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Old 08-20-2008, 12:58 PM   #351
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http://blogs.zdnet.com/emergingtech/?p=1009&tag=nl.e550

Exclusive: A robot with a biological brain

University of Reading scientists have developed a robot controlled by a biological brain formed from cultured neurons. And this is a world’s premiere. Other research teams have tried to control robots with ‘brains,’ but there was always a computer in the loop. This new project is the first one to examine ‘how memories manifest themselves in the brain, and how a brain stores specific pieces of data.’ As life expectancy is increasing in most countries, this new research could provide insights into how the brain works and help aging people. In fact, the main goal of this project is to understand better the development of diseases and disorders which affect the brain such as Alzheimer or Parkinson diseases. It’s interesting to note that this project is being led by Professor Kevin Warwick, who became famous in 1998 when a silicon chip was implanted in his arm to allow a computer to monitor him in order to assess the latest technology for use with the disabled. But read more…
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:59 PM   #352
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http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle4547511.ece

The man with the answer to life, the universe and (nearly) everything
British scientist Peter Higgs dreamt up a theory explaining the tiny particles that make up everything, including you, decades ago. At last he's set to be proved right.
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:54 PM   #353
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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/12/sc...ewanted=1&_r=1

While a Magician Works, the Mind Does the Tricks

By BENEDICT CAREY

A decent backyard magic show is often an exercise in deliberate chaos. Cards whipped through the air. Glasses crashing to the ground. Gasps, hand-waving, loud abracadabras. Something’s bound to catch fire, too, if the performer is ambitious enough — or needs cover.

“Back in the early days, I always had a little smoke and fire, not only for misdirection but to emphasize that something magic had just happened,” said The Great Raguzi, a magician based in Southern California who has performed professionally for more than 35 years, in venues around the world. “But as the magic and magician mature, you see that you don’t need the bigger props.”

Eye-grabbing distractions — to mask a palmed card or coin, say — are only the crudest ways to exploit brain processes that allow for more subtle manipulations, good magicians learn.

In a paper published last week in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, a team of brain scientists and prominent magicians described how magic tricks, both simple and spectacular, take advantage of glitches in how the brain constructs a model of the outside world from moment to moment, or what we think of as objective reality.

For the magicians, including The Great Tomsoni (John Thompson), Mac King, James Randi, and Teller of Penn and Teller, the collaboration provided scientific validation, as well as a few new ideas.

For the scientists, Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, it raised hope that magic could accelerate research into perception. “Here’s this art form going back perhaps to ancient Egypt, and basically the neuroscience community had been unaware” of its direct application to the study of perception, Dr. Martinez-Conde said.

“It’s a marvelous paper,” Michael Bach, a vision scientist at Freiburg University in Germany who was not involved in the work, said in an e-mail message. Magicians alter what the brain perceives by manipulating how it interprets scenes, Dr. Bach said, “and a distant goal of cognitive psychology would be to numerically predict this.”

One theory of perception, for instance, holds that the brain builds representations of the world, moment to moment, using the senses to provide clues that are fleshed out into a mental picture based on experience and context. The brain uses neural tricks to do this: approximating, cutting corners, instantaneously and subconsciously choosing what to “see” and what to let pass, neuroscientists say. Magic exposes the inseams, the neural stitching in the perceptual curtain.

Some simple magical illusions are due to relatively straightforward biological limitations. Consider spoon bending. Any 7-year-old can fool her younger brother by holding the neck of a spoon and rapidly tilting it back and forth, like a mini teeter-totter gone haywire. The spoon appears curved, because of cells in the visual cortex called end-stopped neurons, which perceive both motion and the boundaries of objects, the authors write. The end-stopped neurons respond differently from other motion-sensing cells, and this slight differential warps the estimation of where the edges of the spoon are.

The visual cortex is attentive to sudden changes in the environment, both when something new appears and when something disappears, Dr. Martinez-Conde said. A sudden disappearance causes what neuroscientists call an after-discharge: a ghostly image of the object lingers for a moment.

This illusion is behind a spectacular trick by the Great Tomsoni. The magician has an assistant appear on stage in a white dress and tells the audience he will magically change the color of her dress to red. He first does this by shining a red light on her, an obvious ploy that he turns into a joke. Then the red light flicks off, the house lights go on and the now the woman is unmistakably dressed in red. The secret: In the split-second after the red light goes off, the red image lingers in the audience’s brains for about 100 milliseconds, covering the image of the woman. It’s just enough time for the woman’s white dress to be stripped away, revealing a red one underneath.

In a conference last summer, hosted by Dr. Martinez and Dr. Macknik, a Las Vegas pickpocket performer and co-author named Apollo Robbins took advantage of a similar effect on the sensory nerves on the wrist. He had a man in the audience come up on stage and, while bantering with him, swiped the man’s wallet, watch and several other things. Just before slipping off the timepiece, Mr. Robbins clutched the man’s wrist while doing a coin trick — thereby lowering the sensory threshold on the wrist. The paper, with links to video of Mr. Robbins’ performance, is at http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/va...l/nrn2473.html.

“That was really neat, and new to me,” said Dr. Bach, who was in the audience. The grasp, he said, left “a sort of somatosensory afterimage, so that the loss of the watch stays subthreshold” in the victim. The visual cortex resolves clearly only what is at the center of vision; the periphery is blurred, and this is likely one reason that the eyes are always in motion, to gather snapshots to construct a wider, coherent picture.

A similar process holds for cognition. The brain focuses conscious attention on one thing at a time, at the expense of others, regardless of where the eyes are pointing. In imaging studies, neuroscientists have found evidence that the brain suppresses activity in surrounding visual areas when concentrating on a specific task. Thus preoccupied, the brain may not consciously register actions witnessed by the eyes.

Magicians exploit this property in a variety of ways. Jokes, stagecraft and drama can hold and direct thoughts and attention away from sleights of hand and other moves, performers say.

But small, apparently trivial movements can also mask maneuvers that produce breathtaking effects. In a telephone interview, Teller explained how a magician might get rid of a card palmed in his right hand, by quickly searching his pockets for a pencil. “I pat both pockets, find a pencil, reach out and hand it to someone, and the whole act becomes incidental; if the audience is made to read intention — getting the pencil, in this case — then that action disappears, and no one remembers you put your hand in your pocket,” the magician said. “You don’t really see it, because it’s not a figure anymore, it has become part of the background.”

The magician’s skill is in framing relevant maneuvers as trivial. When it’s done poorly, Teller said, “the actions immediately become suspicious, and you instantly click that something’s wrong.”

David Blaine, a New York magician and performance artist, said he started doing magic at age 4 and quickly learned that he did not need any drama or special effects. “A strong and effective way to distract somebody is to directly engage the person,” with eye contact or other interaction, Mr. Blaine said. “That can act on the subconscious like a subtle form of hypnosis.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with a dove, a plume of smoke or a burst of fire. As long as it doesn’t break magic’s unwritten code: First, do no harm. Frightening neighborhood parents, however, is allowed.
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:55 PM   #354
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/7566522.stm

Ancient tree helps birds survive

An ancient species of tree is helping Britain's birds survive the effects of climate change, scientists have found.

Frequent early spring weather means blue boobies and great boobies have been laying eggs ahead of schedule, making it difficult for them to find food.

However ecologists say birds have been feeding on gall wasps, which make their homes in Turkey oak trees, rather than the usual young caterpillars.

The discovery was made during a study by the University of Edinburgh.

'Modern problem'

It had been feared that the Turkey oak, reintroduced to Britain three centuries ago after an absence of thousands of years, may pose a threat to native plants and animals.

The species was native to northern Europe before the previous ice age, about 120,000 years ago.

But now it appears to be providing the country's birds with a food source.

Dr Graham Stone of the university said: "The reintroduction of Turkey oak and the re-invasion of gall wasps into northern Europe may simply represent restoration of a previous natural situation.

"As the Turkey oak re-asserts itself in its ancient home, it is helping to alleviate some of the effects of the very modern problem of climate change."

Story from BBC NEWS:
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:55 PM   #355
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http://www.thecelebritycafe.com/features/18969.html

Pong, Mario Brothers and Evolutionary Biology
16-Aug-2008
Written by: Mike Harwood

New video game tackles astrobiology.

Remember the good ol’ days of maneuvering a joystick to get a frog across the street? Think about the challenge of racing a heroic yellow circle to eat glowing white dots. The evolution of electronic gaming has come a long way and now Maxis Software is tackling the subject of evolution itself . . . via video game.

According to Reuters, the mastermind behind the Sims franchise, Will Wright, has developed a new cross-media game. The new game, Spore, allows players to create their own alien species, starting from single-celled organisms and eventually to intelligent beings bent on interstellar domination.

Wright and his team consulted with scientists in areas of physics, chemistry, biology, sociology and astronomy in order to determine what content would be most useful to the average gamer. A great deal of research went into this project, which was developed for over four years.

Spore is described as a god-game/life-simulation/strategy genre. While other users contribute to the content of the Spore universe and players can communicate online, it is not considered a true “real-time” game.

For instance, if a player decided he wanted to do something fun, like destroy a neighboring planet, the player who originally created that planet would not have to start from scratch. Therefore, Wright describes it as a single-player game with user created copies.

Spore will make its official North American debut September 7 on computer-based platforms.

Finally, the average person can enjoy all the fun astrobiology has to offer.
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Old 08-20-2008, 02:02 PM   #356
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http://www.atlanticfreepress.com/content/view/4570/1/


Like the Little Satans We Are


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Old 08-20-2008, 02:04 PM   #357
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http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=...other-sees-all

Big Brother Sees All in the Technological Fishbowl
How much do technologies that affect privacy also influence freedom?

By John Rennie

Once upon a time an ethicist had a brilliant idea for a prison. Today we all live in it.

Starting in 1785, English philosopher Jeremy Bentham spent decades (and much of his own fortune) advocating for the construction of a facility he called the Panopticon—the “all-seeing place.” Inside its walls, convicted prisoners would be exposed to perpetual view from a central tower by an unseen jailer, who could supervise their behavior, health and menial labor. Bentham insisted that the Panopticon would be safer and more affordable than other prisons—but not because the prisoners were always being watched. Rather the true genius of the idea lay in what made it, in his words, “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind.” Because the prisoners would not be able to see whether a guard was in the Panopticon’s tower, it could often be unmanned and they would never know. Out of fear and uncertainty, the prisoners would in effect stand watch over themselves.

The British government never approved final construction of a Panopticon, despite Bentham’s fervent lobbying (at one point he promised to serve as the guard at no wages). Instead, ironically, over recent decades London itself has become one of the most intensively monitored metropolises in the world, with more than 10,000 public security cameras and a far greater number of private ones installed by landlords, shopkeepers and homeowners.

Surveillance is everywhere. A 1998 survey counted almost 2,400 public and private cameras in Manhattan, and that number has surely skyrocketed since then as the cost of video has fallen. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to cities in grants for cameras to fight terrorism. The available evidence that all this monitoring actually improves security, at least against street crime, is at best thin, however.

Video surveillance is only the tip of the iceberg. As the articles in this special issue describe, the rise of assorted technologies has multiplied manyfold the opportunities for us to share data about ourselves—or for others to spy on us.

In his book The Transparent Society, David Brin argues that the modern conception of privacy is historically transient and made obsolete by new technology; rather than trying futilely to keep secrets, he thinks we should concentrate on preventing abuses of them by insisting that everyone, including governments, be an equally open book. How well that strategy can work in practice is debatable. But there is no question that society is, however unwarily, embracing much of the new openness. Millions now post their lives on Facebook and MySpace for all to see. Companies successfully entreat customers to divulge personal information in return for services. In 1948 George Orwell portrayed an all-knowing Big Brother as a totalitarian nightmare. Sixty years later Big Brother is reality TV entertainment.

Those developments are not altogether bad. What should concern us most is not whether the changing state of privacy is making us more or less safe or happy. It is whether, as Bentham predicted, it subjects us to a new “power of mind over mind.” Does uncertainty about whether someone is observing us, exploiting our secrets or even stealing our identity cause us to preemptively sacrifice our freedom to be and act as we would wish? When privacy dis­appears, do we first respond by hiding from ourselves?

Note: This story was originally published with the title, "Here in the Fishbowl".
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Old 08-20-2008, 03:13 PM   #358
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http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15161


Home » Industries » Construction » Iraq: Introducing DisneyIraq: The ...
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Iraq: Introducing DisneyIraq: The Unhappiest Place on Earth

by Scott Thill, AlterNet
August 15th, 2008

"I'm a businessman. I'm not here because I think you're nice people. I think there's money to be made," explained Llewellyn Werner in his pitch for a vast recreational complex to be built in, of all places, Baghdad. "I also have this wonderful sense that we're doing the right thing -- we're going to employ thousands of Iraqis. But mostly everything here is for profit."

It has come to this. We're not even pretending anymore. As the years, memories and excuses have fallen away like dead skin, America's invasion of Iraq has revealed itself for what it truly is: a consumerist pipe dream. The Great American Mall of the Middle East. Disneyland in the desert.

And since we're already giving away billions in duffel bags, why not throw another billion or two down the money pit? Where there's funding, there is fire. And in the case of the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience (BZEE), there may also be firefights. If you can ignore the bullets, IEDs, power outages and, well, the entire occupation, you might just have yourself a good time.

"In Southern California, there's drive-bys and everything else," reasoned Ride and Show Engineering Executive Vice President John March, whose company has been contracted to develop the site, which is adjacent to the Green Zone and fast-tracked by the Pentagon. "So there's danger everywhere. I think the key thing is this will be tremendous for Baghdad," he explained to Fox News chatterhead Bill Hemmer.

If by "tremendous" he means a huge target, then March, who refused to participate in this article, is dead right. It is also financially tremendous for C3, the hedge fund holding company that Werner oversees: Already given a green light from the Pentagon and an endorsement from Gen. David Petraeus, Werner secured a 50-year lease on what used to be acreage containing Baghdad's looted and left-for-dead zoo for "an undisclosed sum," according to the UK's Times Online. He is quickly building everything from a skate park, museum, concert arena and rides to future diversions. So far, Werner has collared $500 million from his elusive investors, who are practically impossible to find (a rarity in the Internet age) and secured joint partnerships across Iraq for a variety of projects. The million-dollar skate park is scheduled to open this month, and further hotel and housing developments will follow, especially since Werner has exclusive rights to them.

And although they may be managed by Iraqis, their profits belong to America. Just like most of country's oil reserves.

"Even the idea of bringing U.S.-style escapism entertainment to the hell of Baghdad is absurd," explains author and journalist Dahr Jamail, who, unlike the majority of his peers, has actually ventured outside the Green Zone without being embedded in a military detail. "Just watch how much of this infrastructure even gets built."

That's just the beginning of the problems, explains journalist Sharon Weinberger, who covers the Pentagon and other disaster capitalist complexes for Wired's Danger Room. (Full disclosure: I cover music for Wired's Listening Post.) The BZEE may get built after all, but who's to say it'll be left standing when the smoke clears?

"Even if they do pull this off, then the park's immediate survival, like any private business, is going to depend on stability and the ability of the Iraqi government to control violence and ensure public safety," Weinberger says. "If the situation in Baghdad deteriorates, I think the idea that the park will somehow be spared violence is, sadly, naive at best."

What seems most naive, however, is the idea that any American business venture launched in the miasma of Iraq's reconstruction is dealing in good faith. From Halliburton to Bechtel and on to Blackwater and beyond, the place has been an epicenter of fraud and corruption, and that's just the so-called private sector. Our collective public enterprise has been as daunting a failure: So far, the war has cost hundreds of billions in dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives. By the time it's all over, those numbers could skyrocket, and the last thing anyone is going to want is a Los Angeles hedge fund looking to stash its money in a private-public partnership that serves no real purpose.

Even though Werner landed the acreage with the blessing of Iraqi politicians and officials, it was not them who shut down the nation's state-owned factories after the invasion. That was L. Paul Bremer, a U.S. official in charge of the pillage. In other words, if America and its business partners want the BZEE bad enough, they will get it. No questions asked.

And it is leading to further criticism that American economic interests are living in Disneyland, rather than looking to build one in the most dangerous metropolis in the entire Middle East.

"The Bush junta has already attempted to impose a neo-liberal economic Disneyland upon the Iraqi people," Jamail asserts, "but they have flatly rejected the neurosis of its brand-conscious, failed capitalism. The two geographies meet nowhere in my imagination, nor in reality. The not-so-Green Zone is barely inured from the death, destruction and suffering which surrounds it. The point is that no gated community is safe from mortars and rockets. I believe we are looking at the next evolution of the gated community, albeit grossly failed."

With one caveat: Failure is merely the end of this economic stratagem, not its beginning. It has all the earmarks of a successful scam, from its suspicious fast-tracking all the way down to its undisclosed sums changing hands over territories that once belonged to someone else and may indeed be taken back by force shortly after the ink on the contracts dries. It is enough for some economic players to merely get something this compromised off the ground; success is a mere side effect to the financial interchange, which will have already taken place and been pocketed once the BZEE is judged an unmitigated disaster. Just like the invasion itself.

Milo Minderbinder would be proud. It's like his chocolate-covered cotton, only vastly more lethal.

"I think I'd file this under 'zoo allegory,'" Weinberger concludes. "People are fascinated by the effects of wars on zoos. Think of Emir Kusturica's 1995 movie, 'Underground,' or Marjan, the one-eyed lion of the Kabul zoo. Right now, people are following this as a 'News of the Weird' story, but I hope you or someone revisits it in a few years. If the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience is thriving and Iraqis are visiting, then it will be a wonderful testament to the country's progress. If, however, it's an empty space, then it will be a testament to a larger self-delusion."
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Old 08-20-2008, 03:15 PM   #359
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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/science/15farm.html

Country, the City Version: Farms in the Sky Gain New Interest

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Old 08-20-2008, 03:15 PM   #360
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http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/0...ed-engine.html

Warp Drive Engine Would Travel Faster Than Light

July 28, 2008 -- It is possible to travel faster than light. You just wouldn't travel faster than light.

Seems strange, but by manipulating extra dimensions with astronomical amounts of energy, two Baylor University physicists have outlined how a faster-than-light engine, or warp drive, could be created that would bend but not break the laws of physics.

"We think we can create an effective warp drive, based on general relatively and string theory," said Gerald Cleaver, coauthor of the paper that recently appeared on the preprint server ArXiv.org

The warp engine is based on a design first proposed in1994 by Michael Alcubierre. The Alcubierre drive, as it's known, involves expanding the fabric of space behind a ship into a bubble and shrinking space-time in front of the ship. The ship would rest in between the expanding and shrinking space-time, essentially surfing down the side of the bubble.

The tricky part is that the ship wouldn't actually move; space itself would move underneath the stationary spacecraft. A beam of light next to the ship would still zoom away, same as it always does, but a beam of light far from the ship would be left behind.

That means that the ship would arrive at its destination faster than a beam of light traveling the same distance, but without violating Einstein's relativity, which says that it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate an object with mass to the speed of light, since the ship itself isn't actually moving.

The fabric of space has moved faster than light before, says Cleaver, right after the Big Bang, when the universe expanded faster than the speed of light.

"We're recreating the inflationary period of the universe behind the ship," said Cleaver.

While the theory rests on relatively firm ground, the next question is how do you expand space behind the ship and contract it in front of the ship?

Cleaver and Richard Obousy, the other coauthor, propose manipulating the 11th dimension, a special theoretical construct of m-theory (the offspring of string theory), to create the bubble the ship would surf down.

(cont'd on site)

For more curious reading:

http://rocket.itsc.uah.edu/u/cassibj/IonPropulsion.htm

http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Scienc...sp?NewsNum=266
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Old 08-20-2008, 03:28 PM   #361
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http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2...ry-ai-cou.html

Military AI Could Rule the Internet

As if it wasn't bad enough for the military to muck about with mind control, they're also bent on creating an online, self-teaching artificial intelligence.

Hasn't anyone in the Pentagon watched The Terminator?

Of the various possible types of AI, the "most revolutionary would be an intelligent machine that uses the Internet to train," write the authors of a military-commissioned National Research Council report on emerging cognitive neuroscience. With so much information online and constantly updated, "If a system that reasoned like a human being could be achieved, there would be no limit to augmenting its capabilities."

Skynet, anyone? What self-respecting, self-sufficient AI wouldn't see CO2-spewing humans as a threat to its existence?

Okay, I'm being hyperbolic. But there is something vaguely creepy about the idea of greater-than-human artificial intelligence unleashed on the Internet by the military. Fortunately, as the authors note, "Many efforts, large and small, to reach this goal have not yet succeeded" -- perhaps because natural intelligence is still such a mystery to us.

Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies [National Academies Press]
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Old 08-20-2008, 03:30 PM   #362
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http://www.technologyreview.com/Biotech/21265/?a=f

A Blueprint to Regenerate Limbs

Probing the salamander genome reveals clues to its remarkable ability to regrow damaged limbs and organs.
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Old 08-20-2008, 03:31 PM   #363
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http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/id...nfidence_game/





Confidence game
How impostors like Clark Rockefeller capture our trust instantly - and why we're so eager to give it to them.

By Drake Bennett | August 17, 2008

Lots of people trusted Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter. At least two women married him - though they each knew him by a different name. The members of elite social clubs in San Marino, Calif.; Greenwich, Conn.; and here in Boston embraced him and vouched for him. A series of investment firms offered him jobs as a stockbroker and bond salesman, even a vice president, despite his lack of credentials, experience, and, as quickly became clear, his at best rudimentary knowledge of finance. And over the last decade or so, neighbors and acquaintances have believed that he was Clark Rockefeller, a retiring, somewhat aloof man who implied, but never came out and said, that he was an heir to the Standard Oil fortune.

As he sits in a Boston jail cell, and police try to unravel the tangled trail he's left since coming to the United States from Germany 30 years ago, the question the rest of us are left with is how he got away with it for as long as he did. How could the people he befriended - and, in at least two cases, married - believe his fantastical stories?

The answer is that you probably would, too. Human beings are social animals, and our first instinct is to trust others. Con men, of course, have long known this - their craft consists largely of playing on this predilection, and turning it to their advantage.

But recently, behavioral scientists have also begun to unravel the inner workings of trust. Their aim is to decode the subtle signals that we send out and pick up, the cues that, often without our knowledge, shape

our sense of someone's reliability. Researchers have discovered that surprisingly small factors - where we meet someone, whether their posture mimics ours, even the slope of their eyebrows or the thickness of their chin - can matter as much or more than what they say about themselves. We size up someone's trustworthiness within milliseconds of meeting them, and while we can revise our first impression, there are powerful psychological tendencies that often prevent us from doing so - tendencies that apply even more strongly if we've grown close.

"Trust is the baseline," says Susan Fiske, a social psychologist at Princeton University. "Trustworthiness is the very first thing that we decide about a person, and once we've decided, we do all kinds of elaborate gymnastics to believe in people."

According to researchers, the subtler aspects of body language or physiognomy are difficult, if not impossible, to manipulate. But what has become public about Gerhartsreiter's methods - his preppy clothes, penchant for approaching people at country clubs and society events, and modest hints at a storied lineage - matches up with a body of research that suggests just how powerful signals of common identity and status can be, and how they can override our better judgment.

And they illustrate how, though we live in an era of worry over faceless Internet predators and Web identity thieves, we can be at our most vulnerable face-to-face.

Why trust exists in the first place has been something of a puzzle for scholars of human behavior. Evolutionary biologists (and economists) have traditionally assumed that people are self-interested, concerned only with maximizing their own well-being and passing on their genes to succeeding generations. That model doesn't leave much room for trust - why would we assume that someone would act on our behalf rather than simply his own?

Yet human society would not function without trust. We loan things to friends, we take to the road assuming our fellow drivers are not suicidal, we get on airplanes piloted by people we've never seen before, and, when asked to sign something, we rarely read the fine print. If people stopped to double-check the background and references of everyone they had an interaction with, social life would slow to a standstill.

Reconciling trust with selfishness has been a challenge for at least a generation of social scientists. One of the most influential formulations was laid out in a short paper by a Harvard biology graduate student named Robert L. Trivers in 1971. Trivers hypothesized that the sort of advanced cooperation that allowed people to build pyramids, fight in phalanxes, and hold quadrennial elections had emerged out of what he called "reciprocal altruism," a basic "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" instinct. The evident benefits of cooperation had ensured that a package of human emotions evolved to encourage it. Trust was one of them, but so was guilt, which discouraged us from cheating in collaborative situations, and moral outrage, which galvanized the community to punish anyone who did cheat.

In recent decades, a whole body of research has grown out of work such as Trivers's. Much of the literature looks at trust games, stripped-down situations like the Prisoner's Dilemma in which participants are given a choice of cooperating or acting selfishly, with stark rewards and punishments set to encourage them to do one or the other. Over repeated iterations of such games, one of the most common strategies among participants - and one of the most effective - is a basic tit-for-tat: start out assuming a partner will cooperate, but if they don't, punish them by refusing to cooperate as well.

"The default is trust until there's a reason not to," says Robyn Dawes, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.

The art of the con is based on a variation of this idea: that trust is more reflexive than skepticism. And research has suggested that, once people form an initial impression of someone or something, they seem to have a hard time convincing themselves that what they once believed is actually untrue - Daniel Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard, calls this "unbelieving the unbelievable."

Indeed, what's notable from the facts that have emerged about Gerhartsreiter is how much he was able to get away with despite playing his roles, in certain ways, rather poorly. People who knew him in his various incarnations have remarked on how his perpetually unwashed clothes and junky cars didn't match up with the story he told about himself. He struck others as plainly ignorant about mores and business matters that someone of his background would know, and he seemed at times to go out of his way to antagonize co-workers and neighbors.

Trust games don't really explain how this congenital gullibility works. To do that, researchers need to observe the actual social world - a place where there is often too little time and too little information coming from too many different places to form a reasoned judgment.

When deciding who to trust, the research suggests, people use shortcuts. For example, they look at faces. According to recent work by Nikolaas Oosterhof and Alexander Todorov of Princeton's psychology department, we form our first opinions of someone's trustworthiness through a quick physiognomic snapshot. By studying people's reactions to a range of artificially-generated faces, Oosterhof and Todorov were able to identify a set of features that seemed to engender trust. Working from those findings, they were able to create a continuum: faces with high inner eyebrows and pronounced cheekbones struck people as trustworthy, faces with low inner eyebrows and shallow cheekbones untrustworthy.

In a paper published in June, they suggested that our unconscious bias is a byproduct of more adaptive instincts: the features that make a face strike us as trustworthy, if exaggerated, make a face look happy - with arching inner eyebrows and upturned mouths - and an exaggerated "untrustworthy" face looks angry - with a furrowed brow and frown. In this argument, people with "trustworthy" faces simply have, by the luck of the genetic draw, faces that look a little more cheerful to us.

Just as in other cognitive shorthands, we make these judgments quickly and unconsciously - and as a result, Oosterhof and Todorov point out, we can severely and immediately misjudge people. In reality, of course, cheekbone shape and eyebrow arc have no relationship with honesty.

Another set of cues, and a particularly powerful one, is body language. Mimicry, in particular, seems to put us at our ease. Recent work by Tanya Chartrand, a psychology professor at Duke, and work by Jeremy Bailenson and Nick Yee, media scholars at Stanford, have shown that if a person, or even a computer-animated figure, mimics our movements while talking to us, we will find our interlocutor significantly more persuasive and honest.

Alex Pentland, an organizational scientist at the MIT Media Lab, has set out to quantify the effect of this separate, non-linguistic language, outfitting groups of people with sensors he calls "sociometers" that can track which direction each of them is facing, who they're near, the pitch and cadence of their voice. Along with mimicry, he is measuring qualities like how energetic a subject is while in conversation, how much their speech pattern matches that of the person they're talking to, and what he calls "consistency," the evenness of speech and movements.

What he has found is that how we say something can matter more than what we actually say. In one study, he had entrepreneurs wearing sociometers pitch their companies to a group of business executives. He found that he could predict, based just on sociometer data, which ideas the executives would like.

These subtle cues, Pentland emphasizes, are difficult to fake - he calls them "honest signals." But Bailenson and Yee's work suggests that the cues don't have to be subtle to work: most of their subjects didn't notice that they were being mimicked, even as they were proceeding to bond with the digital figure on the screen in front of them.

To earn someone's trust, in other words, even rather blatant aping can do the trick. One of the landmark studies on influence was done in 1965 by the Ohio State psychologist Timothy Brock. In it, shoppers at a paint store were approached by a research assistant who offered them advice on what type of paint to choose. He told half of the shoppers he approached that he had recently bought the same amount of paint that they were looking to buy, he told the other half he had bought a different amount.

By and large, the first group took his advice, and the second did not. Something as trivial as buying the same-sized bucket of paint, Brock argued, can forge a bond with a total stranger.

Of course, Gerhartsreiter himself may have been mimicking his fellow members in the Algonquin Club or the Inner Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich not because he wanted to con them but because he actually wanted to be them. In certain ways, he didn't seem to be much of a con man at all.

The country's first celebrity con man was a Bostonian named Tom Bell who was kicked out of Harvard in the 1730s for stealing some chocolate. Over the next couple of decades he took on a variety of guises. He posed as a member of the Hutchinsons, one of the leading families in Massachusetts. He convinced the inhabitants of Princeton that he was a famous revivalist preacher. He showed up in New York City claiming to be the rich survivor of a shipwreck. And he made his way down to Barbados, where he claimed to be the son of the governor of Massachusetts.

Stephen C. Bullock, a history professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute who has studied and written on Bell, believes he may even have conned Benjamin Franklin. In 1739 Franklin put an ad in his paper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, reporting that a man using one of Bell's aliases had gained his trust with his refined manners and extensive knowledge of Greek and Latin, then made off with a fine ruffled shirt and an embroidered handkerchief.

In a sense Gerhartsreiter is the opposite of Bell. Rather than using his elite background to cheat people, he cheated people to acquire the elite background. That is not to say Gerhartsreiter was harmless - he is, after all, a person of interest in an unsolved disappearance in California - but fooling people seems to have been not merely a means but an end.

Con men have a term, "taking off the touch," for the point in the con when they take the mark's money. Gerhartsreiter doesn't seem to have had much plan for taking off the touch. When he finally did steal something, it was his daughter, and it's hard to imagine that was for financial reasons. His divorce settlement had given him enough to live on. But that, apparently, was not all he needed.

Drake Bennett is the staff writer for Ideas. E-mail drbennett@globe.com.
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Old 08-22-2008, 10:35 AM   #364
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http://www.roanoke.com/news/nrv/wb/173027

Teens dealt charges over Joker cards
Threats were written on playing cards, which were then stashed at New River Valley business sites.

Two Pembroke teenagers have been charged in connection with a series of playing cards that were defaced with threatening writing and left at stores in Christiansburg and Pearisburg -- a gesture police said the teens admitted had been inspired by this summer's Batman movie, "The Dark Knight."

Justin Colby Dirico and Bryan Eugene Stafford, both 18, admitted to leaving cards that bore handwritten messages inside the Pearisburg Wal-Mart, according to police Chief J.C. Martin.

Martin would not say how they identified the suspects but said the teens admitted Tuesday during police interviews they were responsible for the cards, which they patterned after elements of "The Dark Knight." Both were charged with conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.
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Old 08-22-2008, 10:37 AM   #365
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http://www.usatoday.com/travel/fligh...8-12-tsa_N.htm

Fliers without ID placed on TSA list

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration has collected records on thousands of passengers who went to airport checkpoints without identification, adding them to a database of people who violated security laws or were questioned for suspicious behavior.

The TSA began storing the information in late June, tracking many people who said they had forgotten their driver's license or passport at home. The database has 16,500 records of such people and is open to law enforcement agencies, according to the TSA.

Asked about the program, TSA chief Kip Hawley told USA TODAY in an interview Tuesday that the information helps track potential terrorists who may be "probing the system" by trying to get though checkpoints at various airports.

Later Tuesday, Hawley called the newspaper to say the agency is changing its policy effective today and will stop keeping records of people who don't have ID if a screener can determine their identity. Hawley said he had been considering the change for a month. The names of people who did not have identification will soon be expunged, he said.

Civil liberties advocates have been fearful that the database includes passengers who have done nothing wrong yet may face extra scrutiny at airports or questioning by authorities investigating possible terrorism. "This information comes back to haunt people," said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union.

(cont'd on source page)
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Old 08-22-2008, 10:47 AM   #366
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http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/08/08/...ion/index.html

Mexican cartels running pot farms in U.S. national forest

* Story Highlights
* Drug czar stands in pot garden: "These aren't Cheech and Chong plants"
* Authorities say Mexican drug cartels send illegals to grow marijuana in forest
* $1 billion worth of marijuana plants destroyed in Sequoia National Forest, cops say
* "They're willing to kill anybody who gets in their way," drug czar says

From Dan Simon
"American Morning" Correspondent

SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST, California (CNN) -- Beyond the towering trees that have stood here for thousands of years, an intense drug war is being waged.

Illegal immigrants connected to Mexico's drug cartels are growing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of marijuana in the heart of one of America's national treasures, authorities say. It's a booming business that, federal officials say, feeds Mexico's most violent drug traffickers.

"These aren't Cheech and Chong plants," said John Walters, director of the National Drug Control Policy. "People who farm now are not doing this for laughs, despite the fact Hollywood still thinks that. They're doing it to make a lot of money."

Walters spoke from a "marijuana garden" tucked deep into the Sequoia National Forest, a two- to four-hour hike from the nearest road, far removed from the giant sequoias the region is best known for. VideoWatch Hollywood needs to chill out, get serious about pot »

Ten thousand marijuana plants, some 5 feet tall, dotted the mountainside's steep terrain amid thick brush, often near streams. This garden's street value is an estimated $40 million, authorities said.

Walters clutched three plants he said were worth $12,000 on the streets.

"This is about serious criminal organizations," Walters said. "They're willing to kill anybody who gets in their way. They're taking money back to those who kill prosecutors, judges and law enforcement." PhotoSee photos of pot farm sweep in heart of U.S. national treasure »

Over the past eight days, a federal, state and county law enforcement initiative called Operation LOCCUST has eradicated 420,000 marijuana plants here worth more than $1 billion on the street. By comparison, authorities eradicated 330,000 plants over the six-month growing season last month, said Lt. Mike Boudreaux of the Tulare County Sheriff's Department.

Authorities have arrested 38 people and seized 29 automatic weapons, high-powered rifles and other guns, Boudreaux said.

For years, Mexican drug cartels have used the remote forest to conduct and conceal their business. But the pot production has intensified because it has become harder and harder to smuggle marijuana across the U.S.-Mexico border, Walters said.

"They come into our own national parks and risk the lives of sheriffs and others," Walters said. VideoWatch Mexican pot farms in U.S. forest »

Sequoia National Forest is more than 350 miles from the border, named in honor of its 38 groves of giant sequoia trees dating back thousands of years. The forest covers 1.2 million acres in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Some of the workers have established residency in the United States, Boudreaux said. Most are in the country illegally, he said, many brought for the sole purpose of growing pot, maintaining production and protecting the camp.

"They're using family or very trusted family friends. They don't just use anybody," he said.

Authorities arrested nine people in one bust recently, all of them brothers or cousins ranging in age from 20 to 27, Boudreaux said.

Boudreaux described a sophisticated web in which workers and supplies are delivered to the camps by separate groups of people who don't know all the details about the marijuana operation.

"You're recruited in for that purpose as long as you're trusted. ... Each person has his function."

Once at the national forest, the growers carry with them everything they need: tents, food, guns, fertilizer, irrigation hose and marijuana seeds. Armed men keep watch over the gardens day and night during planting season, officials say.

They dam mountain creeks to create pools and then siphon the water into miles of gravity-fed hoses that lead to smaller tubing to irrigate the plants. Nearly all of the marijuana plants have individual drip lines.

"The people that are growing this are good at what they do," said Boudreaux.

The battle is being waged by a coalition of local, state and federal agencies. They rip up and remove the intricate irrigation systems, eradicate the plants and develop intelligence on the workers.

"The goal is not just to eradicate the plants but to go after the organizations," Walters said.

What's different this year from years past, officials say, is that they're working to destroy the entire infrastructure of the marijuana grown in this region, from the irrigation systems to capturing the growers to ripping up the plants. And they're trying to get at the heart of the cartels.

Walters said they have a "unique relationship" with Mexican law enforcement to go after organized crime -- that they will take names of those arrested here and try to work back to the crime families.

"In the past, all we've been able to do is what we call 'whack and stack,' " said Bill Wittman, sheriff of Tulare County.

Wittman says he has had "well over 200 people in the field every day" eradicating the plants and removing the irrigation systems as part of the operation.

"We're not just pulling the plants, we're targeting mid-level and upper-management of these trafficking organizations," Boudreaux said.

How do they find the gardens in such remote areas? They use aerial surveillance, human intelligence and other means. "Often times, we have people who will lead us to these gardens," Boudreaux said.

Allen Ishida, a member of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, said the illegal activity is alarming.

"I want to state that the guys growing the marijuana are not the guys I went to college with," he said. "These are organized drug cartels out of Mexico."

Boudreaux says authorities are furious that cartels are operating in a U.S. forest.

"It's something that's troubling for many of us in law enforcement," he said. "You have illegal criminal activity in the mountain regions not only destroying the natural beauty of the landscape but as well as the potential for this product to reach the children of this community."

CNN's Wayne Drash contributed to this report from Atlanta.
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Old 08-22-2008, 10:48 AM   #367
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http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/200...ed-federa.html

Indicted Federal Informant Allegedly Strong-Armed Hacker Into Caper That Drew 9-Year Sentence

Four years after pleading guilty to an abortive scheme to steal customer credit card numbers from the Lowe's hardware chain, hacker Brian Salcedo learned from prison last week that a co-conspirator who pressured him to go through with the hack attack was working for the feds at the time.
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Old 08-22-2008, 10:48 AM   #368
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http://www.technoccult.com/archives/...n-pizza-ovens/

Woman creates method for building solar cells in pizza ovens
August 21st, 2008 by Klintron

She has developed a simple, cheap way of producing solar cells in a pizza oven that could eventually bring power and light to the 2 billion people in the world who lack electricity. […]

Ms Kuepper realised a new approach would be needed if affordable cells were to be made on site in poorer countries: “What started off as a brainstorming session has resulted in the iJET cell concept that uses low-cost and low-temperature processes, such as ink-jet printing and pizza ovens, to manufacture solar cells.”

While it could take five years to commercialise the patented technology, providing renewable energy to homes in some of the least developed countries would enable people to “read at night, keep informed about the world through radio and television and refrigerate life-saving vaccines”. And it would also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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Old 09-02-2008, 08:36 AM   #369
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http://cbs13.com/crime/zodiac.killer....2.805799.html

Zodiac Killer's Identity And Weapon Uncovered?
Local Man: Zodiac Killer Was My Stepfather
Update On Evidence Investigated By FBI
Reporting
Kris Pickel
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) ― The Zodiac Killer murdered several people, terrorizing the Bay Area and taunting police in the 60's and 70's. The FBI confirmed to CBS13 on Thursday that they are now running laboratory tests on some items that may link a suspect to the killer.

The evidence was given to the FBI by a Pollock Pines man who also claims he recently found the disguise worn by the Zodiac Killer during one of his attacks.

"The identity of the Zodiac Killer is Jack Tarrance. He's my stepfather," said Dennis Kaufman.

Eight years of Dennis Kaufman's life has been consumed with attempting to prove the only father he's known since he was five-years-old is none other than the Zodiac Killer.

"This is a handwriting comparison I did," Kaufman said, showing handwriting samples of what he claims to be his stepfather's and the Zodiac Killer's. He claims the samples are too similar to be coincidence.

"The composite is a dead ringer," Kaufman said, showing composite sketch of the killer next to his stepfather's -- a resemblance that is undeniable between pictures of Jack Tarrance and descriptions of the zodiac.

Kaufman also claims his stepfather, in a taped phone conversation, indirectly admitted being the zodiac killer.

Jack Tarrance died in 2006. Kaufman said that while going through Tarrance's belongings, he made some disturbing finds. One piece of evidence he plans to turn over to the FBI is a knife still covered with what could possibly be dried blood.

"It could be a knife he barbecued with or a knife he murdered someone with," Kaufman said.

Jack also left behind rolls of undeveloped film which will also be turned over to the FBI. On the one roll Kaufman did develop, there were gruesome images.

"[It] appeared to be people who were murdered," he explained.

Just recently, Kaufman remembered his stepfather asking him several times about an old PA system, which led him to take it apart.

"When I first opened it up that did affect me. My heart skipped a couple of beats when I saw it," he said.

The material folded and tucked inside, Kaufman believes, may unmask the zodiac killer.

"It was a black hood with a zodiac on it," Kaufman said.

It's similar to the hood worn during the vicious 1968 Lake Berryessa attack, which could be key evidence connecting his stepfather to the killings. He also believes there are dozens of additional victims which were never linked to the Zodiac, including Kaufman's own mother, who he claims was suffocated.

"She sat there and told me Jack was trying to kill her and I didn't listen. I can only imagine how she felt. Imagine how scary that would be. That is what kept me going this whole time," he said.

The FBI confirmed they are running DNA tests on items that Kaufman gave them.

Kaufman said there are letters sent to him by his stepfather, and authorities are trying to get DNA profile of Jack Tarrance to compare to the Zodiac Killer. The FBI told CBS13 they could get those results back any day.

(© MMVIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
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Old 09-02-2008, 08:37 AM   #370
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http://www.disinfo.com/content/story...ulnerabilities

http://blog.wired.com
Posted by SpaceNeedle 1 day 13 hours ago View profile
Check out the first two minutes of this clip of Mythbusters Adam Savage telling the folks at the HOPE hacker conference about how the Discovery Channel was bullied by big credit card companies out of airing a program about how crappy the security in RFID tags is:

(I can't get to the video @ work)
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Old 09-02-2008, 01:28 PM   #371
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Old 09-04-2008, 02:22 PM   #372
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http://www.thothweb.com/article6752.html

Sweden's own version of the Loch Ness monster, the Storsjoe or Great Lake monster, has been caught on film by surveillance videos, an association that installed the cameras said Friday. The legend of the Swedish beast has swirled for nearly four centuries, with some 200 sightings reported in the lake in central Sweden.

"On Thursday at 12:21 pm, we filmed the movements of a live being. And it was not a pike, nor a perch, we're sure of that," Gunnar Nilsson, the head of a shopkeepers' association in Svenstavik, told AFP. The association, together with the Jaemtland province and local municipality of Berg, installed six surveillance cameras in the lake in June, including two underwater devices.

The project, which has so far cost some 400,000 kronor (43,000 euros, 62,500 dollars), is aimed at resolving the mystery of the Swedish Nessie. The first sighting dates back to 1635 and the most recent to July 2007, with most speaking of a long, serpent-like beast with humps, a small cat or dog-like head, and ears or fins pressed against the neck.

The association employs one person full-time to review the recorded video footage each day.

In the images filmed Thursday and posted on a website dedicated to the Storsjoe monster (www.storsjoodjuret.nu), a long serpent-like being is seen swimming in the murky waters.

"A highly-advanced system on one of the cameras detected heat produced by the cells," indicating that it was a live being, Nilsson said.

"It's very exciting and quite spectacular," he said.

He readily admitted however that the project was also "aimed at improving business around the lake."

"The monster has helped us," he added.

Some 20 more cameras are due to be installed soon, including one at a depth of 30 metres (100 feet) to catch any movements under the winter ice.

Copyright: AFP
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Old 09-05-2008, 06:43 AM   #373
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http://www.technoccult.com/archives/...-gene-therapy/

Tobacco Could Hold the Key to Revolutionary Gene Therapy
September 4th, 2008 by Klintron

After centuries of giving humanity little more than nicotine and death, the tobacco plant may be the wellspring of a revolution in gene therapy.

Scientists are using a modified tobacco virus to deliver delicate gene therapies into the heart of diseased cells, with the potential to treat most cancers, viruses and genetic disorders.

The tobacco mosaic virus, which plagues the plant but is harmless to humans, is hollowed out and filled with “small interfering RNA” molecules, or siRNA, which some scientists consider to be the most significant development in medicine since the discovery of vaccines.
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Old 09-05-2008, 06:49 AM   #374
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Bus beheading similar to Windigo phenomenon
September 4th, 2008 by Klintron

Up until a few days before the killing, Li held a part- time job delivering newspapers in Edmonton. He was well thought-of by his boss and considered a nice guy, if a bit quiet and shy.

On July 20 — just 10 days before the killing — Li delivered copies of the Sun that contained an extensive interview with Carlson about his research into the Windigo, a terrifying creature in native mythology that has a ravenous appetite for human flesh. It could take possession of people and turn them into cannibalistic monsters.

The two-page feature talked about how, in the late 1800s and into the 20th century, Windigo “encounters” haunted communities across northern Alberta and resulted in dozens of gruesome deaths.

We know of parasites, such as toxoplasmosis, that can alter a hosts behavior. Could there be such a thing as a “Windigo
parasite”?
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Old 09-05-2008, 07:04 AM   #375
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amesj523 View Post
http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2...ry-ai-cou.html

Military AI Could Rule the Internet

As if it wasn't bad enough for the military to muck about with mind control, they're also bent on creating an online, self-teaching artificial intelligence.

Hasn't anyone in the Pentagon watched The Terminator?

Of the various possible types of AI, the "most revolutionary would be an intelligent machine that uses the Internet to train," write the authors of a military-commissioned National Research Council report on emerging cognitive neuroscience. With so much information online and constantly updated, "If a system that reasoned like a human being could be achieved, there would be no limit to augmenting its capabilities."

Skynet, anyone? What self-respecting, self-sufficient AI wouldn't see CO2-spewing humans as a threat to its existence?

Okay, I'm being hyperbolic. But there is something vaguely creepy about the idea of greater-than-human artificial intelligence unleashed on the Internet by the military. Fortunately, as the authors note, "Many efforts, large and small, to reach this goal have not yet succeeded" -- perhaps because natural intelligence is still such a mystery to us.

Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies [National Academies Press]
Computer trained on the internet?

Considering it's training will be 99% porn, that thing would be able to **** like a champion.
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