Sunday, August 24, 2008

China very active in Africa

Separate article with graph and link to a six-parter here.

There are already more Chinese living in Nigeria than there were Britons during the height of the empire.

The financial lesson from onions

History's anti-speculation onion lobby may have sowed some series turmoil. Perhaps futures markets actually smooth out volatility. There is no such market for onions:

Since 2006, oil prices have risen 100%, and corn is up 300%. But onion prices soared 400% between October 2006 and April 2007, when weather reduced crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only to crash 96% by March 2008 on overproduction and then rebound 300% by this past April.

Animals displaying human abilities

Supposedly uniquely human traits popping up in the animal kingdom (video links):

4. Deception
If you have ever tried internet dating, you will know that a person's profile may not be an honest depiction of who they are. Humans use many underhand strategies to help them win over a love interest, and they are not the only ones in the animal kingdom to do so.
Another video shows how male nursery web spiders lure females by playing dead. If only such a simple strategy worked for humans.

Mirza and Singh from Britain's Got Talent 08

The crowd goes wild for this take on Michael Jackson's Billie Jean.

Me and my girls -- a junkie's recovery story

How David Carr found some salvation through his girls. Interesting reflections on self-narrative.

Are you sure the problem is existential?

Solving the correct problem?

What about rich heiresses with everything in the world available to buy, who still feel unhappy? Perhaps they can't get themselves into satisfying romantic relationships. One way or another, they don't know how to use their money to create happiness - they lack the expertise in hedonic psychology and/or self-awareness and/or simple competence.

So they're constantly unhappy - and they blame it on existential angst, because they've already solved the only problem they know how to solve. They already have enough money and they've already bought all the toys. Clearly, if there's still a problem, it's because life is meaningless.

If someone who weighs 560 pounds suffers from "existential angst", allegedly because the universe is a mere dance of particles, then stomach reduction surgery might drastically change their views of the metaphysics of morality.

Alzheimer's drug reverses cognitive decline over 12 month period in early human testing

Researchers believe the medication works by stabilizing mitochondria, the cellular components that produce energy, and possibly by inhibiting brain cell death. Researchers evaluated patients' thinking and memory ability, overall function, psychiatric and behavioral symptoms, and ability to perform daily activities.

"Usually at this point in a drug's development, we are happy to see improvement in one of the outcome measures," Doody said. "We saw improvement in all five."

How mother had to diagnose her daughter after doctors tried for six months

Dominique said, 'I'd begun doing some research myself by then as she had severe vertigo, couldn't walk any more and had severe muscle and joint pain.

'I came across Lyme Disease and it just seemed to fit. There's a lot of controversy over the treatment of the disease and over diagnosing the disease.

'I took Danielle to see a professor in Newcastle privately and he diagnosed her with Lyme Disease and three core infections. That's why she was so ill.

'If it hadn't have been diagnosed, she could have become paralysed or blind.'

The Gridlock Economy

A simple example of how too much ownership and intellectual property rights "wrecks markets, stops innovation, and costs lives":

Tarnation, a spunky documentary on growing up with a schizophrenic mother, originally cost $218 to make at home on the director's laptop. It required an additional $230,000 for music clearances before it could be distributed.

California uses more gasoline than China

So, more than any other country in the world. But China will overtake soon.

From Naho Design, the stool cube

Six stools stowed away in a cube.

The limits of neuro-talk

Policy can be drafted on our categories:

Such dichotomous mental categories are regularly employed by social scientists who have taken up neuro-talk, and in the popular press: the amygdala is said to be the seat of emotion, the prefrontal cortex of reason. Yet when I get angry, for example, I generally do so for a reason; typically I judge myself or another wronged. To cleanly separate emotion from reason-giving makes a hash of human experience, and seems to be attractive mainly as a way of rendering the mind methodologically tractable, even if at the cost of realism.

MIT's guru of low-tech engineering saves the world on $2 a day

The simplest technology on display in Compone creates the biggest stir. It's a thick, tapered plastic ring, lined with ridges, that [Amy] Smith picked up in Zambia. She gathers the villagers around a colorful wool blanket piled high with dried corn on the cob. Women here spend many hours painfully prying kernels off cobs with their fingers. Smith inserts an unshelled ear into the ring and twists. The ridges in the ring dig into the cob, popping dozens of kernels with every motion. Faces brighten, and a few women unconsciously rub the joints of their thumbs...
"A small improvement like that can make a huge difference in people's lives," Smith tells me. "It might mean they can plant three extra rows of corn because they have more time, or maybe their kids don't work as much, and instead they go to school."

Man's most ridiculous attempts to take on Mother Nature

Re beached whale:

So 1,000 pounds of TNT later, the beach and the surrounding area was showered with a rain of rotting whale. The gathered crowd got a nice coating of molten whale blubber, and a giant slab flew over a quarter of a mile and crushed a man's car. Most of the whale, however, stayed right where it was on the beach.
I guess better pre-emptive. "What?" you say?
When whales die and rot, they become big gassy balloons of horror. Ask the people of Tainan, Taiwan. In 2004 they had a 50-ton whale that they were transporting down the street on the back of a truck. It exploded its guts all over bystanders, cars and shop fronts, like a pinata at Satan's birthday party.

UFC's Chuck Liddell's bar-fighting tips

You know, threatening you by saying, "I'm going to kick your ass!"
You respond: "OK, whatever bro."
A lot of it has to do with being confident in yourself and not really feeling the need to prove yourself all the time.

If you're attacked, strike vulnerable areas, obviously.
I always say look at "He Got Game," the one where Denzel Washington comes up to a guy, and the guy starts getting in his face, so he just hits him right in the throat. The guy can't breathe.

HIV's Achilles heel: amino acids 421-433 on envelope protein gp120

Possible AIDS therapy:

Unlike the changeable regions of its envelope, HIV needs at least one region that must remain constant to attach to cells. If this region changes, HIV cannot infect cells. Equally important, HIV does not want this constant region to provoke the body’s defense system. So, HIV uses the same constant cellular attachment site to silence B lymphocytes - the antibody producing cells. The result is that the body is fooled into making abundant antibodies to the changeable regions of HIV but not to its cellular attachment site. Immunologists call such regions superantigens.

1000 years of urbanisation in Europe and the Arab world

Baghdad was a wonder of the world in the year 800 while London was an economic backwater. By 1800, London was the largest city in the world while Arab cities languished. Recent research attributes this ‘trading places’ to institutional differences: Arab cities were tied to the fate of the state while European cities were independent growth poles.

Giger bar

Don't know the location, but you get that Alien feel throughout.

Science vs. medicine: White blood cell transfusions to treat cancer

Cancer research maverick Zheng Cui catching some flak for not really caring about the mechanism:

Ninety percent of medical progress is made by the empirical approach rather than rational design [Word]... in empirical approach, you simply make observations and learn from nature: what happens, how you can take advantage, and then simply copy that.

You can extract them [different white blood cells from cancer-resistant mice] as a therapeutic agent and give them to another mouse. It’s a therapy. It’s much better than to find the gene. If you find the gene, then you have to understand the mechanism, and you have to find a way to put the gene into the cell, into all the cells you want to, and that would not work very easily. The technology as we speak right now is not really mature for that area.

What your waiter won't tell you

Some overlap from previous post.

13. Never, ever come in 15 minutes before closing time. The cooks are tired and will cook your dinner right away. So while you're chitchatting over salads, your entrées will be languishing under the heat lamp while the dishwasher is spraying industrial-strength, carcinogenic cleaning solvents in their immediate vicinity.