Archive for February, 2011

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome In A Petri Dish

Patients with Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome age eight to 10 times faster than the rest of us and rarely live beyond 13 years. Almost all of the patients die from complications of arteriosclerosis, the clogging or hardening of arteries or blood vessels caused by plaques, which leads to heart attack and stroke.

Research on Progeria is difficult because the disease is exceedingly rare and only 64 children living with progeria are known, making access to patients very difficult.

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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Biased? It May Just Be Your Low Self-Esteem

Think all Republicans are anti-science or religious people are stupid?  You may look for data to rationalize your bias but a new study in Psychological Science says it may just be your own low self-esteem; when people are feeling badly about themselves, they’re more likely to show bias against people who are different from them. 

Jeffrey Sherman of the University of California, Davis, who wrote the study with Thomas Allen, used the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a task designed to assess people’s automatic reactions to words and/or images, to investigate this claim.

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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Three Theories of Planet Formation Busted

The more new planets we find, and the tally of confirmed planets orbiting other stars is now more than 500, the less we seem to know about how planetary systems are born.

We’re heading for a golden age of discovery, says Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley in National Geographic, but that bonanza has been a headache for theoreticians because many of the newly discovered star systems defy existing models of how planets form.

The eight planets of our solar system all have roughly circular orbits, and models of planet-forming disks suggest most other star systems should be the same.

In reality, though, only about one in three of the known exoplanets has a circular or near-circular orbit.



Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Astronomy Club Restores Telescope From 1847

An 1847 Merz and Mahler telescope got some love from a Missouri astronomy club and now local people can take a look at the stars they way scientists did the year Thomas Edison was born.   Fun fact – it operates with a falling weight clockwork mechanism, meaning that without any electrical power a mechanism inside the telescope turns at the exact same speed as the rotation of the Earth, keeping the object in the lens in view for up to 45 minutes.



Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Flattery?

A music project has cropped up that is very much like Project Calliope, if you swap out ‘one man show’ and replace it with ‘crowdsourced’.  The core concept is Calliope’s “convert space to music via detectors and send to ground for anyone to remix”, and (perhaps due to the Tubesat design limitations) very similar in terms of approach, method and focus as well as intent.  Innovation?  Flattery?

Last week I said the mission of Calliope is that “hearing the levels and variety of activity in the ionosphere in real or
near-real time, as ambient sound, will help people get an intuitive
sense of the activity and change at the boundaries of space.”

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Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

What are Symbols in AI?


A main underlying philosophy of artificial intelligence and cognitive science is that cognition is computation. This leads to the notion of symbols within the mind.

There are many paths to explore how the mind works. One might start from the bottom, as is the case with neuroscience or connectionist AI. So you can avoid symbols at first. But once you start poking around the middle and top, symbols abound.

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Monday, February 21st, 2011

Olfaction Controversy – Flies Sniff Out Heavy Hydrogen

Fruitflies (Drosophila melanogaster) can smell the difference between hydrogen and its heavier counterpart, deuterium, according to recent research, which they say offers support for a controversial hypothesis of how olfaction works – namely that odorants are identified not according to molecular shape, but by their atomic vibrations.

The flies can also be conditioned by electric-shock treatment to exhibit aversion to either form of the molecule, and the researchers say that shows they can clearly distinguish between them. 



Sunday, February 20th, 2011

5 Important Themes in Science Fiction Cinema, or Cultivating Bad Taste

Yesterday I attended the 48th episode of Boskone, a science fiction literature convention held in Boston. I found that Boskone was not just about books however, illuminating me with discussion panels such as “The Five Definitive Criteria By Which SF Cinema Is to Be Judged.”

The panel consisted of Esther Friesner, Craig Shaw Gardner (lord of obscure SF movies), Ginjer Buchanan, and Bruce Coville.

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Sunday, February 20th, 2011

A New World Record In Scientific Output ?

A nice piece of news in my mailbox today: it appears that the CMS collaboration, the experiment I work for at the CERN Large Hadron Collider, has got four different scientific papers approved for publication in the course of the same week. What is more, the four articles will be published on three different international magazines of clear authority. A true success !

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Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Nice Win With A Grandmaster

Despite my chronic lack of time these days, I always manage to find ten minutes for a blitz chess game on the internet. It is a total waste of time and brain energy, but it never fails to provide some adrenaline shot in my veins. And at times some real satisfaction, when I play a good game and/or I get the better hand with a titled player.

Today I got a little of both, when I won with black against Grandmaster Lars Karlsson (elo 2466), a Swedish player. Not a super-Grandmaster, admittedly, but still a dangerous player with an expected score above 90% against me (I am rated in the 2050 range. Here is the game with minimal commentary.

Karlsson-Dorigo,  20-2-2011
(Jesper(GM)-tonno)

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