science

Spread this number

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0 (hexadecimal notation).

What's so magic about this number, you ask? It’s an HD-DVD Processing Key, and it the movie industry would like to censor it to keep monopoly control over the manufacture of HD-DVD players.

This is not the first time the industry has tried to maintain its monopoly by infringing free speech - a few years back there was the DeCSS case, which led to people putting the code on t-shirts to demonstrate the absurdity of trying to censor such information.

evidence that pesticides can cause Parkinson's

Reuters reports on evidence that pesticides can cause Parkinson's disease.

One study shows that farm workers who used the common weedkiller paraquat had two to three times the normal risk of Parkinson's, a degenerative brain disease that eventually paralyzes patients.

A second study shows that animals exposed to paraquat have a build-up of a protein called alpha-synuclein in their brains. This protein has been linked to Parkinson's in the past.

A third piece of the puzzle shows that this buildup of protein kills the same brain cells affected in Parkinson's.

New Peptide Boosts Immune System

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have identified a peptide that they claim boosts the immune system:
"Antibiotics are now under threat because of the explosion in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A third of all deaths on this planet are the result of infection so there is an urgent need to create new therapies," says Robert Hancock, principal investigator and Canada Research Chair in Pathogenomics and Antimicrobials. "The beauty of this peptide is that it acts on the host to trigger a protective response and doesn't act on bacteria directly. That means it's unlikely bacteria will become resistant to it."

The team found that a peptide, or chain of amino acids, they have dubbed innate defense regulator peptide (IDR-1), can increase innate immunity without triggering harmful inflammation, and offer protection both before and after infection is present.

Green power generation for the olive drab

Purdue University researchers have developed a "tactical biorefinery" that generates electricity from food, paper, and plastic trash. Food waste is fermented into ethanol; other trash is heated under low-oxygen conditions and is converted to propane and methane gas. The mix of fuels is burned in a modified diesel engine.

Apparently they got funding for this because it has military applications (reducing the need for fuel to troops in the field, as well as disposing of much of their trash). But the civilian applications are

some heartburn drugs may raise risk of hip fractures

Reuters reports on a study showing that some anti-heartburn drugs ("proton pump inhibitors", which shut down stomach acid production) increase the risk of hip fractures in older adults, by up to 44 percent. The longer the use and the higher the dosage, the greater the risk. The drugs may reduce the body's ability to absorb calcium.

more political interference in American science

LiveScience reports on new rules from the Bushies for scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, putting controls on research that might go against the party line:

“I feel as though we've got someone looking over our shoulder at every damn thing we do. And to me that's a very scary thing. I worry that it borders on censorship,'' said Jim Estes, an internationally recognized marine biologist who works for the geological unit. “The explanation was that this was intended to ensure the highest possible quality research,'' said Estes, a researcher at the agency for more than 30 years. “But to me it feels like they're doing this to keep us under their thumbs. It seems like they're afraid of science. Our findings could be embarrassing to the administration.''

Mother Jones: 12 climate tipping points, and the tipping point in human perception to stop them

A heavy article at MotherJones.com investigates a dozen "tipping points" for global warming, any of which could cause sudden and catastrophic climate change - and asks about the thirteenth tipping point, for our perception of it all:

IN 2004, JOHN SCHELLNHUBER, distinguished science adviser at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the United Kingdom, identified 12 global-warming tipping points, any one of which, if triggered, will likely initiate sudden, catastrophic changes across the planet. Odds are you've never heard of most of these tipping points, even though your entire genetic legacy—your children, your grandchildren, and beyond—may survive or not depending on their status.

staying healthy is good for you (duh)

MSNBC reports on a study showing that people who at mid-life have characteristics associated with being fit and active, have a good chance of being healthy in old age.

“There appears to be a lot we can do about modifying our risk and increasing the odds for aging more healthfully,” said lead author Dr. Bradley Willcox, a scientist at the Pacific Health Research Institute in Honolulu.

Seed: "Who Wants to Be a Cognitive Neuroscientist Millionaire?"

Seed features a piece by Ogi Ogas on how he used his knowledge of cognitive neuroscience to help his performance on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?

The first technique I drew upon was priming. The priming of a memory occurs because of the peculiar "connectionist" neural dynamics of our cortex, where memories are distributed across many regions and neurons. If we can recall any fragment of a pattern, our brains tend to automatically fill in the rest. For example, hearing an old Madonna song may launch a cascade of linked memories: your high school prom where it was the theme song, your poorly tailored prom outfit, your forgotten prom date, the stinging embarrassment when you threw up in the limo.

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