Sunday, December 18, 2011
Upon arrival at the store, I was first annoyed to discover that, once again, the science section had apparently migrated. After making several laps around the floor in search of it's new hiding place; pausing briefly to glare at the MASSIVE religious/spirituality section that had swelled to gargantuan proportions since my last visit, I decided to ask for help in my search.
More than slightly annoyed, and a little bewildered by the idea that the science section might actually be gone altogether, I approached an employee and asked,
" Um, do you not even have a science section anymore?".
"Yes, we still have a science section", the clerk replied, "it's right over here."
He then proceeded to lead me to the back of the store, where, crammed onto a few shelves facing the back wall -safely shielded from view of the casual browser, and centrally located next to the bathroom and encyclopedias- sat the tiny, sad little selection of science books seen above.To put things into perspective; remember the obscenely large religious and spirituality section I mentioned? Well, here's a photo of just the floor space this particular store has dedicated to bibles alone.
Including the section labeled, "Religious Fiction" (Ill spare you the obvious observation here), the books seen in that photo represent about 25% of the total collection of books on religion and spirituality available at this particular store. Now, take a moment to consider the rest of the credulous, pseudo-scientific, nonsensical, and superstition filled publications that we all know dominate the shelves of this, and every other bookstore in the country, and you'll start to see why this trip managed to set off something in my brain. Because, these days more than ever, brick and mortar stores like B&N have to make the most of their inventory in order to compete with online retailers like Amazon -less they suffer the same fate as Borders. Which means, the content of this, and any other store's inventory, is a direct reflection of what people actually have an interest in buying, and clearly -it ain't science.
Now, I know that this may not sound like much of a catalyst for an Epiphany. But for me, watching the selection of science books -which actually used to be fairly large at this particular location BTW- slowly shrink, and disappear from view, was a stark, and frankly depressing, reminder of just how unpopular science and critical thinking are -and just how prominent irrational thought, and supernatural belief, continue to be in the mind of the average person. so while I still harbor no delusions of grandeur where my place in the world is concerned, it did manage to remind me of why any effort to promote science and critical thinking, however small, was well worth it.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22.
As you have no doubt heard by now, Christopher Hitchens, who had been receiving treatment for esophageal cancer since the middle of last year, died of pneumonia Thursday night at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, he was 62.
While I am, as always, days late in hearing the news, and I can't even pretend to have any great insight to add to the meaning of his life or the impact of his death. As someone whose taken great inspiration from his work for many years now, I can't help but at least try to express who he was and what his work meant, to me.
Hitchens was best known to most of mainstream culture, at least here in America anyway, as one of the most vocal, and aggressive, members of the modern atheist movement. He was a polarizing figure, even amongst those of us who shared his values, and was often characterized as a loud-mouthed intellectual. One who could always be found -drink in one hand, cigarette in the other- happily dismantling the most sacred ideals, icons, and beliefs, of much of modern society. All while displaying little to no regard for whose feelings he might hurt or whose sensibilities he might offend along the way. Which, all in all, is a fair enough characterization of his public face I suppose, and to me, a description of a man I would have loved to have met.
Christopher Hitchens, as I saw him, was a man who believed that intellectualism was not a dirty word. That being a so-called intellectual, was not a pursuit beyond the means of the average mind. He was a man who believed that acquiring a true higher understanding of our world was something that we should all aspire to, and he correctly identified religion as one of the primary enemies of that pursuit, and treated it accordingly.
It was this unapologetic promotion of free thought, and his effort to promote and reinvigorate interest in the values of the enlightenment movement -the philosophical and intellectual phenomena that was, not only the true parent of America, but of the modern scientific era in which we live today- that meant the most, and had the greatest affect and influence on me personally. Because I believe that what the world needs most is to learn not to tolerate ignorance, injustice, or hatred; or to settle for mediocrity for the sake of tradition, superstition, or fear of offense. And that, to me, was the overwhelming theme of Hitchens' work, and the reason that I will most miss having his voice in the world.
Posted by Youtube user: iqsquared
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Last week researchers from the University of California released a paper describing an experiment in which scientists managed to generate rough representations of visual stimuli by monitoring activity in the brain. This paper's release was also accompanied by the above video, which shows a comparison of the original images shown to participants in the test, along side the reconstructed versions generated by the computer.
While it's an impressive, even if imperfect, result. Chances are the reconstructed images seen in the video were not generated the way you think they were. Assuming of course that, like me, your mind is filled with images of people wearing funny devices on their heads, staring into some kind of strange optical device with their eyelids wired open like Clockwork Orange, or maybe even having their brains somehow jacked directly into computers all Johnny Mnemonic style -whoa-. No? Okay, so maybe it's just me, and I need to get out more and watch less sci-fi. Either way, Not surprisingly, that isn't the case.
In reality, these images were not collected directly from the subject's mind using any form of what you'd likely consider to be "mind-reading", in the traditional sci-fi sense. Instead, these images were generated by first collecting data from a subjects brain, via FMRI(Functional, Magnetic, Resonance, Imaging), and then asking a computer to reinterpret that data, and generate an image.
In order to accomplish this, the machine tasked with generating these images was first fed some 18 million 1 second YouTube clips -clips that were never shown to the participants in the experiment. Next, the subjects themselves each spent several hours lying inside an MRI machine and staring at a blue dot while being shown random YouTube clips; this allowed researchers to generate a map of basic visual activities within the brain during viewing using FMRI. Finally, those activity maps were then fed into the computer as well, and that computer was then was then asked to select from it's newly generated database of video clips, the images which best represented those being seen by the participants based solely on the activity shown on the scans.
In other words; the images you're seeing aren't actually images taken from "inside" any one's head like you might think. But rather, are a collection of images chosen by a computer and compiled together to represent what it determined to be the best visual representation of what the subject was seeing at the time, based on his or her brain activity.
So while this may not yet be the astonishing sc-fi milestone you may have thought it to be upon first reading the headlines surrounding it, it is an impressive feat. And though actually reading someone's thoughts and turning them into images is a very different thing than reinterperating direct visual stimulations of the brain, this could still potentialy be a major step towards achieving that goal. An accomplishment that would be invaluable to individuals who are otherwise unable to communicate.
Source: dawn.com Paper Summary: sciencedirect.com
Octopus kites by Tamas Kalman, available for purchase - assuming of course you have $400 to spend on a kite, and really, who doesn't- HERE in his online store.
That is all.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
From This Week's Compendium:
See that? THAT, is an entire freezer full of human breast milk. More importantly, THAT, is an entire freezer full of human breast milk produced entirely by one human being. No, really. Why would someone have a freezer full of breast milk, much less what looks to be multiple gallons of the stuff?
When a couple’s newborn had to spend time in the NICU, mom became concerned that she might stop lactating. So, she began pumping -and storing. Eventually, the baby came home, and the milk the couple didn’t end up using for their own infant, was donated to milk banks; cause apparently that’s a thing you can do. It wasn’t long before the couple was once again, with child, -cause, ya know, the first time around went so smoothly- and once again, that child would spend time in the NICU, prompting mommy to resume her pumping regime. Like their first, the couple’s second child eventually made it’s way home, where their was -if nothing else- certainly plenty to eat. But this time, the couple was unable to donate the excess milk mommy made -at least where milk banks were concerned, I presume they overlooked the: “random fetishists on the internet” option- because of certain medications she was taking at the time of pumping; thus leaving the couple with a freezer full of unused -potentially, chemically tainted- breast milk.
As so often happens when starting a family, the couple was soon faced with a move, and paying the high cost of transporting a freezer full of mommy juice; seriously, think about how much of this stuff you have to have in order to determine it to be, TOO EXPENSIVE TO MOVE! Not wanting to throw out the precious fluid, cause, ya know, what kind of sensible person would do that? Daddy, soon had a solution.That solution of course, was to try and see just how long he could survive, on nothing but mother’s milk. Cause, Ya know, There’s nothing creepy or weird about that.
Just how far will this experiment go? And what will the results be? Well, it looks like we'll never REALLY know the answer to either of those questions, as the couple had intended to blog about Pop’s little experiment, but appear to have rather quickly discovered that the internets, is not always a kind place, as that blog is already down. Now if I could just keep my lunch that way, everything will be fine.
And you guys thought Ice cream made from human breast milk was creepy.
Posted by Youtube user: WilliamShatner
In case you don’t already know, amongst his various other activities, William Shatner occasionally likes to release…let’s call them “vocal albums”. My favorite of his offerings came from His 2004 album “has Been”, in the form of a track called “I can’t get Behind That”; which featured a guest appearance from Henry Rollins -yes, THAT Henry Rollins. For his next album, “Seeking Major Tom”, due out in 2011, Shatner recorded this version of Iron Man, featuring Zakk Wylde. The results are…well, let’s call it “Shat-tastic™”.
And if you thought was good, wait till you hear his version of Bohemian Rhapsody…GGB On Tumblr
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Now, while I would be willing to claim that I posses a better understanding of particle physics than your average person on the street, the truth is, I'm just some random geek on the Internet with a thing for science. And while I am both aware, and at least have a basic understanding of many of the basic principals and theories associated with particle physics, I SERIOUSLY lack the expertise to try and explain to you in technical detail exactly what's been going on inside the particle accelerators at CERN, so I won't even try to get too technical. But the basic gist of things is this:
The observation in question was made a few months ago during an experiment in which sub-atomic particles called neutrinos, were generated By CERN in Geneva, and fired across 454 miles to a particle detector in Italy. According to the results of the experiment, CERN's neutrinos managed to arrive at their destination in Italy, 60 Nanoseconds faster than a photon; a measurement well outside the experiment's 10 nanosecond margin of error. Now, I realize that 60 nanoseconds may not sound like much, mostly because, on a macro scale, it isn't. But, ANY amount of acceleration beyond the limit of light speed is a big deal, as it is -as far as we know anyway- physically impossible to travel faster than light.
Einstein's theory of special relativity, and the speed limit it imposes, is one of the most well-established, and thoroughly tested concepts in physics. One which has been challenged, and repeatedly proven true, for over a century now. So one unconfirmed data point, from one unreplicated experiment, is not likely about to send it crashing down. But, there is always the chance, however unlikely it may seem, that other researchers will be able to both confirm and replicate these results, and change one of the fundamental laws of physics. But just for the record, my money, along with that of basically everyone else who's chimed in on this subject, is still on Einstein.
Source: AP, Bad Astronomer
You can also view this post on: GGB on tumblr
For more info on CERN's findings, and what it would mean if proven true, here's an Interview from the BBC with physicist Brian Cox on CERN's findings:
Posted by Youtube user: SuperRorylewis
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Posted by Youtube user:yesterday2221
Description from Youtube:
"A time-lapse taken from the front of the International Space Station as it orbits our planet at night. This movie begins over the Pacific Ocean and continues over North and South America before entering daylight near Antarctica. Visible cities, countries and landmarks include (in order) Vancouver Island, Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles. Phoenix. Multiple cities in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. Mexico City, the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, El Salvador, Lightning in the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Lake Titicaca, and the Amazon. Also visible is the earths ionosphere (thin yellow line), a satellite (55sec) and the stars of our galaxy."
Yes, I know I just posted a Time lapse, and this makes two video only posts in a row, and though I do strive for variety- this was just too cool not to share now.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Posted by Youtube user: Wayside Creations
Because it's one of my new favorite things, I've decided to start sharing new episodes of Wayside Creations' fan-made Fallout series Nuka Break, as they are released. I'm starting two episodes behind, so if you don't want to wait, go and check out episode 2 -and the fan-film if you missed it here last week- on Wayside's Youtube channel. If you happen to have a thing for special effects, be sure to check out Zack and Ralis in their new DIY effect series Mad Monster Lab, as well.
NASA's Kepler mission has announced the first direct detection of a circumbinary planet – a planet orbiting two stars- in a binary star system designated Kepler-16, located 200 light-years from Earth. While potential planets have previously been detected in other binary systems, Kepler-16b, as this newest exoplanet is now known, is the first confirmed planet to have been observed orbiting both it's parent stars.
A binary star system, as the name suggests, is a system with two stars orbiting around a common center of mass. Because from our vantage point on Earth, each of the two stars regularly passes in front of the other during their orbit, Kepler-16 is classified as an eclipsing binary.
Observations of Kepler-16 showed a drop in light from the system, not only when the stars eclipsed one another, as expected, but also a when neither star was eclipsing the other, indicating the presence of a much smaller 3rd object orbiting around them. By measuring the gravitational tug applied to the stars by this third objects, scientists were able to estimate it's mass, and Kepler-16b, as the new planet is now known, is believed to be a cold, uninhabitable world, about the size of Saturn, comprised of gas and rock.
Though Kepler-16b may be a cold, gaseous world -incapable of harboring any Jedi resistance fighters -or even sand people. As Kepler's Principal investigator William Borucki points out, the confirmation of a planet orbiting in a binary system - which are much more common than the single star system in which we reside-
"confirms a new class of planetary systems that could harbor life," and "Given that most stars in our galaxy are part of a binary system, this means the opportunities for life are much broader than if planets form only around single stars. This milestone discovery confirms a theory that scientists have had for decades but could not prove until now."
VIA: GGB on tumblr
Red dye, soap bubbles, ferrofluid (a liquid which becomes strongly magnetized in the presence of a magnetic field), capillary action, and magnetism, combine to make an oddly mesmerizing time lapse.
Earlier this week, a paper published in the Journal Science described a collection of dinosaur feathers suspended in amber. The 11 samples described in the paper were found amongst a collection of some 4,000 amber deposits held in various museums in Alberta, Canada. These ancient feathers were trapped in amber (fossilized tree resin) around 70-80 million years ago, sometime during the late Cretaceous period.
According to the paper's abstract, the structure of the protofeathers found in the deposits, demonstrate several different evolutionary adaptations of the feather, including those used in flight, as well as underwater diving. And because of their preservation inside amber, these specimens also reveal the actual pigmentation of the feathers; which range in color from brown to black.
For those of you who haven't kept up with your paleontology or evolutionary biology very well over the years, and find all this talk of dinosaurs and feathers a bit confusing; and because it's been a while since I indulged myself with a lengthy science entry, I offer the following:
The dominant view in science today is that modern birds are in fact, dinosaurs. More specifically, birds are considered by most scientists to be modern examples of a family of dinosaurs known as theropods, which evolved during the Mesozoic era ( 250 to 65 million years ago). This idea, or at least the idea that modern birds were descended from dinosaurs, was first proposed shortly after the publication of Charles Darwin's origin of species in 1859, by British biologist Thomas H Huxley.
Huxley came to believe in the dinosaur's ancestry to birds, after comparing the anatomy of the "first bird" fossil, Archaeopteryx Lithographica, with that of a small theropod dinosaur called Comsognathus, which he noted were -aside from Archaeopteryx's feathers and hands- extremely similar to one another. Huxley made his case for the link between the two animals, and their likely ancestry to modern birds in, "On the Animals which are most nearly intermediate between Birds and Reptiles" , published in "The Annals and Magazine of Natural History", in 1868.
At the time of Huxley's research the popular consensus was that dinosaurs had not developed into birds, but that birds -like every other modern species- had their own lineage; one which had arisen completely independently from dinosaurs. Archaeopteryx, therefore, represented the first primitive form of the species now known as birds, rather than a transition between dinosaur and bird, as Huxley had asserted. As a result of this opposition to the Darwinian notion of transmutation, Huxley's theory faded from interest, and the belief that birds and dinosaurs had evolved separately, remained the most popular scientific view for nearly the next hundred years.
But Interest in Huxley's theory would finally be fully revived in 1964, when American paleontologist John H. Ostrom, conducted his own anatomical comparisons of modern birds and dinosaurs. In the years which followed, others began to conduct similar comparative analysis, and by the late 1970's, many had not only come to accept the relationship of birds to ancient theropods, but some had also begun to speculate that early theropods might also have had feathers. By the mid 1990's, the notion that modern birds were, in fact, living dinosaurs, had largely become accepted fact, and the assertion that their ancient counter-parts had most likely been feathered as well, was also widely believed. But this belief was still a speculative one at this point, as little to no fossil evidence of feathered dinosaurs had yet been found.
But in the past twenty years, dozens of new fossils and various other major finds have also been added to the list of evidence in the case for feathered theropods. From simple impressions found around fossil remains, to quill knobs (the anchor point for wing feathers) found on the forelimb of certain fossilized specimens. In 2010, researchers even managed to determine the color of some of these feathers, by analyzing fossilized melanosomes, found in the fossils of birds and dinosaurs from northeastern China.
In the years since Huxley first proposed an evolutionary link between dinosaurs and modern birds, countless new discoveries have been made which support his theory. And though now widely accepted as scientific fact, there will always be those who question the evolutionary link between birds and ancient theropods; both legitimately and otherwise. But when confronted with the growing fossil evidence, and now, the feathers themselves; perfectly preserved in amber. It seems undeniable that the answer to the question, " Were there feathered dinosaurs?" at least, is a definitive, yes.
Cue the rambling creationist counter-point in...
Source: Wired Science , The Journal Science, Wikipedia, New World Encylopedia
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Posted by Youtube user: FinalCutKing
Normally, I maintain a very strict NO CAT VIDEO policy, but just this once, I have to make an exception. Please forgive my weakness.
VIA: GGB on Tumblr
When I first found this story, I assumed the headline attached to it, "How to Make a Transparent Mouse with a Few Simple Ingredients", really meant, as is typically the case, something far less unusual than it sounded. Turns out, I was wrong. Scientists from Riken, a natural sciences research center in Japan, have actually developed a solution that really does make tissue transparent, dead tissue of course, but it was the transparent part that I was suspicious of. Oh, and did I mention that there's urine and anti-freeze involved? Well, sort of.
Using a simple recipe containing urea (see, I told ya), a cell membrane-softening detergent (Ooh, does that mean that Snuggle comes in "Flesh softening" now?) called Triton-X (oh, guess not) , and Glycerol, a component of antifreeze; researchers were able to create a solution called Scale (yes, the "l" is italicized on purpose, I don't know why). Other clearing agents similar to this already exist, but the degree to which they render tissues transparent varies, and they can often interfere with fluorescent tags inserted into the tissues for study. A two week soak in Scale, on the other hand, eliminates both these problems. And because this newest clearing agent allows researches to look as deep as they like into tissues, such as the brain, without interfering with their tagging agents, researchers hope that Scale will provide a simpler and more effective way to trace circuits of the brain in order to create better connectivity maps of the organ; delicate work, that is currently still being done by hand.
It should go without saying that a two week soak in urea, Glycerol, and flesh-softening detergent, would be, not only unpleasant, but not particularly conducive to allowing living tissue to remain that way. So for now, at least, Scale's applications are limited to dead tissues. But researchers do hope to develop a milder version that could be used on living tissue as well. Which could be great news for teenagers of the future, who could no longer be limited to tattoos, piercings, ridiculous clothing, and silly hair cuts, to piss-off their parents; and could instead, be getting things "transparented".
I can hear it now:
"TRANSPARENT IS BEAUTIFUL TOO!" and "I'm totally having my skin transparified to protest racism and animal cruelty. Organs are beautiful man, not food! And there is no hate, if we're all see-thru."
Source: Discover Magazine VIA: GGB on tumblr
Monday, September 12, 2011
Posted by Youtube user:ipeeepay
Normally, I'm not much for puns. But somehow, George manages to make them funny. So, for those of you who also enjoy George Hrab (Music/The Geologic Podcast) and terrible, terrible puns, I give you both; along with Evan Bernstein (The Skeptics Guide to The universe) and Brian Brushwood (NSFW/Scam School/Weird Things).
And if you are a fellow skeptic/science geek/ETC, who is somehow unfamiliar with George, Brian, or Evan, be sure to follow the links provided to check out their various podcasts, as well as the rest of George's music.
Posted by Youtube user: ipeeepay
VIA: GGB on Tumblr
Saturday, September 10, 2011
I can not accurately describe for you how badly I want the Darwin (Danzig) and Sagan (Slayer) shirt. Two of my favorite minds, masquerading as two of my favorite bands, MUST HAVE NOW.
These, and many more designs, available at:Monsters of Grok
VIA: GGB on Tumblr
Monday, September 5, 2011
Posted by Youtube user: WaysideCreations
More of this please.
Named 2.6g 329m/s, after the maximum weight and velocity of a .22 calibre Long Rifle bullet from which a Type 1 bulletproof vest is meant to protect you; the skin was created by first acquiring the protein which makes the spider silk itself -which is several times stronger than steel- from the milk of goats genetically modified to produce the protein in their milk. Once extracted, the protein was then woven into a lattice work of fibers, which was in turn sandwiched between two layers of otherwise normal human skin cells grown on top of the silk matrix.
As for the goats themselves -since I'm sure you're curious- they were created using a method developed by researcher Randy Lewis and his team from Utah State University, in which the gene responsible for producing the silk is extracted from the spiders which would naturally create the substance, and ultimately inserted into a goat's egg.
While Essaidi's final product was ultimately unable to reach the minimum standard for modern bullet proof vests by stopping a .22 cal riffle bullet shot at normal speed, and the notion that we might someday replace the keratin in our skin with this silk using the same methods as those used to create the modified goats, though entirely plausible, is at best, a distant dream. In the short term, Lewis asserts that the most exciting part about Jalila's experiment is that they were able to grow the skin cells on top of the fibers in the first place, and the potential applications for the skin today in skin grafts and other treatments.
Posted by Youtube user: originalmaja
I admit to using this phrase a lot, probably too much in fact, but, Stephen Fry is without question one my favorite living humans. I would gladly listen to him talk about just about anything for hours. In this video, recorded in October of 2010 at the Sydney Opera House, host Jennifer Byrne talks with him about his life, desire, manic depression, the philosophy of Star Trek, and she even gets him to reveal the true meaning of 42.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Behemoth frontman Nergal was found not-guilty of offending religious feeling by a judge in Poland, again. The charges, in case you forgot, stem from a 2007 performance by the band in Gydnia, in which he referred to the bible as a, "deceitful book", religion as a "criminal sect", and the catholic church as, "the most murderous cult on the planet", before destroying a bible on stage. Nergal was actually cleared of the same charges once before, last year, But prosecutors appealed the ruling.
Late last month, a Polish judge once again found him to be innocent, ruling that his ripping up of a bible during a show was a form of artistic expression consistent with the style of his band. Nergal made the following comments following the ruling:
"I'm so glad to see that intelligence won over religious fanatics in my home country. Though there's still so much work to be done to make things right… But I'm sure that I'm on the right path to ultimate freedom! The battle is won, but the war ain't over."
Amen. (irony intended)
Source: Metal Injection
Posted by Youtube user: Behemothofficial
In 1993 three teenagers, Damien Echols(18), Jason Baldwin(16) and Jessie Misskelley(17)- one of whom, Damien Echols, was rumored to be a satanist- now known as the West Memphis 3, were arrested for the sexual assault and murder of three 8 year old boys, Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byer. Despite NO substantiated physical evidence linking them to the crimes, by 1994, the trio was convicted of the murders based on a confession given by Misskelly -which the defense would later charge was obtained via coercion- and a statement made by a woman named Vicki Hutcheson; in which she claimed that Jessie Misskelly and Damien Echols had taken her to view a "Satanic esbat", a coven or witch's meeting associated with Wicca and Neopaganism. As a result of their conviction in the case, Misskelly and Baldwin would received multiple life sentences, while Damien was sentenced to death.
Following their convictions the boys maintained their innocence, not a particularly unique position for an inmate to maintain. But soon, they begin to draw public support. Over the years this group of supporters would eventually grow to include a variety of celebrities and musicians, as well as the parents of two of three victims, and ultimately resulted in the creation of a defense fund. A fund which allowed the Young men the ability to properly challenge the charges against them, which many believed were driven by the religiously driven hysteria dubbed the "Satanic Panic".
An examination of the evidence conducted by Echol's defense team between 2005 and 2007, not only failed to produce ANY evidence linking the Boys to the case, but actually yielded DNA evidence in the form of two hairs found at the scene which were determined to be consistent with the DNA of two other individuals sampled by the defense: Terry Hobbs, victim Steve Branch's step father, and a known associate of Hobbs, David Jacoby. Defense investigators also determined that marks on the victims body's, alleged to have been inflicted with a large knife recovered from a lake near Baldwin's home, were most likely the result of animal activity, and not the weapon in question. Finally, the team showed that Misskelly's confession, obtained after multiple hours of police interrogation of the the then 17 year old, border line mentally challenged suspect, was initially factually incorrect in every significant way -from the time of the murders, to the methods used in the killings- until police lead Misskelly into giving the "correct" answers to their questions.
As for the claim made by Vicki Hutcheson that Echols and Misskelly had taken her to witness a satanic ritual, a claim which helped to bolster the prosecution's assertion that the killings had been part of a satanic rite. In 2004, Hutcheson claimed that her testimony in the trial had been a complete fabrication, one which she claims to have told after West Memphis Police detectives threatened to take her child away and implicate her in the slayings, if she refused to testify as instructed. Hutcheson's claims of police intimidation have never been substantiated.
Armed with their new findings findings, and Hutcheson's recant, the defense made an appeal for a new trial. In 2010, that appeal was granted by the state supreme court, and a new trial was set for later this year. Seemingly convinced that the men, now all in their thirties, would likely win that trial, the state decided to make a deal. On august 19th, the West Memphis three were set free after serving 18 years in prison. They were not, however, cleared of the charges against them.
In order to gain their freedom, Echols and Baldwin were forced to enter something known as a " Alford plea", in which a defendant asserts their innocence of the charges in question, but acknowledges that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; Misskelly entered a similar plea for his charges. This special plea to the charges also just happens to come with the happy side-effect, where the state is concerned anyway, of shielding the prosecution from any criminal liability, including financial damages.
Though there seemed to be little doubt from anyone that all three men would most likely have won their freedom in the new trial granted to them by the Arkansas Supreme Court, Jason and Jessie ultimately decided to agree to the plea -which also came with a 10 year suspended sentence for each defendant- in order to save the life of their friend Damien, who was awaiting execution on death row.
Given my own affinity for the music and sub-culture that was the target of the satanic-panic phenomena, not to mention my own personal dealings with it throughout my childhood, the plight of the WM3 is something I have followed for a long time. In my view, it seems clear that these men were wrongly convicted of the crimes in question, and given the lack of evidence against them; the prosecutions seeming refusal to even consider other subjects -despite even new DNA evidence implicating others in the crime- and all of the attempts that were made during the trial to tie the murders to satanic rituals, it seems equally obvious that religiously-fueled hysteria was ultimately the primary motivator behind the boys arrests and convictions. And while I'm pleased that the men were finally able to at least earn they're freedom, the idea that all of the authorities and institutions involved in their convictions are being allowed to get away with -in my opinion- deliberately ruining the lives of three innocent people in the name of their personal religious convictions, or simple incompetence- angers and disgusts me to no end. But whatever your personal opinion of their guilt or innocence may be, we should all agree that the handling of this case and the result it produced, were anything but justice for anyone, including the victims.
Sources: CNN Justice, WM3blackboard ( Vicki Hutcheson's recant), The WM3 "Time for Truth" Documentary- posted by: globalgriot on Youtube.
Posted by Youtube user: modivationfilms
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
Batteries suck. Sure, like any other technology, batteries have improved vastly over the years. But there's just no getting around the fact that the lingering inefficiencies in the ability of batteries to both generate and store energy remains a major defect in all of our favorite portable devices, as well as would be alternative energy technologies like solar power. So as you might imagine, the quest for better batteries is a popular one, and one with many potential solutions. One such solution, to at least some of our battery woes anyway, could be the merging of biology and technology to create organic super-batteries or biological superconductors, using a newly developed living transistor made from bacteria.
A group of biologists and physicists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, recently teamed up to create what they have dubbed "living nanowire", using a strain of bacteria called Geobacter sulfurreducens, which grows long stringy filaments called pili along its body, which it uses to expel electrons generated as a byproduct of it's digestive process. By running current through a small electrode covered in a thin film of the bacteria, researchers were able to measure the conductivity of these filaments, and found that they could conduct electrons better than some metals.
"These nanowire networks showed the same properties of metal networks," Mark Tuominen, professor of physics at UMass and lead author of the paper detailing the findings of the team's research said, "We didn't think nature could make something similar to metal. This is the first time this has been discovered and this is very exciting for us."
Like any new discovery, the potential application of this research is speculative, and no specific details were given as to how or when it could lead to the development of these biological super-batteries; which would also be environmentally-sustainable, as well as cheaper to produce. But given the need for new developments in the world of power storage and generation, there is at least a hope that this discovery might not join the long list of potentially cool new technologies that we never hear from again.
Source: Discovery News
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Saturday, August 20, 2011
Posted by Youtube user: gloveandboots
From this week's Compendium:
With every generation there comes a new group of pretentious and annoying human beings that we all soon learn to love to hate. This time around, we’re calling theme hipsters.
To learn more about the newest unwashed, self-important group of Ironically-anti-conformist-over privileged-white-pseudo-hippie-douche-bags to hit the scene, join Fafa and Mario from Glove and Boots as they explain; “The Evolution of The Hipster”.
On a personal note: I realize that some of you will find my description of this particular sub-culture as dismissive and offensive, which is an excellent indication that you too may BE a hipster. So on this point I’d just like to say:
Yes it is, and I’m not sorry.
Posted by Youtube user: gloveandboots
Source: Discovery News
Friday, August 19, 2011
Prints of the poster will also be sold at the event, and via Pardee’s web store Zerofriends , assuming there are any left over, which I wouldn’t.
Image credit: Alex Pardee
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Earlier this month, NASA sent out a press release along with a series of images taken by the HRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance orbiter showing a series of dark trails radiating down from the edges of steep slopes of Mars' Newton Basin crater, located on the planet's southern hemisphere. These trails first begin to appear and grow throughout the warmer months on the planet, and then recede as temperatures drop in the winter. Because the temperature in this particular area is too warm to allow for the creation of carbon dioxide frost, researchers concluded that the the most likely candidate behind the unusual markings were deposits of salt water, either on or just beneath the planet's surface, thawing and draining down the slopes with the changing of the seasons.
While it is generally accepted that Mars once had liquid water, possibly even an ocean flowing on it's surface, and the existence of water ice just beneath the planet's soil has been confirmed in various regions. These strange dark trails in the martian sand represent the best evidence to date that liquid water could in fact still exist on the red planet. Which would of course greatly increase the odds that Mars is also potentially host to at least microbial life.
However, while the images are compelling. The argument they make as proof of flowing water, is little more than circumstantial. As the water itself has yet to be directly observed or detected, and an attempt to confirm it's presence using the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars on board the MRO, was unsuccessful. Which could either mean that the water isn't there, it evaporates too quickly to detect, or that there simply isn't enough of it present in the atmosphere for it to be detected at all. Only time and further observation will tell for sure.
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Posted by Youtube user: SpaceRip
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Posted by Youtube user: MetalBladeRecords
Okay, so how's this for random and strange. The Death Metal band Cannibal Corpse just happens upon the Reverend Jesse Jackson while in Belgium. Photo session ensues.
Though they do not necessarily require animal proteins to stay alive. Carnivorous plants, like the pitcher plants seen above, have evolved a number of methods for trapping insects and other small animals, which they then breakdown using digestive enzymes, in order to supplement their diets to make up for the lack of nutrients present in the soil in which they typically grow. While they usually only manage to catch smaller creatures like insects and frogs. Pitcher plants, which tend to grow larger than other varieties of carnivorous plants, have been known to catch larger animals like mice, and even rats.
The above photo is believed to be only the second ever documented case of a pitcher plant eating a bird, which presumably became trapped while trying to pull out insects floating in the liquid inside the plant.BBC News
In two of the meteorites, the team also discovered for the first time, trace amounts of three molecules related to nucleobases (nucleobase analogues), purine, 2,6-diaminopurine, and 6,8-diaminopurine; two of which rarely appear in biology. According to Dr. Michael Callahan, lead author of a paper on the discovery appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America;
"You would not expect to see these nucleobase analogs if contamination from terrestrial life was the source, because they're not used in biology, aside from one report of 2,6-diaminopurinecyanophage S-2L,"
While the presence of molecules not known to commonly appear in biology was a strong indication that the findings were not the result of contamination. Callahan's group further confirmed this fact by analyzing a sample of ice taken from Antarctica, where most of the meteorites in the study were found. The result showed much smaller concentrations of the nucleobases, as well as xanthine and hypoxanthine, all of which appeared in parts per trillion in the ice sample, as oppose to the parts per billion generally found within the samples taken from the meteorites. None of the Nucleobase analogues were discovered in the sample. Analysis of the soil taken from the surrounding area where one of the meteorites used in study fell in Austraila, also failed to detect those analogs.
In one final experiment designed to rule out terrestrial contamination and confirm the extraterrestrial origin of the molecules. Callahan's team was able to successfully generate all of the nucleobases and analogues found within the meteorite samples in a completely non-biological chemical reaction in the lab, using hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and water. Showing not only that the find was almost certainly not the result of contamination, but more importantly, that chemical processes taking place within certain types of asteroids could potentially produce all of the molecules detected in the study.
If confirmed by further research, the findings of Callahan and his team could be a major step towards understanding the true origins of life on Earth. Particularly when considered along with previous research conducted by the team which detected amino acids, the molecules responsible for building proteins, within similar samples; as well samples taken from the Comet Wild 2 during NASA's stardust mission. All of which, adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the theory that the chemistry taking place within comets and asteroids is capable of generating the basic building blocks of essential biological molecules, and that life may owe it's existence, at least in part, to materials delivered from space via meteorite and comet impacts.
Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith
Posted by Youtube user:http: NASAexplorer
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Posted by Youtube user: J0hnCl0sed
There are only a handful of reasons I ever regret not having cable, Walking Dead is one of them. For those of you who haven’t watched, while the show is it not without it’s short comings and cliches, I think AMC's Walking Dead is the first new piece of zombie material to do zombies right for quite sometime, and is thus far, my favorite zombie story since the original Dawn of The Dead.
Love this show.
While we're on the subject of zombies. In an effort to illicit a little audience participation, I thought I'd try asking a question:
Shamblers or Runners?
Call me a purist if you like, but I grew up with Romero style zombies and to me, they will always remain the only true zombies.
Runners, just aren’t scary to me. In a cinematic sense, they can deliver more “gotcha” type scares, but I think hordes of mindless, hungry creatures, marching, slowly, relentless towards you, is much more frightening, and I much prefer gore and actual psychological terror, to things jumping out of closets at me. So that’s why I think, REAL zombies shamble, period.
What’s your preference? Let me know in the comments.
Well, while Tobias may continue to hold her crown as the worst offender in this rather odd sub-genre of parental neglect. A young couple from Dongguan, China, have managed to score a unique achievement of their own, by being the first set of parents, that I know of anyway, to actually sell their three children in order to support their online gaming habit.
According to the Sanxiang City News, Li Lin and Li Juan, both of whom are under the age of 21, met in 2007 and quickly bonded over their obsession for online games. A year later, they welcomed their first child, a son, by promptly leaving him home alone just a few days after his birth in order to go gaming at an Internet cafe some 18 miles away.
By 2009, the couple had a second child together, a daughter this time. But rather than merely neglecting her like they did their first born, Lin and Juan decided it would be a much better idea to sell her, and use the proceeds to fund their online activities.
But as you may well know, battling Orcs and Warlocks in an online fantasy land isn't cheap, and the profits gained from the sale of their second child, nearly 500 dollars, were soon all used up. So the young parents took the only logical path available to them and soon decided to sell their first born son as well, who, at a sticker price of around 4600 dollars, brought in nearly 10 times as much as his little sister.
Li Lin and Li Juan would go on to repeat this act one final time with the sale of their third child, another boy, who was born sometime later and sold for the same amount as his brother, before they were finally turned into the authorities by Lin's mother. When asked after their arrests weather or not they missed their children, Li Lin and Li Juan, who claim they did not know they were breaking the law, responded;
"We don’t want to raise them, we just want to sell them for some money.”
Well, at least they're honest I guess, terrible examples of human beings who should have their reproductive organs violently removed, but honest.
Source: ABC News Radio VIA: Compendium oF Strange
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Posted by Youtube user: thehypnoguy1
This clip from Penn & Teller's "Fool Us", featuring John van der Put, AKA "Piff The Magic Dragon" ( no relation), has been making the rounds as, "Piff", is easily the standout favorite performer to appear on the show thus far. Regardless of weather or not he managed to fool them in the end, his trick and his delivery are both awesome, and he gets HUGE points in my book, if for nothing else, being able to maintain such a deadpan delivery even while under direct questioning from Penn. Not an easy task I'm sure.
For those of you who have yet to see the show (you can watch the pilot episode for yourself , minus part 3 which was removed by request from the performer, HERE), the idea behind it is pretty simple. Magicians come on and perform a trick, if Penn & Teller can't figure out how that trick was done, that performer wins a slot opening for P&T in Las Vegas, simple as that. A damn fine prize if you're a professional magician, and a pretty cool, not to mention original, idea for a show. I love it, but I'm a MASSIVE fanboy when it comes to Penn & Teller, so I'm definitely biased.
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From Last Week's Compendium:
So, do you like the Flaming Lips? Of course you don’t, YOU HAVE EARS!. But A gummy fetus on the other hand, that sound delicious.
In a rather obvious, and desperate attempt to shock people into remembering that they still exist, The Flaming lips have released three of their songs loaded onto a usb drive inserted into the back of, what I can only hope to be an edible gummy fetus. Cause, if you can’t eat the fetus, then what’s the point really?
Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I uttered those words….
Personally, what I find most shocking about this particular marketing ploy, isn’t the use of a potentially edible item formed in the shape of a human fetus, but the fact that a band like the flaming lips did it, and not some obscure death metal band Like say, oh… I don’t know… DYING FETUS!
Oh well, he who acts first I suppose.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Posted by Youtube user: Paulk9pg
What sporting event (and I use the term EXTREMELY loosely in this case) would be complete without someone first asking the all mighty dictator in the sky, to take few moments out of it’s busy schedule of permitting believers to commit genocide in it’s name, and watching poor children starve to death; to turn it’s attention to the outcome of a meaningless contest being played by a few dozen bored millionaires?
Well, pastor Joe Nelms went above and beyond at a recent Nascar event, making sure to ask, not only for the lord to grant protection to all the drivers in the race, but to thank his deity for providing each and every sponsor of the event, as well as his own “hot wife”.
“In Jesus name, Boogity, Boogity, Boogity,…Amen!”
No really, that’s how the prayer ended. I don’t know what that means, but I would like to sponsor a law requiring all believers to identify themselves from this point on, by throwing their hands up and yelling “In (INSERT DEITY HERE)’s Name, boogity, boogity, boogity, AMEN!”, whenever they enter a public space. Not only would this make it much easier for me to identify people to avoid in social situations, but it becomes a whole lot harder to sell anyone your mindless bullshit, after they’ve seen you throw up your hands and shout gibberish at a crowded room full of strangers; I realize that seems sort of redundant, but this form of gibberish is much more obvious to a wider spectrum of people.
At the very least, we can always hope that this whole product placement thing will catch on, prompting the mighty-one to move on to a new business model, and instead of begging money from poor people in churches, it can go straight for corporate sponsorship. After all, look how well that same model is working for America!
Git R Done!
VIA: GGB on Tumblr
Saturday, July 23, 2011
First described in 1920, and last seen by European explores in 1942, the Sambas stream toad or Bornean rainbow toad, was recently rediscovered and photographed for the first time by a team from the University Malaysia Sarawak, lead by herpetologist Indraneil Das.
3 of the tiny, toxic amphibians, ranging in size from one to two inches, were discovered during the expedition, an adult male and female, as well as a juvenile. Each was found living in a different mature tree, along the ridges of the Gunung Penrissen range of Western Sarawak, a boundary between Malaysia’s Sarawak State and Indonesia’s Kalimantan Barat Province, on the island of Borneo.
The Bornean Rainbow toad is the second species on Conservation International's “World’s Top 10 Most Wanted Lost Frogs" list to have been rediscovered since the list was compiled in 2010.