One Fish, Two Fish: Red Fish, New Fish

Scientists have found that red is a favorite color among some fish and have discovered several that actually fluoresce in the vibrant hue.

Until now, many researchers had considered the color red way out of fashion in the underwater realm, where red wavelengths of sunlight are immediately absorbed by seawater near the surface, said Nico Michiels of the University of Tübingen, Germany, who led a team that discovered the red fish.

That means objects that look red in air or in shallow water appear grey or black at depths below about 33 feet (10 meters). Unlike red, blue-green light penetrates deeper and is the reason our oceans appear blue. But fish have found their own way to red.

The new results, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal BMC Ecology, show “that red fluorescence is widespread among marine fish,” Michiels said.

There’s always a bit more diversity, a thread of complexity at hand to confound those who would over-simplify science and nature.

India’s use of brain scans in courts is an affront to science

The new technology is, to its critics, Orwellian. Others view it as a silver bullet against terrorism that could render waterboarding and torture obsolete. Some scientists predict the end of lying as we know it.

Well, that would confound American politics, eh?

Now, well before any consensus on the technology’s readiness, India has become the first country to convict someone of a crime relying on evidence from this controversial machine: a brain scanner that produces images of the human mind in action and is said to reveal signs that a suspect remembers details of the crime in question…

The technologies, generally regarded as promising but unproved, have yet to be widely accepted as evidence — except in India, where in recent years judges have begun to admit brain scans. But it was only in June, in a murder case in Pune, in Maharashtra State, that a judge explicitly cited a scan as proof that the suspect’s brain held “experiential knowledge” about the crime that only the killer could possess, sentencing her to life in prison.

Psychologists and neuroscientists in the United States, which has been at the forefront of brain-based lie detection, variously called India’s application of the technology to legal cases “fascinating,” “ridiculous,” “chilling” and “unconscionable.” (While attempts have been made in the United States to introduce findings of similar tests into court cases, these generally have been by defense lawyers trying to show the mental impairment of the accused, not by prosecutors trying to convict.)

I agree with the conclusions reached by the article’s author, Anand Giridharadas.

We have enough crap pseudoscience leading the Bal Masque of politics around the United States and other nations. Validation by peer review and independent study is a prerequisite before nations switch on judicial induction to shuttle defendants off to prison.

Israeli police probing ‘pogrom’ attack upon Palestinian village

Israeli police are investigating a rampage by settlers in a Palestinian village in the West Bank on Saturday which PM Ehud Olmert called a “pogrom”. Mr Olmert, who is about to step down, called the attack by about 100 settlers on Asira al-Qabaliya “intolerable”.

It was filmed by human rights groups and came after an intruder stabbed and wounded a child at Yitzhar settlement. But police have not arrested any of the settlers who were filmed. Four people suffered gunshot wounds in the attack…

In the footage, Israeli soldiers are present at the scene but do not take any action to prevent the violence and destruction of Palestinian property.

About 450,000 Jews live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in settlements considered illegal under international law.

The history of Israel’s expansionism in the Middle East is the constant rationale for imperial American politics. It is as unjust and egregious as any Crusade.

Gay marriage made in heaven. Well, space, really.


AP Photo by Mario G. Reyes

Star Treks’ Mister Sulu has agreed to live long and prosper — with his long time partner.

George Takei, Mr. Sulu on the original “Star Trek,” used to dream of a future where unimaginable things would happen. Well, his dream came true. Sunday he legally married his partner of 21 years, Brad Altman.

Their legal marriage became possible this year when the California Supreme Court overturned the state ban on gay marriage.

But their marriage knot could be undone by a ballot initiative to once again ban same-sex marriage.

As a child during World War II, Takei and his family were forcibly removed to interment camps with tens-of-thousands of other Japanese Americans. He held his wedding at Los Angeles’ Japanese American National Museum to make a point.

“We as gay Americans, we’ve been stereotyped and characterized as something frightening and threatening as Japanese Americans were before the war,” Takei said.

The United States has long been the standard bearer for democracy. Our record on bigotry and second-class citizenship – has been much, much less.

Certainly, everyone has a right to an opinion on how people live and love. They do not have a right or an ethical imperative to continue to deny equal rights to anyone.

Combat rock: music by Iraq war veterans

Conflict is no stranger to creative endeavour. The First World War produced great poetry, the Spanish Civil War great literature, and in Iraq a vast number of young soldiers – brought up on videogames, free music downloads, YouTube and dubbed Generation Kill by Rolling Stone magazine – are turning to music as a way of making sense of their war.

Everyone has an iPod or CD player and laptops and video cameras are common. Humvees are routinely jerry-rigged with tinny speakers and even sub-woofers, zip-tied to the ceiling, which pump out rock music as units charge into battle. And because you now don’t need expensive equipment or a professional studio to record music, these soldiers, armed with just a microphone and a copy of home-recording software such as GarageBand, can produce a song in the combat zone and email it home.

When he returned from his own tour of duty in Iraq in January 2006, Sean Gilfillan – who lost seven of his friends and comrades – was shocked at what he calls ‘the disconnect between civilians and returning members of the military.’
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American hospitals flush tons of drugs down the drain

U.S. hospitals and long-term-care facilities annually flush millions of pounds of unused pharmaceuticals down the drain, pumping contaminants into America’s drinking water, according to an ongoing Associated Press investigation…

One thing is clear: The massive amount of pharmaceuticals being flushed by the health-services industry is aggravating an emerging problem — the common presence of minute concentrations of pharmaceuticals in U.S. drinking-water supplies, affecting at least 46 million Americans…

The Environmental Protection Agency told assembled water experts last year that it believes nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities use sewer systems to dispose of most of their unused drugs. A water utility surveyed 45 long-term-care facilities in 2006 and calculated that two-thirds of their unused drugs were scrapped this way, according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies…

The EPA is considering whether to impose the first national standard for how much drug waste may be released into waterways by the medical-services industry, but Ben Grumbles, the EPA’s top water administrator, says a decision won’t be made until next year, at the earliest.

It certainly won’t be made until after Bush leaves office.
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Pakistan military fires on U.S. helicopters

Firing by Pakistani troops forced two U.S. military helicopters to turn back to Afghanistan after they crossed into Pakistani territory early on Monday, Pakistani security officials said.

The incident took place near Angor Adda, a village in the tribal region of South Waziristan where U.S. commandos in helicopters raided a suspected al Qaeda and Taliban camp earlier this month.

“The U.S. choppers came into Pakistan by just 100 to 150 meters at Angor Adda. Even then our troops did not spare them, opened fire on them and they turned away,” said one security official.

The U.S. and Pakistani military both denied that account, but Angor Adda villagers and officials supported it…
But the official denials were contradicted by Pakistani civilian officials and villagers in Angor Adda…

Two Chinook helicopters appeared set to land when troops began shooting, alerting tribesmen who also opened fire on the intruders, said a senior government official in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province.

Statements by politicians and military officials both sides of the border are meaningless, of course. Denial, from the Pentagon to Peshawar, is now an automatic part of the public face of armies.

British Police expand surveillance project – keep spy info for 5 years

The police are to expand a car surveillance operation that will allow them to record and store details of millions of daily journeys for up to five years. A national network of roadside cameras will be able to “read” 50 million license plates a day, enabling officers to reconstruct the journeys of motorists.

Police have been encouraged to “fully and strategically exploit” the database, which is already recording the whereabouts of 10 million drivers a day, during investigations ranging from counter-terrorism to low-level crime.

But it has raised concerns from civil rights campaigners, who question whether the details should be kept for so long, and want clearer guidance on who might have access to the material.

The project relies on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to pinpoint the precise time and location of all vehicles on the road. Senior officers had promised the data would be stored for two years. But responding to inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act, the Home Office has admitted the data is now being kept for five years.

Police helicopters have been equipped with infrared cameras that can read licence plates from 610 metres (2,000ft).

It’s difficult not to make a snap comparison with Herr Himmler – the joy he would have had with such a thorough system of spying on the citizens of a nation. As much as Americans have fought tooth and nail to keep what civil liberties we have remaining – from the onslaught of so-called patriots and other cowards – the Brits apparently have fewer defenders and less courage.

Certainly, they’re on their way to less freedom.

World’s most powerful electron microscope absolutely rocks!

The yellow bits in that lattice are carbon atoms

TEAM 0.5 is capable of producing images with half‑angstrom resolution, which is less than the diameter of a single hydrogen atom.

“Simply put, TEAM 0.5 is the best transmission electron microscope in the world, representing a quantum leap forward in instrumentation,” said physicist Alex Zettl who led this research. “Having the ability to see, basically in real time, each and every individual atom in a sample is unbelievably useful and the images we can now see have been jaw-dropping for even the most seasoned electron microscopists. TEAM 0.5 is pushing transmission electron microscopy to a new level.”

The properties of solid materials stem from the arrangement of their constituent atoms in the solid’s crystal structure. While technologies such as electron and x-ray crystallography can reveal the atomic geometry of a crystal, they do not identify the precise location and position of each individual atom. When the dimensions of a material shrink to the nanoscale, the location and position of each individual atom becomes critically important, as Zettl explains.

“Think of the steel re-bars on a three-dimensional structure, like a jungle gym,” he said. “If a small piece of re-bar is rusted out somewhere in the center of the gym, it won’t likely have much affect on the overall properties of the structure. In a two-dimensional structure, however, a rusted out segment becomes a much bigger problem, and in a one-dimensional structure, i.e., a single re-bar, a rusted out segment can be catastrophic, causing the entire structure to fail. On a nanoscale crystal, one missing atom or some other defect in the arrangement can result in catastrophic failure.”

“Theorists are currently making all kinds of predictions about the properties of graphene for different local atomic configurations, but until TEAM 0.5, we did not have the ability to actually see and study these configurations in real time,” Zettl said.

Using TEAM 0.5, Zettl, Kisielowski and their collaborators were able to obtain images of graphene membranes – crystalline foils one atom thick – at a resolution of one angstrom using electron beams of a mere 80 kilovolts (kV) in energy.

And this is just the beginning of the story. RTFA – and stay tuned.

World black pudding throwing competition – 2008

Competitors from across the world have gathered at a pub in Greater Manchester for the World Black Pudding Throwing Championship. Thousands are watching entrants from as far afield as Hong Kong, Africa and Sweden compete at the Royal Oak in the village of Ramsbottom, Bury.

The aim is to knock Yorkshire puddings off a 20ft ledge by throwing black puddings at them.

The contest is supposed to represent the Lancashire/Yorkshire rivalry.

Organiser Elaine Singleton says you need real ability to take part.

You also need to be a bit of a nutter.

I suppose I qualify. Especially since I hate black pudding.