Friday, March 20

Religion is "Natural"

Or at least a natural thought, while evolutionary thinking is unnatural, according to psychological researchers - although that doesn't make it right (from
Presently I’m attending a small symposium on “Belief and Reason” at Trinity College, Cambridge, being sponsored by the Perrott-Warrick Fund. It’s a rather intimate affair with mostly cognitive scientists discussing the latest research and theory on everything from paranormal beliefs to free will to the placebo effect. One of the standout talks Monday was by Yale psychologist Paul Bloom, who gave a presentation titled “Is Religion Natural?” He focused on the puzzling case of creationist beliefs.

As Bloom pointed out, many people believe that one’s acceptance of evolutionary theory boils down to whether that person was indoctrinated as a child by religious parents or educated by science-minded teachers. But it's not that simple. By her own accounts, even Helen Keller, who was born deaf and blind, spontaneously pondered, “Who made the sky, the sea, everything?” prior to being taught how to communicate. As a retrospective anecdote, the example should be taken with a pinch of salt, as they say—but if true, it’s quite something, since her linguistic isolation meant that Keller hadn’t a culturally transmitted concept of God to revert to but nevertheless intuited ‘someone’ had created the world. Read more...

Fat Firefighters

From 60 Second Science:
Think firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are in tip-top shape? Not necessarily, according to a new study published today in the journal Obesity. Researchers found that 77 percent of emergency responder recruits in Boston are either overweight or obese, a result they say is likely similar in other cities and towns.

"Both firefighters and EMTs have pretty significant risks of cardiovascular events [such as heart attacks] as a result of the physical demands of the job…They are also at risk for musculoskeletal injuries," says study co-author Antonios Tsismenakis, a medical student at Boston University School of Medicine. Carrying additional pounds magnifies these risks, he adds. "If an emergency responder goes down," he says, "that has potential implications for his or her colleagues, and for you and me." Read more...

"A Green Gold Rush"

There's a green gold rush on Capitol Hill.

With Congress plowing toward legislation on energy and climate, lobbyists and their clients are swarming House and Senate offices. They are booking up conference rooms, shaking hands and submitting proposals for financial help and policy changes.

There are hundreds of hired guns now working on the energy issues. They represent a swath of diverse and sometimes conflicting interests, from small companies turning algae into oil to traditional utilities and big corporations, including Google, United Parcel Service and Safeway.

"What's happening in energy and carbon, what's being contemplated is nothing short of transformational," said Steve McBee, CEO of McBee Strategic Consulting, a lobbying firm with 31 clients interested in energy. Bills planned on energy and climate in Congress, he said, represent "an attempt to fundamentally shift the market."

"There's enough momentum and political will," McBee said, adding that Congress and President Obama "have a fighting chance of getting it done."


March Madness (the science of)

A few tools that just may help you make your picks:

Alternative Biofuels

More on alternatives to corn ethanol:

Americans burn through 140 billion gallons of gasoline a year. And even if drivers switch to more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, the nation’s fuel needs are expected to increase by a fifth over the next 20 years, thanks to dramatic increases in car and airplane use. Which is why, in addition to developing solar, wind and geothermal energy, policy makers, including President Barack Obama, are advocating biofuels to transform the transportation culture.

They’re not talking about ethanol from corn, however, which has already proved wasteful and environmentally damaging. Instead eyes are on a handful of high-tech labs around the U.S. that are perfecting ways to make the equivalent of gasoline and diesel from the lowest life-forms on the totem pole: yeast, algae and bacteria. The challenge is to make enough of these fuels economically and in a form compatible with today’s vehicles.

Once the next generation of biofuels becomes available, you could swing by the local energy station and fill up on a liquid that is virtually identical to gasoline. It would be made by U.S. companies, not shipped from the Middle East. And even though biofuels release carbon dioxide when they are burned, the organisms they are made from draw an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide from the air—making biofuels essentially carbon-neutral. Read more...

Going Green: 9 Inventive Products

From shampoo to basketballs, there's something for everyone (from
Buying Green: 9 Environmentally Inventive Products:
Carbon friendlier alternatives for your life

Wednesday, March 18

Back Before You Know It: Giant Panda Shows

Giant Panda will be back soon, so here's a heads-up on the local shows:
Thu Apr 2, 2009
Ithaca, NY
9:00 PM Ages 18+ $8. 607-272-1370

Thu Apr 9, 2009
Buffalo, NY

9:00 PM
$12. 716-886-8539

Fri Apr 10, 2009
Rochester, NY
Water Street Music Hall

8:00 PM
Ages 16+ $10 adv/$15 day of. (585-546-3887)

Tour dates have also been added to the GPGDS section of the sidebar for your convenience

How to Make Solar Cells From Donuts and Tea

Check it out, simply amazing:


From "Jargon Watch":
Valedictocracy n. Obama's America, a nation run by onetime high school valedictorians and Ivy Leaguers. Columnist David Brooks coined the term in praise of the administration's elitism, but some are wary of a White House staffed with wonkish "Obamatrons."

Next-Gen Bloodtests Will Read DNA

DNA on the Loose: Next-Gen Blood Tests Tap Free-Floating Genetic Material:
Tests using floating nucleic acids could diagnose disease, monitor pregnancy and weed out "mad" cows

Free-floating messages in the bloodstream could soon provide a unique window into the body. Researchers worldwide are racing to decipher circulating genetic material for better ways to diagnose disease, monitor pregnancy, and even improve food safety.

Circulating DNA and RNA—temporary gene copies that act as blueprints for protein production—was first discovered in 1948. Researchers still do not fully understand how the free-floating genetic fragments (chemically referred to as nucleic acids) survive outside the protective barriers of cells, but recent technological advances now allow scientists to comb through these tiny messages for clues about human health.

Traditional genetic screens, such as paternity tests and criminal profiling, utilize the abundant DNA stored in the nuclei of circulating blood cells. Although these tests shed light on a person's genetic inheritance, they do not provide insights on the current health of specific tissues and organs—information that could potentially be gleaned from the free nucleic acids. Read more...

Check Out the Size of Those Eggs!

Meet Noblella pygmaea (AKA Noble's pygmy frog), the smallest frog in the Andes with some very interesting traits (from
The Noble's pygmy frog is not only the tiniest frog species known in the Andes but also ranks among the smallest vertebrates in the world...For comparison, the smallest known frog south of the equator, the Brazilian Gold Frog, is about 0.39 inch (9.8 millimeters) and the smallest vertebrate is currently thought to be Paedocypris, a genus of Indonesian fish, which has been measured at 0.3 inch (7.9 millimeters). The size of this mountain-dwelling frog is surprising to researchers because most species that live at higher altitudes are larger than members of the same or similar genus that live closer to sea level.

...the N. pygmaea female lays only two eggs at a their largest, each egg is about two thirds her size and, unlike her cousins, she sticks around to ward off hungry insects and other predators. Also, as opposed to most amphibians, this teensy frog lays her eggs on land (usually in leaf litter or moss) rather than in water. That means that the young emerge not as aquatic tadpoles but as fully formed froglets, ready to hop along into adulthood.

The Noble's pygmy frog is the most recent of more than 10 new species of frog that have been discovered in the past two years in the high Andes near Cusco. The biodiverse eastern side of the mountains is of particular interest to researchers, who expect to continue turning up new species.

California To Use Stimulus For Green Initiatives

An example of the stimulus being used the right way (from
California plans to spend nearly $300 million in federal stimulus cash on a wide range of energy projects, a key state official said yesterday.

The California Energy Commission is prepared to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, boost energy efficiency or renewable energy and create "green" jobs, said Panama Bartholomy, an adviser to commission Chairwoman Karen Douglas. Read more...

Are Religious People Scared To Die?

Check out this post from 60 Second Science about a study that found religious people are more likely to pursue intensive treatment to prolong their lives (seems counter-intuitive to me, wouldn't people who believe in an afterlife be less afraid to die - that is unless they think they're going to hell):
Terminally ill cancer patients who lean heavily on religion to deal with their disease are about three times more likely than others in their shoes to receive aggressive treatment during their final days, according to a new study.

"Patients who rely more heavily on religion to cope are more likely to receive intensive life-prolonging care at the end of life," says Andrea Phelps, a senior internal medicine resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Mass. and co-author of the study published online yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Read more...

Seven Exemplary Buildings Provide "Green"print for Environmentally Friendly Design

Check out this post and slide show from of some very cool, and green, buildings:

Our homes and offices account for more than one third of all greenhouse gases emitted by human activity—the bulk of it for heating in winter and air-conditioning in summer, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Taking simple steps such as caulking windows, installing thicker insulation and double-paned windows, and using energy-efficient appliances can cut the energy used in a given building by as much as 50 percent. In fact, such energy-saving measures in the U.S. alone could negate the need for 66 large coal-fired power plants, according to a study by McKinsey Global Institute, an economic think tank and global consultancy.
Yet, only 2 percent of commercial real estate and 0.3 percent of new homes are considered to be "green buildings"—defined as "environmentally preferable practices and materials in the design, location, construction, operation and disposal of buildings," in a 2008 report by the Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). The CEC is an international organization established by Canada, Mexico and the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to address continent-wide environmental issues.

Still, from the Bank of America building in Midtown Manhattan that boasts recycled and renewable construction materials to the Olympic edifices in Beijing, like the Aquatics Center that captures rainwater, greener buildings are beginning to rise.

Alternative Energy Letdowns

From 60 Second Science:
As the call for a clean-energy savior—to wash away our fossil-fuel sins—grows louder, the number of questionable candidates swells. Should we be looking to photovoltaic or fusion? Turbines or tides? With thanks to readers who responded to our Twitter call for favorite alt-energy duds, here's a roundup of five ideas that may one day succeed, but aren't going to save the globe from a climate calamity anytime soon. Find out what they are...

New Program Will Pay Hawaiian Farmers to Preserve Endangered Species

Thanks to its status as the world's most isolated island chain, Hawaii boasts hundreds of species that don't exist anywhere else on Earth. But because of that isolation, and the threat caused by invasive species, Hawaii is also the endangered species capital of the world, with "more endangered species per square mile on these islands than any other place on the planet," according to the web site of Honolulu's Bishop Museum.

State and federal officials are hoping to change that with a new program -- the first of its kind -- that will pay Hawaii farmers over the next 20 years to plant native species on unused portions of their land...

Under the program's guidelines, farmers may convert a portion of their pastures and croplands to "native trees, grasses, and other vegetation through application of conservation practices," such as planting hardwood trees, creating forest buffers to improve natural water flow, and restoring wetlands. Eligible land must be physically capable of plantings and adjacent to streams, rivers and lakes. The program aims to convert up to 15,000 acres to create these enhanced habitats over the next five years and maintain them for a total of 20 years.

Landowners will be partially reimbursed for their expenses and will also receive annual incentives and payments to maintain the replanted and restored wetlands. The land will still belong to the farmers, but under terms of the program, they will receive "rent payments" to keep the areas from being otherwise developed...

The feds will fork over some $54 million and the state the remaining $13 million over 20 years for the conservation program.

A report published last year by Hawaii's Division of Forestry and Wildlife in the journal Biological Conservation says the state received just 4 percent (or $30 million) of annual federal conservation funds for endangered birds from 1996 to 2004, even though 31 percent of the U.S.'s endangered birds are native to the islands.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officially lists 329 Hawaiian species as endangered or threatened. The Bush administration last year proposed protecting an additional 48 Hawaiian species -- 45 plants, two birds and one insect; a final decision is pending.

Full article

"Obama's Real Test"

Another interesting and informative article courtesy of NY Times op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman, putting the current financial crisis into terms even a neophyte can understand:
When you hear a sitting U.S. senator call for bankers to commit suicide, you know that the anger level in the country is reaching a “Bonfire of the Vanities,” get-out-the-pitchforks danger level. It is dangerous for so many reasons, but most of all because this real anger about A.I.G. could overwhelm the still really difficult but critically important things we must do in the next few weeks to defuse this financial crisis.
(The) plan will begin by using up the $250 billion or so left in TARP funds to start removing the toxic assets from the banks. But ultimately, to get the scale of bank repair we need, it will likely require some $750 billion more.

The plan makes sense, and, if done right, it might even make profits for U.S. taxpayers. But in this climate of anger, it will take every bit of political capital in Barack Obama’s piggy bank — as well as Michelle’s, Sasha’s and Malia’s — to sell it to Congress and the public.

The job can’t be his alone. Everyone who has a stake in stabilizing and reforming the system is going to have to suck it up.
The only person with the clout to sell something this big is President Obama. The bankers and Congress will have to help; every citizen will have to swallow hard. But ultimately, Mr. Obama will have to persuade people that this is the least unfair and most effective solution. It will be his first big leadership test. It is coming soon, and it is coming to a theater — and a bank — near you.
Read more about the solution, including Friedman's call for "the A.I.G. bankers to take one for the country and give up their bonuses" and a clear, understandable explanation of what went wrong...If you aren't a banker, and don't exactly understand the whole situation, this article should help (and Friedman even shows a hint of hesitant optimism).

Prozac Cures Promiscuity

I posted a few weeks ago about John Tierney's column from the NY Times, but I just ran across this complimentary blog-post from his blog, TierneyLab, check it out:

Would you rather have a love potion that made you more likely to become attached to someone else, or a love vaccine that stopped you from falling in love with the wrong person?

In my Findings column, I make the case for a love vaccine and discuss an essay about the neurochemistry of love in the new issue of Nature by Larry Young, a neuroscientist who studies prairie voles at the Yerkes National Primate Research Centers at Emory University. He says that pair-bonding in humans (as in voles, one of the few other monogamous mammals) can be enhanced or suppressed by tinkering with brain hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin, and predicts that we’ll be seeing new drugs to do just that.

This doesn’t mean there will soon be magical elixirs causing you to instantly fall in love with anyone. Love isn’t just a response to raging hormones; our rational processes have something to do with it, too. But drugs could make a difference. In fact, some of the antidepressants now in use are suppressing the neurochemical processes that stimulate romance and attachment, according to this article by Helen Fisher and J. Anderson Thomson Jr. (pdf). When I asked Dr. Fisher about a future love vaccine, she laughed and said it could be indeed be useful — and that there are already pharmaceutical tricks for protecting yourself against unwanted infatuation and attachment.

“When you take these seratonin enhancing antidepressants, you can jeopardize your ability to form long-term attachments,” said Dr. Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University. She has discussed the neurochemistry of romance (and her experiments in scanning the brains of lovers) in her 2004 book, “Why We Love.” She told me that love is like an addiction — wonderful when it’s going well, but also potentially dangerous:

It’s possible to fall in love with someone just because you had sex with them, because with orgasm you get a flood of oxytocin and vasopressin that can cause you to feel attached to the person. Casual sex is not always casual. Someone might be happy, with a lovely wife or husband, and then this brain system for romantic love or attachment is triggered by someone totally inappropriate. You acquire all the characteristics of an addict. You come obsessed; you distort reality; you do dangerous things; you crave the person, you have withdrawal symptoms.

How to avoid that fate when, say, you find yourself tempted to have a fling at a convention? “Take enough Prozac beforehand,” Dr. Fisher said, “and your emotions will be so blunted that you won’t even get into bed with anyone.”

Do Prozac users agree? The Lab welcome any reports on ways to fend off romantic madness, and any thoughts on the merits or demerits of a love vaccine. (Or, if you prefer, on a love potion that would promote attachment, like the “commitment pill” envisioned by my colleague Olivia Judson or the “monogamy injection” discussed by my colleague Walter Kirn.)

The War On Drugs

From TierneyLab:

Which way is the Obama administration heading in dealing with illict drugs? It depends which speaker you heeded at Wednesday’s ceremony announcing that Gil Kerlikowske, the Seattle police chief, will become the White House’s new drug czar.

As my colleague David Stout reported, Mr. Kerlikowske said at the ceremony that “the success of our efforts to reduce the flow of drugs is largely dependent on our ability to reduce demand for them.” That approach jibes with study after study (like this one by Peter David Boyum and Peter Reuter for the American Enterprise Institute) concluding that interdiction has failed and recommending shifting emphasis to a public-health strategy of treatment and demand-reduction. It sounds like a break from the hard-line enforcement strategies pursued by Mr. Kerlikowske’s predecessor, John P. Walters (who failed to meet his goal of reducing drug use, as I noted).

But Mr. Kerlikowske was introduced at the ceremony by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who spoke enthusiastically about using law enforcement to stop drugs. “Quite frankly,” Mr. Biden said, “more cops on the street is one of the best ways to keep drugs off the street.” Mr. Biden also hailed his own role in increasing federal grants to local police departments, a policy that he and Mr. Obama had promised to expand as part of the war against drugs. Read more...

Tuesday, March 17

More on the FDA Nominations

President Obama has made two sterling choices to lead the embattled Food and Drug Administration. His nominees, both physicians, have the skills and experience to repair the damaged agency and restore its ability to protect American consumers.
The two nominees will face daunting problems at the F.D.A., including a shortage of scientific expertise, antiquated information technology, failures to protect the public from defective medical devices and drugs, and gaping holes in its programs to screen imported products and find the sources of food-borne illnesses.

Strong leadership is essential. But to keep American consumers safe, the F.D.A. will also need more authority and a large increase in financing from Congress. Read more about the two nominees...

Despite Economy - Brain Fitness Booming

To commemorate Brain Awareness Week, Posit Science today released a report showing that despite the collapsing economy, consumers are still spending their money on keeping their brains sharp. The report ties growth in the brain fitness industry to growth in the publication of studies in science and medical journals, which now show that certain types of cognitive training yields benefits. Experts caution that consumers should look for brain fitness products shown to work in clinical trials. Read more...

Why do celebrities act crazy? They are.

From Wired Science:
Celebrities' bad behavior is rooted in mental illness, according to "Dr. Drew" Pinsky, who is best known as the host of Celebrity Rehab and Loveline - a nationally syndicated radio show that invites listeners to call in with questions about sex and drugs.

In his latest book, The Mirror Effect (on bookstore shelves Tuesday), he spells out a theory that stars are predisposed to narcissistic personality disorder long before they become famous. Their dysfunctional behavior is rewarded by Hollywood and portrayed as normal by the press. Read more...

"Twitter this: will juror tweeting lead to new trial?"

Avid tweeter Jonhathan Powell of Fayetteville, Ark., will have his name in the New York Times tomorrow. How do we know this? From his Twitter feed, of course. That would be the same feed he used last month to tweet about a trial while a member of the jury, which pleased his Twitter fans but prompted the defense attorney in the case to seek a new trial. On what grounds? That Powell's tweets allegedly showed he was biased against defendant Russell Wright (and his company Stoam Holdings, a building materials company in Fayetteville, Ark.), who was found guilty of mismanaging investors' funds, The Morning News reports. The jury awarded investors who sued Stoam $12.6 million. Read more...

Facebook Makes Computers Greener

Peruse Facebook and you'll find dozens of applications to add to your profile that encourage environmental and energy conservation. Many offer obvious advice ("use LED bulbs"), but a new app offers to green up the PCs Facebook members rely on to access the social networking site.

"Green Your PC," developed by Redwood City, Calif.-based SupportSoft, Inc., offers to help configure settings including your computer's monitor timeout, disk timeout and standby mode so that they comply with Energy Star and recommendations. Users can do this either by downloading a piece of SupportSoft software (an .exe file) that automatically performs the configurations or by following a tutorial written by SupportSoft that instructs users on how to change their PC's configurations themselves. Read more...

Politics and the Environment

Tricky diagnoses abound, whether the field is medicine, auto repair or high finance. For climate change the problem is magnified: Those who have spent decades diagnosing the problem have no power to write the prescription.

Scientists have the knowledge, but politicians and social institutions hold the power. Channels between them are rudimentary at best, many analysts say. Without a fundamental shift in emphasis, they caution, the scientific infrastructure so painstakingly erected to identify the problem will find itself impotent to ensure that global warming will be mitigated and civilization will adapt to its inevitable impacts.

"It's not clear to me that climate science has ever been well-aligned with social institutions that will have to respond to climate change," said Daniel Sarewitz, director of Arizona State University's Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes. "What we're beginning to see now, as the debate over the first-order conclusions of climate change science wanes, is that the two actually have nothing to do with each other."
What's the solution? Read more to find out.

"Sustainable Eating: The Low-Carbon Diet"

Can we save the earth one stir-fry at a time? I was certainly dubious when I first saw the book, Cool Cuisine: Taking the Bite Out of Global Warming. Still, the lush cover photography of a verdant table setting and a bowl of farm-fresh eggs drew me in. As I flipped through the pages, I was a bit surprised to see they were packed with clean, colorful graphics and sidebars explaining everything from the atmospheric carbon cycle to the role of bees in agriculture and step-by-step instructions for successful composting. Each chapter concluded with a set of tasty-sounding recipes, and the copious endnotes had detailed references.

Was this a cookbook or a climate change guide? Or both? Intrigued, I started reading. Read more...

Daily Show Covers the End of the War on Science


Monday, March 16

Traffic Linked to Heart Attacks

A new study says traffic can increase your risk of heart attack by up to three times (from 60 Second Science):
The study, released Friday at the American Heart Association's Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention (in Palm Harbor, Fla.), adds weight to a growing body of evidence that traffic hikes heart attack risk, says lead study author Annette Peters, an epidemiologist at the Institute of Epidemiology at Helmholtz Zentrum Muchen in Munich, Germany. The reason? Not sure, Peters says. Read more...

Green Beer

You have probably heard of green buildings, green cars and, perhaps, even green phones. But were you aware that green beer is flowing from the taps of some U.S. breweries...? Among the leaders of the movement is Lucky Labrador Brewing Company in Portland, Ore., which for the past year has been saving big bucks by using solar energy to heat water used in the brewing process.

Lucky Labrador's first green beer, "Solar Flare Ale," was an instant sensation when it was introduced in February 2008, according to brewery co-owner Gary Geist. Sales spiked in the month following the beer's debut, Geist says. But, he notes that going solar is more about long-term benefits than about temporary sales spurts. Read more...
Click here for a link to a list of good American organic beers.

Be Amazing: How to Destroy the World With Nanotechnology

Supercharged Recharge

A new technology may lead to batteries that charge in seconds (from Wired Science):

In energy storage, there has always been a trade-off between the amount of energy a material could store and how quickly you could discharge it. Batteries were pretty good at storing energy (although not nearly as good as oil), but getting energy into and out of them was tough. Ultracapacitors, and their cousins, supercapacitors, can deliver a lot of charge really quickly, but it takes 20 times more of their materials to store the same energy as a comparable battery.

The new battery material appears to solve that problem by creating a "fast-lane" for ions to move around the lithium iron phosphate material. By applying a special surface coating to the old material, they allow the ions to speed around the battery at rates that are nearly unimaginable. Read more...

"Visualizing the Bible"

One of Wired Science's "Finest Science Images of 2008":
All 1,189 chapters of the Bible are depicted as a bar graph along the bottom of the illustration - the length of each bar is proportional to the number of verses in the chapter (books alternate in color between white and light grey). Rendered above this are 63,779 cross references, each represented by a single arc connecting two pieces of the text; different colors are used to denote varying distances between connected chapters. By Chris Harrison, Carnegie Mellon University; Christoph Römhild, North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

"The Pursuit of Knowledge Has a Shape"

From Wired Science:
By crunching data from more than a billion user interactions on scholarly databases, Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers produced a high-resolution map of the relationships between different fields of science. Read more...

"Brain Scanners Know Where You've Been"

Researchers were able to determine where a person was standing in a room by scanning their brain (from Wired Science):
"We could read their spatial memories, so to speak," said study co-author Eleanor Maguire, a University College, London, cognitive neuroscientist. "There must be a structure to how this is coded in the neurons. Otherwise we couldn't have predicted this." Read more...

The Skies are Dimming!

From Wired Science:

Earth's skies have dimmed since the mid-1970s, as airborne pollutants scatter the sun's rays and turn blue skies into a milky haze.

The effect was quantified in a study published on Thursday in Science, and widely covered by the press. But the study explained the effect with graphs, and stories only described a phenomena for which words aren't enough. Read more...

Memory Switch

We may eventually be able to flip a "memory switch" to activate a region of our brain that could be necessary to remember things (from Wired Science):
...the new study, in Proceedings of the National Academies of Science on Monday, shows a signal that appears to precede the formation of any memory type. It could be an all-purpose memory switch, determining when the brain enters a favorable encoding state, roughly akin to the overwrite tab on an old-fashioned floppy disk. Read more...

New Panda Show

Check out the latest available Giant Panda show. Good sound quality, nice set list (including one of my favorite songs - Higher Ground Dub (Rachel's New Dub), a particularly good version of "Pockets," a sweet new melodica dub, and by far the best version of "Seasons Change" I have ever heard!), but short (10 songs; appr. 47 min.):
Live @ The Note
(photo by Sara Bobeldyk; cartoon by ant AKA PNDK)

In the news yet again

The coolest fish ever is in the news again:

Sunday, March 15

New FDA Chief

Obama has chosen Margaret Hamburger to run the Food and Drug Administration. Find out more...
(picture from 60 Second Science)

The Future of the World Wide Web

A podcast length video from

"The Next Really Cool Thing"

An article by Thomas Friedman about a clean energy source consisting of lasers that heat up hydrogen pellets to 800 million degrees Fahrenheit (hotter than the center of the sun!)

No "God Spot"

A recent article discusses findings which dispel the myth that there is a single "God Spot" in the brain. In fact, religious thoughts originate from many different regions of the brain...Check it out (from 60 Second Science).

"Are we freeloaders if we install solar?"

An article from 60 Second Science about some of the less discussed issues regarding solar power.

One Step Closer to a Wind Farm Near Cape Cod


The New Me

This is mostly for my sister and brother-in-law:
Before & After