Archive | Science

Obama signs executive order authorizing new supercomputing research initiative

President Barack Obama has signed an executive order to help create the world’s fastest computer. The new initiative, known as National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), will begin working on “the first exaflop supercomputer—something that’s about 30 times faster than today’s fastest machines.”

Klint Finley at Wired has the scoop:

Supercomputers are at the heart of a huge number of important scientific and defense research projects. They’re used by aerospace engineers to model planes and weapons, and by climatologists to predict the the near-term impact of hurricanes and the long-term effects of climate change. Researchers involved in the White House’s Precision Medicine initiative believe exaflop speed supercomputers could aid the creation of personalized drugs, while the European Commission’s Human Brain Project hopes they will help unlock the secrets of the human brain.

Several government agencies, most notably the Department of Energy, have been deeply involved in the development of supercomputers over the last few decades, but they’ve typically worked separately.

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Beam Me Up? Teleporting Is Real, Even If Trekkie Transport Isn’t

Geoff Brumfiel via NPR:

“I have a hard time saying this with a straight face, but I will: You can teleport a single atom from one place to another,” says Chris Monroe, a biophysicist at the University of Maryland.

His lab’s setup in a university basement looks nothing like the slick transporters that rearrange atoms and send them someplace else on Star Trek. Instead, a couple million dollars’ worth of lasers, mirrors and lenses lay sprawled across a 20-foot table.

“What they do in the TV show is, they send the atoms over a long distance,” says David Hucul, who recently got his Ph.D. with Monroe. “But, really — if you could build anything, you wouldn’t send the atoms.”

That’s because atoms are big and heavy, and you don’t really need them, he explains. The laws of physics say that any atom of carbon is identical to any other atom of carbon.

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Is There Really A Psychopath Gene?

A single gene has been linked with being a psychopath — and it’s very controversial – reports Tanya Lewis at Business Insider:

As of yet, no single factor can explain what causes people to behave in ways labeled psychopathic. But research suggests our genes may play a role.

Edward Hopper's The House by the Railroad, used as inspiration for the look of the Bates house in the movie "Psycho."

Edward Hopper’s The House by the Railroad, used as inspiration for the look of the Bates house in the movie “Psycho.”

 

One gene in particular is linked with an increased risk of violent or aggressive behavior, studies have found.

Known as MAOA (monoamine oxidase A), this “warrior gene” controls the production of a protein that breaks down brain-signaling chemicals like dopamine, noradrenalin, and serotonin, which all influence mood.

But the idea of a “psychopath” gene remains controversial.

A gene for psychopathy?

People with a variant of the gene, called MAOA-L, produce less of the protein that breaks down these signaling chemicals, which in turn causes them to build up.

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The Oil Industry is Going Solar

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Zachary Shahan writes at Climate Crock of the Week:

There’s no way around it — the future of energy is solar energy. But here’s the fun part: the future starts now.

Solar panels have been on the market for decades, but saying solar panels of today are the same as solar panels of the 1990s is like saying phones of today are like phones of the 1990s. True, you can’t play Tetris on your solar panels or listen to music via them, but who wants to climb onto a record-hot roof to do that anyway? Getting back to the central point here, it’s that the cost of solar has fallen off a cliff, and solar power is increasingly the cheapest option around. (see graph above).

Solar power prices are falling so fast that it’s hard for just about anyone to keep up. Last year, many of us jumped for joy as a record-low solar PPA was signed in Austin, Texas (for 5 cents/kWh).

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Archeologists discover 400-year-old remains of Jamestown, Virginia colonial leaders

Loney Abrams writes at Hopes&Fears:

Archeologists have unearthed the human remains of four colonial leaders in Jamestown, Virginia. The bodies were buried more than 400 years ago near what had been the US’ first Protestant church, and are believed to belong to some of the earliest English settlers in America. It is the same church where Pocahontas married John Rolfe, which marked the beginning of a peace treaty between the Powhatan Indians and colonists. Archeologists had discovered the remains in November 2013 but they wanted to trace and confirm the findings before making an announcement.

The most interesting aspect of the discovery, however, was not of the bones themselves, but of the relics that were buried with the bodies. For example, on top of the coffin belonging to Capt. Gabriel Archer, a nemesis of the one-time colony leader John Smith, archeologists found a Catholic reliquary that contained bone fragments and a container for holy water, raising questions of whether Archer was part of a secret cell within the Protestant community, or even a Catholic spy on behalf of the Spanish.… Read the rest

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Our World is a Metaphorical Representation of Higher Dimensional Space

Transdimensional Architecture IEarlier in the year, an essay of mine ended up being featured in a compendium of psychedelic writing compiled by Graham Hancock. It’s an incredibly worthwhile read that I recommend checking out to anyone (The Divine Spark, which you can pick up here). I could actually go on and on about the thing. In particular, Graham’s stories of dealing with dark ayahuasca entities and the piece about the prevailing concept of the holy trinity throughout various mystical traditions (The Soul Cluster: Reconsideration of a Millenia Old Concept, if you’re curious). The funny thing about this is that I’m also an Occultist and if my work was featured in an Occult compilation, I probably wouldn’t even mention it to anyone. Man, what passes for the Occult these days is some seriously embarrassing bullshit. Monotheism won. They slandered the art of summoning your Holy Guardian Entities with a dark creepster veneer so effectively that it’s become an absolute fucking joke.… Read the rest

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EmDrive Back in the News

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Paul Gilster via Centauri Dreams:

Martin Tajmar (Dresden University of Technology) offers a paper entitled “Direct Thrust Measurements of an EmDrive and Evaluation of Possible Side-Effects” in his presentation on apparent thrust produced by the test device. As he told WIRED (which announced that The ‘impossible’ EmDrive could reach Pluto in 18 months), the current work will not close the story. From the paper itself:

The nature of the thrusts observed is still unclear… Our test campaign can not confirm or refute the claims of the EmDrive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurements methods used so far. Nevertheless, we do observe thrusts close to the magnitude of the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena. Next steps include better magnetic shielding, further vacuum tests and improved EmDrive models with higher Q factors and electronics that allow tuning for optimal operation.

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Curiosity Roving Through the Claims of NASA

“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” — Stanley Kubrick

Q: Do you trust the President of the United States?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the CIA?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the FBI?
A: No.

Q:What about the Congress?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the Federal Reserve?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the IRS?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the NSA?
A: No.

Q: How about the TSA?
A: No.

Q: Do you trust the Supreme Court?
A: No.

Q: Ok, then. If you don’t trust any of these other government institutions, why then would you believe anything that comes from the mouth of NASA?

Above is an excerpt from a conversation I had the other day with a close friend about the stunning images of the recent fly-by of Pluto, taken from NASA’s satellite “New Horizons.” The persistent “No” I received from her was the patented response I expected, considering the general distrust people have in our politicians, world leaders, and governmental institutions these days.… Read the rest

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Antibiotic resistance doesn’t just make bacteria harder to kill – it can actually make them stronger

Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. CDC/ Janice Haney Carr

Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. CDC/ Janice Haney Carr

Gerald Pier, Harvard Medical School and David Skurnik, Harvard Medical School

Antibiotics are wonderful drugs for treating bacterial infections. Unfortunately, disease-causing bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics that are meant to kill them. This is called selective pressure – the bacteria that are susceptible to the drug are killed, but the ones that withstand the antibiotic survive and proliferate. This process results in the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains.

Once a bacterial strain is resistant to several different antibiotics, it has become a multi-drug-resistant (MDR) microbe. When there are virtually no antibiotics available to treat an infected patient, a microbe is said to be “pan-resistant.“ These strains are becoming more and more common in hospitals and in the community at large. You might have heard of some of them: for instance, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE) and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).… Read the rest

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Artist’s Grotesqueries Confront Biotechnology

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Australian artist Patricia Piccinini creates hybrid sculptures that echo modern science’s obsession with biotechnology and bioengineering. Her work is currently being exhibited the Galway International Arts Festival in Galway, Ireland. She’s known for her “Skywhale” hot air balloon, which is basically a giant turtle with draping nipples.

Read more about her work at Beautiful Decay and Hi Fructose.

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