FiveBooks Interviews: Jasmin Darznik on Modern Iran

2:33:25 AM, Monday, October 03, 2011

"Everyday life in Iran is often mischaracterised, says the Iranian author and academic – especially when it comes to the struggles of its women. She recommends five books that give us a window on Iranian history and family life.

People have strong images of Iran as a totalitarian country where women can still be stoned for adultery. What are some of the most common misconceptions about Iran?

There is an overwhelming preoccupation with Islam – or more particularly with Islamic fundamentalism – in Western media coverage of Iran. Islam is portrayed as the single defining feature of life there. Of course the Islamic regime constitutes a dominant framework for people’s lives, but they manage nonetheless to lead fully complex lives within that framework. Moreover, many of the problems average Iranians face relate less to Islam than to the economy. A succession of occupations, wars and, more recently, economic sanctions, have crippled Iran and made life quite hard for people there. These financial realities and so much else about the country do not get translated to a western audience.

We will be exploring those realities with your book choices. But before we start, what kind of images spring to mind when you think about your country?

The condition of women comes to mind at once. But the images you mentioned earlier of women being stoned are very extreme and rare incidents. When I think of Iran, I think of the grittiness and the vitality of its women. They endure what are sometimes horrific circumstances, and yet I feel that the intelligence and strength of Iranian women is so much more representative of their lives.

Your next book is also a travel book written by an outsider – Mirrors of the Unseen by Jason Elliot.

Given the history between the countries, it may be a bit of a travesty that I have picked an Englishman to tell us about Iran! The word “orientalist” has such unsavoury connotations these days. But I think of Elliot as an orientalist in the best sense of the word – an outsider guided by a deep curiosity about the Middle East, and devoted to understanding it better. He has also written an account about Afghanistan, An Unexpected Light. Mirrors of the Unseen finds him travelling through Iran over a period of three years..."

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Scientists Implant Robot Brain Into Rat

2:22:03 AM, Monday, October 03, 2011

"Just like right out of a Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel, Israeli researchers have created a robot brain in which they implanted into the skull of a rat with brain damage allowing it to function normally again.

Matti Mintz of Tel Aviv University in Israel worked with colleagues to build the rodent-sized artificial cerebellum consisting of a computer chip that is electrically wired into the rat’s brain with electrodes.

Since the cerebellum is responsible for coordinating movement, the chip was programmed to take sensory information from the body, interpret it, and communicate it back to the brain stem and throughout the body.

The team conditioned the rat to blink whenever it heard a tone to determine if the robot brain was functioning correctly. When the researchers disabled the rat’s cerebellum, however, the rat could no longer coordinate this behavior. Once the artificial brain was hooked up again, the rat went back to blinking whenever the tone was played.

“It’s proof of concept that we can record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain,” Mintz told NewScientist.

While the research is astounding, researchers say the days of having a full-on robotic brain implant are not likely to happen anytime soon.

The work was presented by Mintz at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK this month."

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Ringing in Ears May Have Deeper Source: Tinnitus Results from Brain’s Effort to Compensate for Hearing Loss, a Study Finds

3:25:40 AM, Saturday, October 01, 2011

"The high-pitched ringing, squealing, hissing, clicking, roaring, buzzing or whistling in the ears that can drive tinnitus sufferers crazy may be a by-product of the brain turning up the volume to cope with subtle hearing loss, a new study suggests. The results, published in the Sept. 21 Journal of Neuroscience, may help scientists understand how the condition arises.

Tinnitus is clearly a disorder of the brain, not the ear, says study coauthor Roland Schaette of the University College London Ear Institute. One convincing piece of evidence: Past attempts to cure the condition by severing the auditory nerve in desperate patients left people completely deaf to the outside world — but didn’t silence the ringing. How the brain creates the maddeningly persistent phantom noise remains a mystery.

Usually, tinnitus is tied to some degree of measurable hearing loss, but not always. “We’ve known for a long time that there are people who report tinnitus whose audiograms are normal,” says auditory neuroscientist Larry Roberts of McMaster University in Canada, who wasn’t involved in the new study. “It has been a puzzle to figure out these exceptions to the rule.”

Schaette and coauthor David McAlpine, also of the UCL Ear Institute, suggest that these exceptions may actually be due to “hidden hearing loss” that shirks detection in standard hearing tests.

The pair focused on the 10 percent of people with tinnitus who seem to have normal hearing. The team recruited 15 women with chronic tinnitus and 18 women who were free of the condition, all of whom had normal hearing tests. The researchers used electrodes to record the brain’s electrical activity as the subjects listened to loud, rapid-fire clicks.

In the people with tinnitus, electrodes picked up a subtle abnormality in one of the brain’s initial electrical response to the clicks. A signal generated by nerve fibers that carry sounds from the ear’s cochlea into the brain was weakened, perhaps because of damage to some of the fibers. This hard-to-detect hearing loss may be driving tinnitus.

A signal generated later in the sound-ear-brain pathway looked normal in people with tinnitus, the team found. In response to the loud clicks, electrical activity in the brainstem was no different between the two groups.

In participants with tinnitus, this seemingly normal signal from the brainstem comes from the brain compensating for its hearing loss by boosting nerve cells’ signal-sending activity in a way that doesn’t depend on the external sounds, Schaette and McAlpine propose. It’s this heightened — and spontaneous — nerve cell activity in the brainstem that leads to the phantom tinnitus sound, they reason..."

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Papercraft Audi A7

1:43:20 AM, Saturday, October 01, 2011

-- Graphic designer, Taras Lesko, created this model papercraft Audi A7, in 245hrs, for the display at the IAG building during the 2012 Audio A7 announcement. Follow the link for more photos!

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Anti-Spontaneous-Combustion Pills

1:33:18 AM, Saturday, October 01, 2011
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Lenka - The Show

12:47:32 AM, Saturday, October 01, 2011
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21st Century Sex

7:26:34 PM, Friday, September 30, 2011

"What does desire truly look like? Science hasn’t come up with an answer, because most of us won’t let curious researchers watch us tumbling between the sheets, and surveys aren’t necessarily reliable. Are you willing to jot down answers to questions like “Have you ever felt attracted to your pet schnauzer?”—even if the unshaven young grad student quizzing you insists, “Trust me—your answers are completely anonymous”?

Only one scientist managed to survey a large number of people on a broad range of sexual interests: Alfred Kinsey. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Kinsey and his team interviewed thousands of subjects, asking questions about a tremendous variety of turn-ons, including bondage, bestiality, and silk stockings. But the Kinsey reports are now more than a half century old, and the findings were limited: The subjects were primarily educated, middle-class Caucasians; they were not selected randomly or systematically; and the data consisted of only recollections the subjects chose to share.

Today, a wide variety of scientists—neuroscientists, psych­ologists, anthropologists, biologists, pharmacologists—study desire, and one of their most basic questions remains: Why do we like the things we like? To answer that, we must first determine what people like, and stealing a look at men and women’s true interests has been far from easy.

Until the arrival of the Internet.

In 1991, the year the World Wide Web went online, there were fewer than 90 different adult magazines published in America. Just six years later, there were about 900 pornography sites on the web. Today, there are 2.5 million adult websites. It’s hard to imagine a more revolutionary development in the history of human sexuality. With a visit to an adult video site like PornHub, you can see more naked bodies in a single minute than the most promiscuous Victorian would have seen in an entire lifetime.

By examining raw search data, we can finally view an unfiltered snapshot of human desire. Take a look at the following list. Each phrase is an actual search entered into Dogpile (a popular “meta-engine” combining results from sources like Google and Bing) in May 2010: shemales in prom dresses, Twilight slash Edward and Jacob, black meat on white street, wives caught cheating on cam, best romance novels with alpha heroes, kendra wilkinson sex tape, spanking stories, free gay video tube, Jake Gyllenhaal without shirt, girls gone wild orgies. What immediately jumps out is the remarkable diversity of people’s sexual interests..."

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Protein 'Switches' Could Turn Cancer Cells Into Tiny Chemotherapy Factories

7:21:56 PM, Friday, September 30, 2011

"Johns Hopkins researchers have devised a protein "switch" that instructs cancer cells to produce their own anti-cancer medication.

In lab tests, the researchers showed that these switches, working from inside the cells, can activate a powerful cell-killing drug when the device detects a marker linked to cancer. The goal, the scientists said, is to deploy a new type of weapon that causes cancer cells to self-destruct while sparing healthy tissue.

This new cancer-fighting strategy and promising early lab test results were reported this week in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Although the switches have not yet been tested on human patients, and much more testing must be done, the researchers say they have taken a positive first step toward adding a novel weapon to the difficult task of treating cancer.

One key problem in fighting cancer is that broadly applied chemotherapy usually also harms healthy cells. In the protein switch strategy, however, a doctor would instead administer a "prodrug," meaning an inactive form of a cancer-fighting drug. Only when a cancer marker is present would the cellular switch turn this harmless prodrug into a potent form of chemotherapy.

"The switch in effect turns the cancer cell into a factory for producing the anti-cancer drug inside the cancer cell," said Marc Ostermeier, a Johns Hopkins chemical and biomolecular engineering professor in the Whiting School of Engineering, who supervised development of the switch..."

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Compression Experiments Lead to Shocking Results

7:20:19 PM, Friday, September 30, 2011

"Using acceleration 1 trillion times faster than a jet fighter in a maximum turn, researchers have gained new insight into dynamic compression of aluminum at ultrahigh strain rates.

Controlled shock compression has been used for decades to examine the behavior of materials under extreme conditions of pressure and temperature.

Using an ultrafast spectroscopic technique (used to track shocks on a time scale of ten trillionths of a second), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists Jonathan Crowhurst, Michael Armstrong, Kim Knight, Joseph Zaug and Elaine Behymer measured breakouts (driven by laser-induced shocks) in aluminum thin films with accelerations in the range of 10 trillion g's. The research appears in the Sept. 23 edition of the journal Physical Review Letters.

"The details of how solid materials rapidly deform on sub-micron-length scales have been the subject of speculation for decades," Armstrong said. "For the first time, our experiments can test fundamental scaling laws on time and length scales where they may start to break down at strain rates that are orders of magnitude larger than previously examined."

"In solids, a sufficiently large amplitude shock produces irreversible plastic deformation and relaxes the initial stress," Crowhurst said. "As the amplitude continues to increase, and if the shock drive is maintained, a steady-wave shock profile evolves, which propagates indefinitely without change in form."

But the team said that a fundamental understanding of shock-induced deformation is still lacking. In particular, little is understood about the behavior of materials, including metals, during the initial phase of shock compression and at high strain rates..."

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Texas Stampede Supercomputer to Join the EXtreme Digital (XD) Program

7:15:26 PM, Friday, September 30, 2011

"As part of a National Science Foundation grant, the Texas Advanced Computing Center, or TACC, from the University of Texas at Austin announced its plans to develop and support a new supercomputer they are naming Stampede. It is set to be operational in January of 2013 and will be a part of the eXtreme Digital (XD) program with the National Science Foundation and enable scientists to share computing resources, data and expertise interactively.

The National Science Foundation is investing $27.5 million to start the project and plans to invest some $50 million throughout the next four years. Stampede will be an Intel and Dell powered system. It will be made of up several thousand Dell Zeus servers containing 8-core processors and each server will contain 32GB of memory.

The cluster will be using Intel’s new Many Integrated Core (MIC) co-processors codenamed “Knights Corner.” This will provide the entire system with a total of 10 petaflops of performance.

Also included in Stampede will be 16 Dell servers with a terabyte of shared memory and 2 GPUs each that will be used for large data analysis. There will be 128 NVIDIA graphics processing units to provide remote visualization and a high performance Lustre file system for data intensive computing. The entire Stampede system will provide a peak performance of 10 petaflops, 272,000 gigabytes of memory and 14 million gigabytes of disk storage.

Stampede will be used to support computational and data driven science and engineering projects throughout the U.S. and allow researchers to create advanced methods for petascale computing. The goal will also be to use Stampede to train the next generation of scientists and researchers in advanced computational science and technology.

The University of Texas at Austin is set to break ground in November 2011 for a new data center which will house Stampede."

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Rick Ross's Simple Lessons for Bosses, Dons, and Bitches

10:39:13 PM, Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Real Niggas Don't Send Dick Flicks

It only occurs to me after midnight that it might be past 8 P.M. Normally, due to domestic circumstances, I'm asleep by ten. But it doesn't feel late. Rick Ross lives in his own personal time zone, and when you're around him, you're subject to it. Though I do notice a strange lull in the house, a subtle shift in metabolic state. Ross's bodyguard, a gentle-looking man with sleepy eyes who is nearly seven feet tall, lopes through the kitchen still wearing this strange headset that makes him look like he's getting translation at the U.N. General Assembly. Darren, a kid from Milwaukee, is still in the basement, editing what must be just server-melting amounts of Rick Ross video. I confuse two of the other guys who work for Ross—one's name is Red and the other's is Black, and I think Red wears a black hat. One of them is stripping the tobacco out of several packs of grape Swisher Sweets and then reassembling them into precise blunts. It's mesmerizing, like watching someone who's really good at knitting. But despite all this activity, it feels like the house—the sense of industry that's been ratcheted up for the nine hours I've been here—has slipped into standby mode. It occurs to me that it might be the weed, the same way it feels like you're driving ninety miles an hour when you're crawling along at five. Then it occurs to me that a better explanation is that Rick Ross has disappeared.

In the den, Gucci Pucci, Ross's manager, is lying on one of the black leather sofas. There's a television channel whose programming seems to consist entirely of people getting into car crashes, and Mr. Pucci is watching it.

"Where's Ross?" I ask.

A conversion van plows through the front of a 7-Eleven and surprises a woman buying milk. "Asleep," Pucci says without turning his head. "Or..." Then he makes the "banging someone" gesture with his fist.

It's not hard to figure out who that someone might be. Since I arrived in Atlanta nine hours ago, I have met at least a dozen men at Rick Ross's house/recording studio, all of whom kind of work for him and are also hoping to get their big break from him. But I have met exactly one woman. When I arrived this afternoon, Ross was reclining in a cushioned dining chair wearing camouflage cargo shorts, a blindingly white T-shirt, and giant Louis Vuitton sunglasses. The room was fragrant with cocoa butter, and a slender blonde woman in black leggings had both hands up the legs of his shorts. She had skin that looked like it smelled good and a face like Whitney Houston in 1987. Ross dismissed her wordlessly, with a nod, put one warm paw on my shoulder, and let me know that should there be anything I need, anything, all I had to do was ask. He said the word "anything" like someone who embraced the scope of what that might mean. He spoke in that deep creamy voice that seems to come from six miles down in his chest. A voice you instantly recognize from his music..."

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Al-Qaida Calls on Ahmadinejad to End 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

8:40:54 PM, Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Al-Qaida has sent a message to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, asking him to stop spreading conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks.

Iranian media on Wednesday reported quotes from what appears to be an article published in the latest issue of the al-Qaida English language magazine, Inspire, which described Ahmadinejad's remarks over the 11 September attacks as "ridiculous".

In his UN general assembly speech last week, Ahmadinejad cast doubt over the official version of the 2001 attacks.

"The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that al-Qaida was behind 9/11 but rather, the US government," the article said, according to Iranian media. "So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?"

Ahmadinejad said in New York that the "mysterious September 11 incident" had been used as a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. He had also previously expressed scepticism at the US version of events.

"By using their imperialistic media network which is under the influence of colonialism, they threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 event with sanctions and military actions," said Ahmadinejad.

The al-Qaida article insisted it had been behind the attacks and criticised the Iranian president for discrediting the terrorist group.

"For them, al-Qaida was a competitor for the hearts and minds of the disenfranchised Muslims around the world," said the article published in the Inspire magazine. "Al-Qaida … succeeded in what Iran couldn't. Therefore it was necessary for the Iranians to discredit 9/11 and what better way to do so? Conspiracy theories."

Al-Qaida also accused Iran of hypocrisy over its "anti-Americanism"..."

-- He must be hurting their street cred! Talking their balls away... lol

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China Prepares to Launch Space Laboratory

2:06:31 AM, Thursday, September 29, 2011

"The unmanned, 8.5 ton Tiangong-1 will help to test the technologies that China plans to use in its space station, which is scheduled for completion by 2020. It will also be used as a docking target for the unmanned Shenzhou 8 space craft which is expected to launch by the end of this year. If that mission succeeds, Chinese astronauts could fly to Tiangong-1 next year, dock, and live aboard it.

If China can demonstrate it has a functioning docking system, it could also begin to dock with the International Space Station. China has held up its ambitious space programme as a symbol of its growing technological expertise.

The module's launch arrives just before China's National Day celebrations on October 1.

The mission has been delayed by a few weeks because of "over 170 technical modifications" that had to be made at the launch site in the Gobi desert, according to the director of the site. As China steps up its space programme, in competition with India and Japan, the United States and Russia have both scaled back their ambition.

The US says it will not test a new space rocket to carry out manned missions until 2017 and Russia has said manned mission are no longer a priority.

Meanwhile, China became only the third country to send an astronaut on a spacewalk in 2008 and is planning an unmanned moon landing for next year. It hopes to send a man to the moon by 2020, roughly five decades after the US managed the feat."

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Team Finds Stable RNA Nano-Scaffold Within Virus Core

11:21:46 PM, Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"With the discovery of a RNA nano-scaffold that remains unusually stable in the body, researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have overcome another barrier to the development of therapeutic RNA nanotechnology.

Peixuan Guo, PhD, Dane and Mary Louise Miller Endowed Chair and professor of biomedical engineering, and his colleagues in UC's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences report the construction of a thermodynamically stable RNA nanoparticle online in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The nanoparticle, constructed from a three-way junction (3WJ) motif of packaging RNA (pRNA) molecules, can serve as a platform for building larger, multifunctional nanoparticles, says Guo, which can then be injected into the body to deliver therapeutics to targeted cells.

"RNA nanoparticles have applications in treating cancers and viral infections," he says, "but one of the problems in the field is that RNA nanoparticles are relatively unstable. Without covalent bonds or cross-linking to keep them together, the nanoparticles produced via self assembly can dissociate when injected into animal and human circulation systems, where they exist at very low concentrations."

In the work, Guo and researchers explored the unique structure of the DNA packaging motor of bacteriophage phi29, a virus that infects bacteria. The motor is geared by a ring of pRNA molecules containing interlocking loops and helical domains, which are joined together by a strong 3WJ motif.

"The pRNA is extraordinary strong," says Guo, "since it is a mechanical part that nature uses to gear a powerful motor. This strength makes it an ideal platform for constructing RNA nanoparticles. Furthermore, the core has unique and unusually stable features, such as resistance to strong denaturants like urea and the ability remains intact at ultra-low concentrations in the absence of magnesium."

Using three small fragments of RNA with high affinity for assembling into larger structures, researchers were able to recreate the 3WJ core outside the pRNA structure. In addition, each arm of the 3WJ core can be fused to siRNA molecules, receptor-binding ligands and RNA aptamers, molecular tools necessary for the nanoparticle to find a targeted cell inside the body and silence genes within it.

The resulting nanoparticle remained stable and functional in vitro and, when introduced in vivo, targeted tumors specifically without diffusing to other critical organs or normal tissues..."

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Unlike Humans, Chimpanzees Don’t Enjoy Collaborating

10:48:31 PM, Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"When it benefits them, chimpanzees willingly work together. Otherwise, they can’t be bothered.

For humans, collaboration is rewarding for its own sake, a behavioral split that may underlie key differences between human and chimpanzee societies.

Primate researchers, working with semi-free ranging chimpanzees at a sanctuary in Uganda, found chimpanzees recruit a helping partner only if it gets them more food than they’d get alone. The study, described in Animal Behavior, Sept. 7, is part of a current trend in primatology to unpick how motivation and mental state affects an animal’s interactions.

“It looks like motivation plays a very important role in how we behave,” said Anke Bullinger, primary author. “And it gives a hint that even though species might be cognitively capable of doing certain things, they might not show the behavior, because they just don’t want to.”

The extent of human cooperation is unique, but not cooperation itself. Chimpanzees, bonobos, elephants, and many birds work together for joint rewards.

“The interesting thing is that there isn’t much research on the motivational aspects of this,” Bullinger said. “I suspect that motivation plays a role in many aspects of cognition, not just in cooperative behavior, but also in social learning, in communication.”

For the study, Bullinger and her colleagues set food boards out of the chimpanzee’s direct reach. To bring the banana-bearing platforms close, the chimps pulled on a rope resting on the ground. Chimpanzees had two options. One board they could pull close solo. On another board, loose rope threaded between loops. To get these boards, both ends had to be pulled, so the chimpanzee had to go get their partner, waiting in an adjoining room..."

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