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    From Beatrix
    Non-Locality, Cognition,...
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    Partying to Revolution
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    The Luxurious Ambiguity of...
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    21st Century Renaissance...
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    From f.Myles
    Scale of the Universe
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    The National Ignition...
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    Wired Article here
    The research paper can be found at Science Mag and the abstract is at the bottom.

    NASA Finds New Life Form
    From Wired Science

    When cooking up the stuff of life, you can’t just substitute margarine for butter. Or so scientists thought.

    But now researchers have coaxed a microbe to build itself with arsenic in the place of phosphorus, an unprecedented substitution of one of the six essential ingredients of life. The bacterium appears to have incorporated a form of arsenic into its cellular machinery, and even its DNA, scientists report online Dec. 2 in Science.

    Arsenic is toxic and is thought to be too chemically unstable to do the work of phosphorus, which includes tasks such as holding DNA in a tidy double helix, activating proteins and getting passed around to provide energy in cells. If the new results are validated, they have huge implications for basic biochemistry and the origin and evolution of life, both on Earth and elsewhere in the universe.

    “This is an amazing result, a striking, very important and astonishing result — if true,” says molecular chemist Alan Schwartz of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. “I’m even more skeptical than usual, because of the implications. But it is fascinating work. It is original, and it is possibly very important.”

    The experiments began with sediment from eastern California’s Mono Lake, which teems with shrimp, flies and algae that can survive the lake’s strange chemistry. Mono Lake formed in a closed basin — any water that leaves does so by evaporation — making the lake almost three times as salty as the ocean. It is highly alkaline and rich in carbonates, phosphorus, arsenic and sulfur.

    From Science Mag
    A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus

    Life is mostly composed of the elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and phosphorus. Although these six elements make up nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids and thus the bulk of living matter, it is theoretically possible that some other elements in the periodic table could serve the same functions. Here, we describe a bacterium, strain GFAJ-1 of the Halomonadaceae, isolated from Mono Lake, California, which substitutes arsenic for phosphorus to sustain its growth. Our data show evidence for arsenate in macromolecules that normally contain phosphate, most notably nucleic acids and proteins. Exchange of one of the major bioelements may have profound evolutionary and geochemical significance.

    Fri, Dec 3, 2010  Permanent link

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    “The Orion Correlation Theory is a hypothesis in pyramidology. Its central claim is that there is a correlation between the location of the 3 largest pyramids of the Giza pyramid complex and the three middle stars of the constellation Orion, and that this correlation was intended as such by the builders of the pyramids. The stars of Orion were associated with Osiris, the sun-god of rebirth and afterlife, by the ancient Egyptians. Depending on the version of the theory, additional pyramids can be included to complete the picture of the Orion constellation, and the Nile river can be included to match with the Milky Way galaxy..”

    more here

    Tue, Nov 30, 2010  Permanent link

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    The Future of Feel

    More info:
    Technical Paper

    TeslaTouch infuses finger-driven interfaces with physical feedback. The technology is based on the electrovibration principle, which can programmatically vary the electrostatic friction between fingers and a touch panel. Importantly, there are no moving parts, unlike most tactile feedback technologies, which use vibration motors. This allows for different fingers to feel different sensations. When combined with an interactive graphical display, TeslaTouch enables the design of a wide variety of interfaces that allow the user to feel virtual elements through touch. For example, when dragging a file, the level of friction could convey the file size. Objects could "snap" into place when designing a presentation. Or perhaps with a quick "rub" of your email application's icon, you could sense how many emails are unread. Finally, imagine a (flat) touch keyboard where the virtual keys can be felt. The possibilities are endless.

    Tactile feedback based on electrovibration has several compelling properties. It is fast, low-powered, dynamic, and can be used in a wide range of interaction scenarios and applications, including multitouch interfaces. Our system demonstrates an exceptionally broad bandwidth and uniformity of response across a wide range of frequencies and amplitudes. Furthermore, the technology is highly scalable and can be used efficiently on touch surfaces of any size, shape and configuration, including large interactive tables, hand-held mobile devices, as well as curved, flexible and irregular touch surfaces. Lastly, because our design does not have any moving parts, it can be easily added to existing devices with minimal physical modification.

    TeslaTouch was developed at Disney Research, Pittsburgh. The industrial design of TeslaTouch handheld prototype was done in collaboration with Mark Baskinger, CMU School of Design. Disney Research is a network of research laboratories at The Walt Disney Company. Key proficiencies are in Computer Graphics, Video Processing, Computer Vision, Robotics, Radio and Antennas, Wireless Communications, Human-Computer Interaction, and Behavioral Sciences, with developing competency in areas such as data mining and displays.

    Thu, Nov 18, 2010  Permanent link

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    From ABC Science
    November 17, 2010

    Physicists have succeeded for the first time in trapping atoms of antihydrogen, a feat that could take researchers one step closer to understanding anti-matter.

    That, in turn, could reveal all sorts of things about gravity and perhaps shed light on what happened to all the antimatter that theoretically should be, but isn't, present in the universe.

    Antimatter is the same as regular matter except that each particle has an opposite charge. So whereas an electron has a negative charge, its antimatter counterpart, a positron, has a positive charge and they annihilate each other when they get too close. According to the rules of particle physics, all matter should behave the same, even if you flip the charge, that is parity, of all particles.

    That's the theory, anyway, but no one has been able to test it.

    Any differences between antihydrogen and hydrogen, such as differences in the spectra of light they give off or how they experience the Earth's gravity, would overthrow the standard model of particle physics.

    It could also be a clue to the mystery of why there is so little antimatter in the universe today.

    "This is a big step," says Clifford Surko of the University of California, San Diego. He says two groups have been working on trapping antihydrogen at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. "The big deal is that one group has succeeded."

    Capturing antimatter not easy
    Scientists have been able to make lots of antihydrogen atoms since 2002. But, the atoms have only lasted a microsecond before hitting normal matter and vanishing in a flash of gamma rays.

    The problem is that antihydrogen is a neutral atom, which means it has no strong electrical charge (positive or negative). That means it can't be held safely away from regular matter with the same magnetic 'bottles' researchers have designed to keep anti-protons and anti-electrons (better known as positrons) away from regular matter.

    And if you can't trap the atoms, they won't last long.

    What the researchers on the ALPHA (Antihydrogen Laser PHysics Apparatus) team did was to exploit the tiny magnetic moment of antihydrogen, which makes it act like a very weak, very tiny bar magnet. They did this by using a container flanked by steeply increasing magnetic fields, called magnetic mirrors, which reflect the antihydrogen atoms back to the centre of the container.

    For this trap to work they had to also cool the antihydrogen to less and a half degree above absolute zero. That was a feat in itself, since the man-made antiprotons used to make antihydrogen are endowed with about 100 billion times more energy than needed to make this trap work.

    "The trap that you make for this is very, very weak," says Professor Joel Fajans, a University of California, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist and ALPHA team member.

    The team has published a short report of their accomplishment in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

    The team know the trap worked because they made about 10 million antihydrogen atoms which promptly obliterated themselves. Then they turned off their new trap and saw 38 more obliterations - meaning those 38 antihydrogens stuck in the trap.

    "We produced 10 million and we trapped 38," says Fajans. That may not seem like a lot, but it's 38 more than have ever been trapped before.

    Taking a close look
    As to what they hope to do with the trapped antihydrogen, the first experiment they are hoping to do is check the light spectrum it gives off when it glows. Theory suggests it should be exactly the same as hydrogen. But what if it isn't?

    "You'd be naïve to think that the spectra of antihydrogen would be any different," says Fajans. But science can be surprising, he says. If differences are found, it could undermine some very basic ideas about how the universe works.

    There's also the matter of all that missing antimatter all over the universe.

    "At some level that's a fundamental mystery," says Fajans.

    "There should be as much antimatter as matter," agreed Surko. "What that says is that there is some asymmetry that is making it the way it is. And we don't know what that is."

    Finally, there is the matter of gravity. Could antihydrogen also exhibit anti-gravity properties?

    "It's incredibly unlikely that it will fall up," says Fajans, "but it might fall at a different rate" which could tell us something about the nature of gravity.

    Wed, Nov 17, 2010  Permanent link

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    From NYTIMES
    November 15, 2010

    When Robert A. Lue considers the “Star Wars” Death Star, his first thought is not of outer space, but inner space.

    “Luke’s initial dive into the Death Star, I’ve always thought, is a very interesting way how one would explore the surface of a cell,” he said.

    That particular scene has not yet been tried, but Dr. Lue, a professor of cell biology and the director of life sciences education at Harvard, says it is one of many ideas he has for bringing visual representations of some of life’s deepest secrets to the general public.

    Dr. Lue is one of the pioneers of molecular animation, a rapidly growing field that seeks to bring the power of cinema to biology. Building on decades of research and mountains of data, scientists and animators are now recreating in vivid detail the complex inner machinery of living cells.

    The field has spawned a new breed of scientist-animators who not only understand molecular processes but also have mastered the computer-based tools of the film industry.

    “The ability to animate really gives biologists a chance to think about things in a whole new way,” said Janet Iwasa, a cell biologist who now works as a molecular animator at Harvard Medical School.

    Dr. Iwasa says she started working with visualizations when she saw her first animated molecule five years ago. “Just listening to scientists describe how the molecule moved in words wasn’t enough for me,” she said. “What brought it to life was really seeing it in motion.”

    In 2006, with a grant from the National Science Foundation, she spent three months at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects, an animation boot camp in Hollywood, where, while she worked on molecules, her colleagues, all male, were obsessed with creating monsters and spaceships.

    To compose her animations, Dr. Iwasa draws on publicly available resources like the Protein Data Bank, a comprehensive and growing database containing three-dimensional coordinates for all of the atoms in a protein. Though she no longer works in a lab, Dr. Iwasa collaborates with other scientists.

    “All that we had before — microscopy, X-ray crystallography — were all snapshots,” said Tomas Kirchhausen, a professor in cell biology at Harvard Medical School and a frequent collaborator with Dr. Iwasa. “For me, the animations are a way to glue all this information together in some logical way. By doing animation I can see what makes sense, what doesn’t make sense. They force us to confront whether what we are doing is realistic or not.” For example, Dr. Kirchhausen studies the process by which cells engulf proteins and other molecules. He says animations help him picture how a particular three-legged protein called clathrin functions within the cell.

    If there is a Steven Spielberg of molecular animation, it is probably Drew Berry, a cell biologist who works for the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia. Mr. Berry’s work is revered for artistry and accuracy within the small community of molecular animators, and has also been shown in museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In 2008, his animations formed the backdrop for a night of music and science at the Guggenheim Museum called “Genes and Jazz.”

    “Scientists have always done pictures to explain their ideas, but now we’re discovering the molecular world and able to express and show what it’s like down there,” Mr. Berry said. “Our understanding is just exploding.”

    In October, Mr. Berry was awarded a 2010 MacArthur Fellowship, which he says he will put toward developing visualizations that explore the patterns of brain activity related to human consciousness.

    The new molecular animators are deeply aware that they are picking up where many talented scientist-artists left off. They are quick to pay homage to pioneers in molecular graphics like Arthur J. Olson and David Goodsell, both at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

    Perhaps the pivotal moment for molecular animations came four years ago with a video called “The Inner Life of the Cell.” Produced by BioVisions, a scientific visualization program at Harvard’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a Connecticut-based scientific animation company called Xvivo, the three-minute film depicts marauding white blood cells attacking infections in the body. It was shown at the 2006 Siggraph conference, an annual convention of digital animation. After it was posted on YouTube, it garnered intense media attention. BioVisions’ most recent animation, called “Powering the Cell: Mitochondria,” was released in October. It delves inside the complex molecules that reside in our cells and convert food into energy. Produced in high definition, “Powering the Cell” takes viewers on a swooping roller coaster ride through the microscopic machinery of the cell.

    Sophisticated programs like Maya allow animators to create vibrant worlds from scratch, but that isn’t always necessary or desirable in biology. A company called Digizyme in Brookline, Mass., has developed a way for animators to pull data directly into Maya from the Protein Data Bank so that many of the over 63,000 proteins in the database can be easily rendered and animated.

    Gaël McGill, Digizyme’s chief executive, says access to this data is critical to scientific accuracy. “For us the starting point is always the science,” Dr. McGill said. “Do we have data to support the image we’re going to create?”

    Indeed, while enthusiasm runs high among those directly involved in the field, others in the scientific community are uncertain about the value of these animations for actual scientific research. While acknowledging the potential to help refine a hypothesis, for example, some scientists say that visualizations can quickly veer into fiction.

    “Some animations are clearly more Hollywood than useful display,” says Peter Walter, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of California, San Francisco. “It can become hard to distinguish between what is data and what is fantasy.”

    Dr. McGill acknowledges that showing cellular processes can involve a significant dose of conjecture. Animators take liberty with color and space, among other qualities, in order to highlight a particular function or part of the cell. “All the events we are depicting are so small they are below the wavelength of light,” he said.

    But he contends that these visualizations will be increasingly necessary in a world awash in data. “In the face of increasing complexity, and increasing data, we’re faced with a major problem,” Dr. McGill said.

    Certainly, it will play a significant part in education. The Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson is leading a project to develop the next generation of digital biology textbook that will integrate complex visualizations as a core part of the curriculum. Called “Life on Earth,” the project will include visualizations from Mr. Berry and is being overseen by Dr. McGill, who believes it could change how students learn biology.

    “I think visualization is going to be the key to the future,” Dr. McGill said.

    Tue, Nov 16, 2010  Permanent link

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    more here

    As you know, depending on their style, most churches have domes on top of them, but there’s one church that has the “Upside Dome” and it is located in Belgium.It’s a shame to see that one of the most beautiful baroque churches has no dorm while all other churches around the world and Belgium have it, therefore, two architects decided to make their own dome for this church. St Michiel Church in Leuven, Belgium, is the first, and possibly the only church in the world that has “Upside Dome”. Two architects, made this “Upside Dome” and it literally hangs inside the church. The structure itself looks amazing and according to the creators, it is made from hundreds of meters of chain. This is a real size dome and it perfectly counterparts the unfinished dome. Although this dome might not look appealing to some, it has its charm because it creates the amazing atmosphere by casting shadows, and thanks to the unusual dome, St Michiel Church became one of the most famous churches in the world. As for the creators of this “Upside Dome”, all credit goes to Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh, and their company called Gijs Van Vaerenbergh.

    Mon, Nov 15, 2010  Permanent link

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    NOV. 9. 2010
    From New York Times

    Something big is going on at the center of the galaxy, and astronomers are happy to say they don’t know what it is.

    A group of scientists working with data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope said Tuesday that they had discovered two bubbles of energy erupting from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The bubbles, they said at a news conference and in a paper to be published Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal, extend 25,000 light years up and down from each side of the galaxy and contain the energy equivalent to 100,000 supernova explosions.

    “They’re big,” said Doug Finkbeiner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, leader of the team that discovered them.

    The source of the bubbles is a mystery. One possibility is that they are fueled by a wave of star births and deaths at the center of the galaxy. Another option is a gigantic belch from the black hole known to reside, like Jabba the Hutt, at the center of the Milky Way. What it is apparently not is dark matter, the mysterious something that astronomers say makes up a quarter of the universe and holds galaxies together.

    “Wow,” said David Spergel, an astrophysicist at Princeton who was not involved in the work.

    “And we think we know a lot about our own galaxy,” Dr. Spergel added, noting that the bubbles were almost as big as the galaxy and yet unsuspected until now.

    Jon Morse, head of astrophysics at NASA headquarters, said, “This shows again that the universe is full of surprises.”

    One of the most surprised was Dr. Finkbeiner. A year ago he was part of a group led by Gregory Dobler of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, Calif., that said it had discerned the existence of a mysterious fog of high-energy particles buzzing around the center of the Milky Way. The particles manifested themselves as a haze of extra energy after all the known sources of gamma rays — the most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation — had been subtracted from Fermi data that had recently been made public.

    At the time, Dr. Finkbeiner and his colleagues speculated that the haze was produced by dark matter. The center of the galaxy is home to all manner of wild and woolly high-energy phenomena, including a gigantic black hole and violently spinning pulsars, but cosmological theories also suggest that dark matter would be concentrated there. Collisions of dark matter particles, the theory goes, could produce showers of gamma rays.

    But in the follow-up analysis, the haze — besides being bigger than Dr. Finkbeiner and his colleagues had thought — turned out to have sharp boundaries, like, well, a bubble. Dark matter, according to the prevailing theory, should be more diffuse.

    “Dark matter has been there billions of years,” Dr. Finkbeiner explained. “If something has been going on for billions of years, you wouldn’t expect a sharp edge.”

    He and the other scientists said this did not mean that dark matter was not there clogging the center of the galaxy, but that it would be harder to see.

    Tue, Nov 9, 2010  Permanent link

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    Exhibition at the MOCA Pacific Design Center
    Los Angeles
    11.06.10 - 02.04.11
    Exhibition Info
    MOCA Info

    From MOCA

    This exhibition features the role of drawing in the work of Iannis Xenakis (b. 1922, Brăila, Romania; d. 2001, Paris), a major 20th-century figure who brought together architecture, music, and advanced mathematics. A contemporary of fellow avant-garde composers, including Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, and John Cage, Xenakis also created revolutionary designs while working with modern architecture pioneer Le Corbusier. Many of Xenakis's innovations in music and architecture were realized first on paper, resulting in hundreds of striking graphic documents that exemplify how the drawing process was used as a means of "thinking through the hand." The exhibition, the first in North America dedicated to Xenakis's original works on paper produced between 1953 and 1984, includes more than 60 rarely seen musical scores, architectural drawings, conceptual renderings, and samplings of his innovative graphic notation. Exhibition visitors will be able to listen to recorded excerpts of music corresponding to works on view through listening stations and iPods. Xenakis received formal engineering instruction at the Athens Polytechnic Institute in Greece from 1940 to 1947. A Greek Resistance fighter in World War II, he fled to Paris as a political refugee in 1947, where he collaborated with Le Corbusier from 1947 to 1959, first as an engineer and later as an architect. He also studied music composition at the Paris Conservatory from 1950 to 1953 with Olivier Messiaen, who encouraged him to develop the compositional process for which he later became legendary. Rejecting traditional harmonic polyphony, he integrated then-new mathematical theories and, later, computer assistance, to create musical compositions characterized by masses of sound, shifting abstract aural gestalts, and sonic pointillism. This interdisciplinary approach is also characteristic of his architectural designs for which mathematics and musical concepts were important inspirations.

    Wed, Nov 3, 2010  Permanent link

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    Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA) is a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to building social consciousness through digital culture. Guided by the principles of openness, collaboration, and resource sharing, our programs promote creativity at the intersection of art, design, sound, and technology. By making digital culture accessible, substantive and inspiring, we aim to help realize the greatest power of technology: to bring us closer, faster. For more information and how you can be a part of our vision.

    Sun, Oct 24, 2010  Permanent link

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    Check out This interactive website illustrating the scales of the universe...
    From the Very Big to the Very Small...

    Wed, Oct 20, 2010  Permanent link

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