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Fri, 29 Jul 2016
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The dual-use conundrum of gene editing

Dual-use may be best understood by considering the functions of a knife. Used against an enemy, a knife can be deadly. In the hands of a skilled surgeon, a knife may be life-saving, removing a gangrenous appendage or excising a cancerous mass.

Wikipedia defines dual-use this way: "In politics and diplomacy, dual-use is technology that can be used for both peaceful and military aims. More generally speaking, dual-use can also refer to any technology which can satisfy more than one goal at any given time."

Behind the debate over the Iran nuclear deal lurked the dual-use issue. On the one hand, there were those claiming that Iran had every right to develop nuclear power in pursuit of peaceful aims. In the other camp were those who maintained that possession of nuclear technology was a path towards developing nuclear weapons, and in the hands of a regime hostile to America's purported friend and ally, Israel, was too dangerous to be allowed to manifest.

Comment: These mad scientists have no clue as to what they are doing. One shudders to think of the abominations they could bring into being.

See also:
"On the cusp of a new era": The permanent alteration of the human gene pool using new "editing" technology


The overlooked threats of gene editing:
In reality, all genetic editing, especially when it alters the genetic material of subsequent generations, represents a potential threat to the genetic heritage of the entire planet with potential consequences we may still not fully understand. In a world where the "science is final" regarding humanity's impact on the planet's climate, demanding "urgent action" to stop or reverse it, the absence of a similar impetus behind stopping the contamination of our planet's genetic heritage seems suspiciously hypocritical if not utterly reckless and even intentional.


More bad science: fMRI bugs could make decades of research worthless

Art, not quite science.
A whole pile of "this is how your brain looks like" fMRI-based science has been potentially invalidated because someone finally got around to checking the data.

The problem is simple: to get from a high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain to a scientific conclusion, the brain is divided into tiny "voxels". Software, rather than humans, then scans the voxels looking for clusters.

When you see a claim that "scientists know when you're about to move an arm: these images prove it", they're interpreting what they're told by the statistical software.

Now, boffins from Sweden and the UK have cast doubt on the quality of the science, because of problems with the statistical software: it produces way too many false positives.

Comment: Just goes to show: when scientists claim the 'know' certain things about the mind, brain, and consciousness, take what they say with a barrel or two of salt.


Company creates power generating floor tiles

© Pavegan
British technology company Pavegan has stepped up its energy game by developing tiles that generate kinetic power from footsteps. That's right, just by treading on the tiles - which have already been installed in Brazil, Nigeria, and London, one could help power lights at soccer fields, offices, and even airports.

Huffington Post relays that the innovative tiles have been constructed to harness as much kinetic as possible. Some are triangular-shaped and have a generator at each corner. This ensures that the energy a person's footstep generates is maximized - regardless of where one steps.


New dwarf planet 2015 RR245, discovered beyond Neptune

© OSSOS/Alex Parker
2015 RR245's orbit takes it 120 times further from the Sun than the Earth is.
A new dwarf planet has been discovered beyond Neptune, in the disk of small icy worlds that resides there. The planet was discovered by an international team of astronomers as part of the Outer Solar Systems Origins Survey (OSSOS). The instrument that found it was the Canada-France Hawaii Telescope at Maunakea, Hawaii.

The planet is about 700 km in size, and has been given the name 2015 RR245. It was first sighted by Dr. JJ Kavelaars, of the National Research Council of Canada, in images taken in 2015. Dwarf planets are notoriously difficult to spot, but they're important pieces of the puzzle in tracing the evolution of our Solar System.

Dr. Michele Bannister, of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, describes the moment when the planet was discovered: "There it was on the screen— this dot of light moving so slowly that it had to be at least twice as far as Neptune from the Sun."

"The icy worlds beyond Neptune trace how the giant planets formed and then moved out from the Sun. They let us piece together the history of our Solar System. But almost all of these icy worlds are painfully small and faint: it's really exciting to find one that's large and bright enough that we can study it in detail." said Bannister.

Bizarro Earth

Hidden fault could trigger cataclysmic megaquake beneath Bangladesh, parts of east India and Myanmar

© Steckler et al, LDEO
A subduction zone lying beneath Bangladesh, Myanmar and eastern India could release a massive magnitude 8.2 to 9.0 earthquake, new research suggests. The red line shows the areas where the fault is likely locked (the solid line showing the more likely location). The glowing city lights in the picture serve as a proxy for population density.
A massive fault could trigger a cataclysmic earthquake beneath Bangladesh, parts of east India and Myanmar, new research suggests.

The hidden fault, which has been buried under miles of river sediment, could release an earthquake of magnitude 8.2 to 9.0 in one of the most densely populated regions of the world, the study found. And because researchers discovered the system relatively recently, they have no estimates for when such a megaquake could occur.

"We don't know if it's tomorrow or if it's not going to be for another 500 years," said study co-author Michael Steckler, a geophysicist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City.


Plants communicate using an internet of fungus, "wood wide web"

Hidden beneath the surface and entangled in the roots of Earth's astonishing and diverse plant life, there exists a biological superhighway linking together the members of the plant kingdom in what researchers call the "wood wide web". This organic network operates much like our internet, allowing plants to communicate, bestow nutrition, or even harm one another.

The network is comprised of thin threads of fungus known as mycelium that grow outwards underground up to a few meters from its partnering plant, meaning that all of the plant life within a region is likely tapped into the network and connected to one another. The partnership of the roots of plants and the fungi is known as mycorrhiza and is beneficial for both parties involved; plants provide carbohydrates to the fungi and in exchange, the fungi aids in gathering water and providing nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen to its partnering plant.

Comment: See also: The secret intelligence of plants
  • Sound garden: Can plants actually talk and hear?


Astronomers have found water outside solar system on coldest brown dwarf known to science

The coldest brown dwarf known to science has also become the first place where researchers have found water beyond our solar system.

For the first time astronomers have discovered water outside of the solar system in the the coldest place in the galaxy - a brown dwarf planet known as WISE 0855 which has once again made the history books.

Discovered in 2014, WISE 0855 is neither a planet nor a star, but rather a dwarf that inhabits the fourth closest solar system only a mere 7.2 light years away. Scientists were examining WISE 0855 in hopes of better understanding Jupiter and other planets that similarly have cloudy atmospheres when they discovered the planet's clouds contained water.

"We would expect an object that cold to have water clouds, and this is the best evidence that it does," said Andrew Skemer, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and the lead author of a paper detailing findings about the dwarf planet.


Pack your water bottle: The water on Mars may not be drinkable

© University of Arizona
The lineae are clearly visible as dark streaks on the slope.
It was exciting news when scientists confirmed the presence of liquid water on the surface of Mars last year. Most of the focus of Mars water is on what it means for potential life. But another important reason to find liquid water on Mars is for human consumption. If drinkable liquid water is present on Mars, crewed missions may not have to carry as much water with them, which means much lower fuel costs and cheaper Mars trips.

Unfortunately, it looks like the water on Mars may not be very useful after all.

Scientists have previously identified liquid water on Mars in features known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), which are dark streaks that run down hillsides. RSL have been observed since 2010, and last year the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter determined that RSL contain very briny liquid water. However, scientists still aren't sure where the water is coming from. A few possibilities are that the water is coming from melting ice, condensation from the atmosphere, or underground aquifers. But it's difficult to tell which.



Mysterious dark streaks on Mars support theory that it has significant amounts of near-surface water

© NASA / Reuters
NASA has examined thousands of "dark streaks" on Mars which might have formed due to liquid water, ice or vapor. The results of the study give "additional support for the notion that significant amounts of near-surface water can be found on Mars today."

The agency posted a series of photographs obtained from the Valles Marineris region near Mars' equator which depict numerous dark lines found around the planet's canyons.

According to the scientists, the mysterious streaks might be indications of the presence of either frozen or liquid water, or vapor.

Comment: Further reading:


U of Alaska Fairbanks: New investigation of 9/11's WTC7

© www.popularmechanics.com
WTC7, questions remain.

Dr. J. Leroy Hulsey, Chair of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' (UAF) Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, is conducting a study into the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 on September 11, 2001.

Dr. J. Leroy Hulsey [...] and two PH.D. research assistants are partnering with the non-profit Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth for an engineering study known as "World Trade Center Building 7 Evaluation." The researchers are using finite element modeling to evaluate the possible causes of World Trade Center Building 7's collapse.

Although questions still remain about how the two planes that hit the Twin Towers could cause the total collapse of the high-rise buildings, many 9/11 researchers now focus on the mysterious collapse of building 7. A number of 9/11 family members point to the collapse of WTC7 as a possible crack in the official story that could spark a new national conversation on the events of that day.

WTC7 was not hit by a plane that day; however, it collapsed at 5:20 p.m. according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the official cause for the collapse was office fires. A growing number of family members, activists, architects and engineers question the official theory for collapse and are seeking a new investigation into WTC7. Dr. Hulsey and the WTC7 Evaluation project hope to answer some of the remaining questions. The project is a two-year study that is being crowd-funded through Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth.

Dr. Hulsey has invited professionals from the fields of structural engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, architecture, building design and construction, physics, math, and science, as well as everyday citizens, to get involved. "Over the next year, with a team of PhD students, I will be rebuilding World Trade Center building 7, using the same drawings that were used to build it originally we will reconstruct it digitally," said Dr. J. Leroy Hulsey. "NIST says the building fell down due to office fires. Our investigation will evaluate the probability that this was the cause of the collapse."

Comment: The questions regarding 9/11, including WTC7, have never abated and rightfully so. The official narrative has never been fully accepted nor the results been put to rest. Bravo to Dr. Hulsey and his team for taking on this important investigation. Transparent and definitive findings would truly be a refreshing change for the USA.

Recommended reading: 9/11: The Ultimate Truth, by Laura Knight-Jadczyk, Joe Quinn