Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Canadian Honor Killing Awakens Muslim Debate

I am pleased that this story is getting international attention and also that our judiciary and justice system continues to get this right.  Barbarism belongs in the past and there is no valid religious argument for barbarism ever and attempts to do so are just that and unworthy of any person who desires to be part of a civilized community.

That a movement exists throughout the Muslim world glorifying barbarism and even promoting it is unsurprising to anyone who is schooled in the emergence of Nazism.  Islam was founded as a revealed religion with civilizing tendencies that was subverted by the prophet himself in his own lifetime to mobilize the masses.  That subversion has fed a doctrine of jihad ever since and has winked at tribal barbarism.

We need to recall that the Christian church confronted the barbaric and antique empire of Rome and mastered without ever subverting itself.  It continued to do so to the European tribes.  It took a full one thousand years to triumph.  Islam took the easier road of simply harnessing the barbarism to the natural tendency of jihad.  It has never been able to leap from that horse.

What it gave us was a barbaric overlay on the civilizations it conquered.  To this day urban Islam is stifled.  The proof is there in this type of event were honor becomes a heinous crime.

Canadian honor-killing case sparks debate among Muslims

A belief among some Muslims that women are chattel is blamed for the murder of 3 girls and a woman by a Muslim man over his offended 'honor.'

Monday, January 30, 2012

By Spero News  

Following a guilty verdict in Ontario in a first-degree murder case, the Muslim community of Canada reacted with apparent approval.  Imam Sikander Hashmi of the Islamic Society of Kingston, of the city where the case unfolded, said "The jurors and the court have done their job. Our job as community leaders and members of society is that we have to be very clear about our position on domestic violence and such crimes."  The Muslim religious leader added, "We need to speak very strongly, and we need to take concrete action."

It was on Sunday, January 29, that a Kingston, Ont., court handed down a guilty verdict in what has been called an ‘honor killing.’  A jury found a Montreal couple and their son guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of four family members.

Mohammad Shafia(59), his wife Tooba Yahya (42) and their son Hamed (21), were each handed an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. The trio was accused of drowning Hamed's three teenage sisters and his father's first wife in a polygamous marriage, in what prosecutors described as an attempt to restore the family's honor. The three girls were named Zainab, Sahar and Geeti Shafia, whileShafia’s first wife was Rona Amir Mohammad.

Nonetheless, some Muslim leaders sought to characterize the murders as the product of a domestic violence rather than honor killings. Imam Hashmi said the verdict in the three-month trial has been met with "relief" and "a lot of sadness" amongst members of the Canadian Muslim community. "It was just so tragic in so many ways," he told CBC News from Kingston, Ont. "So I think now there's probably some relief that this is finally over and hopefully we can move on."  Hashmi also said that Muslim leaders will speak out against domestic violence, while noting the community’s sadness over the remaining Shafia children who are now bereft of parents.

Samira Kanji, president of the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto, warned against "focusing unduly" on offended  honor as the motive for the slaying of the four women and girls, saying that "honor or not, it's a murder and it's going to be treated as murder" by the courts. She claimed that the slayings are a breach of Islamic ethics, while she criticized the judge presiding in the case for having said that the verdict is a clear transmission of "Canadian values." She said, "I don't think the value of life is uniquely Canadian or uniquely Western — I think it's a universal value." Kanji said. "To that extent, his putting it in those terms was problematic."

In December, more than a month after the Shafia trial had begun, Islamic religious leaders denounced honour killings in Canadian mosques. Syed Soharwardy, an imam who founded the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, said that "honor killings" are explicitly condemned in the Qur'an, but claimed that such prohibitions do not take root in remote regions of those countries now under Islam.

 However, other members of the Muslim community were more critical of their collective values. Saleha Khan, board member of the London Ont.-based Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration, said “The essence is that it's the man's sense of control...It's unfortunately something that could be anywhere.”  Explaining further, she said, “In certain communities, it will be called a crime of passion,” she said, “but for others it will be an honor killing.”

Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress – an advocacy group – averred,  “This is a real issue...Honor killing is the logical extreme of the belief that suggests men are the guardians.”Fatah blamed a perception on the part of some Muslims that women are chattel.  “If these four women were white women, they would still be alive today,” he said.  “If a white student would go to the principal or the police and say they would be beaten up, no one would go to their parents and say ‘can you repeat what you said to us?' These girls went to the school, the cops, child services and everyone wanted to protect cultural diversity."

Prominent attorney Raj Sharma lost his uncle when a a furious brother chased his sister to Calgary, killing her, her husband and Mukesh Sharma, in the name of honor. Raj Sharma said of the new case, “These belief systems we bring over are too entrenched — whether it’s cultural or religious, we’re fighting an uphill battle.”  Sharma, a Muslim, said “We’re importing hatred and prejudices and a desire to control women’s sexuality.”
The Shafia trial galvanized international attention. Prosecutors produced a theory that the three teenaged Shafia sisters were murdered ostensibly because they had brought shame about the traditional Muslim family from Afghanistan. The three sisters had foregone the traditional Afghan head-to-toe covering prescribed by Muslim law. The fourth victim, Mohammad Shafia’s first wife in a polygamous marriage, allegedly endured years of abuse and feared for her life in the weeks before she was slain.  The defendants sought to downplay any culpability in the crime. Speaking to the court before the verdict Mohammad Shafia said,  “Your honour, we are not criminals. We are not murderers. We didn’t commit the murder. This is injust.’’ Tooba, the murderous mother, said  “I’m not a murderer. I am a mother, a mother.’’ And the killer brother, Hamed, said “Sir, I did not drown my sisters anywhere.’’

 Canadians expressed approval of the verdicts. Minister of Parliament Rona Ambrose tweeted,“Honour motivated violence is NOT culture, it is barbaric violence against women. Canada must never tolerate such misogyny as culture.”

“This verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and the core principles in a free and democratic society that all Canadians enjoy and even visitors to Canada enjoy,” said lead prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis outside court on January 29. “The government has realized that they should not entertain any defence with a strong honour crime theme,” said Amin Muhammad, a professor of psychiatry at Memorial University in St. John's and author of a Canadian study onhonour killings, to the Montreal Gazette.  “They have treated this on par with any murder, and that's the beauty of this verdict.”

The court found the Shafia family guilty of staging and elaborately planned, but bungled, automobile accident in June 2009. The defense argued the three Shafia girls and the elder woman died after a late-night joy ride went terribly wrong.

The judge and jury disagreed with the Shafias’ defense counsel. Justice Robert Maranger, who presided over the four-month trial, glaringly told the defendants  “It is difficult to conceive of a more despicable, more heinous, more honourless crime.
“There is nothing more honourless than the deliberate murder of, in the case of Mohammad Shafia, three of his daughters and his wife; in the case of Tooba Yahya, three of her daughters and a stepmother to all her children; in the case of Hamed Shafia, three of his sisters and a mother.

“The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your twisted concept of honour, a notion of honour that is founded upon the domination and control of women, a sick notion of honour that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.

“For these crimes, for these murders, the sentence is mandatory as set out in the Criminal Code of Canada — imprisonment without eligibility of parole for a period of 25 years — and that’s the sentence of the court for each of you.’’

Goliath Sized Primates

The first thing we all need to get our heads around is that various species of fur covered primates exist throughout the globe have been extensively reported on over the decades.  Bigfoot is the North American species and even that may turn out to be more than one species somewhat related.

Primates had millions of years to speciate and penetrate new habitats.  More specifically, they are all adapted to living in the forests.  We are not!!  That is why we interact with them at their pleasure and not ours.  For the record, the number of both first class and second class observations of these creatures in North America is close to ten thousand.

They are also nocturnal and engage in foraging at night.  This minimizes the opportunity for interaction.

So the question been addressed is do we have a good reason to have a giant version of the primate line and is this line sufficiently intelligent to plausibly interact with humans and use weapons?  Does it need to use skins as clothing?

The reports give us a picture of a giant with human characteristics and behavior, suggesting it is far more closely related to us that any other primate out there known or suspected.  However, it is wild and as primitive in its lifeway as mankind before our emergence around 250,000 years ago.  Its tool use does not appear to extend to working with stone.

Yet like all other large primates, they make themselves scarce when humanity is around.  They are certainly smart enough to do this. This is not hard to do as we are practically blind even in daytime in the forest.  It you doubt me, just step inside a large conifer whose skirts reach the ground.

Hairy Giants
Goliath-Sized Monsters

By Nick Redfern     January 28, 2012

Countless books have been written about those strange and elusive hairy man-beasts that are said to stealthily co-exist with us: the Bigfoot of North America, the Yeti of the Himalayas, the Yowie of Australia, and the Yeren of China. And a significant number of words have been written about the massive, presumed-extinct, ancient ape known as Gigantopithecus. And, more than a few of those words suggest that the many and varied unknown man-beasts that are said to roam amongst us are examples of surviving, relic populations of that very same Gigantopithecus.

But what if something else, something even more fantastic in its implications than the idea that Bigfoot is Gigantopithecus, is actually afoot? That's the scenario we are treated to in the new book from Mark A. Hall and Loren Coleman, True Giants: Is Gigantopithecus Still Alive?

This is a book that, if you're interested in Sasquatch and its hairy ilk, you'll definitely want to read. It may not, however, be the book you're anticipating or expecting. But, as I'll demonstrate, that's a very good thing.

The theory that Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Yowie (the list goes on) are indeed surviving pockets of Gigantopithecus is an attractive one. After all, at least some of the old stomping grounds of Gigantopithecus do broadly correspond to locales from where, today, we get reports of unknown, large apes. So, the theory does seem to make sense - at first glance.

The problem is that, for the most part, while Bigfoot and most of the rest of the hairy man-beasts among us are certainly big compared to the Human Race, they're not that big. Creatures of 7-, 8-, or maybe 9-feet in height are typically what we hear of from those who are fortunate enough to encounter such animals.

But, just occasionally, a rare, rogue case will come along where the witness is certain that the creature they saw is far larger - maybe, rather astonishingly, in the region of 12-to-15 feet in height.

I've heard people say words to the effect of: "Well, sometimes, we see humans reaching 7- or 8-feet, so why shouldn't there be a few over sized Bigfoot?" Fair enough, you might say. But, there's another explanation too: we may be looking at different animals, rather than simply enormous versions of just one type. And, maybe those rare and rogue cases are not so rare and rogue after all! Cue True Giants.

So that there can be no misunderstanding of where they are coming from, Hall and Coleman note their position carefully, and early on, in the book: "These True Giants are not 'Bigfoot,' despite some efforts to make simple comparisons with creatures such as the one seen in the famous Roger Patterson-Robert Gimlin motion film of a Neo-Giant in California in 1967...They are of a different genus of primate."

And it's with respect to this different genus of primate that we get to learn so much about the truly massive Gigantopithecus in the pages of True Giants. The reader is treated to an excellent account of how Gigantopithecus came to be discovered and classified; its place in both zoology and cryptozoology; how and why the assumption has been made that it, Bigfoot and the Yeti are one and the same; and most importantly, why that assumption suffers from some major flaws.

And as the authors detail extensively and authoritatively in their book: a significant number of worldwide cultures tell of huge giants that once lived among us - the 12-15-foot-tall entities, and maybe a few taller ones, too. They were a marauding, violent breed, with cannibalistic tendencies, but who also seemed possessed of a certain degree of intelligence that allowed them to fashion a degree of clothing, crude tools, weapons, homes and dens (very often in caves or underground) and perhaps even primitive rafts and boats.

Of course, much of this flies in the face of accepted wisdom that Gigantopithecus, the True Giant, was just a huge ape. The theory that it could have been something more - something much more - is a controversial one. But it's a theory that Hall and Coleman back up with a wealth of fascinating accounts from times past that encompass Asia, North America, Europe, South America and numerous other places, too. And, in doing so, the authors make a very good, thought-provoking case.

In fact, they are clear on the issue that dismissing Gigantopithecus as a gigantic ape is way off-track: "...the fossils that have been found for this particular giant primate have been attributed not to a giant man but, erroneously, to a giant ape...Some people have suggested that the fossils, known as Gigantopithecus, are gigantic men. We believe that view will one day be proven correct."

And it's with this viewpoint in mind that the pair provides us with some truly fascinating accounts that actually sit very well within just such a scenario. And it's a point of view that provoked a lot of graphic imagery as I was reading the book.

Indeed, one of the things that really hit home upon digesting True Giants is how much of our own history we appear to have lost and forgotten - or that we have simply chosen to relegate to the realm of fantasy. Priceless tales of times long-past when gigantic beast-men roamed the world, perhaps competing with us for food, water, and a place to call home, fill the pages of this book.

But, numerous cases from the last couple of centuries and even up to the present day suggest that these huge, lumbering beast-men have not gone the way of the Dodo, but may still be found deep in the ancient forests, and the hard-to-access, huge mountain peaks that continue to dominate the wilder parts of our world.

In conclusion, True Giants is a book that is as groundbreaking as it is thought-provoking and paradigm-challenging. Hall and Coleman detail a remarkable theory - and a rich history, too - that serves to explain the many and varied accounts of huge, hairy giants in our midst. In the process of doing so, they weave a complex and fascinating story of something gigantic, something definitively monstrous but equally definitively man-like too, and something that has lived alongside us for so long, carefully shaping and sculpting our legends and folklore as it does so.

And, it's very difficult to read True Giants and not come away with a deep sense of regret and loss, borne out of the probability that the full, fantastic history of these Goliath-like man-apes - and their ancient connections to, and interactions with, the Human Race - will likely never be known to us. However, unless or until we do learn more about not just the true nature of Gigantopithecus, but about our fog-shrouded history too, True Giants represents without doubt the best treatment we have thus far on this fascinating and engaging subject.

Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including the newly-published Keep Out.

Root Research Improving Crops

+Paying attention to root growth and health would appear a given except it is said here that it has largely been ignored.

One needs to only understand that for every pound of plant material above ground, it is helpful to have an equal pound underground.  This does not happen in the early stages or with annuals per say, but is certainly the case for trees in particular.

More importantly, real improvement on root health and strength will come with the adoption of biochar techniques.  Elemental carbon acts both as a nutrient collector and bank, but also as a soil conditioner that collects toxins to lock away from the roots. I have been cheerleading this charge for the life of this blog and will continue to do so.

Improving crops from the roots up

by Staff Writers

Nottingham UK (SPX) Jan 27, 2012

Plant root biology is essential for healthy plant growth and, while the so-called hidden half of the plant has often been overlooked, its importance is becoming increasingly recognised by scientists. 

Research involving scientists at The University of Nottingham has taken us a step closer to breeding hardier crops that can better adapt to different environmental conditions and fight off attack from parasites.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), the researchers have shown that they can alter root growth in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, or thale cress, by controlling an important regulatory protein.

Dr Ive De Smet, a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) David Phillips Fellow in the University's Division of Plant and Crop Science, said: "The world's population is increasing, and a new green revolution is even more pressing to deliver global food security. To achieve this, optimising the root system of plants is essential and these recent results will contribute significantly to our goal of improving crop growth and yield under varying environmental conditions."

The work was carried out by an international team of researchers. Led by scientists from the Plant Systems Biology Department in the life sciences research institute VIB in Flanders, Belgium, and Ghent University, the study also involved experts from Wake Forest University in the US and the Albrecht-von-Haller Institute for Plant Sciences in Germany.

Plant root biology is essential for healthy plant growth and, while the so-called hidden half of the plant has often been overlooked, its importance is becoming increasingly recognised by scientists.

Despite this, particularly in view of the critical role plants play in global food security, improving plant growth by modulating the biological architecture of root systems is an area which is largely unexplored.

In this latest research, the scientists modulated levels of the protein, transcription factor WRKY23, in plants, analysed the effects on root development and used chemical profiling to demonstrate that this key factor controls the biosynthesis of important metabolites called flavonols.

Altered levels of flavonols affected the distribution of auxin, a plant hormone controlling many aspects of development, which resulted in impaired root growth.

The results of the research can now be used to produce new plant lines, such as crops which are economically valuable, which have an improved root system, making them better able to resist environmental changes which could lead to plant damage or poor yield.

In addition, WRKY23 was previously found to play a role in the way plants interact with types of nematode parasites, which could lead to further research into how to prevent attacks from the creatures during the early stages of plant growth.

The paper Transcription Factor WRKY23 Assists Auxin Distribution Patterns During Arabidopsis Root Development Through Local Control on Flavonol Biosynthesis featured in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

White Roof Study in Melbourne

The problem is to get a correct measure.  The most important time is during summer when one is mostly impacting the air conditioning system or its lack thereof.  Importantly the buildings are noticeably cooler and that is all one really needs as a user.

The key is to avoid the underlying structure itself from absorbing the solar energy and leaving us with a warmed structure that then will overheat in spots as the sun hits the building during the day.  Paint may well be just enough.

Better still is to simply mount solar panels insulated with air from the building.  That way the sun is both absorbed and reflected.

Even white painted panels installed several inches off the roof should do an excellent job, and since they are on the roof anyway they may as well be load bearing for folks to walk on and to sunbath on also.  Thus is discovered a new amenity for buildings.  A sunbathing deck with open access.

White roofs to make for cooler Melbourne buildings

by Staff Writers

Melbourne, Australia (SPX) Jan 27, 2012

The research monitored the temperatures of five test buildings at the University of Melbourne's Burnley Campus for their performance with and without white coatings. The buildings with white roofs experienced significantly cooler temperatures, both on the exterior and interior. 

New research launched by the University of Melbourne and the City of Melbourne will give buildings owners across Melbourne access to information that can help their buildings absorb less heat and stay cooler during hot days.

The research assesses the benefits of white roofs and aims to help residential, commercial and industrial building owners determine if white roofs are suitable for their buildings and guide them through the best materials to use.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said Council had already put the research into practice by trialling a white roof on its ArtPlay building.

"There has been a lot of talk about the energy consumption benefits of white roofs and we commissioned the University of Melbourne to undertake this research so we could get a local perspective on how white roofs can work in our city," the Lord Mayor said.

Councillor Cathy Oke, Chair of the Future Melbourne (Eco-City) Committee said commercial buildings in the City of Melbourne would benefit most from this tool.

"White roofs can cool commercial buildings by three per cent on hot days, which helps reduce the urban heat island effect and improve the health of city users," Cr Oke said.

Dr Dominique Hes, a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne in sustainable architecture and lead author of the research explained that when painted white, roofs are able to reflect heat away from the building rather than absorbing it.

"Reflective white paint on commercial building roofs reduces the energy used to cool the building. Melbourne's CBD has over 3,500,000m2 of lettable commercial space. If the roofs of these buildings were painted white, the city could in theory reduce its CO2 emissions by 4.5 million MJ per year, 1.5 million kilos of CO2 or 3 million black balloons," Dr Hes said.

"White roofs are a low cost solution in making buildings more sustainable, particularly for our older buildings. And if our air conditioners are not working as hard, there are financial benefits for buildings owners as well."

The research monitored the temperatures of five test buildings at the University of Melbourne's Burnley Campus for their performance with and without white coatings. The buildings with white roofs experienced significantly cooler temperatures, both on the exterior and interior.

To access information about white roof benefits and available products, visit www.1200buildings.com.au or talk to your local paint provider.

The research, commissioned by the City of Melbourne, was undertaken as part of the University of Melbourne's "Reduction in thermal load on buildings from retrofitted roof surfaces".

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Material Removes Radioactive Gases

Using engineered zeolites, they are able to captured gaseous mercury and bind it integrally into the zeolites allowing excellent disposal prospects.  The obvious hope is to apply the methodology or other waste products of nuclear fission.

Zeolites and their related technologies where always the best available avenue for mastering intractable waste products.  The crystalline form means that the active ions are going no where and a strong bonder will sponge up free ions handily.  In this case it was necessary to tightly engineer the solution.

It has been a slow haul, but it is good to see folks working on solutions.

Sandia chemists find new material to remove radioactive gas from spent nuclear fuel

by Staff Writers

Albuquerque NM (SPX) Jan 27, 2012

Sandia chemist Tina Nenoff heads a team of researchers focused on removal of radioactive iodine from spent nuclear fuel. They identified a metal-organic framework that captures and holds the volatile gas, a discovery that could be used for nuclear fuel reprocessing and other applications. (Photo by Randy Montoya). 

Research by a team of Sandia chemists could impact worldwide efforts to produce clean, safe nuclear energy and reduce radioactive waste.

The Sandia researchers have used metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to capture and remove volatile radioactive gas from spent nuclear fuel. "This is one of the first attempts to use a MOF for iodine capture," said chemist Tina Nenoff of Sandia's Surface and Interface Sciences Department.

The discovery could be applied to nuclear fuel reprocessing or to clean up nuclear reactor accidents. A characteristic of nuclear energy is that used fuel can be reprocessed to recover fissile materials and provide fresh fuel for nuclear power plants. Countries such as France, Russia and India are reprocessing spent fuel.

The process also reduces the volume of high-level wastes, a key concern of the Sandia researchers. "The goal is to find a methodology for highly selective separations that result in less waste being interred," Nenoff said.

Part of the challenge of reprocessing is to separate and isolate radioactive components that can't be burned as fuel. The Sandia team focused on removing iodine, whose isotopes have a half-life of 16 million years, from spent fuel.

They studied known materials, including silver-loaded zeolite, a crystalline, porous mineral with regular pore openings, high surface area and high mechanical, thermal and chemical stability. Various zeolite frameworks can trap and remove iodine from a stream of spent nuclear fuel, but need added silver to work well.

"Silver attracts iodine to form silver iodide," Nenoff said. "The zeolite holds the silver in its pores and then reacts with iodine to trap silver iodide."

But silver is expensive and poses environmental problems, so the team set out to engineer materials without silver that would work like zeolites but have higher capacity for the gas molecules. They explored why and how zeolite absorbs iodine, and used the critical components discovered to find the best MOF, named ZIF-8.

"We investigated the structural properties on how they work and translated that into new and improved materials," Nenoff said.

MOFs are crystalline, porous materials in which a metal center is bound to organic molecules by mild self-assembly chemical synthesis. The choice of metal and organic result in a very specific final framework.

The trick was to find a MOF highly selective for iodine. The Sandia researchers took the best elements of the zeolite Mordenite - its pores, high surface area, stability and chemical absorption - and identified a MOF that can separate one molecule, in this case iodine, from a stream of molecules. The MOF and pore-trapped iodine gas can then be incorporated into glass waste for long-term storage.

The Sandia team also fabricated MOFs, made of commercially available products, into durable pellets. The as-made MOF is a white powder with a tendency to blow around. The pellets provide a stable form to use without loss of surface area, Nenoff said.

Sandia has applied for a patent on the pellet technology, which could have commercial applications.

The Sandia researchers are part of the Off-Gas Sigma Team, which is led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and studies waste-form capture of volatile gasses associated with nuclear fuel reprocessing. Other team members - Pacific Northwest, Argonne and Idaho national laboratories - are studying other volatile gases such as krypton, tritium and carbon.

The project began six years ago and the Sigma Team was formalized in 2009. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy.

Sandia's iodine and MOFs research was featured in two recent articles in the Journal of the American Chemical Society authored by Nenoff and team members Dorina Sava, Mark Rodriguez, Jeffery Greathouse, Paul Crozier, Terry Garino, David Rademacher, Ben Cipiti, Haiqing Liu, Greg Halder, Peter Chupas, and Karena Chapman. Chupas, Halder and Chapman are from Argonne.

"The most important thing we did was introduce a new class of materials to nuclear waste remediation," said Sava, postdoctoral appointee on the project.

Nenoff said another recent paper in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research shows a one-step process that incorporates MOFs with iodine in a low-temperature, glass waste form. "We have a volatile off-gas capture using a MOF and we have a durable waste form," Nenoff said.

Nenoff and her colleagues are continuing their research into new and optimized MOFs for enhanced volatile gas separation and capture.

"We've shown that MOFs have the capacity to capture and, more importantly, retain many times more iodine than current materials technologies," said Argonne's Chapman.

Nocturnal Chinese Boy

This is a bit of the unusual, but I have it from Lloyd Pye who is custodian of the Starchild Skull, that it has happened before.  We should actually have all the necessary gene information on hand, as all other species have nocturnally adapted vision members generally.  Thus its expression is there right below the surface and could easily be promoted.

In the meantime it is a novelty and perhaps we need to consider if it is an option that we as humanity want to expand upon.  It is pretty clear that we have that option and whether we can expand our visual capability without detracting useful aspects are questions to be answered.

This child has difficulty in full sunshine.  That is not convenient.  Perhaps we can only work with a narrow part of the spectra.

Chinese Boy Can See In The Dark

Thursday, 26 January 2012

A Chinese boy has stunned medics with his ability to see in pitch black with eyes that glow in the dark. Doctors have studied Nong Youhui's amazing eyesight since his dad took him to hospital in Dahua, southern China, concerned over his bright blue eyes. Medical tests conducted in complete darkness show Youhui can read perfectly without any light and sees as clearly as most people do during the day.

Puffer Fish Roulette

The good news is that poison free puffer fish can be safely eaten.  The bad news is that there appears to be no end of takers for the opportunity to play Russian roulette.   Thus the wild puffer continues to be eaten as bizarre as this may seem.  So it certainly has nothing to do with taste or even good sense. 

Banning does not seem to work, any more that banning dueling ever completely worked.  That took a change in social expectations when dueling scars no longer impressed and after millions died in the WWI.  Something similar is at work here in which I am sure far too much Saki flows and boys will be boys.

Of well, if you are curious, you can taste the safe version and brag about it to all you know while omitting that it was poison free.

How the puffer fish gets you high, zombifies you, and kills you

Puffer fish, or fugu, is well-known for being a dish that stands a good chance of killing the person it's served to. But people still eat it — partly because some people like living life on the edge, but mostly because all people like getting high. Find out how the puffer fish helps them get there.

The puffer fish, any one of the family of tetraodontidae, protects itself in the wild by gulping down water and swelling up its belly to make itself look bigger. It does this because, apparently, it can't find a way to communicate the simple message, "I am poisonous." These fish are considered the second most poisonous vertebrates in the world. They contain a toxin 1,200 more deadly than cyanide. It's in their skin, their ovaries, their gonads, and their liver. One fish can kill thirty people.

So of course it seems like a spin worthy of Barnum to label them a 'delicacy,' and charge hundreds of dollars a serving for them. A closer examination of the work that goes into making puffer fish, or fugu, shows that the price is fair. Fugu chefs have to be trained for two years, during which they will eat many of the fish that they themselves prepare. And make no mistake, people do die from fugu poisoning. About five people a year make puffer fish their last meal, and many more get violently sick from it. It's not a pleasant way to go.

The poison, tetrodotoxin, is actually produced by the bacteria that the fish allows to colonize its various parts. Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxin, meaning it takes out the nervous system as it moves through the body. This may sound like a relatively painless death, with the brain going offline quickly. That's not the case. The toxin starts with the extremities. The first place people notice it is in the lips. Then the fingers. There's a tingling numbness, and a loss of control. This is a sign that it's time to get to the hospital. The toxin moves inwards from there, taking out the muscles, often causing weakness, while paradoxically bringing on vomiting and diarrhea. Then tetrodotoxin hits the diaphragm. This is the large, muscular membrane in the chest that lets the lungs breathe in and out. The respiratory system is paralyzed while the person is still fully conscious. Eventually the toxin does get to the brain, but only after the person involved has felt their body being paralyzed completely, entombing them inside. Even then, some people aren't lucky enough to completely lose consciousness. There are people who report being conscious, either occasionally or continually, throughout their coma.

These people may still be luckier than some puffer fish victims. Wade Davis, who wrote about the famous Clairvius Narcisse case of a person becoming a 'zombie,' claimed that puffer fish toxin, along with other neurotoxins, was used to first make a person seem dead, then take out their higher brain function and cause them to become a zombie. Davis' research, though initially promising when rats rubbed with the toxin became sluggish and seemed 'zombified,' has been called into question. Some people now think that Narcisse was simply mentally ill, and Davis had coached or at least been too willing to believe his story.

Still, with the threat of horrible death via full-body paralysis and the chance to be a mindless zombie, why people eat puffer fish at all seems a mystery. If someone were serving up a steaming bowl of strychnine, there wouldn't be any takers (unless it was from one of those darling gourmet food trucks). It turns out that neurotoxins, though vicious killers, get people pretty high, provided the doses are low enough. One scientist, who had been bitten by a snake with neurotoxic venom, described it as the kind of peaceful light-headed feeling that people are supposed to get in the last few moments before they drown. That, combined with a tingling body, is enough to risk lives for. In fact, one of the complaints of fugu enthusiasts is that the chefs know their business too well, and too cleanly remove the organs from the fish, leaving just thin, safe slices of fish for the disappointed guests to eat. Some guests dredge their portions lightly in the toxin to feel the tingle. Bandō Mitsugorō VIII, an famous actor, deliberately ordered four fugu livers to feel the rush and claimed the poison wouldn't hurt him. He died seven hours later.

The face of fugu may be changing, though. Fisheries have begun breeding fugu in environments free of the bacteria that produce the poison. These fish are harmless, and can be prepared and served by anyone. Naturally, this is getting kick back from both ends of the spectrum. Consumers aren't quite as interested in the puffer fish if it's just another fish. Meanwhile the National Fugu Association won't hear of serving fugu liver, even if it doesn't contain the toxin. Looks like the only thing worse than a fish that can kill you, is a fish that can't.

If the Fish Liver Can’t Kill, Is It Really a Delicacy?

Published: May 4, 2008

SHIMONOSEKI, Japan — Poison has been as integral to fugu, the funny-looking, potentially deadly puffer fish prized by Japanese gourmands, as the savor of its pricey meat. So consider fugu, but poison-free.

Ko Sasaki for The New York Times
Eiji Hata with a fugu, which sells for about $300 at market.

Fugu have appeared in haiku, on TV and, here, as a lantern in Shimonoseki, Japan.
Thanks to advances in fugu research and farming, Japanese fish farmers are now mass-producing fugu as harmless as goldfish. Most important, they have taken the poison out of fugu’s liver, considered both its most delicious and potentially most lethal part, one whose consumption has left countless Japanese dead over the centuries and whose sale remains illegal in the country.

But what could be seen as potential good news for gourmands has instead been grounds for controversy: powerful interests in the fugu industry, playing on lingering safety fears, are fighting to keep the ban on fugu livers even from poison-free fish.

“We won’t approve it,” Hisashi Matsumura, the president of the Shimonoseki Fugu Association and vice president of the National Fugu Association, said of the legalization of fugu liver. He added, “We’re not engaging in this irrelevant discussion.”

Acting as a giant clearinghouse, this port city in southwestern Japan buys fugu from all over Japan and China, guts it and expertly removes its poison before shipping it throughout Japan and as far as New York. Though Shimonoseki’s share has fallen in recent years, it still controls about half of Japan’s fugu market.

But the city’s business, predicated on the fact that fugu is poisonous, now faces a threat with poison-free, farmed fugu liver.

Already, a prefecture in Kyushu, south of here, defiantly serves it. A town in another prefecture applied to be designated a special farmed fugu liver-eating zone.

And a group of scientists served it in March at a Tokyo tasting event for some 40 chefs and restaurant-related businessmen. All ate. All survived.

Mr. Matsumura spoke recently in his office at the fugu market here just after the daily 3:20 a.m. auction. At times he sounded like a man trying to stamp out unrest in the provinces, daring the rebellious to “go ahead” and waving them away as “a minority.”
He insisted that fugu liver, whether farmed or wild, was simply too dangerous.

But researchers and fish farmers said Shimonoseki opposed the legalization of farmed fugu liver simply because it feared losing its grip on the fugu market. Shimonoseki now processes even nonpoisonous farmed fugu, because health authorities have yet to recognize officially that fugu can be made poison-free.

Shimonoseki’s opposition, researchers and fish farmers said, is squelching the opening of new markets and depriving gourmands of the chance to sample fugu foie gras, which connoisseurs regard as more exquisite than the goose’s (and which entails none of the ethical quandaries of force-feeding and is full of healthful omega-3 fatty acids).

“They want to protect their vested interests,” said Tamao Noguchi, a marine toxin specialist at Tokyo Healthcare University and a leading fugu expert. “They won’t accept this for a long, long time.”

It was Mr. Noguchi who, over eight years, conducted a study underpinning what two decades of fish farming in Japan had already shown: that fugu could be made poison-free by strictly controlling its feed.

Decades earlier, another Japanese scientist had identified fugu’s poison as tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin that leaves victims mentally aware while they suffer paralysis and, in the worst cases, die of heart failure or suffocation. There is no known antidote.

Researchers surmised that fugu probably got the toxin by eating other animals that carried tetrodotoxin-laden bacteria, developing immunity over time — though scientists then did not rule out the possibility that fugu produced the toxin on its own.

By this year, Mr. Noguchi had tested more than 7,000 fugu in seven prefectures in Japan that had been given only feed free of the tetrodotoxin-laden bacteria. Not one was poisonous.

“When it wasn’t known where fugu’s poison came from, the mystery made for better conversation,” Mr. Noguchi said. “So, in effect, we took the romance out of fugu.”

Indeed, fugu has appeared in the haiku of Basho, Japan’s greatest poet, and in “The Simpsons,” in an episode in which Homer accidentally eats poisonous fugu.

For centuries, Japanese were drawn to fugu despite, or perhaps because of, its poison. Expert chefs were able to separate the liver and other poisonous parts from the rest of the fish; only one-third of all wild fugu have enough poison to kill.

So chefs served liver after cleansing it of its poison through a traditional method; sometimes a trace of poison remained, not enough to kill, but enough to thrill by slightly numbing the lips.

Despite the precautions, Japanese kept dying. After accidentally losing a number of soldiers to fugu, Hideyoshi, the 16th-century warlord who unified Japan, banned it outright.

But Japanese kept eating it surreptitiously, despite periodic bans. And fugu kept killing Japanese, including, in 1975, a kabuki actor, Bando Mitsugoro VIII, recognized as a “living national treasure.”

Partly in response, the Ministry of Health made fugu liver illegal across the land. The number of deaths dropped, so that nowadays only a few Japanese die every year, not from eating it in restaurants but from fugu they have caught themselves.

The death rate also remains low because Japanese are increasingly eating the nonpoisonous farmed variety, which, thanks to advances in fish farming, has become almost as tasty as the wild kind. Because of overfishing, wild fugu accounts for only 10 percent of the total sold in Japan.

In Yobuko, a port town south of here, Yoshihisa Ohta has raised nonpoisonous fugu for eight years and serves its liver at a restaurant he owns — though only if the customer asks for it.

Yukio Kidera, who was having lunch, including fugu liver, at the restaurant recently, said, “It’d be such a waste to throw away something this delicious.”

Mr. Ohta and researchers like Mr. Noguchi contend that the real reason for keeping fugu livers illegal is to protect the jobs of licensed fugu chefs and businesses in Shimonoseki. The Shimonoseki Fugu Association has strong links with politicians, they say.

Makoto Tanaka, the official responsible for fugu at the Ministry of Health, denied any political or economic reasoning, saying, “People’s lives are at stake.”

Still, undermining arguments that farmed fugu liver is unsafe is the fact that one prefecture south of here, Oita, is famous for serving it in its fugu restaurants. No one has ever been poisoned from eating it. The health authorities in Tokyo and Oita are widely believed to turn a blind eye to the fugu lawbreakers there.

Mr. Tanaka professed to know nothing about the sale of liver in Oita. “That’s outrageous!” he said with a hearty laugh.

The reality, as shown by lunch and dinner at two restaurants in Usuki, the Oita town most famous for fugu, is that fugu liver may not be listed on menus but it is served openly. All the liver served in Usuki comes from nonpoisonous farmed fugu, some of which is shipped from none other than Shimonoseki.

Masataka Kinashi, the head of the tourism association in Usuki and a fugu dealer himself, suddenly stared down at his desk when asked about the widespread sale of fugu liver.

“Officially, you can never eat it here,” Mr. Kinashi said. “Well, it’s not that you can’t eat it, but, no, you can’t eat it. That’s the only answer I can give you.”

Raining Blue Balls

A couple of months past, I did an off the wall post speculating on the plausibility of slime moulds forming bubbles of methane and then lofting into the stratosphere to reside.  Slime moulds certainly have the capacity to form odd plant like structures and the like so producing a balloon would work well.  Residing in the stratosphere puts them well above the turbulent part of the atmosphere and assuming the capacity to adapt to the supposedly harsh conditions there allows it all to work.  I thought it a little farfetched, but now we have this odd item.

This gel needs to be checked to see if it is slime mould.  It makes sense that a descending balloon creature would recompact itself to allow it to descend to the Earth and survive.

In fact such gels have most certainly been observed in the past but never appearing so noteworthy. A small fallen gel in the grass would naturally be assumed rightly to be a local event.  For all we know it has been raining gel balls forever without any particular notice.

Hopefully someone will put these under a microscope to confirm that they are slime moulds.

In the meantime my of the wall conjecture drawn by the apparent life vacuum in the stratosphere is beginning to grow conforming evidence not least because I know that I should be looking.

Bournemouth resident mystified by 'blue sphere shower'

27 January 2012 Last updated at 11:15 ET

The blue spheres are jelly-like but have no smell and are not sticky

A man in Dorset has been left mystified after tiny blue spheres fell from the sky into his garden.

Steve Hornsby from Bournemouth said the 3cm diameter balls came raining down late on Thursday afternoon during a hail storm.

He found about a dozen of the balls in his garden. He said: "[They're] difficult to pick up, I had to get a spoon and flick them into a jam jar."

The Met Office said the jelly-like substance was "not meteorological".

Mr Hornsby, a former aircraft engineer, said: "The sky went a really dark yellow colour.
"As I walked outside to go to the garage there was an instant hail storm for a few seconds and I thought, 'what's that in the grass'?"

'No smell'
Mr Hornsby said he was keeping the balls in his fridge while he tried to find out what they were

Walking around his garden he found many more blue spheres were scattered across the grass.

He said: "The have an exterior shell with a softer inner but have no smell, aren't sticky and do not melt."

Mr Hornsby said he was keeping the balls in his fridge while he tried to find out what they were.

Josie Pegg, an applied science research assistant at Bournemouth University, speculated that the apparently strange phenomena might be "marine invertebrate eggs".

"These have been implicated in previous 'strange goo' incidents," she said. "I'd have thought it's a little early for spawning but I suppose we've had a very mild winter.

"The transmission of eggs on birds' feet is well documented and I guess if a bird was caught out in a storm this could be the cause."