April 16, 2012

...spiders from space

This is a must read. It's about evolution. And spiders. And war. Essential reading.

Baen Books. Furay: The Menace from Lydia: The Social Spider as Alien Invader.

So if evolution so often reuses these successful strategies, might we expect something out there like social spiders? We might find a remix of traits accompanied by a modicum of technology discovered and maintained through simple behaviors. Remember that our own brains function on bundled nerves with a binary response, yet collectively those nerves think about building enormous particle accelerators. Spiders are well known for problem solving abilities, and coming to Earth would be a laudable problem.

First they have to find us. Or at least they have to find suitable sites to establish new nests, presumably rich, wet worlds like our own Earth. The drive for spiders to expand territory results in exploratory threads sent out at random. If strands stick, spiders investigate.

Imagine a technology that mimics what spiders know from biology. Von Neumann probes scattered to space might carry explorers who evaluate new nodes, new planets. Each planetfall expands a web work across space of increasing complexity and shifting connectivity. Communication vibrates along the connection points like a hum across the galaxy, with the spiders focusing on attractive worlds. The fact is, with expansion following their ancient ethological roots, they might eventually visit every world in the Milky Way.

Those species that do not fight the spiders' invasion, instead remaining quiet and discovering some way to blend with the spiders, get swept up into the advance across the galaxy. Subservient species of overrun worlds become tolerated, allowed to live with their spider overlords in coexistence, if not dominated and eventually domesticated through dependence. If a few individuals are harvested during difficult periods, that would be a small price to circumvent annihilation and participate on the great march across the galaxy ...

...When they arrive here, they will not care about individuals. They will seem pitiless in the way they advance. There will be no opportunity for prisoner exchange. No quarter given or expected, indeed no conception of such a thing. We will likely not understand them and they can't even try to understand us. We will see a campaign of conquest, but should realize the intellectual emptiness of evolution's moral compass.

This short article reminds me of The Mote in God's Eye by Pournelle and Niven ...one of the first novels I read that explored how very different an alien species ...a superior alien species ...might be. And how vital our reaction, and reaction time, must be (if we're to survive as a species). Very thoughtful -very thought-provoking.

And scary.

Very scary.

So was "The Mote" [scary] btw (2nd link to Amazon). I don't think I ever really stopped thinking about that novel; my mind returns to it whenever I re-consider the "out there" and the First Contact scenario.

I haven't been sanguine about it since.

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March 12, 2012

...neutrinos

From Wired: The mystifying history of neutrino experiments.

Look at the nail on your pinky finger: Every second, about 65 billion neutrinos pass through it. Almost all were produced inside the giant nuclear reactor in our sun's belly.

Astronomers want to detect those neutrinos because they contain important information about processes going on in the sun's center. In 1964, physicist Ray Davis and astronomer John Bacall built an experiment in the Homestake mine in South Dakota to find these neutrinos. The detector needed to be placed deep underground because cosmic rays hitting the Earth's atmosphere would interfere with the results.

After the Homestake experiment was calibrated and run, the researchers noticed an anomaly. According to their calculations, the sun should have been producing three times as many neutrinos as they actually detected. So they went back to the drawing board, looking for mistakes and making more refined estimates. But they still couldn't figure out where they went wrong.

The Homestake experiment ran for more than 30 years, always showing the same result: three times fewer neutrinos than expected. Astronomers feared that their models of the sun might be totally incorrect. The problem persisted into the mid-'90s.

By this point, researchers had discovered that neutrinos come in three different types. The neutrino produced during beta decay or in the sun's center is an electron neutrino, but other processes will create particles known as muon or tau neutrinos.

You might guess why the three-type finding was important to a puzzle in which researchers found one-third the number of neutrinos they expected. Researchers realized that during their flight between the sun and Earth, electron neutrinos -- the type detected at Homestake -- were transforming into the other types. As a result, the experiment missed two-thirds of the neutrinos. When new detectors were built that could catch all three types of neutrinos, the discrepancy vanished.

The finding had profound implications. While some scientists had previously considered the neutrino to be massless, oscillating between different types required the particles to have mass.

It's an excellent article and a partial glimpse into the current state of physics. You'll be more knowledgeable for having read the whole thing.

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March 07, 2012

...vitamin d redux

Another reason to supplement when it comes to vitamin D3 ....

Future Pundit: How Vitamin D Boosts Amyloid Beta Removal From Brain.

A team of academic researchers has identified the intracellular mechanisms regulated by vitamin D3 that may help the body clear the brain of amyloid beta, the main component of plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Published in the March 6 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, the early findings show that vitamin D3 may activate key genes and cellular signaling networks to help stimulate the immune system to clear the amyloid-beta protein.

Previous laboratory work by the team demonstrated that specific types of immune cells in Alzheimer's patients may respond to therapy with vitamin D3 and curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric spice, by stimulating the innate immune system to clear amyloid beta. But the researchers didn't know how it worked.

"This new study helped clarify the key mechanisms involved, which will help us better understand the usefulness of vitamin D3 and curcumin as possible therapies for Alzheimer's disease," said study author Dr. Milan Fiala, a researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

Researchers found that in both Type I and Type II macrophages, the added 1a,25–dihydroxyvitamin D3 played a key role in opening a specific chloride channel called "chloride channel 3 (CLC3)," which is important in supporting the uptake of amyloid beta through the process known as phagocytosis. Curcuminoids activated this chloride channel only in Type I macrophages.

The scientists also found that 1a,25–dihydroxyvitamin D3 strongly helped trigger the genetic transcription of the chloride channel and the receptor for 1a,25–dihydroxyvitamin D3 in Type II macrophages. Transcription is the first step leading to gene expression.

This is pretty much all the salient facts ...but there are links worth pursuing in the article, too.

 

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February 19, 2012

...vitamin D

The science that you thought was "settled" decades ago ...wasn't. It's all wrong. To state it simply: you are vitamin D deficient.

We all are.

Pajamas Media: Sunshine, vitamin D, and death by scientific consensus.

The "scientific consensus" that has held sway for four decades regarding both exposure to the sun and vitamin D has collapsed. What has emerged in place of the old "settled science" is the knowledge that most people in America are seriously vitamin D deficient or insufficient. The same is true for Canada and Europe, and the implications are staggering.

Simply put, unless you are one of the few people with optimal serum D levels, such as lifeguards and roofers in South Florida, you can cut your risks from most major diseases by 50 to 80 percent. All you have to do is get enough D. It also means we can significantly reduce both health care costs and the staggering national deficit by taking a few simple steps.

...If researchers on the cutting edge are right, the benefits of raising your serum D levels to about 40 ng/ml are enormous. If they are wrong, the risks associated with the recommended therapy are trivial, if not nonexistent, especially if done through supplementation. This is simple Bayesian analysis.

...The stakes are huge, as are the benefits of attaining optimal vitamin D levels. The embarrassment for those who must admit past error, however, may be even greater. The reason is that untold millions have suffered and died prematurely because those who challenged the "settled science" regarding sunshine and vitamin D decades ago were treated like crackpots and demonized.

Now we know that very few people have optimal serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], the principal form of vitamin D circulating in the blood. Moreover, those with more melanin manufacture less vitamin D in their skins, so they suffer disproportionately from diseases exacerbated by vitamin D deficiencies.

Dr. Michael Holick, the researcher most responsible for this radical change in thinking, has described the current state of widespread vitamin D deficiency as a "silent epidemic." ....

 We're not getting enough D. The risk of over compensation (i.e., getting too much D through supplementation), is trivial. The danger of not getting adequate vitamin D is health-threatening.

Again "...you can cut your risks from most major diseases by 50 to 80 percent. All you have to do is get enough D." Daily supplements. It's the only way.

 

Posted by: fairwhether at 04:31 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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February 18, 2012

...telomeres 2

A study from Denmark: Short telomeres associated with earlier death.

Futurepundit -

We need biotech that can take cells from our bodies, identify the healthiest and least damaged cells, restore telomere length, and then transform those cells into the various cell types a human body uses. With sufficient biotech we could restore and maintain our repair systems in a state of very high function. We could add decades to our lives just from youthful cell therapies delivered to many stem cell reservoirs in our bodies.

...prolong, the saga.

Posted by: fairwhether at 12:19 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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