In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.
When our solar system was born 4.6 billion years ago, only eight percent of the potentially habitable planets that will ever form in the universe existed, according to an assessment of data collected by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescopeand Kepler space observatory and published today (Oct. 20) in an open-access paper in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
In related news, UCLA geochemists have found evidence that life probably existed on Earth at least 4.1 billion years ago, which is 300 million years earlier than previous research suggested. The research suggests life in the universe could be abundant, said Mark Harrison, co-author of the research and a professor of geochemistry at UCLA. The research was published Monday Oct. 19 in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The data show that the universe was making stars at a fast rate 10 billion years ago, but the fraction of the universe’s hydrogen and helium gas that was involved was very low. Today, star birth is happening at a much slower rate than long ago, but there is so much leftover gas available after the big bang that the universe will keep making stars and planets for a very long time to come.
Based on the survey, scientists predict that there should already be 1 billion Earth-sized worlds in the Milky Way galaxy. That estimate skyrockets when you include the other 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Kepler’s planet survey indicates that Earth-sized planets in a star’s habitable zone — the perfect distance that could allow water to pool on the surface — are ubiquitous in our galaxy. This leaves plenty of opportunity for untold more Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone to arise in the future — the last star isn’t expected to burn out until 100 trillion years from now.
The researchers say that future Earths are more likely to appear inside giant galaxy clusters and also in dwarf galaxies, which have yet to use up all their gas for building stars and accompanying planetary systems. By contrast, our Milky Way galaxy has used up much more of the gas available for future star formation.
A big advantage to our civilization arising early in the evolution of the universe is our being able to use powerful telescopes like Hubble to trace our lineage from the big bang through the early evolution of galaxies.
Regrettably, the observational evidence for the big bang and cosmic evolution, encoded in light and other electromagnetic radiation, will be all but erased away 1 trillion years from now, due to the runaway expansion of space. Any far-future civilizations that might arise will be largely clueless as to how or if the universe began and evolved.
Peter Behroozi and Molly Peeples. On The History and Future of Cosmic Planet Formation. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2015 DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stv1817 (open access)Elizabeth A. Bell, Patrick Boehnke, T. Mark Harrison, and Wendy L. Mao. Potentially biogenic carbon preserved in a 4.1 billion-year-old zircon. PNAS, October 19, 2015 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1517557112 (open access)
The one part of the speech that grated, of course, was the disingenuous, rabble-rousing attack on the SNP. The Labour left, to their intense discredit, appear to have settled on the 'Big Lie' approach to taking on Nicola Sturgeon - they think they can somehow convince people that she opposes the living wage, is plotting the privatisation of CalMac, and was responsible for the privatisation of ScotRail (even though the latter took place in the 1990s under John Major, and before the Scottish Parliament even existed!). Most voters don't pay attention to the detail, so it's not totally inconceivable that they might fall for some of this garbage. But the snag is that they won't buy into the headline summary, namely that the SNP are pro-austerity or austerity-neutral (implied by McDonnell's assertion that Labour are now the only anti-austerity party in Scotland). Who, seriously, is going to believe that claim after the events of the general election campaign? If your main attack line doesn't ring true to people, it's simply not going to get you anywhere.
Folding DNA into the shape of a tiny bunny rabbit is now easier than ever, according to a study published in Nature today. Folding DNA isn’t new — it’s known as DNA origami — but automating the process is. Thanks to a set of computer algorithms, researchers have developed a way to streamline the design phase that comes before the DNA assembly — a substantial step toward 3D printing at the nanoscale.
This has not been done before, it is novel and surprising," says Thorsten Schmidt, a chemist at the Dresden University of Technology who didn't work on the study. "In fact, we have a very related study under review at the moment and the only bad aspect of Björn Högberg’s study is that they were faster than us."
The bunny, while cute, wasn’t the point of the study. Rather, it’s a demonstration that scientists can automatically generate a DNA sequence to form a complex shape — the closest thing to 3D printing on a very tiny scale. "It’s almost a one-click procedure," Högberg says. And if scientists can fully automate the process, they’ll have a real DNA printer at their disposal — one that could, among other things, make drugs easier to deliver to the right places in the body.
Actually, there are a lot of ideas about how these techniques could be used. In addition to drug delivery, researchers are working on coating the DNA structures with non-biological materials, like gold, that react when the structure comes in contact with light.
But at this point, the bunny and the bottle don't do all that much. "We're not really concerned with the genetic information," Högberg says. "We're using DNA purely as a construction material."
Now that the study has been published, the researchers want to find a way to make their own construction materials. That may mean using natural DNA — taken from a plant or bacteria that they cultivate themselves — instead of synthetic DNA, Högberg says. "We're getting very good at making structures at the nanoscale," Högberg says. Researchers just need to find a way to make lots tiny DNA bunnies cheaply — and all at once.
A NON-PROFIT independent energy company has been set-up in Scotland and aims to cut heating bills by up to 10 per cent for 200,000 homes by 2020, presenting a challenge to the ‘big six’ energy companies that have been criticised for making extortionate profits while fuel poverty rises.
In every single country on the planet, women live longer than men. In response to this unpleasant fact, men are fond of replying, "That's because we have to put up with women." Humorous though it may be, that's not the actual reason women live longer than men. In fact, it wasn't until the beginning of the 20th Century that the "mortality gap" between men and women became so striking.
To investigate the underlying reason for the gender gap in life expectancy, a team of researchers examined mortality data for people born between 1800 and 1935 in 13 developed countries. Using this data, they were able to determine changes in the male-female mortality ratio, as well as determine when and why women began to outlive men.
In the figure above, each birth cohort is represented by a single colored line. For example, people born between 1800 and 1819 are represented by 20 different lines, each of which is colored black; people born between 1920 and 1935 are represented by 16 colored lines, each of which is colored red. The chart plots age on the X-axis (i.e., "age at time of death") against the male-female mortality rate ratio on the Y-axis.
The figure shows that the relative mortality rate for men gets worse in subsequent years. Compare the mortality rates at age 60, for instance. The mortality rate ratio for people born between 1800 and 1839 (black and gray lines) hovers roughly around 1.2; that means that about 120 men died for every 100 women who died at age 60. Just a few decades later, a dramatic shift occurs: the male-female mortality rate ratio for people born between 1880 and 1899 (green lines) skyrockets to 1.6, meaning that 160 men died for every 100 women who died at age 60. Then it goes from bad to worse. For the 1920-1935 birth cohort, the ratio is a shocking 2.1 at age 60, meaning that 210 men died for every 100 women.
Why is this the case? The authors' analysis suggests two major factors: The first is smoking, which is more common among men. (With smoking factored out, the pattern of an increasing male-female mortality ratio still persists but to a lesser extent, as shown above.) The second is cardiovascular disease, a condition to which men seem to be more vulnerable than women. This may be due to gender differences in diet, lifestyle, and even genetics. Indeed, the researchers found that cardiovascular disease was the major factor causing excess deaths among men as compared to women.
The truth is, the Fed is in a bind. And it has been for much of the past seven years. Houdini would need help getting out of this straight jacket.
Here’s the predicament:
Despite historically low interest rates for a monumentally long period of time, the US economy is still growing — at best — only modestly. Even quantitative easing, the central bank’s bold and dangerous money-printing operation, couldn’t get the economy to kick into a higher gear.
The Fed could leave interest rates near zero forever, except that it is creating a massive amount of income dislocation. Americans who rely on income from their savings accounts — and have been getting none for a long time — have had to cut back. And this has hurt the economy.
Manu Prakash, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford, and his students have developed a synchronous computer that operates using the unique physics of moving water droplets. Their goal is to design a new class of computers that can precisely control and manipulate physical matter.
Computers and water typically don't mix, but in Manu Prakash's lab, the two are one and the same. The computer is nearly a decade in the making, incubated from an idea that struck Prakash when he was a graduate student. The work combines his expertise in manipulating droplet fluid dynamics with a fundamental element of computer science – an operating clock.
"In this work, we finally demonstrate a synchronous, universal droplet logic and control," Prakash said. Because of its universal nature, the droplet computer can theoretically perform any operation that a conventional electronic computer can crunch, although at significantly slower rates. Prakash and his colleagues, however, have a more ambitious application in mind.
"We already have digital computers to process information. Our goal is not to compete with electronic computers or to operate word processors on this," Prakash said. "Our goal is to build a completely new class of computers that can precisely control and manipulate physical matter. Imagine if when you run a set of computations that not only information is processed but physical matter is algorithmically manipulated as well. We have just made this possible at the mesoscale."
The ability to precisely control droplets using fluidic computation could have a number of applications in high-throughput biology and chemistry, and possibly new applications in scalable digital manufacturing.
The results are published in the current edition of Nature Physics.
Portable electronics -- typically made of non-renewable, non-biodegradable and potentially toxic materials -- are discarded at an alarming rate in consumers' pursuit of the next best electronic gadget.
In an effort to alleviate the environmental burden of electronic devices, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has collaborated with researchers in the Madison-based U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to develop a surprising solution: a semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood.
The research team, led by UW-Madison electrical and computer engineering professor Zhenqiang "Jack" Ma, described the new device in a paper published today (May 26, 2015) by the journal Nature Communications. The paper demonstrates the feasibility of replacing the substrate, or support layer, of a computer chip, with cellulose nanofibril (CNF), a flexible, biodegradable material made from wood.
"The majority of material in a chip is support. We only use less than a couple of micrometers for everything else," Ma says. "Now the chips are so safe you can put them in the forest and fungus will degrade it. They become as safe as fertilizer." Zhiyong Cai, project leader for an engineering composite science research group at FPL, has been developing sustainable nanomaterials since 2009.
"If you take a big tree and cut it down to the individual fiber, the most common product is paper. The dimension of the fiber is in the micron stage," Cai says. "But what if we could break it down further to the nano scale? At that scale you can make this material, very strong and transparent CNF paper."
Working with Shaoqin "Sarah" Gong, a UW-Madison professor of biomedical engineering, Cai's group addressed two key barriers to using wood-derived materials in an electronics setting: surface smoothness and thermal expansion.
"You don't want it to expand or shrink too much. Wood is a natural hydroscopic material and could attract moisture from the air and expand," Cai says. "With an epoxy coating on the surface of the CNF, we solved both the surface smoothness and the moisture barrier."
Gong and her students also have been studying bio-based polymers for more than a decade. CNF offers many benefits over current chip substrates, she says.
"The advantage of CNF over other polymers is that it's a bio-based material and most other polymers are petroleum-based polymers. Bio-based materials are sustainable, bio-compatible and biodegradable," Gong says. "And, compared to other polymers, CNF actually has a relatively low thermal expansion coefficient."
Scotland should be compensated for their share of UK gold sold off rock bottom by Gordon Brown, and for subsequent asset stripping, including the cheap sell off of Royal Mail, which also allows dividends to be exported, rather than kept and reinvested in UK.
In constructor theory, physical laws are formulated only in terms of which tasks are possible (with arbitrarily high accuracy, reliability, and repeatability), and which are impossible, and why – as opposed to what happens, and what does not happen, given dynamical laws and initial conditions. A task is impossible if there is a law of physics that forbids it. Otherwise, it is possible – which means that a constructor for that task – an object that causes the task to occur and retains the ability to cause it again – can be approximated arbitrarily well in reality. Car factories, robots and living cells are all accurate approximations to constructors.
For constructors that survive for long, information in the recipe must be digital, to make reliable error correction possible after copying: if not, there would be a fundamental limit to how well an error can be detected, which would lead to a build up of errors and a limit to the accuracy and resiliency achievable. A self‑reproducing cell must do all this, too. The parent cell contains a recipe – DNA – with all the instructions to construct a new cell (recipe excluded). This means that accurate self‑reproduction can occur only in two steps. Using letter-by-letter replication and error-correction, the parent cell makes a high-fidelity copy of the recipe to be inserted in the new cell; then it constructs the copying mechanism plus the rest of the cell afresh, following the recipe. It was the Hungarian-born physicist John von Neumann who first discovered this logic in the 1940s. He was exploring cellular automata – discrete computational models used, for instance, in Conway’s Game of Life, which rely on unphysical dynamical laws. Constructor theory shows that this is the only possible logic for accurate self-reproduction given any no-design laws.
Constructor theory gives the ‘recipe’ an exact characterisation in fundamental physics. It is digitally coded information that can act as a constructor and has resiliency – the capacity, once it is instantiated in physical systems, to remain so instantiated. In constructor theory, that is called knowledge – a term used here without the usual connotation that it is known by someone: it merely denotes this particular kind of information with causal power and resiliency. And an essential part of the explanation of all distinctive properties of living things (and of accurate constructors in general) is that they contain knowledge in that sense.
Moreover, it is a fundamental idea of constructor theory that any transformation that is not forbidden by the laws of physics can be achieved given the requisite knowledge. There is no third possibility: either the laws of physics forbid it, or it is achievable. This accounts for another aspect of the evolutionary story. Ever better constructors can be produced, without limit, given the relevant knowledge, instantiated in digital recipes.
The early history of evolution is, in constructor-theoretic terms, a lengthy, highly inaccurate, non-purposive construction that eventually produced knowledge-bearing recipes out of elementary things containing none. These elementary things are simple chemicals such as short RNA strands, which can perform only low-fidelity replication, and so do not bear the appearance of design, and are therefore allowed to exist in a pre-biotic environment governed by no-design laws.
Thus the constructor theory of life shows explicitly that natural selection does not need to assume the existence of any initial recipe, containing knowledge, to get started. It shows that, whatever recipes we might find in living things, they do not require ad‑hoc, biocentric or mysterious laws of physics in order to come into existence from elementary initial components. They need only the laws of physics to permit the existence of digital information, plus sufficient time and energy, which are non-specific to life. This adds another deep reason why a unification in our understanding of the phenomena of life and physics is possible. Whatever the laws of physics do not forbid us, we can do. Whether or not we will, depends on how much knowledge we create. It is up to us.
The rules on the voting age have now changed meaning that, for the first time, 16 and 17 year olds will be eligible to take part in elections to the Scottish Parliament and at local elections in Scotland. Starting today, the Electoral Commission is running a campaign to raise awareness of this change and encourage young people to register to vote. In this guest blog Robbie Nicoll, a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, talks about the change and the importance of young people engaging in politics.
orn, bred and resident in London, Andrew Chevis might seem an unlikely recruit to the Scottish National party. Yet at a time when the SNP is planning to spread its message beyond Scotland, the former Labour party activist is one of an increasing trickle of English people who have gone a step further and signed up as members.
“There are thousands of us in England for whom the SNP’s core message on the economy is a very attractive one,” says Chevis, a one-time branch secretary for Labour in Battersea who joined the SNP after the independence referendum.
Macroeconomic analyst Rob Kirby thinks that everybody should take notice of what is happening with the Greek debt crisis drama. Kirby contends, “What has occurred in Greece, make no mistake, it is a financial coup. It is not a bailout. It’s a takeover by force. The leader of Greece has obviously been told, and effectively has a gun to his head, the way it’s going to be. The Greek people voted for what they want, and we know what the Greek people’s wishes are, and they don’t want more austerity. They want to divorce themselves from the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB). We know that clear as day, but that is not acceptable to the global elitists and the globalist bankers. They have said we don’t really care what you think. It’s going to be the way we say. The rest of Europe should sit up and take note of this because there are other countries whose finances are also not in good shape, namely, Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. . . . If global bankers are allowed to get away with this, then this is what you can expect in your country real soon.”
A new technology developed by chemists at UCLA is capable of storing solar energy for up to several weeks.
The materials in most of today’s residential rooftop solar panels can store energy from the sun for only a few microseconds at a time. A new technology developed by chemists at UCLA is capable of storing solar energy for up to several weeks — an advance that could change the way scientists think about designing solar cells.
The findings are published June 19 in the journal Science. The new design is inspired by the way that plants generate energy through photosynthesis.
“Biology does a very good job of creating energy from sunlight,” said Sarah Tolbert, a UCLA professor of chemistry and one of the senior authors of the research. “Plants do this through photosynthesis with extremely high efficiency.”
“In photosynthesis, plants that are exposed to sunlight use carefully organized nanoscale structures within their cells to rapidly separate charges — pulling electrons away from the positively charged molecule that is left behind, and keeping positive and negative charges separated,” Tolbert said. “That separation is the key to making the process so efficient.”
To capture energy from sunlight, conventional rooftop solar cells use silicon, a fairly expensive material. There is currently a big push to make lower-cost solar cells using plastics, rather than silicon, but today’s plastic solar cells are relatively inefficient, in large part because the separated positive and negative electric charges often recombine before they can become electrical energy.
“Modern plastic solar cells don’t have well-defined structures like plants do because we never knew how to make them before,” Tolbert said. “But this new system pulls charges apart and keeps them separated for days, or even weeks. Once you make the right structure, you can vastly improve the retention of energy.”
The two components that make the UCLA-developed system work are a polymer donor and a nano-scale fullerene acceptor. The polymer donor absorbs sunlight and passes electrons to the fullerene acceptor; the process generates electrical energy.
The plastic materials, called organic photovoltaics, are typically organized like a plate of cooked pasta — a disorganized mass of long, skinny polymer “spaghetti” with random fullerene “meatballs.” But this arrangement makes it difficult to get current out of the cell because the electrons sometimes hop back to the polymer spaghetti and are lost.
The UCLA technology arranges the elements more neatly — like small bundles of uncooked spaghetti with precisely placed meatballs. Some fullerene meatballs are designed to sit inside the spaghetti bundles, but others are forced to stay on the outside. The fullerenes inside the structure take electrons from the polymers and toss them to the outside fullerene, which can effectively keep the electrons away from the polymer for weeks.
The SNP is today welcoming the ‘historic’ decision in the Scottish Parliament to extend the right to vote in next year’s Holyrood elections to 16 and 17 year olds – and looks forward to Scotland’s young people making their voices heard.
I suggested yesterday that we are going to start seeing a lot more entities/investors convert their phony fiat currency into physical gold and silver. In a news report that is being predictably ignored by western financial media, Russia announced today it will take its gold reserves up to $500 billion.
At today’s artificially manipulated price, that translates into 119.1 million ounces or roughly 3,463 metric tonnes. Russia’s current amount of $360 billion represents a 20% backing of its currency, which is the highest ratio of gold to paper currency in the world. Please note: Until the U.S. submits to a completely independent audit open for the world to observe, we assume the amount of gold held by the United States is zero.
Scottish news and politics, analysis and opinion. Scotland's political social media hub. SSP backed project to build left electoral alliance at its party conference on 23 May PROMINENT pro-independence figures Pat Kane, Jim Sillars and Mike Small have welcomed a vote by the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) to work with the Scottish Left P
Having listened to Alistair Carmichael's defence in the matter of what I suppose we must grit our teeth and call #MemoGate, I am even more convinced than ever that he should resign immediately. Unbelievably, Carmichael is now insisting that we should simply ignore his despicable behaviour and focus instead on some unspecified things he may have done for his constituents in the past.
Scottish news and politics, analysis and opinion. Scotland's political social media hub. SNP minister hits out at Labour leadership for being “happy to have a pop at immigrants at any opportunity for cheap political gain” HUMZA YOUSAF has slammed the UK's “inhumane” detention centres and said he hopes the SNP can
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