MonthJuly 2011

Scientists Can Now Rewrite DNA

TAG

MIT and Harvard researchers have developed technologies that could be used to rewrite the genetic code of a living cell, allowing them to make large-scale edits to the cell’s genome. Such technology could enable scientists to design cells that build proteins not found in nature, or engineer bacteria that are resistant to any type of viral infection.

The technology, described in the July 15 issue of Science, can overwrite specific DNA sequences throughout the genome, similar to the find-and-replace function in word-processing programs. Using this approach, the researchers can make hundreds of targeted edits to the genome of E. coli, apparently without disrupting the cells’ function.

MIT News: Scientists unveil tools for rewriting the code of life

(via Richard Yonck)

Using Swarm Intelligence to Build Targeted Anti-Cancer Nano-Drugs

Nanoparticles and insect swarms

The results of Geoffrey von Maltzahn et al. in their Nature Materials publication reveal that nanoparticles that communicate with each other can deliver more than 40-fold higher doses of chemotherapeutics (anti-cancer drugs) to tumors than nanoparticles that do not communicate can deliver. These results show the potential for nanoparticle communication to amplify drug delivery over that achievable by nanoparticles that work alone, similar to how insect swarms perform better as a group than the individual insects do on their own.

Scientific American: Learning from Insect Swarms: Smart Cancer Targeting

(via Social Physicist)

Universe Probably Not a Hologram After All

gamma ray

An astrophysicist’s attempt to measure quantum “fuzziness” — to find out if we’re living in a hologram — has been headed off at the pass by results suggesting that we’re probably not.

In October 2010, Wired.com reported on Craig Hogan’s experiments with two of the world’s most precise clocks, which he was using to try and confirm the existence of Planck units — the smallest possible chunks of space, time, mass and other properties of the universe.

Hogan’s interpretation of results from the GEO600 gravitational wave experiment had shown a quantum fuzziness — a sort of pixelation — at incredibly small scales, suggesting that what was perceive as the universe might be projected from a two-dimensional shell at its edge.

However, a European satellite that should be able to measure these small scales hasn’t found any quantum fuzziness at all, contradicting the interpretation of the GEO600 results and indicating that the pixelation of spacetime, if it exists, is considerably smaller than predicted.

Wired Science: Physicists: Universe Almost Certainly Not a Hologram

Ben Venom’s Heavy Metal Quilt

Ben Venom metal quilt

Ben Venom metal quilt

Ben Venom makes quilts out of old t-shirts. More photos here.

(Thanks Mom!)

Degree Inflation as Predicted in 1975

Andrew McAfee points to this passage from economist Thomas Sowell’s Race and Economics in 1975:

The widespread use of high school diplomas and college degrees as employment screening devices by employers has led to a belief that increasing education will increase opportunities, and/or that the reason for escalating educational “requirements” is a corresponding increase in the knowledge necessary to perform a given job. The well-organized education lobbies exploit these beliefs to the fullest. In fact, however, educational ”requirements” are often used by employers who are wholly unconcerned about the specific content of the education, but who regards a diploma or degree as an indication of the job applicant’s willingness to persevere and his grades as a rough index of his mental capability. The educational requirements are a hurdle which eliminates enough job applicants to narrow the employer’s choice down to manageable proportions. By making it possible for more young people to go over a given hurdle, society also makes it necessary for employers to raise the hurdle in order to weed out the same proportion of applicants. The result has been an upward spiral of credentials and requirements with more and more young people being forced to endure more and more years of education that they do not want in order to qualify for jobs where the education is not needed. As more and more jobs have been put beyond the reach of those without the necessary credentials, whether or not such individuals can do the work itself, those ethnic minorities who are not traditionally oriented toward formal education are particularly hard hit.

McAfee adds: “Higher education has become much more expensive, student loans now account for more debt in America than do credit cards, and a lot of diploma mills (by which I do not just mean for-profit universities) have sprung up.”

Andrew McAfee: Education and Employment: Some Thoughts Against the Conventional Wisdom

I would add to the list of woes the sorry amount of actual learning that seems to go on in universities.

McAfee also discusses briefly potential solutions.

Happy X-Day: My First Album is Now Free

DOWNLOAD NOW

<a href="http://psychetect.bandcamp.com/album/return-to-the-wasteland">Awakening by Psychetect</a>

You can now download Return to the Wasteland for free, or just pay whatever you want. Before there was a $5 minimum.

I was going to release a new track today for X-Day, but I’m not happy with the material. I was also planning on making Wasteland free when the next Psychetect album is released – but that’s still at least a couple months away. So, to support your slack, I decided give away Wasteland a little early.

Of course, X-Day is all about profit, so feel free to pay money for it. You can also buy the album from iTunes, Amazon.com and a bunch of other places.

Cover art by Ian McEwan, color by Danny Chaoflux
Sound produced and mastered by Klint Finley

How Tibetan Singing Bowls Work

How Tibetan Singing Bowls Work

Ceremonial Tibetan “singing bowls” are beginning to give up their secrets.

The water-filled bowls, when rubbed with a leather-wrapped mallet, exhibit a lively dance of water droplets as they emit a haunting sound.

Now slow-motion video has unveiled just what occurs in the bowls; droplets can actually bounce on the water’s surface.

A report in the journal Nonlinearity mathematically analyses the effect and could shed light on other fluid processes, such as fuel injection.

BBC: Tibetan singing bowls give up their chaotic secrets

(via Edward Borasky)

The Wire As a Victorian Novel

Omar comin' yo!

This is an amazing treatment of The Wire a Victorian novel instead of an HBO t-series:

There are few works of greater scope or structural genius than the series of fiction pieces by Horatio Bucklesby Ogden, collectively known as The Wire; yet for the most part, this Victorian masterpiece has been forgotten and ignored by scholars and popular culture alike. Like his contemporary Charles Dickens, Ogden has, due to the rough and at times lurid nature of his material, been dismissed as a hack, despite significant endorsements of literary critics of the nineteenth century. Unlike the corpus of Dickens, The Wire failed to reach the critical mass of readers necessary to sustain interest over time, and thus runs the risk of falling into the obscurity of academia. We come to you today to right that gross literary injustice.

The Hooded Utilitarian: “When It’s Not Your Turn”: The Quintessentially Victorian Vision of Ogden’s “The Wire”

(Thanks Jillian!)

Apparently this essay is being turned into a book.

It’s part of a The Wire Round-Table at the site The Hooded Utilitarian.

Also included in the round-table is this essay on women in The Wire, which claims, quite rightly, that “The Wire is singularly unconcerned with how women fare in these institutions, the fates they face, the options open to them.”

See also:

When did TV become art?

Vice Magazine’s interview with David Simon

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