Conscious Evolution Defined – Foundation for Conscious …

Conscious evolution is the evolution of evolution, from unconscious to conscious choice. While consciousness has been evolving for billions of years, conscious evolution is new. It is part of the trajectory of human evolution, the canvas of choice before us now as we recognize that we have come to possess the powers that we used to attribute to the gods.

We are poised in this critical moment, facing decisions that must be made consciously if we are to avoid destroying the world as we know it, if we are instead to cocreate a future of immeasurable possibilities. Our conscious evolution is an invitation to ourselves, to open to that positive future, to see ourselves as one planet, and to learn to use our powers wisely and ethically for the enhancement of all life on Earth.

Conscious evolution can also be seen as an awakening of a memory that resides in the synthesis of human knowing, from spiritual to social to scientific. Indeed, all of our efforts to discover the inherent design of life itself can be seen as the process of one intelligence, striving to know itself through our many eyes, and to set the stage for a future of immense cocreativity.

This awakening has gained momentum as 3 new understandings (the 3 Cs) have arisen: Cosmogenesis: This is the recent discovery that the universe has been and is now evolving. As Brian Swimme puts it, time is experienced as an evolutionary sequence of irreversible transformations, rather than as ever-renewing cycles.

Our New Crises: We are faced with a complex set of crises, most especially environmental. We are participating in a global system that is far from equilibrium, conditions that are known to favor a macroshift. This kind of dramatic repatterning can be a sudden shift toward devolution and chaos, or it can be an evolution toward a higher more complex order. At this moment in evolution the outcome depends on our choices, and time is running out. We must change, or suffer dire consequences. Our crises are acting as evolutionary drivers pressuring us to innovate and transform.

Our New Capacities: The advent of radical evolutionary technologies such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, quantum computing, space exploration, etc., offer us the possibility of profound change in the physical world. At the same time that we are facing the possible destruction of our life support systems, we can also see that the tools are there to transform ourselves, our bodies and our world. We can and are actually moving beyond the creature human condition toward a new species, a universal humanity, capable of coevolving with nature.

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Conscious Evolution Defined – Foundation for Conscious …

Rousey, White Accused of Bullying by Cris Cyborg

Josh Hedges/Forza LLC/Getty Images

Invicta FC featherweight champion Cris Cyborg has accused UFCbantamweight champion Ronda Rouseyand president Dana White of bullying her.

The 30-year-old made the accusation on her Facebook page, in which she said:

I find it Hypocritical of @rondarousey to complain about people in Hollywood being critical of her body image, talking about her arms or the extra weight she carries between fights.

For the past 5 years this sameRonda RouseyandDana Whitehave used the media to Bully me, opening the door for other opponents to try the same tactics.

Rousey recently spoke about body image in an interview with the New York Times’ Sheila Marikar. She saidof her hope to help diversify the kind of body types celebrated or focused on in the media.

However, according toMike Bohn of MMA Junkie,in August she told theJoe Rogan Experience(Warning: Link contains NSFW language)she wouldn’t fight Cyborg until she dropped weight afterCyborg tested positive for steroidsin 2011.

Cyborg also shared this video of White describing her as “Wanderlei Silva in a dress”:

Cyborg’s ongoing war of words with Rowdy will add more fuel to the speculative fire that they could meet in a superfight.For now, Rousey appears to be sticking to her guns that Cyborg must come down to 135 pounds (rather than Cyborg’s usual 145-pound class) in order for the pair to collide.

However, Rousey further commented on the Joe Rogan Experience that fighting Cyborg would help her career feel complete, so you can’t rule out the possibility the two will face off against each other in the future.

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Rousey, White Accused of Bullying by Cris Cyborg

Gene Therapy Technology Explanied

Virtually all cells in the human body contain genes, making them potential targets for gene therapy. However, these cells can be divided into two major categories: somatic cells (most cells of the body) or cells of the germline (eggs or sperm). In theory it is possible to transform either somatic cells or germ cells.

Gene therapy using germ line cells results in permanent changes that are passed down to subsequent generations. If done early in embryologic development, such as during preimplantation diagnosis and in vitro fertilization, the gene transfer could also occur in all cells of the developing embryo. The appeal of germ line gene therapy is its potential for offering a permanent therapeutic effect for all who inherit the target gene. Successful germ line therapies introduce the possibility of eliminating some diseases from a particular family, and ultimately from the population, forever. However, this also raises controversy. Some people view this type of therapy as unnatural, and liken it to “playing God.” Others have concerns about the technical aspects. They worry that the genetic change propagated by germ line gene therapy may actually be deleterious and harmful, with the potential for unforeseen negative effects on future generations.

Somatic cells are nonreproductive. Somatic cell therapy is viewed as a more conservative, safer approach because it affects only the targeted cells in the patient, and is not passed on to future generations. In other words, the therapeutic effect ends with the individual who receives the therapy. However, this type of therapy presents unique problems of its own. Often the effects of somatic cell therapy are short-lived. Because the cells of most tissues ultimately die and are replaced by new cells, repeated treatments over the course of the individual’s life span are required to maintain the therapeutic effect. Transporting the gene to the target cells or tissue is also problematic. Regardless of these difficulties, however, somatic cell gene therapy is appropriate and acceptable for many disorders, including cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, cancer, and certain infectious diseases. Clinicians can even perform this therapy in utero, potentially correcting or treating a life-threatening disorder that may significantly impair a baby’s health or development if not treated before birth.

In summary, the distinction is that the results of any somatic gene therapy are restricted to the actual patient and are not passed on to his or her children. All gene therapy to date on humans has been directed at somatic cells, whereas germline engineering in humans remains controversial and prohibited in for instance the European Union.

Somatic gene therapy can be broadly split into two categories:

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Gene Therapy Technology Explanied

What is genetic engineering? – Definition from WhatIs.com

Genetic engineering is the deliberate, controlled manipulation of the genes in an organism with the intent of making that organism better in some way. This is usually done independently of the natural reproductive process. The result is a so-called genetically modified organism (GMO). To date, most of the effort in genetic engineering has been focused on agriculture.

Proponents of genetic engineering claim that it has numerous benefits, including the production of food-bearing plants that are resistant to extreme weather and adverse climates, insect infestations, disease, molds, and fungi. In addition, it may be possible to reduce the amount of plowing necessary in the farming process, thereby saving energy and minimizing soil erosion. A major motivation is the hope of producing abundant food at low cost to reduce world hunger, both directly (by feeding GMOs to human beings) and indirectly (by feeding GMOs to livestock and fish, which can in turn be fed to humans).

Genetic engineering carries potential dangers, such as the creation of new allergens and toxins, the evolution of new weeds and other noxious vegetation, harm to wildlife, and the creation of environments favorable to the proliferation of molds and fungi (ironically, in light of the purported advantage in that respect). Some scientists have expressed concern that new disease organisms and increased antibiotic resistance could result from the use of GMOs in the food chain.

The darkest aspect of genetic engineering is the possibility that a government or institution might undertake to enhance human beings by means of genetic engineering. Some see the possibility of using this technology to create biological weapons.

Genetic engineering is also known as genetic modification.

This was last updated in May 2007

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What is genetic engineering? – Definition from WhatIs.com

Genetic Engineering – HowStuffWorks

Genetic Engineering, the process of extracting DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid, which makes up the genes of all living things) from one organism and combining it with the DNA of another organism, thus introducing new hereditary traits into the recipient organism. The nature and characteristics of every living creature is determined by the special combinations of genes carried by its cells. The slightest alteration in these combinations can bring about significant changes in an organism and also its progeny. The science of devising techniques of modifying or controlling genes and genetic combinations is referred to as genetic engineering. It was practiced in one form or another in the past by farmers and agriculturists trying to create economically viable species of plants and animals through various breeding techniques Genetic engineering, as a science, was developed in the mid-1970’s primarily to create new strains of microorganisms that produce certain chemicals useful in manufacturing or as drugs. Genetic engineering is now also applied to improving plants and creating transgenic animals (animals containing foreign genetic material).

Some persons oppose genetic engineering on religious, ethical, or social grounds. Among the religious questions is whether humans have the right to transfer traits from one organism to another. A social concern is the possibility of creating harmful organisms that, if accidentally released into the environment, could cause epidemics.The creation of human clones, for example, is facing serious opposition especially on moral grounds. Organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are seeking to control the harmful effects of genetic engineering by imposing guidelines and safety measures for genetic experimentation. Treatment of hereditary defects through gene transplantation and controlled interchange of genes between specified species was approved in 1985 and 1987 respectively by the NIH and the National Academy of Sciences. The USDA has framed regulations for the genetic alteration of plants by plant breeders.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that genetically engineered microorganisms could be patented. In 1988 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued its first patent for a higher form of life, a transgenic mouse that is highly susceptible to certain cancers that appear frequently in humans. This mouse is used in cancer research.

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Genetic Engineering – HowStuffWorks

Penn Medicine pain management study reveals patient confusion about opioid addiction

Findings illustrate need for improved communication of opioid risks and pain management in emergency departments

PHILADELPHIA – Emergency department patients have misperceptions about opioid dependence and want more information about their pain management options, according to a new study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The study, published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, found that patients seen in the emergency department for acute pain expressed a desire for better communication from physicians about their pain management options, along with discussion of the risks of opioid dependence.

The study used semi-structured open-ended telephone interviews with 23 patients (mostly women, ages 18 to 65) discharged from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after being seen in the emergency department during a four-month period in 2014, for pain related to broken bones in the arms or legs, kidney stones or musculoskeletal back injury. Although the patients discussed a variety of topics related to their experiences with communication around pain, the main themes of the interviews included opioid dependence and addiction, and patient-provider communication about pain management. The themes patients revealed around opioid dependence included:

2) worries about following prescribed dosing preventing the possibility of addiction,

3) relying on media and other individuals as a source of information about opioids, and

4) awareness of physicians’ need to balance patients’ pain management needs and safe opioid prescribing guidelines.

“It was interesting to find that patients believe that taking an opioid as prescribed prevents the possibility of addiction, but also that patients are learning about opioids from television and from friends and acquaintances — not healthcare providers,” said senior author Zachary F. Meisel, MD, MPH, MS, assistant professor and attending physician in the department of Emergency Medicine, who oversaw the study led by Robert J. Smith, BS, a medical student at Penn. “There’s clearly a significant need for emergency departments to improve education around the risks of opioid misuse.”

There were also several themes that emerged around patient-provider communication about pain management. Patients often reported that they desired engagement in decisions about the treatment plan, better communication about the cause of their pain, consideration of how the pain is affecting their life, and more empathy from providers, and they also felt that fragmentation in communication between providers was detrimental to their treatment.

“Patients realize that emergency departments are busy places, but that doesn’t reduce their desire to have meaningful interactions with their care providers,” said Meisel. “Patients want to be given information in a straight-forward way and then listened to, so that they leave feeling like they know what was causing their pain, what their pain management options were, and that their treatment preferences were heard.”

The researchers are now using the data from this study to develop short video narratives of patient stories related to pain in the emergency department, which will then be tested as an intervention to improve patient understanding of their pain management options and the risks associated with opioid misuse.

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Penn Medicine pain management study reveals patient confusion about opioid addiction

Dont confuse reporting of lies as freedom of speech

NGO head says journalists are not above the law and the police only arrested TMI staff because a report was lodged against them.

PETALING JAYA: Staff of The Malaysian Insider were arrested for their tendency to habitually pass off false and inaccurate information as truth, said the head of the Centre for Political Awareness, Huan Cheng Guan.

He said that contrary to the accusation that the government and police were stifling freedom of speech, TMI broke the law by putting out a highly erroneous article on hudud and implicated the Conference of Rulers in the process.

The error is very serious because if it were perceived as truth, the possibility of a Malay uprising is there, he said, in a statement today, adding that it was only right that TMI take responsibility for its actions, which to date it has refused to do.

He pointed out that the news portal refused to amend the article which till today can be accessed from its site and that the police only took action because a report had been lodged with them by the Keeper of the Rulers Seal.

Action was taken based on the police report lodged by the Keeper of the Rulers Seal and not because of any other person/parties, he said.

He also condemned watchdog bodies like the National Union of Journalists, among others who did not seem to realise that TMI had flouted a Code of Ethics by deliberately deceiving the public with false statements.

The role of such watchdog bodies should be to pressure fellow journalists to report truth. They and other critics should not derail the whole scenario by accusing the government of victimising TMI, Huan said.

Defending the governments action and arguing that they acted within the parameters of duty, he added, Had this occurred in other authoritarian governments, the whole portal would have been closed down, owners fined and guilty ones immediately charged.

He made reference to 16-year-old Amos Yee of Singapore who insulted the late Lee Kuan Yew and Christians in a YouTube video, saying that was a good example of how strict enforcement shows no mercy.

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Dont confuse reporting of lies as freedom of speech

University And Biotech Firm Team Up On Colorblindness Therapy

A simulation from the Neitz lab of what colorblindness looks like, with normal color vision on the left and red-green colorblindness on the right. Courtesy of Neitz Laboratory hide caption

A simulation from the Neitz lab of what colorblindness looks like, with normal color vision on the left and red-green colorblindness on the right.

More than 10 million Americans have trouble distinguishing red from green or blue from yellow, and there’s no treatment for colorblindness.

A biotech company and two scientists hope to change that.

On Wednesday, Avalanche Biotechnologies in Menlo Park and the University of Washington in Seattle announced a licensing agreement to develop the first treatment for colorblindness. The deal brings together a gene therapy technique developed by Avalanche with the expertise of vision researchers at the University of Washington.

“Our goal is to be treating colorblindness in clinical trials in patients in the next one to two years,” says Thomas Chalberg, the founder and CEO of Avalanche.

Dalton the squirrel monkey during the color vision test. Courtesy of Neitz Laboratory hide caption

Dalton the squirrel monkey during the color vision test.

The agreement has its roots in a scientific breakthrough that occurred six years ago. That’s when two vision researchers at the University of Washington used gene therapy to cure a common form of colorblindness in squirrel monkeys.

“This opened the possibility of ultimately getting this to cure colorblindness in humans,” says Jay Neitz, who runs the Color Vision Lab at UW along with his wife, Maureen Neitz.

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University And Biotech Firm Team Up On Colorblindness Therapy

Chipotle's pork choice-and religious freedom

Despite the possibility that Chipotle’s decision to pull pork from almost a third of its restaurants will come at a cost, the corporation’s commitment to serving “food with integrity” has outweighed its quest for financial gain. “We would rather not serve pork at all, than serve pork from animals that are raised in this way,” Chris Arnold, the company’s communications director, told the Washington Post.

Read MoreChipotle considers raising prices … will customers bite?

Chipotle’s founder and CEO, Steve Ells, has made a decision to commit to self-imposed standards, which he personally finds important, enabling him to live out his commitment to environmental care and sustainability through how he runs his business. His example has also drawn othersemployees, investors, and customers alikeby giving them a place to work and patronize that shares their beliefs and values. As the Washington Post observed, “The unparalleled success of the chain is glaring proof that people are willing to pay a bit more for that promise.”

Or, as one online reviewer put it, Chipotle is “a fast food chain with a conscience.”

It is a wonderful thing that individuals are not only able to start and build a business in their chosen trade, but they are also free to structure that business in a way that reflects their personal beliefs and values. In turn, a wide market of choice is provided for employees and consumers, offering an opportunity to partner with a larger association with a shared commitment to a common cause. In America, we have the ability to act out our individuality and diversity in every aspect of our lives, and not just in our private or personal decisions.

Read MoreTraders bet on wholesome rally

Protecting corporate conscience acknowledges that behind a company name, individuals with their own identities, perspectives, freedoms, and convictions are making decisions that affect real peopleowners, employees, customers, and the community.

There is a distinct social good to preserving the freedom of individuals to form and operate a business based on deeply held principles rooted in conscience. Many great leaders throughout our nation’s history have understood the importance of this freedomhow it elevates and benefits our society as a whole when individuals openly and fully live their lives according to the moral values that motivate them, even when reasonable people disagree with those values.

It is time that we take a step back from unnecessarily politicized debates about corporations and acknowledge the simple fact that many Americans are motivated to be a force for good in their communities because of, not in spite of, their faith. Faith animates compassion, and compassion leads to greater integrity and ownership of caring for those in need around us. Furthermore, organized compassionate responses need not come solely in the form of a church or charity to be appropriate, authentic, or effective.

Read MoreWhat shareholders think about Starbucks’ race idea

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Chipotle's pork choice-and religious freedom

"NATO's bombing no obstacle to cooperation" – FM

Source: Tanjug

BRUSSELS — With the signing of the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), Serbia “entered a new phase in relations with NATO,” said Ivica Dacic and Bratislav Gasic.

“Our neutrality is not called into question by this plan,” Dacic, who serves as Serbia’s foreign minister and deputy premier, told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

He said that “no one can change what happened 16 years ago when NATO bombed Serbia” – but that “it should not be an obstacle to building partnership relations in the future.”

Stoltenberg, said Dacic, recently spoke with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, “so further development of relations with the alliance should be expected.”

He said that he received guarantees from Stoltenberg that “no kind of Kosovo’s armed forces will have access to the north of Kosovo,”, recalling that the previous NATO chief gave similar guarantees.

Dacic said that IPAP “opens the possibility of cooperation between Serbia and NATO in many fields, including science, public diplomacy and participation in international peacekeeping operations.”

“These, of course, are not combat operations,” remarked Dacic, and explained that it means cooperation in rescue operations during natural disasters.

He said that NATO was “also important for Serbia because of KFOR and the support to the Brussels agreement,” and recalled that the KFOR commander recently met with the Serbian army chief.

Dacic said that his meeting with Stoltenberg touched on many issues, “including relations with Russia and Serbia’s role as chairman of the OSCE.”

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"NATO's bombing no obstacle to cooperation" – FM

NASA Software Lets You Hunt Dangerous Asteroids from Home

A new asteroid-hunting computer program will help amateur astronomers and citizen scientists identify potentially hazardous space rocks faster and more accurately, NASA officials say.

Developed by NASA in partnership with Planetary Resources, a company that aims to mine asteroids, the software combines several algorithms developed in the Asteroid Data Hunter challenge.

“We applaud all the participants in the Asteroid Data Hunter challenge,” Chris Lewicki, president and chief engineer at Planetary Resources, said in a statement. “We are extremely encouraged by the algorithm created, and its already making a difference. This increase in knowledge will help assess more quickly which asteroids are potential threats, human destinations or resource-rich.” [Images: Potentially Dangerous Asteroids]

The new software was announced by a panel of NASA representatives on Sunday (March 16) at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.

Announced in March 2014, the Asteroid Data Hunter challenge offered a total of $55,000 in awards for participants to develop significantly improved algorithms that could study images captured by ground-based telescopes and identify asteroids.

The winning entries for each section of the contest which focused on minimizing false positives, increasing detection sensitivity, ignoring imperfections in the data and the ability to run effectively on all computer systems were then combined to create an application to scan the skies.

The data hunter challenge kicked off NASAs Asteroid Grand Challenge, which was announced in 2013.

“The Asteroid Grand Challenge is seeking non-traditional partnerships to bring the citizen science and space enthusiast community into NASAs work,” Jason Kessler, program executive for NASAs Asteroid Grand Challenge, said in the same statement.

“The Asteroid Data Hunter challenge has been successful beyond our hopes, creating something that makes a tangible difference to asteroid-hunting astronomers and highlights the possibility for more people to play a role in protecting our planet,” he added.

In 1801, astronomers spotted the first objectin the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter the dwarf planet Ceres by carefully noting objects that appeared to move over time in comparison with the background stars. Technology allowed scientists to use images rather than memory or carefully sketched maps to compare how these bodies changed locations over time. By the time Clyde Tombaughspotted Pluto in 1930, astronomers around the world were using photographs of the night sky to identify moving objects.

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NASA Software Lets You Hunt Dangerous Asteroids from Home

A pinch of baking soda for better vision?

IMAGE:This is Dr. Clint Makino of the Makino Laboratory at Mass. Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School. view more

Credit: Mass. Eye and Ear

Bicarbonate (baking soda) makes sparkling water sparkle, causes bread to rise, absorbs odors and can be used for cleaning all sorts of stuff, including your teeth. In the body, it plays essential roles in buffering pH, aiding in digestion and neutralizing lactic acid produced during physical exertion. Much of the bicarbonate in our bodies comes from carbon dioxide, which is produced as a waste product in all cells, although some is ingested with carbonated beverages and certain types of foods.

Now a new study from the Makino Laboratory at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School and colleagues at Salus University, describes how bicarbonate also alters how we see by modifying the visual signal generated by rod and cone photoreceptors that detect light. This study is described online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Within rods and cones, a small soluble molecule, cGMP, links photon absorption to the electrical activity of the photoreceptor. In the light, cGMP is destroyed and ion channels are closed. Positively charged sodium ions cease to enter the rod or cone and the membrane potential becomes more negative or hyperpolarized. Bicarbonate directly stimulates an enzyme called guanylate cyclase that synthesizes cGMP.

“By opposing the effect of light, bicarbonate limits the size of the photon response and quickens its recovery. As a result, sensitivity to light is slightly lower but our ability to track moving objects is improved,” said lead author Clint Makino, Ph.D., director of the Makino Laboratory at Mass. Eye and Ear and an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. “An intriguing implication is that vision may change with metabolic state, although further research is necessary for confirmation. It is now known that in some types of retinal diseases, a genetic defect causes cGMP in the rods and/or cones to rise to abnormally high, lethal levels. Once lost, rods and cones are not replaced, so an irreversible blindness is the tragic outcome.”

In the future, scientists in the Makino Laboratory want to investigate the possibility that controlling bicarbonate levels in the eye will slow the progress of, or may even prevent, eye diseases.

###

This study was supported by NIH EY011358, EY014104, EY023980, Research to Prevent Blindness, and the Howe Laboratory Endowment of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear.

The paper is entitled: Bicarbonate Modulates Photoreceptor Guanylate Cyclase (ROS-GC) Catalytic Activity J. Biol. Chem. published March 12, 2015 as doi:10.1074/jbc.M115.650408. http://www.jbc.org/content/early/2015/03/12/jbc.M115.650408.full.pdf+html

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A pinch of baking soda for better vision?

NASA Releases New Asteroid Detection Software For Amateur Astronomers

Since the early 20th century, astronomers have relied on the same technique to detect asteroids — they take images of a section in the sky and look for star-like objects that move between frames. However, with an increase in sensitivity of ground-based telescopes, it has become increasingly difficult for astronomers to sift through the massive pile of data and verify every single detection.

In order to increase the frequency of asteroid detection, including of those bodies that could be potential threats to our planet, NASA has released a new software, developed in collaboration with Planetary Resources, Inc., capable of running on any standard PC. The software, which can be downloaded for free, will accept images from a telescope and run an algorithm on them to determine celestial bodies that are moving in a manner consistent with an asteroid.

Amateur astronomers and asteroid hunters can also take images from their own telescopes and analyze them with the software. The application will tell the user whether a matching asteroid record exists and offer a way to report new findings to the Minor Planet Center, which then confirms and archives new discoveries, NASA said in a statement released Sunday.

The new algorithm, which increases the chances of asteroid detection in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter by 15 percent, was created as part of NASAs Asteroid Data Hunter challenge. The work is also of special interest to Planetary Resources, which hopes to mine asteroids for water and precious metals in the near future.

The Asteroid Data Hunter challenge has been successful beyond our hopes, creating something that makes a tangible difference to asteroid hunting astronomers and highlights the possibility for more people to play a role in protecting our planet, Jason Kessler, program executive for NASAs Asteroid Grand Challengesaid in the statement. The grand challenge,sponsored by the NASA Tournament Lab, was announced in 2013 with an aim to find all asteroid threats to human populations.

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NASA Releases New Asteroid Detection Software For Amateur Astronomers

Drew Clark: Threats to cloud computing require a solution from the 18th century

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution articulates the right of Americans sources of private informational documents to be secure “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” We need this principle to address threats to cloud computing.

Alena Root, Thinkstock

Enlarge photo

SALT LAKE CITY As a medium of expression that blossomed in popular consciousness in the late 1990s, the Internet is beginning to reach its adolescent years.

We’ve evolved from static Web pages to social networking to “cloud computing,” which means that personal documents aren’t stored on our computers and smartphones but on servers throughout the world.

And yet citizens’ security in their digital possessions has never been more threatened. Fortunately, there are two bills one co-sponsored by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the other co-sponsored by Utah Sen. Mike Lee that go a long way to restoring constitutional protections for Internet information.

It’s important at the outset to dispense the shibboleth that the Internet changes everything. What the Internet needs is a strong dose of 18th century legal wisdom, not words about “freedom of expression in the 21st century,” to quote the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission during last Thursday’s vote by the agency on network neutrality.

The Constitution says that we have the right to be secure in our “persons, houses, papers and effects.” We have the right to speak free from regulation by the government. There are some who say that the Internet has rewritten the laws of supply and demand, or changed common decency and morality, or altered the possibility of being free from police surveillance. They are mistaken.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution articulates the right of Americans sources of private informational documents to be secure “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” This doesn’t prevent the government or the police from obtaining information upon probable cause or reasonable suspicion; it simply bars the issuance of general warrants.

On Feb. 4, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives introduced the Electronic Communications Privacy Amendments Act of 2015. The bill we are introducing today protects Americans digital privacy in their emails, and all the other files and photographs they store in the cloud,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, who has long been seeking to update this law that first passed in 1986.

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Drew Clark: Threats to cloud computing require a solution from the 18th century

It's A Drug! It's A Pipeline! It's A New Blockbuster Model!

When AbbVie AbbVies CEO Rick Gonzalez described his recently acquired product ibrutinib (Imbruvica) as offering a pipeline in a drug, I imagine every business development executive in biopharma chuckled. No question each of them has used this exact line at some point to characterize a partner-ready product that has been developed for one indication, yet just might be useful in a range of others.

Its tempting to dismiss this concept as slick salesmanship of the Ginsu Knife but wait, theres more variety but dont. While pipeline in a pill may sound like a marketing slogan, it captures important emerging concepts within molecular medicine and pharmaceutical strategy.

Progress in understanding illness at a molecular level has revealedthat seemingly different conditions may share common molecular elements. For example, two very different cancers may be driven, in part, by a common oncoprotein (a signaling molecule stuck in the on position, say), suggesting a drug that effectively targeted this aberrant molecule could find use in a range of different cancers. This framework is one reason why sequencing has secured such a strong foothold in oncology (think Foundation Medicine) the possibility of identifying a drugable target in an otherwise inscrutable cancer.

(Disclosure/reminder: I work at a genomic data company.)

Outside of oncology, perhaps the most common variation on this theme is the use of a single drug to treat a range of seemingly unrelated conditions, especially illnesses that are caused by some sort of autoimmune response (essentially, the body attacking itself). Perhaps the most common therapeutic here are glucocorticoids (steroids like prednisone) to treat conditions ranging from asthma to arthritis. To be sure, no one would consider steroids an example of an especially precise medicine, given their notoriously pleotropic effects. Not surprisingly, theres been a huge amount of effort trying to develop treatments that more selectively restrain the immune system.

One example of such a product, which has enjoyed considerable commercial success, is adalimumab (Humira), a biologic that acts by sequestering a powerful secreted (soluble) mediator of immune response called TNF. Consequently, the medicine has been approved for the treatment of several arthritic conditions, several inflammatory bowel conditions, and couple of other autoimmune diseases.

AbbVies newly-acquired ibrutinib (see here for my detailed story of the medicines wild history) represents yet another variation on this theme, targeting a signalling molecule within an immune cell specifically, a protein involved in the activation of B-cells (which are responsible for the production of antibodies). Ibrutinib was initially considered as a potential treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease with incompletely understood pathophysiology that seems to include an antibody component. However, researchers also recognized that a drug blocking B-cell activation might be useful in the treatment of B-cell cancers; this proved to be the indication for which iburtinib ultimately was developed and approved. In a sense, Gonzalezs apparent interest in pursuing the autoimmune possibilities of ibrutinib has a sense of completing the circle, returning the development of the drug to the indication from which it began.

Of course, development doesnt always proceed as anticipated; AstraZeneca AstraZeneca partnered with Rigel to evaluate a similar inhibitor of B-cell activation, fostamatinib, in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. However, when a phase 2b study suggested the new product was likely to be less effective than adalimumab, AstraZeneca returned the rights to Rigel and absorbed a $140M writedown in the process. The potential of a precisely targeted molecule to be used for a range of indications reflects an evolution of the blockbuster ambition. Rather than relying on a single, broadly defined indication (think statins to treat high cholesterol), the industry now often looks to demonstrate the efficacy of a pathway-targeted product in a range of conditions involving the implicated pathway This distinction was elegantly pointed out (as Ive discussed) at a recent Xconomy forum by Rick Morrison of Comprehend Systems, who suggested the increasing need to identify promising indications represented an important application for big data and sophisticated analytics.

Bottom line for pipeline in a pill: while overused as a sales pitch, the concept reflects a legitimate scientific aspiration that is often pursued, and increasingly realized.

Also on Forbes:

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It's A Drug! It's A Pipeline! It's A New Blockbuster Model!

A smarter way to budget for retirement health-care costs

T.J. Kirkpatrick/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2014 Employer Health Benefits report says that rate increases are slowing from recession highs that ran far above inflation rates.

A new report suggests that people approaching retirement look at health-care expenses in later life in terms of recurring and nonrecurring services, and it offers some numbers that can be helpful in crafting a retirement budget.

Health care represents the second-largest budget item (after housing costs) for retirees. But planning for those expenses can be challenging, given increasing life expectancy and the possibility that medical bills can increase substantially with age.

A good way to think about such bills might be to separate the more predictable expenses from the less predictable oneswhich is how the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, D.C., frames the issue in a recently published report.

Based on data from the Health and Retirement Study, a survey of U.S. households age 50-plus, EBRI defines predictableor recurringexpenses as doctor visits, prescription-drug use and dentist services. All three have high usage, and that usage is consistent across different age groups.

By comparison, less predictableor nonrecurringevents include overnight hospital stays, overnight nursing-home stays, home health care, outpatient surgery and special facilities.

EBRIs findings: Recurring health-care costs appear to remain stable throughout retirementand across all age groups. Among the Medicare-eligible population (age 65-plus), the average, annual out-of-pocket expenditure for recurring health-care expenses, according to EBRI, was $1,885.

If we assume a 2% rate of inflation and 3% rate of return on savings, a person with a life expectancy of 90 would need almost $41,000 (to be exact: $40,798) at age 65 to fund his or her recurring health-care expenses through end of live. (Note: That figure doesnt include other recurring expenses like insurance premiums or over-the-counter medications.)

With nonrecurring expenses, the math is trickier; thats because, by definition, both the usage and intensity of usage of these types of services are very uncertain, the report states. Here, instead of providing a single figure needed at retirement, EBRI looks at specific services.

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A smarter way to budget for retirement health-care costs

Could NASAs Europa mission search for alien life?

February 21, 2015

This artist’s impression shows Jupiter and its moon Europa using actual Jupiter and Europa images in visible light. The Hubble ultraviolet images showing the faint emission from the water vapor plumes have been superimposed, respecting the size but not the brightness of the plumes. (Credit: NASA/M. Kommesser)

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com @BednarChuck

NASA officials have reportedly asked scientists to determine if the US space agencys upcoming mission to Jupiters moon Europa could be used to search for signs of extraterrestrial life.

[STORY: NASA discusses future robotic lander mission to Europa]

The voyage to Europa, which could be ready to launch within the next decade, was initially not designed to seek out signs of alien life. Instead, Kevin Hand, Deputy Chief Scientist for Solar System Exploration at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said earlier this month that the goal of the mission was to understand habitability; the ingredients for life.

However, as reported Friday by Space.com, NASA may be doing an about-face on that, as they are exploring the possibility of searching for evidence of organic life in water vapor plumes that blast into space from the moons southern polar region during the mission. Those plumes could give scientists a way to sample Europas buried ocean of liquid water, the website said.

Last call for aliens

During a workshop at NASAs Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley on Wednesday, science chief John Grunsfeld told reporters that this is our chance to find out whether or not life exists on the Europa, and he hoped that they dont miss this opportunity for lack of ideas.

As revealed in the agencys 2016 budget, NASA plans to send an unmanned mission to Europa in order to study those vast oceans, which are buried beneath layers of ice. The spacecraft used on the mission will be known as the Europa Clipper, which will be comprised of an orbiter that will conduct roughly 45 flybys of the moons surface over the next three years.

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Could NASAs Europa mission search for alien life?

NASA study predicts devastating droughts during the last half of the century

A new NASA study is predicting the occurrence of severe “megadroughts” across the United States in the second half of this century, that are set to be more extreme and prolonged than any droughts that have taken place in the region for the past 1,000 years. According to the study, one of the key driving forces behind the devastating droughts will be the prolific creation of human-produced greenhouse gasses.

The study made use of several climate models including one spearheaded by NASA, and is the first of its kind to use historical data stretching back as far as 1,000 years. Most modern drought indicators only use data from around 100 years in the past, however NASA’s most recent study was able to draw on environmental conditions prevailing in the distant past by making use of a well established tree-ring database.

Using this wealth of natural information, the team were able to pinpoint drought events by observing the spaces between rings in tree trunks, a process known as dendrochronology. Some trees grow significantly more during years with prevalent rainfall, producing wider spacing between the rings, and have stunted growth during periods of drought, creating closer rings. By observing ring patterns in the same species of tree during modern droughts, the study was able to produce accurate drought maps for the last 1,000 years. This allowed climate scientists to examine the big picture, taking into account drought cycles in a much longer context.

30-cm (11.8-in)-deep moisture projection based on NASA’s moderate carbon emission scenario in the year 2095 (Image: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

“Natural droughts like the 1930s Dust Bowl and the current drought in the Southwest have historically lasted maybe a decade or a little less,” states Ben Cook, lead author of the study and climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, New York. “What these results are saying is we’re going to get a drought similar to those events, but it is probably going to last at least 30 to 35 years.”

According to the study, the severity of future droughts will be determined by humanity’s approach to carbon emissions in the coming years. Cook and his team state that with the current levels of greenhouse gasses in Earth’s atmosphere, the possibility of a drought lasting around 30 years sits at around 12 percent. If carbon emissions level off around 2050, this figure rises to 60 percent. In the event of man-made carbon emissions continuing to rise at the current pace, there is a harrowing 80 percent chance of a megadrought engulfing the Southwest and Central Plains from 2050 to 2099.

Droughts of this magnitude and severity would place the agricultural capabilities of the US under greater stress at a time when there is already set to be significant food shortages on a global scale, in part thanks to the effects of global warming.

The video below courtesy of NASA highlights the key points made by the study.

Source: NASA

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NASA study predicts devastating droughts during the last half of the century

Transhumanist Values – Nick Bostrom’s Home Page

1. What is Transhumanism?

Transhumanism is a loosely defined movement that has developed gradually over the past two decades.[1] It promotes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding and evaluating the opportunities for enhancing the human condition and the human organism opened up by the advancement of technology. Attention is given to both present technologies, like genetic engineering and information technology, and anticipated future ones, such as molecular nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.

The enhancement options being discussed include radical extension of human health-span, eradication of disease, elimination of unnecessary suffering, and augmentation of human intellectual, physical, and emotional capacities. Other transhumanist themes include space colonization and the possibility of creating superintelligent machines, along with other potential developments that could profoundly alter the human condition. The ambit is not limited to gadgets and medicine, but encompasses also economic, social, institutional designs, cultural development, and psychological skills and techniques.

Transhumanists view human nature as a work-in-progress, a half-baked beginning that we can learn to remold in desirable ways. Current humanity need not be the endpoint of evolution. Transhumanists hope that by responsible use of science, technology, and other rational means we shall eventually manage to become posthuman, beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have.

Some transhumanists take active steps to increase the probability that they personally will survive long enough to become posthuman, for example by choosing a healthy lifestyle or by making provisions for having themselves cryonically suspended in case of de-animation.[2] In contrast to many other ethical outlooks, which in practice often reflect a reactionary attitude to new technologies, the transhumanist view is guided by an evolving vision to take a more proactive approach to technology policy. This vision, in broad strokes, is to create the opportunity to live much longer and healthier lives, to enhance our memory and other intellectual faculties, to refine our emotional experiences and increase our subjective sense of well-being, and generally to achieve a greater degree of control over our own lives. This affirmation of human potential is offered as an alternative to customary injunctions against playing God, messing with nature, tampering with our human essence, or displaying punishable hubris.

Transhumanism does not entail technological optimism. While future technological capabilities carry immense potential for beneficial deployments, they also could be misused to cause enormous harm, ranging all the way to the extreme possibility of intelligent life becoming extinct. Other potential negative outcomes include widening social inequalities or a gradual erosion of the hard-to-quantify assets that we care deeply about but tend to neglect in our daily struggle for material gain, such as meaningful human relationships and ecological diversity. Such risks must be taken very seriously, as thoughtful transhumanists fully acknowledge.[3]

Transhumanism has roots in secular humanist thinking, yet is more radical in that it promotes not only traditional means of improving human nature, such as education and cultural refinement, but also direct application of medicine and technology to overcome some of our basic biological limits.

The range of thoughts, feelings, experiences, and activities accessible to human organisms presumably constitute only a tiny part of what is possible. There is no reason to think that the human mode of being is any more free of limitations imposed by our biological nature than are those of other animals. In much the same way as Chimpanzees lack the cognitive wherewithal to understand what it is like to be human the ambitions we humans have, our philosophies, the complexities of human society, or the subtleties of our relationships with one another, so we humans may lack the capacity to form a realistic intuitive understanding of what it would be like to be a radically enhanced human (a posthuman) and of the thoughts, concerns, aspirations, and social relations that such humans may have.

Our own current mode of being, therefore, spans but a minute subspace of what is possible or permitted by the physical constraints of the universe (see Figure 1). It is not farfetched to suppose that there are parts of this larger space that represent extremely valuable ways of living, relating, feeling, and thinking.

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Transhumanist Values – Nick Bostrom’s Home Page