Welcome to Sott.net
Sat, 06 Feb 2016
The World for People who Think

Science & Technology


Toxic algae from the island of Guam may hint to a treatment for dementia

Cyanobacteria produce the BMAA toxin and cause blue-green blooms of algae
Scientists say they now have good evidence in animals that exposure to a toxin from algae can trigger dementia-like changes in the brain.

If the US team is right, they may have found a new route towards treating and preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's .

Their work, in the Proceedings B journal, lends weight to a scientific theory experts have been chasing for decades.

The story began in the 1950s on a small Pacific Island called Guam.

Arrow Down

Coming next - Genetically modified behaviors?

© Cell.com
Physics simulation of 5 megabases of DNA forming loops and domains.
Quebec - The new theory for germline guidelines is based on IVF screening practices, and it's pretty damn confronting. Forget Frankenstein; this is a whole new order of difficulty with a lot of new dangers.

In a society where accountability is virtually non-existent, it's also a very high-risk issue. The ability to edit genes and deal with genetic disorders with genetic screening is either a horror story in progress or a major achievement depending on your point of view. Just about everybody has pointed out that an arbitrary determination of genetic makeup is untrustworthy by definition.

Big money will be in play, and that money usually wants to make a lot more of itself. Greed reproduces itself, too.

Given the environment of truly irrational pricing and other depraved evil spirits/scumbags in medical industries, why should these guys be allowed to participate, and make more money, editing the human race?

Not to detract from this whole new horizon of fascinating science in any way — the basic process of editing genes in IVF is supposed to manage some truly hideous, crippling, genetic conditions. Fair enough, you'd think. It's a practical way of managing a lot of otherwise catastrophic medical conditions.

Inheritable germline genetic modifications, however, raise big issues and potentially big problems. Germline is defined by Google as "a series of germ cells each descended or developed from earlier cells in the series, regarded as continuing through successive generations of an organism." Add to this new tech related to genetic modifications, which has literally exploded in the last decade or so since the Human Genome Project, and the whole issue of gene editing gets very tricky, very quickly.

That means that germline edits are permanent and will be carried on in new generations. In human terms, that could mean "selecting or de-selecting" things like human traits, according to researchers at the Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University in Quebec.

Umm.... Turning human behaviors on and off? Sounds like a reliable way of causing multiple disasters, doesn't it? Some human behaviors may deserve to be turned off, but who do you trust with this ability? Big Pharma? Big Medicine? Big Politics? The usual insufferable pig-ignorant/do nothing/hate everybody "elites" of every generation? Would you trust a society which wouldn't do well in comparison with a dunghill for rational behavior of its own?

Imagine inheritable behaviors and other characteristics based on the whims of some claque of ideologically and/or money-driven people whose technical knowledge will be superseded in hours or days and whose view of humanity is as rational as a politician's understanding of ethics and accountability.

The inevitable result would be the "genetic fashions" of the day vs real human needs and rights. This would be the culture of gene editing if it doesn't have guidelines and those guidelines can't be enforced. The need for guidelines isn't in question. The question is whether those guidelines can work at all. There are real dangers in this scenario.


Technology overpowering us: People keep going to this home searching for their lost cellphones — and nobody knows why

© Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post
Christina Lee and Michael Saba live in an Atlanta house where several strangers come accusing them of having stolen their phones. Strangely, the phones are never there, and it's because missing-phone apps are mysteriously routing to this home.
For months now, angry strangers have been showing up at Christina Lee and Michael Saba's front door with a curious demand: "Give me back my stolen phone!"

Sometimes, families will show up; other times, it's groups of friends or a random person with a police officer in tow, according to Fusion. Despite using different service providers, everyone who bangs on their door has been led to the suburban Atlanta home by a phone-tracking app.

The problem — as the couple desperately tries to explain visitors — is that the missing phones aren't at the house and never have been.

They are not, in fact, thieves. Saba is an engineer; Lee is a journalist.

The pair doesn't understand why exactly, but both Android and iPhone users on various networks are being directed to their house by phone-tracking apps.

Comment: Another small but important sign of how the pace of technology seems to outstrip the foresight and resources required to employ technology wisely.


Study finds genes that influence cognitive skills are associated with diseases such as Alzheimer's and schizophrenia

© National Human Genome Research Institute / Reuters
People with better health are more likely to have higher levels of intelligence, according to a new study which found that genes associated with diseases such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, and autism also affect cognitive functions.

The study, conducted by an international team led by the University of Edinburgh, analyzed data from around 100,000 people listed in the UK Biobank. The Biobank contains genetic data, and health and cognitive variables from more than 500,000 participants recruited between 2006 and 2010.

The team's mission was to investigate whether illness causes a loss of cognitive functioning, or if existing cognitive impairment symbolizes a higher risk of health problems, or if the same cause is responsible for both.

The cognitive level of the 100,000 people was assessed through mental test data - including reaction time, memory, and verbal-numerical reasoning - and compared with 22 health indicators and the results of their genome.


The kaleidoscopic microbiome of your mouth

© Mark Welch et al, 2016, PNAS
Magenta Corynebacterium filaments and green Streptococcus spheres.
The study of the human microbiome—the booming and much-hyped quest to understand the microbes that share our bodies—began in the mouth. Specifically, it began with dental plaque.

In 1683, Antony van Leeuwenhoek, the first human ever to see bacteria, became the first human ever to see his own bacteria. Untrained as a scholar but insatiably curious, he removed some of the thick plaque at the bottom of his teeth and examined it with his own hand-crafted microscopes. He saw multitudes of living things, "very prettily a-moving", from spheres that spun like a top to rods that darted through water like fish. Enthralled, he soon started collecting plaque from the local citizenry and finding similar microbes within.


Hooked on cheese: Study finds casein in cheese triggers opioid receptors in brain that produce feelings linked to hard drug addiction

© Gettty
If you regularly find yourself hovering around the cheese board at the Christmas dinner table, helping yourself to seconds or thirds, there may be a scientific explanation as to why you're unable to tear yourself away.

Researchers from the University of Michigan have revealed that cheese contains a chemical found in addictive drugs.

Using the Yale Food Addiction Scale, designed to measure a person's cravings, the study found that cheese is particularly moreish because it contains casein.

The chemical, which is found in all dairy products, can trigger the brain's opioid receptors, producing a feeling of euphoria linked to those of hard drug addiction.

500 students were asked to complete a questionnaire to identify food cravings, as part of the study, with pizza topping the list as the most addictive food of all.

Comment: See also:

2 + 2 = 4

Chinese researchers develop inexpensive 'invisible ink' for increased data security

© Unknown
Ciphers and invisible ink - many of us experimented with these when we were children. A team of Chinese scientists has now developed a clever, high-tech version of "invisible ink". As reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the ink is based on carbon nitride quantum dots. Information written with this ink is not visible under ambient or UV light; however, it can be seen with a fluorescence microplate reader. The writing can be further encrypted or decrypted by quenching or recovering the fluorescence with different reagents.

Fluorescing security inks are primarily used to ensure the authenticity of products or documents, such as certificates, stock certificates, transport documents, currency notes, or identity cards. Counterfeits may cost affected companies lost profits, and the poor quality of the false products may damage their reputations. In the case of sensitive products like pharmaceuticals and parts for airplanes and cars, human lives and health may be endangered. Counterfeiters have discovered how to imitate UV tags but it is significantly harder to copy security inks that are invisible under UV light.

Researchers working with Xinchen Wang and Liangqia Guo at Fuzhou University have now introduced an inexpensive "invisible" ink that increases the security of encoded data while also making it possible to encrypt and decrypt secure information.

Arrow Down

Confined, isolated, killed: Primates used for secret 'Frankenstein-like' studies for over 15 years in Australia

© Stringer / Reuters
Hundreds of monkeys have been sent to Australia for what seem to be dubious medical experiments that raise "serious ethical questions," the local environmental authorities have warned, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

More than 370 primates have been part of the research over the past 15 years, and the scientists who conduct the tests are most probably "entirely lacking" in expertise essential to care for such animals, Australia's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has said.

Millions of dollars from research grants were used to conduct the experiments, and hospitals connected with the studies refused to disclose the details about the number of primates which have been experimented on, and how many have died or had to be killed.

Comment: See more: Bioterror lab mishaps are cloaked in secrecy

Eye 1

On the road to mind control: DARPA's new program will use a chip to connect brains to computers

© istockphoto
For additional background to the latest press release from DARPA posted in full below, I encourage you to read the following selection of linked articles where I discuss the scope and chronology of what is being studied. Therein, you will find that the U.S. BRAIN Initiative and its European counterpart, the Human Brain Project, are not spending multi-billions of dollars on neuroscience research simply to help people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and organic brain dysfunction. It is, perhaps first and foremost, a military endeavor that has wide ramifications if even 1/10th of what is being studied comes to fruition. In short, it's more about mind control than it is about brain restoration and improvement. Please keep this in mind when you read DARPA's emphasis on "new therapies."


140 years later, strange tree frog rediscovered in India

© AP
A tadpole of a frog named Frankixalus jerdonii, belonging to a newly found genus of frogs, as seen under microscope.
Last sighted in 1870, Jerdon's tree frog was thought to be long gone. But a three-year-old mission beginning in 2007 not only found the amphibian alive and well in India, new research also discovered that it belongs to a completely new genus of tree frog.

Jerdon's tree frog, also known as Frankixalus jerdonii, has a few unique quirks. The first is how the frog feeds its young. According to National Geographic, a female frog starts the process by laying her fertilized eggs in watery tree hollows. It isn't until the eggs hatch into tadpoles that things get weird.

Most tadpoles feed on plant material. However, The Verge reported that a female Jerdon's tree frog will return to her tadpoles and feed her young unfertilized eggs. The biologist who led the expedition, Sathyabhama Das Biju, told National Geographic that "It is very clear that [the tadpoles] are feeding purely on their mother's eggs."

Comment: New study finds frogs going extinct about 10K times faster than historical rate