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talk on new media - shirky

“While news from Iran streams to the world, Clay Shirky shows how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censors (however briefly). This is the first talk from TED@State, produced in cooperation with the US State Department.”

I’m not impressed by the talk, but it will probably interest some.

17:03 mins

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twitter - a major new research tool advancing the facility of the net


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updated! ununbium is now copperknickerium - well, not quite

“Copernicium has been chosen as the name of a new element added to the periodic table, in honour of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.”

“With the symbol Cp, it has been named in honour of Copernicus who deduced that the planets revolved around the Sun, and finally refuted the belief that the Earth was the centre of the Universe. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) will officially endorse the new element's name in six month's time in order to give the scientific community "time to discuss the suggestion".”

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scientists get ever closer to unobtainium

Periodic table. Image:
The extended periodic table has two further periods, periods 8 and 9.

“Ununbium in the extended periodic table”

What a lack of imagination.

Why not un-un-un-bium, or Lehrer-ium, or unbumunbumbium?

Ununbium must have been named by Germans!

“The periodic table added its 112th official element Wednesday, when scientists in Darmstadt, Germany, announced they had received official approval for ununbium from an international body of chemists. But the discovery of the new element wasn't news to anyone - it was first announced back in 1996, when the Darmstadt scientists claimed to have created two atoms of the stuff in a 400-foot particle accelerator. It's just taken 13 years of formal reviews and appeals for their colleagues around the world to believe them. How did the most basic question of science - what are the fundamental materials that make up our universe? - turn into the science equivalent of a Supreme Court decision?”

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“Ununbium is a temporary IUPAC systematic element name for a chemical element in the periodic table that has the temporary symbol Uub and the atomic number 112.

“Element 112 is the latest superheavy element to be officially recognised by IUPAC. The most stable isotope discovered to date is 285112 with a half-life of ~30 s. In total, about 75 atoms of ununbium have been detected using various nuclear reactions. An unconfirmed isotope, 285m112, has a possible half-life of ~9 minutes, and would be one of the longest-lived superheavy isotopes known to date.

“Recent experiments strongly suggest that element 112 behaves as a typical member of group 12, demonstrating properties consistent with a volatile metal.” [Quoted from]

An evening wasted with Tom Lehrer

An evening wasted with Tom Lehrer, released 1959

$10.99 [] {advert}

ASIN: B000002KO8 1990 issue


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twitter - a major new research tool advancing the facility of the net

the continuing demise of dinosaur press

I have been vaguely aware of Twitter being disparaged around the fossil media, until I eventually had time to check it out for myself. In fact,Twitter is an immensely important innovation, far more useful and effective than the fossil media, or services such as Google news.

While it may be a new and useful addition to social networking,, its real advance is to bring citizen-driven interactive communication another step towards maturity.

Let me explain. The overwhelming majority of the fossil media’s content, including assumedly scientific magazines/journals, is in fact comprised of lazy hacks reproducing government, corporate and university press releases, usually altering a few words and carefully leaving out the original sources. Thus, a great deal of Google news is hundreds and thousands of repetitions of news items supplied by news service stringers, usually stuffed with inaccuracies and innumeracies.

Twitter, on the other hand, may be often repetitious, but has the great advantage of being limited to 140 characters per entry. This forces the writer to put links to articles they think may be of value. Thus you are not limited by the self-promotion of the fossil media. Further, being so limited in length, messages are forced to meaningful content and, even where trivial and shallow, they are very easily scanned over and ignored.

All this makes research far quicker and more efficient.

The issue on which I decided to try out Twitter was the protests against the Iranian dictators, and I confess myself to be absolutely delighted, another great step forward towards citizen education and communication. When I last looked, Twitter messages (usually called tweets) on the Iran fracas were coming in at a rate of about eighty a minute.

more technically

Enthusiasts are already using specialist software for organising and reading Tweets. One desktop application is Tweetdeck, which enables users to read and arrange their and other people’s tweets offline.

TwitterSearch enables the finding of treads, such as #iran, without having to sign in to Twitter. Links to “trending topics” are provided below the search box.

Twitpics is the means to uploading pictures to a Twitter feed.


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introduced genes inherited by glowing offspring

Transgenic marmoset offspring.Credit: Hideyuki Okano/Keio University; Erika Sasaki/CIEA
Transgenic marmoset offspring. Marmosets, the world’s smallest monkey, were chosen for their small size and associated economics.
Credit: Hideyuki Okano/Keio University; Erika Sasaki/CIEA

“...a transgenic marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) containing the self-inactivating lentiviral vector CAG-EGFP. A team from seven Japanese institutions has generated transgenic marmosets in which the integrated transgene is transmitted through the germline and expressed in the offspring. This new non-human primate model, amenable to gene manipulation with transgenic technologies, should be invaluable for biomedical research into disease mechanisms and for developing therapies in gene therapy and regenerative medicine.” [Quoted from Nature]

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“The first [hurdle] was tweaking standard gene-transfer procedures. To add a new gene to a fertilized egg, researchers typically inject a virus carrying that gene into the space between the egg and a protective membrane surrounding it; the virus then transfers the gene into the egg cells. Okano and his team made this process more efficient by placing the egg and its membrane in a chemical soup that caused the egg to shrink, creating a void within the membrane that they could then fill with more virus particles carrying the GFP gene.

“The second improvement hinged on good timing. Once a gene is added to a fertilized egg, the resulting transgenic embryos must then be quickly placed in the wombs of surrogate monkeys who are at an optimal time in their menstrual cycles. Researchers have found that they can control the reproductive cycles of marmosets more effectively than those of other monkeys. That meant Okano's team could relatively easily have an adequate number of surrogates ready to receive embryos at just the right time.

Glowing under UV light “The researchers injected the gene for GFP into 91 marmoset embryos. They then implanted these embryos into 50 surrogate mothers, some of whom received multiple embryos. Four of the surrogates produced a total of five live offspring, all carrying the GFP gene as shown by exposing the skin to ultraviolet light, which causes it to glow, and by using more sophisticated genetic methods to confirm the presence of the gene. One of those marmosets grew up, apparently healthy, and eventually produced a baby also carrying the GFP gene, Okano's team reports in tomorrow's Nature.” [Quoted from]


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not so bird-brained

00:54 mins

“In a series of experiments, the rooks (a member of the crow family) quickly learnt to drop a stone to collapse a platform and acquire a piece of food, and subsequently showed the ability to choose the right size and shape of stone without any training.

“Not only could they use stones to solve the task, but they were flexible in their tool choice, using and modifying sticks to achieve the same goal. When the correct tool was out of reach, they used another tool to get it, demonstrating the ability to use tools sequentially. In further tests, the rooks were able to use a hook tool to get food out of a different tube and even creatively bent a straight piece of wire to make the hook to reach the food.”


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another step towards ai?

“After proving that the machine worked, Lipson's team set it to work on the complex problem of metabolism in biological cells. The computer produced some equations, which the scientists are still trying to make sense of.” [Quoted from]

4:28 mins [Video from Cornell University]

“For centuries, scientists have attempted to identify and document analytical laws that underlie physical phenomena in nature. Despite the prevalence of computing power, finding natural laws and their corresponding equations has resisted automation. A key challenge to finding analytic relationships automatically is defining algorithmically what makes a correlation in observed data important and insightful. We have developed a technique for extracting the laws of nature from experimental data by identifying invariant and conservation equations.” [Quoted from]


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improving light bulbs

double filament bulbs
Incandescent bulb with two filaments. Image: “Once the first filament burns out:
* Remove the bulb from the socket (as you do for a regular bulb)
* Push the tiny metal strip to the other side.
* Screw the bulb back into the socket.

“This completes electrical circuit for the second filament instead of driving to buy a new bulb.”


Reuse the ballast on this CFL lamp. Image: 3e-technologies.comcompact fluorescent lamp with reuseable ballast [base section]
“With the SMART CFL LITE the main components are able to separate. Only the bulb portion is discarded when it burns out. This allows the full use of the ballast lifetime.”

I have been using the compact fluorescents for years.In my view, they are a ginormous improvement - they last for several years, they use far less current.

I’m told by the advertising that they keep improving. Some complain about the light quality. I prefer it considerably, much better/cleaner than yellow light. I think the ones who complain just don’t like change.

I’ve looked at LEDs recently. They look OK (to me) for decoration, but not for serious light sources (yet?) unless you like burning money.

I’ve recently purchased movement detector light. You can get those with LEDs, or even small photovoltaic generators with battery storage. This last looks like an over-technical ‘solution’ to me - too many things to break, and far more wasteful than a simpler device.


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another step toward the transparent society

“For years, parents have been limited to traditional methods of keeping track of their children's movements: standing in the playground, watching from the window, or asking them to phone home when they visit a friend's house. But now anxious mothers and fathers are being offered a distinctly hi-tech method of monitoring their child's every movement - tracking them by satellite.

“Launched this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the Num8 watch from British company Lok8u is said to be the first tracking device specifically designed to help parents keep tabs on wayward offspring.”

Or drop it in a person’s handbag or suitcase. Next, a miniature version.

“The £149 Num8 looks much like any ordinary digital wristwatch, but it houses a GPS chip similar to that contained inside a satnav unit. This constantly keeps tabs on the location of the child - it is accurate to within 3 metres - and beams it back to Num8's website for monitoring.

“Relatives can receive text messages about the watch's location direct from the device, pinpointing the street address of their youngster at the touch of a button.”


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