK poll showed that 55% of Japanese want to reduce the number of nuclear reactors in the country, while 35% would like to leave the number about the same. Four per cent want an increase while 3% want to eliminate them entirely.

Author Kenzaburo Oe, who won the Nobel literature prize in 1994 and has campaigned for pacifist and anti-nuclear causes, also addressed the crowd. He and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, who composed the score to the movie The Last Emperor, were among the event's supporters.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/19/fukushima-protesters-japan-nuclear-power

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« Reply #5077 on: Sep 19th, 2011, 08:27am »

Scientific American

Autism in Another Ape

An extraordinary baby bonobo is a rare case study for autism researchers

By Nina Bai | Monday, September 19, 2011

Rambunctious one-year-old Teco, a third-generation captive-born bonobo at the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines, Iowa, has an ape’s usual fondness for games and grapes. But perhaps because of trauma from a difficult birth (his mother was in labor for 60 hours) or a genetic predisposition, Teco is different from his bonobo peers in ways that resemble autism in young children. He could not cling to his mother or nurse the way healthy young apes do instinctively, mimicking the aversion to physical contact seen in children with autism. Teco also tends to fixate on shiny objects and avoids eye contact, and he has trouble coordinating his four limbs. A genetic analysis of bonobos, already under way, may shed light on Teco’s condition and offer new perspectives on autism’s genetic roots in humans.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=autism-in-another-ape

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« Reply #5078 on: Sep 19th, 2011, 08:39am »

Wired (See the article for correct smilies)

Sept. 19, 1982: Can’t You Take a Joke? smiley
By Tony Long
September 19, 2011 | 6:30 am
Categories: 20th century, Communication, Computers and IT


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Photo: Carnegie Mellon professor Scott E. Fahlman smiles away in his home office.
(Gene J. Puskar/AP)



1982: At precisely 11:44 a.m., Scott Fahlman posts the following electronic message to a computer-science department bulletin board at Carnegie Mellon University:

19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman smiley
From: Scott E Fahlman

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:

smiley

Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use:

sad

With that post, Fahlman became the acknowledged originator of the ASCII-based emoticon. From those two simple emoticons (a portmanteau combining the words emotion and icon) have sprung dozens of others that are the joy, or bane, of e-mail, text-message and instant-message correspondence the world over.

Fahlman was not, however, the first person to use typographical symbols to convey emotions. The practice goes back at least to the mid-19th century, when Morse code symbols were occasionally used for the same purpose. Other examples exist as well.

In 1881, the American satirical magazine Puck published what we would now call emoticons, using hand-set type. No less a wordsmith than Ambrose Bierce suggested using what he called a “snigger point” — \__/ — to convey jocularity or irony. Baltimore’s Sunday Sun suggested a tongue-in-cheek sideways character in 1967.

But none of those caught on. The internet emoticon truly traces its lineage directly to Fahlman, who says he came up with the idea after reading “lengthy diatribes” from people on the message board who failed to get the joke or the sarcasm in a particular post — which is probably what “given current trends” refers to in his own, now-famous missive.

To remedy this, Fahlman suggested using smiley and sad to distinguish between posts that should be taken humorously and those of a more serious nature.

Fahlman’s original post was lost for a couple of decades and believed gone for good, until it was retrieved from an old backup tape, thus cementing his claim of priority.

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2011/09/0919fahlman-proposes-emoticons/

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« Reply #5079 on: Sep 19th, 2011, 08:42am »

Science Daily

Gamers Succeed Where Scientists Fail: Molecular Structure of Retrovirus Enzyme Solved, Doors Open to New AIDS Drug Design

ScienceDaily (Sep. 18, 2011)

— Gamers have solved the structure of a retrovirus enzyme whose configuration had stumped scientists for more than a decade. The gamers achieved their discovery by playing Foldit, an online game that allows players to collaborate and compete in predicting the structure of protein molecules.

After scientists repeatedly failed to piece together the structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus, they called in the Foldit players. The scientists challenged the gamers to produce an accurate model of the enzyme. They did it in only three weeks.

This class of enzymes, called retroviral proteases, has a critical role in how the AIDS virus matures and proliferates. Intensive research is under way to try to find anti-AIDS drugs that can block these enzymes, but efforts were hampered by not knowing exactly what the retroviral protease molecule looks like.

"We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed," said Dr. Firas Khatib of the University of Washington Department of Biochemistry. Khatib is a researcher in the protein structure lab of Dr. David Baker, professor of biochemistry.

Remarkably, the gamers generated models good enough for the researchers to refine and, within a few days, determine the enzyme's structure. Equally amazing, surfaces on the molecule stood out as likely targets for drugs to de-active the enzyme.

"These features provide exciting opportunities for the design of retroviral drugs, including AIDS drugs," wrote the authors of a paper appearing Sept. 18 in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. The scientists and gamers are listed as co-authors.

This is the first instance that the researchers are aware of in which gamers solved a longstanding scientific problem.

Fold-it was created by computer scientists at the University of Washington Center for Game Science in collaboration with the Baker lab.

"The focus of the UW Center for Game Sciences," said director Dr. Zoran Popovic, associate professor of computer science and engineering, "is to solve hard problems in science and education that currently cannot be solved by either people or computers alone."

The solution of the virus enzyme structure, the researchers said, "indicates the power of online computer games to channel human intuition and three-dimensional pattern matching skills to solve challenging scientific problems."

With names like Foldit Contenders Group and Foldit Void Crushers Group, the gamer teams were fired up for the task of real-world molecule modeling problems. The online protein folding game captivates thousands of avid players worldwide and engages the general public in scientific discovery.

Players come from all walks of life. The game taps into their 3-D spatial abilities to rotate chains of amino acids in cyberspace. New players start at the basic level, "One Small Clash," proceed to "Swing it Around" and step ahead until reaching "Rubber Band Reversal."

Direct manipulation tools, as well as assistance from a computer program called Rosetta, encourage participants to configure graphics into a workable protein model. Teams send in their answers, and UW researchers constantly improve the design of the game and its puzzles by analyzing the players' problem-solving strategies.

Figuring out the shape and misshape of proteins contributes to research on causes of and cures for cancer, Alzheimer's, immune deficiencies and a host of other disorders, as well as to environmental work on biofuels.

Referring to this week's report of the online gamers' molecule solution opening new avenues for anti-viral drug research, Carter Kimsey, program director, National Science Foundation Division of Biological Infrastructure, observed, "After this discovery, young people might not mind doing their science homework. This is an innovative approach to getting humans and computer models to 'learn from each other' in real-time."

The researchers noted that much attention has been given to the possibilities of crowd-sourcing and game playing in scientific discovery. Their results indicate the potential for integrating online video games into real-world science.

Dr. Seth Cooper, of the UW Department of Computing Science and Engineering, is a co-creator of Foldit and its lead designer and developer. He studies human-computer exploration methods and the co-evolution of games and players.

"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at," Cooper said. "Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week's paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before."

Games like Foldit are evolving. To piece together the retrovirus enzyme structure, Cooper said, gamers used a new Alignment Tool for the first time to copy parts of know molecules and test their fit in an incomplete model.

"The ingenuity of game players," Khatib said, "is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems.

According to Popovic, "Foldit shows that a game can turn novices into domain experts capable of producing first-class scientific discoveries. We are currently applying the same approach to change the way math and science are taught in school."

The other scientists involved in this project were Frank DiMaio and James Thompson, both of the UW Department of Biochemistry, and Maciej Kazmierczyk, Miroslaw Gilski, Szymon Krzywda, Helena Zabranska, and Mariusz Jaskolski, all of the Faculty of Chemistry of A. Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, and Iva Pichova of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague.

The project was supported by the UW Center for Game Science, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Microsoft Corp.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110918144955.htm

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« Reply #5080 on: Sep 20th, 2011, 08:59am »

New York Times

September 19, 2011
Pirates’ Strong Showing in Berlin Elections Surprises Even Them
By NICHOLAS KULISH

BERLIN — With laptops open like shields against the encroaching cameramen, the young men resembled Peter Pan’s Lost Boys more than Captain Hook’s buccaneers when they were introduced Monday as Berlin’s newest legislators: They are the members of the Pirate Party.

Asked if they were just some chaotic troop of troublemakers, Christopher Lauer, newly voted in as a state lawmaker for the district of Pankow, replied with no lack of confidence, “You ought to wait for the first session in the house of representatives.”

By winning 8.9 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election in this city-state, these political pirates surpassed — blew away, really — every expectation for what was supposed to be a fringe, one-issue party promoting Internet freedom. The Pirates so outstripped expectations that all 15 candidates on their list won seats — seats are doled out based in part on votes for a party rather than for an individual. Normally parties list far more candidates than could ever make it, because if they win more than they nominate, the seat must remain unfilled.

These men in their 20s and 30s, who turned up at the imposing former Prussian state parliament building, some wearing hooded sweatshirts, and one a T-shirt of the comic book hero Captain America, were no longer merely madcap campaigners and gadflies. They had become the people’s elected representatives.

The question that members of Germany’s political establishment are now asking after the insurgent party stormed the statehouse is this: Are the Pirates merely the punch line to a joke, a focus of protest, a reflection of electoral disgust with all established political parties — or an exciting experiment in a new form of online democracy?

“They are absolutely not a joke party,” said Christoph Bieber, a professor of political science at the University of Duisburg-Essen. While there was certainly an element of protest in the unexpectedly large share of the votes the Pirates won, they were filling a real need for voters outside the political mainstream who felt unrepresented. “In the Internet, they have really found an underexploited theme that the other political parties are not dealing with,” Mr. Bieber said.

The state election in Berlin on Sunday was full of surprising results. The pro-business Free Democrats, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners in the federal Parliament, crashed and burned, again, receiving less than 2 percent of the vote. That is well below the 5 percent needed to remain in the statehouse. The Green Party continued to build on its recent successes and may well become one of the governing parties in Berlin.

While issues like online privacy and data protection may seem incredibly narrow, even irrelevant, to older voters, for young people who often spend half their waking hours online, much of it on social networking sites where they share their most intimate moments, it is anything but a small issue. And the Pirates’ call for complete transparency in politics resonates powerfully with a generation disillusioned by the American case for war in Iraq and galvanized by WikiLeaks’ promise to put an end to secrecy.

The Pirates’ surprisingly strong showing came as further evidence of voter dissatisfaction in Germany with the established parties, and what many see as their inability to look beyond self-interest and focus instead on the needs of their constituents. The Pirates have promised to use online tools to give party members unprecedented power to propose policies and determine stances, in what they call “liquid democracy,” a form of participation that goes beyond simply voting in elections.

The party has broadened its initial platform, which focused on file sharing, censorship and data protection to include other social issues, advocating the Internet as a tool to empower the electorate and engage it in the political — and legislative — process.

“Today’s cadre of politicians is missing out on asking some very relevant questions about the future,” said Rick Falkvinge, founder of the first Pirate Party, which he started in Sweden in 2006. He was celebrating with his German colleagues at Sunday night’s election party in a room filled with disco balls and disassembled mannequins in the Kreuzberg nightclub Ritter Butzke. Thanks to the interactive nature of the Internet, “you don’t have to take these laws being read to you,” he said. “You can stand up, stand tall and write the laws yourself.”

Mr. Falkvinge summed up the significance of the Berlin election for the nascent movement in terms members would understand: “German Pirates have the high score now.”

Sebastian Schneider, who asked to be called Schmiddie “or no one will know who you’re talking about,” a member of the party and one of the people celebrating Sunday night, said that there was no other party he could envision voting for.

“In my opinion, the Greens are a conservative party by now,” Mr. Schneider said. “They were not quite sure if they wanted to join the dark side of the force or not,” by which he said that he meant forming a coalition to govern Berlin with Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

There were plenty of young people, many with dreadlocks or beards and a few with both, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and sipping beer. Others wore jackets with CCC written on the back, short for the Chaos Computer Club, a hackers’ collective that got its start in Berlin and has an overlap in membership with the Pirates. A stand-up comedian working in classic Berlin cabaret style poked fun at the influx of tourists and the recent rent increases that became major issues in the election campaign, saying: “There are no more buildings to occupy. Next we’ll have to start occupying five-star hotels.”

Mayor Klaus Wowereit of Berlin, whose Social Democrats won the most votes on Sunday, assuring him a third term as the city’s mayor, may have paid the young party the highest compliment of all, taking it seriously enough to attack the day after the election. He raised a prickly problem for young men who spend their evenings writing computer code: There were next to no women in their group.

“Gender politics has not arrived for the Pirates yet, and that is not a step forward but a step backward,” Mr. Wowereit told reporters Monday.

Indeed, at Monday’s news conference only young, white men sat at the conference table representing the party. Mr. Lauer, himself wearing a sports jacket, said that the mostly scruffy people were “not a representative slice of this society,” and that it was a problem that the party was working on.

The Pirates could be disarmingly honest, and were unfailingly polite to security guards, cameramen and anyone else they came across. Transparency in politics means “also being able to admit when we don’t know something,” said Andreas Baum, the party’s lead candidate in the election.

Asked what kind of real change a small party in a state legislature could really bring about, Mr. Baum replied, “The very fact that these other parties are now asking themselves how we won these votes is already progress.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/world/europe/in-berlin-pirates-win-8-9-percent-of-vote-in-regional-races.html?_r=1&ref=world

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« Reply #5081 on: Sep 20th, 2011, 09:04am »

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« Reply #5082 on: Sep 20th, 2011, 11:55am »

Wired

Sept. 20, 1952: Kitchen Blender Pegs DNA as Stuff of Life
By Tony Long
September 20, 2011 | 6:30 am
Categories: 20th century, Biology


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Photo: Alfred Hershey shared the Nobel Prize with two other American scientists for
“discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses.”
(Bettmann/Corbis)



1952: Geneticists Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase publish the findings of their so-called blender experiments, which conclude that DNA is where life’s hereditary data is found.

Prior to these experiments, so named because they were conducted using a regular kitchen blender, it was generally believed that proteins — not DNA — were the genetic stuff of life. (DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, was first isolated by Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher in 1869, but it took nearly a century before its centrality to life was ascertained.)

Using the blender, Hershey and Chase separated the protein coating from the nuclei of bacteriophages, the viruses that infect bacteria. Injecting nucleic acid into the bacterial cell, they found that it was the acid itself, and not the protein, that caused the transmission of genetic information.

Their conclusion was that genes are made of the nucleic acid DNA.

It was just seven months later that James Watson and Frances Crick published their work establishing the structure of the DNA molecule: a double helix. Watson and Crick shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with another DNA researcher, Maurice Wilkins. Rosalind Franklin, the chemist whose X-ray diffusion photographs of DNA molecules showed their essential structure and paved the way for the trio’s work, received nothing.

Hershey would subsequently share the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in discovering the properties of DNA. But Chase, who served as Hershey’s lab assistant during his experiments and whose name appears on the paper, was — like Franklin before her — snubbed.

http://www.wired.com/thisdayintech/2011/09/0920kitchen-blender-dna/

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« Reply #5083 on: Sep 20th, 2011, 11:57am »

Reuters

UBS loss exposes European trading loophole

By Douwe Miedema and Huw Jones
LONDON | Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:50am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - UBS's $2.3 billion loss has uncovered a gap in the oversight of widely-used investment products which allow traders to hide their dealings and will take regulators years to close.

Exchange Trade Funds (ETFs) -- the instruments at the heart of the alleged rogue trade debacle announced by UBS last week -- are not covered by European financial markets law.

This leaves dealers free to book trades without confirmation from a counterparty and means a bank's internal risk officers are essentially relying on the dealer's word when checking if price and delivery dates have been entered accurately -- and even whether a trade has actually been agreed or not.

"If (the alleged rogue trader) used some types of ETFs, currently there is no reporting obligation to regulators," a regulatory source with knowledge of the rules said.

The European Union's Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) does not cover ETFs, and a rewrite of the law looking to include the rapidly growing sector will only come into force in 2014 at the earliest.

A draft version of the coming revision to close the loophole is due in October.

Large parts of the ETF markets in Europe are traded over the counter -- from bank to bank -- making them far less transparent than securities listed on exchanges, and subject to convention.

"Generally, orders are not displayed to regulators. MiFID demands execution confirmation for clients, but not for "in house" or similar activities," the regulatory source said.

That said, many market operators expressed surprise that a bank would put itself at risk by not asking for confirmation of a trade in its books, whether required to do so or not.

"When I found out banks were not confirming forward ETFs until settlement date, I was pretty surprised," Conrad Voldstad, chief executive of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) told reporters at a conference on Tuesday.

An ETF trader said it was common practice for banks to delay confirmation of forward trades until the settlement date.

"Often they will not do this unless someone has specifically requested them to do so," the trader said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

OPAQUE

The UBS scandal reignites the debate about whether watchdogs are doing enough to control bets made on the trading floors of banks, many of whom were bailed out at a heavy cost to taxpayers during the credit crisis.

Only days before UBS announced its loss, Britain unveiled some of the world's toughest regulations, requiring its banks to insulate retail lending activities from investment banking operations and store up billions in extra capital.

Sales and trading is often the biggest money-spinner for investment banks, with the fixed income, currencies and commodities businesses (FICC) alone often generating roughly half of their revenues.

The banking community has been left guessing what exactly went wrong at UBS, which has declined to comment other than to say that an employee had faked positions in "forward-settling cash ETF positions" in order to appear to be hedged.

London trader Kweku Adoboli was charged on Friday with fraud and false accounting dating back to 2008.

ETFs were initially sold to retail investors as a cheap way to gain exposure to an underlying asset such as a stock exchange index, but have since come to play a large role in banks' hedging and other internal activities.

Rapid growth in the sector meant that profits have sometimes come first to the detriment of checks and balances, some of the people working in the market said.

"These markets are at an early stage and there simply hasn't been the investment in systems to keep up with the complexity of trading these products," said Hirander Misra, an advisor to Plus Markets, a small stock exchange.

"When new trading products emerge, often the links into risk and credit control systems are an afterthought."

(Additional reporting by Luke Jeffs; Editing by Sophie Walker)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/20/us-ubs-trading-idUSTRE78J2UH20110920

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« Reply #5084 on: Sep 20th, 2011, 12:02pm »

Scientific American

Super Weeds Pose Growing Threat to U.S. Crops

Monday, September 19, 2011
By Carey Gillam

Farmer Mark Nelson bends down and yanks a four-foot-tall weed from his northeast Kansas soybean field. The "waterhemp" towers above his beans, sucking up the soil moisture and nutrients his beans need to grow well and reducing the ultimate yield. As he crumples the flowering end of the weed in his hand, Nelson grimaces.

"When we harvest this field, these waterhemp seeds will spread all over kingdom come," he said.

Nelson's struggle to control crop-choking weeds is being repeated all over America's farmland. An estimated 11 million acres are infested with "super weeds," some of which grow several inches in a day and defy even multiple dousings of the world's top-selling herbicide, Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate.

The problem's gradual emergence has masked its growing menace. Now, however, it is becoming too big to ignore. The super weeds boost costs and cut crop yields for U.S. farmers starting their fall harvest this month. And their use of more herbicides to fight the weeds is sparking environmental concerns.

With food prices near record highs and a growing population straining global grain supplies, the world cannot afford diminished crop production, nor added environmental problems.

"I'm convinced that this is a big problem," said Dave Mortensen, professor of weed and applied plant ecology at Penn State University, who has been helping lobby members of Congress about the implications of weed resistance.

"Most of the public doesn't know because the industry is calling the shots on how this should be spun," Mortensen said.

Last month, representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the Weed Science Society of America toured the Midwest crop belt to see for themselves the impact of rising weed resistance.

"It is only going to get worse," said Lee Van Wychen, director of science policy at the Weed Science Society of America.

MONSANTO ON THE FRONT LINE

At the heart of the matter is Monsanto Co, the world's biggest seed company and the maker of Roundup. Monsanto has made billions of dollars and revolutionized row crop agriculture through sales of Roundup and "Roundup Ready​" crops genetically modified to tolerate treatment with Roundup.

The Roundup Ready system has helped farmers grow more corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops while reducing detrimental soil tillage practices, killing weeds easily and cheaply.

But the system has also encouraged farmers to alter time-honored crop rotation practices and the mix of herbicides that previously had kept weeds in check.

And now, farmers are finding that rampant weed resistance is setting them back - making it harder to keep growing corn year in and year out, even when rotating it occasionally with soybeans. Farmers also have to change their mix and volume of chemicals, making farming more costly.

For Monsanto, it spells a threat to the company's market strength as rivals smell an opportunity and are racing to introduce alternatives for Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds.

"You've kind of been in a Roundup Ready era," said Tom Wiltrout, a global strategy leader at Dow AgroSciences, which is introducing an herbicide and seed system called Enlist as an alternative to Roundup.

"This just allows us to candidly get out from the Monsanto story," he said.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=analysis:-super-weeds-pose

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