David Kirkpatrick

November 24, 2010

Holiday air travel food for thought

Not only is the TSA a ridiculous bureaucratic mess that isn’t making anyone any safer at airports or in the skies, plus it’s now turned into an organization demanding organized “legal” molestation. It’s also very possibly damaging your health if you want to avoid the unwanted groping.

From the link:

As millions of U.S. travelers get ready for the busiest flying day of the year, scientists still can’t agree over whether the dose of radiation delivered by so-called backscatter machines is significantly higher than the government says. This is despite months of public debate between the White House, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and independent scientists.

Full-body scanners have been installed at many U.S. airports. The machines use either low-energy, millimeter wavelength radiation, which is harmless, or X-rays, which can potentially be hazardous. X-rays can ionize atoms or molecules, which can lead to cancerous changes in cells. Even if the government has significantly underestimated the dose of radiation delivered by an X-ray scanner, it is likely to be relatively small.

And more:

In April, four scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote a public letter to the White House warning that the government may have underestimated the dosage of ionizing radiation delivered to a person’s skin from a backscatter machine by one or two orders of magnitude. The scientists, who have expertise in biochemistry, biophysics, oncology, and X-ray crystallography, pointed out that the government’s estimate was based on radiation exposure for the entire body. During scanning, the majority of radiation will be focused on the surface of the body, meaning a more concentrated dose of radiation is delivered to the skin.

August 25, 2010

The downside of all those digital devices

Via KurzweilAI.net — They eat into our downtime.

From the link:

Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime

August 25, 2010

Source: New York Times, Aug 24, 2010

When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.

At the University of California, San Francisco, scientists have found that when rats have a new experience, like exploring an unfamiliar area, their brains show new patterns of activity. But only when the rats take a break from their exploration do they process those patterns in a way that seems to create a persistent memory of the experience.

The researchers suspect that the findings also apply to how humans learn.

At the University of Michigan, a study found that people learned significantly better after a walk in nature than after a walk in a dense urban environment, suggesting that processing a barrage of information leaves people fatigued.

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February 11, 2009

Stem cell research – free at last!

Well not quite free just yet, but the day is coming and it couldn’t come too soon. Among many, many bad science policies the US suffered under Bush 43, completely wrecking stem cell research through withholding federal funds was up there.

Thankfully some private and state money came through to keep the US from completely falling behind other countries in this vital medical research area, but Bush 43’s policies hurt and probably have cost American lives because of so-far-undiscovered breakthroughs related to stem cell research.

From the Technology Review link:

Three years ago, when Rene Rejo Pera was setting up a new lab at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), she had to make sure she had two of everything: one microscope for her federally funded lab, for example, and one for a privately funded replica next door. Because of funding restrictions on stem-cell research ordered by President George W. Bush in 2001, this was a redundant scenario played out in labs across the country. The edict specifically limited federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research to a small number of cell lines already in existence, leaving scientists who wanted to conduct cutting-edge research in this area scrambling for private money.

Scientists are now looking forward to an end of that edict. President Barack Obama promised during his campaign to overturn the order, and most expect the action to happen soon. “The imminent change in policy will quite literally allow us to take down these walls and integrate the laboratories in a way that will make the work move much more efficiently,” says Arnold Kriegstein, director of the Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF.

June 6, 2008

More Singularity and living 3D nano-microscopy

From KurzweilAI.net. Ray Kurzweil talks about the Singularityon NPR and a new technique allows for nano-level microscopy on living cells.

Will We Recognize The Future?
Science Friday, June 6, 2008What happens when the rate of technological change becomes so fast that the fundamental nature of what it means to be human changes too?

On Science Fridayon NPR (June 6, 2009 at 3 PM), host Ira Flatow talks with inventor, technologist and futuristRay Kurzweil about the idea of the Singularity — what happens when technology advances so much that it’s impossible to predict what happens next. Will artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and biotechnology be able to completely reshape what it means to be human?

This is a call-in radio show.

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Pretty on the Inside
Technology Review, June 5, 2008University of California, San Francisco and Ludwig Maximilians University researchers are using a new technique called 3-D structured-illumination microscopy to view living cells with 100 nanometers resolution.

Cells prepare for division by condensing their DNA into chromosomes (Lothar Schermelleh, Peter Carlton)

The new microscope illuminates cells with interference patterns. When a fine cellular structure reflects this light, it changes the pattern slightly. The microscope collects it, then software interprets the changes and creates an image.

The inner workings of living cells have previously been impossible to resolve with optical microscopes, which are limited to a resolution of about half the wavelength of visible light, around 200 nanometers. Electron microscopy has the resolution, but can only be used on dead cells.

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