by ilene - January 2nd, 2011 10:24 pm
Mapping the brain at the connectome level seems daunting, but it’s an exciting step in understanding how our brains work. As noted in the article, the connectome is a series of static images, so it would seem that the next stage, perhaps massively more complicated, would be studying the connectome’s action in time. – Ilene
Dr. Lichtman and his team of researchers at Harvard have built some unusual contraptions that carve off slivers of mouse brains as part of a quest to understand how the mind works. Their goal is to run slice after minuscule slice under a powerful electron microscope, develop detailed pictures of the brain’s complex wiring and then stitch the images back together. In short, they want to build a full map of the mind.
The field, at a very nascent stage, is called connectomics, and the neuroscientists pursuing it compare their work to early efforts in genetics. What they are doing, these scientists say, is akin to trying to crack the human genome — only this time around, they want to find how memories, personality traits and skills are stored.
Dr. Lichtman estimates it will be several years before they can contemplate a connectome of a mouse brain, but there are some technological advances on the horizon that could cut that time significantly. Needless to say, a human brain would be far more complex and time-consuming.
“Hopefully, we are returning with a burst of new energy to the question of how the brain is wired up,” said Gary S. Lynch, a well-known brain researcher at the University of California, Irvine. “Lacking a blueprint, we’re never going to get anywhere on the most profound and fun questions that drew everyone to neuroscience in the first place: what is thought, consciousness?”
Full article here: Seeking the Connectome, a Mental Map, Slice by Slice – NYTimes.com.
by ilene - October 25th, 2010 1:53 pm
High fructose corn syrup, enriched bleached flour, and "natural flavor" is to bread like CDOS, subprime loans and reverse convertibles are to finance. – Ilene
Courtesy of James Kwak at Baseline Scenario
I just read Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, and what struck me was the parallels between the evolution of food and the evolution of finance since the 1970s. This will only confirm my critics’ belief that I see the same thing everywhere, but bear with me for a minute.
Pollan’s account, grossly simplified, goes something like this. The dominant ideology of food in the United States is nutritionism: the idea that food should be thought of in terms of its component nutrients. Food science is devoted to identifying the nutrients in food that make us healthy or unhealthy, and encouraging us to consume more of the former and less of the latter. This is good for nutritional “science,” since you can write papers about omega-3 fatty acids, while it’s very hard to write papers about broccoli.
It’s especially good for the food industry, because nutritionism justifies even more intensive processing of food. Instead of making bread out of flour, yeast, water, and salt, Sara Lee makes “Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White Bread” out of “enriched bleached flour” (seven ingredients), water, “whole grains” (three ingredients), high fructose corn syrup, whey, wheat gluten, yeast, cellulose, honey, calcium sulfate, vegetable oil, salt, butter, dough conditioners (up to seven ingredients), guar gum, calcium propionate, distilled vinegar, yeast nutrients (three ingredients), corn starch, natural flavor [?], betacarotene, vitamin D3, soy lecithin, and soy flour (pp. 151-52). They add a modest amount of whole grains so they can call it “whole grain” bread, and then they add the sweeteners and the dough conditioners to make it taste more like Wonder Bread. Because processed foods sell at higher margins, we have an enormous food industry pushing highly processed food at us, very cheaply (because it’s mainly made out of highly-subsidized corn and soy), which despite its health claims (or perhaps because of them) is almost certainly bad for us, and bad for the environment as well. This has been abetted by the government, albeit perhaps reluctantly, which now allows labels like this on corn oil (pp. 155-56):
“Very limited and preliminary scientific evidence suggests that eating about one tablespoon (16
by ilene - October 13th, 2010 8:10 pm
On the Corruption of Science
Courtesy of Casey Research
Once again Anthony Watts, the namesake and force behind WattsUpWithThat.com has come through with an excellent posting on the topic of manmade global warming, this time citing the letter of resignation written by Harold Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, to the head of the American Physical Society over that organization’s unscientific approach to the issue of manmade global warming.
You can, and should, read the entire text of Prof. Lewis’s letter by following the link here.
However, for the time-pressed among you, I will share just a couple of excerpts.
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people’s motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since
by ilene - September 12th, 2010 6:27 pm
Scientific American has done a great summary of peak commodity levels as well as depletion projections for some of the most critical resources in the world including oil, gold, silver, copper, not to mention renewable water, as well as estimating general food prices over the next half century. Generally speaking, regardless of whether one believes in peak oil or not, the facts are that stores of natural resources are disappearing at an increasingly alarming pace. And instead of the world’s (formerly) richest country sponsoring R&D and basic science to find alternatives, the US government continues to focus on funding a lost Keynesian cause, debasing the dollar and perpetuating a system that will do nothing to resolve any of these ever more pressing concerns. Furthermore, as by 2020, the US will have around $23 trillion in debt (per CBO estimates), the government will be far too focused on using anywhere between 50-100% of tax revenues to cover just interest expense, than funding science and research. Then again it is probably only fitting that future generations will be saddled with not just $100 trillion in total sovereign debt, but will be running out of water, will see sea levels rising ever faster, will have no flat screen TVs, and will be using Flintstonemobiles to go from point A to point B. All so a few bankers and ultra-wealthy individuals don’t have to recognize total losses on their balance sheets filled with trillions in toxic debt.
Some key highlights from Scientific American, as well as the year in which a given resource either peaks or runs out:
Oil – 2014 Peak
The most common answer to "how much oil is left" is "depends on how hard you want to look." As easy-to-reach fields run dry, new technologies allow oil companies to tap harder-to-reach places (such as 5,500 meters under the Gulf of Mexico). Traditional statistical models of oil supply do not account for these advances, but a new approach to production forecasting explicitly incorporates multiple waves of technological improvement. Though still controversial, this multi-cyclic approach predicts that global oil production is set to peak in four years and that by the 2050s we will have pulled all but 10% of the world’s oil from the ground.
by ilene - September 10th, 2010 2:07 pm
There is a sound scientific explanation for the making of our world—no gods required
Many improbable occurrences conspired to create Earth’s human-friendly design, and they would indeed be puzzling if ours were the only solar system in the universe. But today we know of hundreds of other solar systems, and few doubt that there exist countless more among the billions of stars in our galaxy. Planets of all sorts exist, and obviously, when the beings on a planet that supports life examine the world around them, they are bound to find that their environment satisfies the conditions they require to exist.
Many people would like us to use these coincidences as evidence of the work of God. The idea that the universe was designed to accommodate mankind appears in theologies and mythologies dating from thousands of years ago. In Western culture the Old Testament contains the idea of providential design, but the traditional Christian viewpoint was also greatly influenced by Aristotle, who believed "in an intelligent natural world that functions according to some deliberate design."
That is not the answer of modern science. As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.
Our universe seems to be one of many, each with different laws. That multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine tuning. It is a consequence predicted by many theories in modern cosmology. If it is true it reduces the strong anthropic principle to the weak one, putting the fine tunings of physical law on the same footing as the environmental factors, for it means that our cosmic habitat—now the entire observable universe—is just one of many.
by ilene - September 7th, 2010 1:37 pm
A number of different chemists are finding elevated levels of toxic hydrocarbons in the bloodstream of Gulf coast residents.
What is most disturbing about these results is that people who simply live near the water are showing higher than normal levels of toxic chemicals. These are not fishermen, shrimpers, oil workers or others who work on the water.
Jerry Cope recently wrote about his test results in a must-read essay at Huffington Post.
Several Gulf coast residents described their test results in the following video:
And the Intel Hub has uploaded some of the other test reports.
The local ABC news affiliate in Pensacola, Florida – ABC3 Wear – covered the story:
Several residents of Orange Beach say the oil spill has been making them sick…and they have the test results to prove it.
Gerry Cope, Margaret Carrouth and Robin Young were all feeling the same symptoms of headaches, watery eyes, and breathing problems…
All three had blood samples taken at the beginning of August…
Tests revealed each had elevated levels of the Hydrocarbons Ethyl Benzene and Xylene.
Bob Naman, a chemist out of Mobile, analyzed the results.
"He shows three times the amount you typically find in someone’s blood."
"These people are from different backgrounds, and from different walks of life, all showing same similar organic compounds in blood, says to me its very likely in the air."
Background levels of these chemicals were taken from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.
It is well known that oil fires can increase the levels of ethyl benzene and xylene in people’s bloodstream. For example, in studying Gulf War illness, the National Defense Research Institute found that exposure to the Kuwaiti oil fires set by Saddam Hussein increased ethyl benzene levels in firefighters more than 10 times – from .052 to .53 micrograms per liter – and more than doubled xylene levels:
|VOC||Kuwait City Personnel
by ilene - September 5th, 2010 5:11 pm
Galen contributed a substantial amount to the Hippocratic understanding of pathology. Under Hippocrates’ bodily humors theory, differences in human moods come as a consequence of imbalances in one of the four bodily fluids: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. Galen advanced this theory, creating a typology of human temperaments. An imbalance of each humor corresponded with a particular human temperament (blood-sanguine, black bile-melancholic, yellow bile-choleric, and phlegm-phlegmatic). Individuals with sanguine temperaments are extroverted and social. Choleric people have energy, passion and charisma. Melancholics are creative, kind and considerate. Phlegmatic temperaments are characterized by dependability, kindness, and affection.
While that theory proved wrong, Galen made some interesting contributions to medical science:
Galen’s principal interest was in human anatomy, but Roman law had prohibited the dissection of human cadavers since about 150 BCE. Because of this restriction, Galen performed anatomical dissections on living (vivisection) and dead animals, mostly focusing on pigs and primates. This work turned out to be particularly useful because in most cases, the anatomical structures of these animals closely mirror those of humans. Galen clarified the anatomy of the trachea and was the first to demonstrate that the larynx generates the voice. Galen may have understood the importance of artificial ventilation, because in one of his experiments he used bellows to inflate the lungs of a dead animal.
Among Galen’s major contributions to medicine was his work on the circulatory system. He was the first to recognize that there were distinct differences between venous (dark) and arterial (bright) blood. Although his many anatomical experiments on animal models led him to a more complete understanding of the circulatory system, nervous system, respiratory system and other structures, his work was not without scientific inaccuracies. Wikipedia.
Courtesy of Tim at Psy-Fi Blog
In an entertaining piece Economics is Hard. Don’t Let Bloggers Tell You Otherwise Kartik Athreya of the Fed in Richmond has suggested that financial bloggers are a mentally incontinent bunch, pathologically incapable of stopping themselves from opining on financial matters on which they actually offer no insight. Now, leaving aside the question of whether we want our professional economists to be entertaining, this opens up the question of whether untrained commentators can…
by ilene - July 11th, 2010 12:58 pm
In the continuing search for the Achilles heel of HIV, researchers may finally be enjoying some success.
This week, government researchers at the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) reported the discovery of two naturally occurring antibodies that may block HIV. Describing their work in two separate papers in the journal Science, AIDS experts said that in lab experiments, the antibodies had successfully prevented more than 90% of circulating HIV strains from infecting human cells.
This is not the first discovery of so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies. Last September, scientists at Scripps Research Institute and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) identified two other antibodies that prevent against infection from 80% of existing HIV strains — the most potent known antibodies at the time. The findings were also published inScience.
The two sets of antibodies target different regions of the virus-cell interface — together they could help scientists develop a formidable vaccine against AIDS, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID. "The strategy is going to be to put the best antibodies together, and you are going to have a whopper against HIV," he says.
Antibodies are the first-line soldiers of the immune system. Produced by specialized cells in the body that recognize incoming viruses and bacteria, antibodies act as molecular barricades, latching onto and blocking pathogens from infecting healthy cells. This antibody response is the core of all vaccine-based disease prevention.
But HIV is notoriously changeable. The virus continuously alters the makeup of the proteins on its surface, eluding attack from antibodies created by the immune system and from the relatively weak vaccines that have been developed against the virus so far.
by ilene - July 10th, 2010 4:42 am
Courtesy of Tim at The Psy-Fi Blog
Stretch your arms out to either side and imagine you’re looking at the economic growth of the human race over its entire four thousand year documented history. From the fingertip on your right hand to the first wrinkle on its index ftinger more or less covers the first three thousand eight hundred years. From there to the end of the index finger on your left hand represents growth over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
We truly live in an age of miracles and wonders. Medical advances have ensured more people live longer than ever before, scientific achievements have created a world in which we’re surrounded by astonishing labour saving creations and inventions which allow us to waste the time we’ve saved and the extra years of life we’ve been granted. Meanwhile our economic understanding of how this happened has, well, gone nowhere very interesting really. How did we achieve this state of grace?
Science and Medicine
One thing’s perfectly clear – the massive economic growth seen over the last couple of hundred years doesn’t have an awful lot to do with economics. Perhaps the prevalence of capitalist doctrines has prevented excessive government intervention in free markets at too early a stage, but otherwise we’ve veered about wildly while booming and busting our way to a greater level of wealth and health than ever before seen on the planet.
On the other hand this has had a lot to do with medical advances. Medicine has ensured that our useful lives are greatly extended – although a lot of the increase in average lifespans so often discussed is down to vast decreases in infant mortality. Still, we no longer die en-masse of septicaemia. Better, though, improvements in healthcare have extended the useful working lives of people: imagine a world in which most people were dead by 45. Heck, no politicians.
From Third World to First
Along with this we’ve seen incredible advances in science and engineering. In my father’s living memory he recalls the arrival of electricity, sewage disposal and tarmac to his home village. My grandmother was born before the Wright Brothers took flight and outlived – by far – the Apollo program. Yet her grandfather lived in a world virtually unchanged for a millennium: a world of hard…
by ilene - June 18th, 2010 12:26 pm
Very interesting video. Michael Shermer discusses belief. Belief is the natural state of things, the default option of our minds. Science is not natural, it’s more difficult. It’s uncomfortable to not believe things. We have a "belief engine" in our brains. We find patterns and make connections. Like Pavlov’s dogs and Skinner’s rats.
Michael calls this pattern finding process "patternicity"--our tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise. L-Dopa (turns into dopamine) causes subjects to see more patterns, dopamine appears to be associated with patternicity. Neuroleptic drugs (dopamine antagonists) reduce psychotic behavior, reducing patternicities--delusions, paranoia, hallucinations--false or psychotic patterns. Watch the whole video… – Ilene
Courtesy of Miss Trade, Trading for the Masses
Fantastic Speech for Traders to watch especially Technical Traders. See what you want or what is real? What is real?