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Category Archives: Transhuman News

Prop. 37: Another example of the perils of the initiative process

Posted: September 15, 2012 at 9:12 am

Love it or hate it, the one thing you can say for sure about California's ballot initiative process is that it's the absolute worst way to craft policy dealing with complex scientific issues.

That doesn't stop advocates on one side or another from constantly trying, with the result that the public's understanding of the underlying facts plummets faster than you can say, well, "Proposition 37."

Proposition 37 is on November's ballot. The measure would require some, but not all, food sold in California and produced via genetic engineering to be labeled as such. (There are exemptions for milk, restaurant food and other products.)

Genetic engineering, or genetic modification, which involves manipulating DNA or transferring it from one species to another, is increasingly common in agriculture and food processing, and wouldn't be banned or even regulated by the measure. Genetic engineering has pluses and minuses. It can increase crop yields and pest resistance. But it can also affect the environment in negative ways pollen or seeds from genetically engineered crops can be spread by wind, birds or insects to territory where they're unwanted, for example.

Once you've said that, you've said pretty much everything that's known to be relevant to Proposition 37. The rest is baloney, of the non-genetically engineered variety.

So what does this mean for you? It means that between now and election day your airwaves are likely to be filled with steaming piles of fatuous nonsense about genetically engineered foods (which will be depicted as horrifically perilous or absolutely safe), about trial lawyers, about struggling mom-and-pop grocery stores, about the evils of multinational agribusinesses and federal regulators. You'll be presented with learned scientific and economic studies on both sides, and they'll almost certainly be misleading, incomplete or irrelevant, though they'll sound pretty danged convincing.

This will all come to you courtesy of war chests that are already in the neighborhood of $30 million, total.

Great initiative system we have here in the Golden State. As a procedure for producing rational law, it could only be designed by a mad scientist working with rogue DNA.

Let's start with the Yes on 37 campaign. It describes its bottom line as your right to know what's in your food; so what's wrong with mandating explicit labeling? That's fair as far as it goes, but it doesn't go very far. The danger in enacting rules like this is that while they sound perfectly reasonable, they distract from the need for thoughtful and effective regulation and for action at the Legislature, not the ballot box.

"All consumers should have a right to know how their food is produced," observes Gregory Jaffe, head of the biotechnology project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which is no crony of the food industry. "But that includes not merely genetic engineering, but irradiated foods and those produced from cloning."

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Prop. 37: Another example of the perils of the initiative process

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Time to Bid Eczema Good Night

Posted: at 9:11 am

One of the biggest discomforts with eczema is when itching strikes at bedtime. Sleep disruption due to itching may snowball into a morning of physical and mental distress. In order to get a good nights sleep, here are some practical tips.


Take a nice cool bath an hour before bed. It not only cleans your body but also washes away the heat from your skin. It brings back vital moisture which your skin needs. Make sure to apply emollient after bathing to lock in skins moisture.


Your sleeping environment should be planned, too. Heat leads to skin irritation. So keep to a cool bedroom temperature. Make sure air circulates properly. Avoid thick beddings and sheets and dress only in the most comfortable cotton night clothes.


Stick to a daily moisturizing routine. Apply your emollient 30 minutes before sleeping to help reduce night time itching.

"Noon, nakakaawa si Hanna when all the itching kept her up at night. But Ive learned the best ways to give her the most comfortable sleeping environment. It helps to be always prepared with Elica, too. Kaya ayan mahimbing na lagi ang tulog nya (Before, I would feel bad for Hanna when all the itching kept her up at night. But Ive learned the best ways to give her the most comfortable sleeping environment. It helps to be always prepared with Elica, too. Now, she's able to sleep soundly)," Celebrity mom Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan shares.


Should flare-ups persist, its good to know theres a medicine that you can count on. Elica is specially formulated to help relieve the symptoms of eczema. Applied once a day, Elica helps stop the itching, take out the redness and ease the swelling to help bring back smooth, healthy skin.

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Time to Bid Eczema Good Night

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Space Station Spin-Off Could Protect Mars-Bound Astronauts From Radiation

Posted: September 14, 2012 at 3:18 pm

It's hard to think of many spinoffs from the $100 billion project to build and launch the International Space Station. In fact, there is precious little done on the ISS that isn't focused on just keeping the thing in orbit.

One exception is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which is designed, among other things, to determine whether cosmic ray particles are made of matter or antimatter.

The spectrometer consists of a giant magnet that deflects charged particles and a number of detectors that characterise the mass and energy of these particles. It was bolted to the ISS last year and is currently bombarded by about 1000 cosmic rays per second.

Today, Roberto Battiston at the University of Perugia in Italy and a few pals say that the technology developed for the spectrometer could be used for protecting astronauts from radiation during the long duration spaceflights in future.

The journey to the asteroids, Mars or beyond is plagued with technological problems. Among the most challenging is finding a way to protect humans from the high energy particles that would otherwise raise radiation levels to unacceptable levels.

On Earth, humans are protected by the atmosphere, the mass of the Earth itself and the Earth's magnetic field. In low earth orbit, astronauts loose the protection of the atmosphere and radiation levels are consequently higher by two orders of magnitude.

In deep space, astronauts loose the protecting effect of the Earth's mass and its magnetic field, raising levels a further five times and beyond the acceptable limits that humans can withstand over the 18 months or so it would take to get to Mars or the asteroids.

An obvious way to protect astronauts is with an artificial magnetic field that would steer charged particles away. But previous studies have concluded that ordinary magnets would be too big and heavy to be practical on a space mission.

However, superconducting magnets are more powerful, more efficient and less massive. They are much better candidates for protecting humans.

The only problem is that nobody has built and tested a superconducting magnet in space.

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Space Station Spin-Off Could Protect Mars-Bound Astronauts From Radiation

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Research: Hopping DNA supercoils

Posted: at 3:17 pm

Artistic impression of the dynamics of DNA supercoils. A person manipulates a long DNA molecule. Loops in the DNA molecule are created by winding up the DNA. For the first time ever, the research by Van Loenhout, Grunt and Dekker revealed how these DNA loops dynamically move along the DNA strand.

If you take hold of a DNA molecule and twist it, this creates 'supercoils', which are a bit like those annoying loops and twists you get in earphone cables. Research carried out by TU Delft, The Netherlands, has found that in the DNA molecule these coils can make their way surprisingly quickly along the length of the DNA. This newly discovered 'hopping' mechanism - which takes places in a matter of milliseconds - could have important biological implications, because cells use the coils to bring specific pieces of DNA into contact with one another. The researchers from Cees Dekker's group at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience in Delft will be publishing their results in Science this week.


A DNA molecule in a cell is not simply a loose wire; it is completely wound up in a tangle of loops ('DNA supercoils'). These supercoils in a DNA molecule (see the illustration on the right) are similar to those annoying loops and twists you often get in earphone cables.

In living cells, the DNA supercoils form and unravel and move along the DNA molecule. They are vital to the regulation of DNA activity, in determining which genes are switched on or off for example. One of the ways in which cells use the supercoils is to bring pieces of DNA into contact with one another.


Static images of the DNA supercoils have been studied in detail in the past, but their dynamics remained unknown up till now. PhD student Marijn van Loenhout from the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at Delft developed a new technique that enabled him to observe how the coils travel along a DNA molecule for the first time. The research was led by Professor Cees Dekker, head of the Bionanoscience Department.

The TU Delft team used magnetic tweezers to stretch out a small section of a DNA molecule and were then able to observe the movement of the DNA coils using fluorescence microscopy (see movies at the website). They succeeded in showing these movements in real time, at the level of the individual DNA molecule.

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Van Loenhout: "We have discovered that the coils can move slowly along the DNA via diffusion. But what we also saw - and this was totally unexpected - that they can 'hop' along relatively long distances (micrometres). In such a movement a loop disappears in one spot, while simultaneously another loop appears in another spot, much further away. This information enables us to test theories about the mechanics of DNA, testing how you tie a knot in DNA, as it were."

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Making music in outer space

Posted: at 3:16 am

Most astronauts are engineers, fighter pilots or scientists, but the next Canadian in space will bring an artists sensibility to his command of the International Space Station.

Chris Hadfield is scheduled to rocket off Dec. 5 for six months in the claustrophobic confines of the space station from a launch pad on a barren plateau in Kazakhstan, along with Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn. Where some might see a long stint of isolation, the veteran Canadian astronaut sees precious time to create music and visual art.

Video: Mars rover beams back audio recording

A man on the moon

Mr. Hadfield has collaborated with Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies to write a song he will record in the space station, using the guitar, keyboard and ukulele on board, along with the clings and clangs of the machinery that scrubs carbon dioxide from the air and runs systems. The space-themed song is already being rearranged for distribution across Canada for use by childrens choirs, school bands and anyone who wants to pay homage to space travel.

Mr. Hadfield, 53, a retired Canadian air force colonel, tried out the untitled track with his band, Bandella, in a Houston club on Wednesday night. We had a big crowd and everybody loved it. Ed is a great songwriter, and hes rightfully proud of his little ditty, Mr. Hadfield said in an interview.

Mr. Hadfield is also working with a Japanese artist named Takahiro Ando to take images of the Earth using a watery lens to refract and reflect them. The process plays on a Japanese tradition of admiring the moon through liquid reflections, whether from a pond, a pan or cup of sake.

The experiment module, as it is called, is a plastic drum with a clear end that will allow Mr. Hadfield to place it against the space stations windows. He will inject water droplets into the drum while a super high-definition camera rolls and captures fine-resolution still photographs. I will try to be Andosans hands and eyes, Mr. Hadfield said from Houston.

Mr. Hadfield, who learned Russian so he can co-pilot the Soyuz spacecraft that will deliver the crew to the space station, has been training for more than two years to run the various systems and experiments under his command.

In a 20-year career in the space program, Mr. Hadfield has spent 20 days in space. Hes also ventured out on spacewalks twice, where he was struck by how it more than goes into your eyes. It fills your entire mind. Its just an overwhelming beauty.

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Making music in outer space

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DNA ‘junk' contains a treasure of information about disease

Posted: at 3:16 am

Among the many mysteries of human biology is why complex diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and psychiatric disorders are so difficult to predict and, often, to treat. An equally perplexing puzzle is why one individual gets a disease such as cancer or depression, while an identical twin remains perfectly healthy.

Now scientists have discovered a vital clue to unraveling these riddles.

The human genome is packed with at least 4 million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as junk but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave.

The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.

The findings are the fruit of an immense federal project, involving 440 scientists from 32 labs around the world.

As they delved into the junk parts of the DNA that are not actual genes containing instructions for proteins they discovered it's not junk at all. At least 80 percent of it is active and needed.

The result is an annotated road map of much of this DNA, noting what it's doing and how.

It includes the system of switches that, acting like dimmer switches for lights, control which genes are used in a cell and when they are used, and determine, for instance, whether a cell becomes a liver cell or a neuron.

The findings have immediate applications for understanding how alterations in the nongene parts of DNA contribute to human diseases, which may in turn lead to new drugs.

They also can help explain how the environment can affect disease risk.

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DNA ‘junk' contains a treasure of information about disease

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Ron Paul: "Country Should Panic Over Fed's Decision"

Posted: at 3:16 am

What took Ben Bernanke sixty minutes of mumbling about tools, word-twisting, and data-manipulating to kinda-sorta admit - that in fact he is lost; Ron Paul eloquently expresses in 25 seconds in this Bloomberg TV clip. Noting that "we are creating money out of thin air," Paul sums up Bernanke's position perfectly "We've Lost Control!"

25-second quick clip

Full 5 minute clip - must watch! from Mal-investment to Bernanke's frustration...

Pauls reaction to more Federal Reserve stimulus:

It should not surprise anybody, but it is still astounding. To me, it is so astounding that it does not collapse the markets. [Bernanke] said, We are in very big trouble. We are going to do something unprecedented and we believe it will not hurt the dollar. And yet the stocks, they say we love this stuff. But the dollar didnt do so well today and the real value of the dollar is measured against gold, and gold skyrocketed from its very low to its highest. It means we are weakening the dollar. We are trying to liquidate our debt through inflation. The consequence of what the Fed is doing is a lot more than just CPI. It has to do with malinvestment and people doing the wrong things at the wrong time. Believe me, there is plenty of that. The one thing that Bernanke has not achieved and it frustrates him, I can tellis he gets no economic growth. He doesnt do anything with the unemployment numbers. I think the country should have panicked over what the Fed is saying that we have lost control and the only thing we have left is massively creating new money out of thin air, which has not worked before, and is not going to work this time.

On potential unintended consequences:

The biggest unintended consequence is what we need is a restoration of confidence. If the Fed is expressing a lack of confidence and they do not know what to do, it does not do anything to restore confidence. People might restrain from doing anything. Interest rates are low. I do not have to buy my house this year. I will wait until next year. It might be a little easier. Prices might come down. So people are restrained and it is the opposite of when you expect that housing prices are going up, and you are afraid interest rates are going up. That is why the market rate of interest is so crucial. The rate of interest should give the businessman, the entrepreneurs, the investors and the savers information. But there is no market to interest rates. That is why there is such gross distortion and why we do not have a market economy. We have a rigged economy through central economic planning by central banking. The system is failing, it was doomed to fail and we have to wake up to that fact.

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LIVE from the Space Station: Gotta-See Video

Posted: September 13, 2012 at 9:13 pm

YouTube is increasingly important outside the world of cat videos and people injuring themselves, and today they'll be streaming live from space.

YouTube had a call out to the youth of our planet to create an experiment that could be performed on the International Space Station (ISS). Thousands of teams entered, posting video of their experiments on YouTube. From the entries, six were chosen from various regions of Earth and then those six were narrowed down to two experiments.

In a partnership with NASA, JAXA, and the ESA as well as Space Industries and Lenovo the experiments were sent to the space station. They were launched on a Japanese rocket and transported to the ISS where they will be will be carried out TODAY.

Tune into the YouTube channel above for live video from the International Space Station at 10:50 am EST. via YouTube Space Lab

Want to recommend a video? Tweet it to @Discovery_News with the hashtag #GottaSeeVideos.

Don't miss today's Must-Read News Nuggets too!

Watch Discovery Curiosity video!

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YouTube Space Lab: Bill Nye, contest winners, share results as streamed from space

Posted: at 9:13 pm

YouTube will be streaming the results of its Space Lab contest winners experiments from the International Space Station Thursday, with a live-streamed event hosted by Bill Nye.

The contest, which asked young people from all over the world to come up with experiments that could be done in zero gravity, comes to a close with a live broadcast from the International Space Station at 10:50 a.m., Eastern.

Winners were announced in March. The experiments chosen to be conducted on the station explored how a zero-gravity environment would affect how spiders jump, and how that environment would affect the growth and virulence of bacteria.

Dorothy Chen and Sara Ma, of Troy, Mich. who submitted the bacteria experiment said that they are, of course, excited to travel to London and hear the results of their experiment, but that theyre simply hoping that there are results to report.

I hope that they find something, and that they didnt just all die, said Chen, a junior in high school.

Ma, also a junior, added that its an exciting time to be working on this kind of science.

It is such an interesting time to be working on this with the renewed interest in space, she said, citing both the Curiosity Rover and the celebration of late astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Bill Nye, known for his PBS show Bill Nye the Science Guy and his work in science advocacy, said that finding ways to test how humans could live and thrive in space is one of the most important things scientists can be doing right now.

These are wonderful questions that space exploration allows you to seek the answers to some important questions, he said. Space exploration brings out the best in us, in humans. It challenges us. Its peaceful. It raises the expectations of everyone in the world of whats possible, and its inherently optimistic.

This contest, he said, is just one example of how governments and other entities can work together to further the cause of space exploration.

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YouTube Space Lab: Bill Nye, contest winners, share results as streamed from space

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Under-twisted DNA origami delivers cancer drugs to tumors

Posted: at 9:13 pm

ScienceDaily (Sep. 13, 2012) Scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden describe in a new study how so-called DNA origami can enhance the effect of certain cytostatics used in the treatment of cancer. With the aid of modern nanotechnology, scientists can target drugs direct to the tumour while leaving surrounding healthy tissue untouched.

The drug doxorubicin has long been used as a cytostatic (toxin) for cancer treatment but can cause serious adverse reactions such as myocardial disease and severe nausea. Because of this, scientists have been trying to find a means of delivering the drug to the morbid tumour cells without affecting healthy cells. A possible solution that many are pinning their hopes on is to use different types of nanoparticles as 'projectiles' primed with the active substance.

In the present study, which is published in the scientific journal ACS Nano, scientists at Karolinska Institutet show how DNA origami can be used as such a projectile (or carrier) of doxorubicin. DNA origami is a new technique for building nanostrucutres from DNA, the hereditary material found in the cell nucleus. Using this technique, researchers can produce highly complex nanostrucutres with surfaces to which complex patterns of proteins and many other molecules can easily be attached.

What the researchers did on this occasion was to package the doxorubicin in a DNA origami configuration designed in such a way that relaxed the degree of twist of the DNA double helix. This allowed the drug to be released more slowly and operate more effectively on the cancer cells at lower concentrations than is otherwise possible.

"When the DNA has a lower degree of twist, there's more room for the doxorubicin to become attached, which leads to its slower release," says group leader Dr Bjrn Hgberg. "Another advantage to using DNA origami is that we will quickly be able to develop the targeted protein system. This will enable us to deliver drugs in a way that is even more sparing of healthy cells."

The study has been financed with grants from several bodies, including the Swedish research Council, Vinnova (the Swedish governmental agency for innovation systems), the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Falk Foundation, the Jeansson foundations, Carl Bennet AB and the Axel and Eva Wallstrm Foundation.

Publication: 'A DNA Origami Delivery System for Cancer Therapy with Tunable Release Properties', Yong-Xing Zhao, Alan Shaw, Xianghui Zeng, Erik Benson, Andreas M. Nystrm & Bjrn Hgberg, ACS Nano, online first 5 September 2012.

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