Xeno's Daily Strange News Awards Blog

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Posted in Blog | 27 Comments

Blog Restored!

Last night at about 11:20 PM this blog went completely off line and a message appeared telling me and everyone else that xenophilius.wordpress.com was suspended due to their belief that I had violated the terms of service or advertising policy.

This was just a mistake by WordPress and the blog is now restored. I remained fairly calm and within four hours activated my back up blog xeno-lovegood.blogspot.com.
Unfortunately, I lost a night’s sleep.

Lessons learned:

1) Exporting the entire blog results in a file far larger than than 15 MB limit that can be imported by WordPress into a new blog.

2) Imports from WordPress to Blogspot are really lacking. Only 1 MB at a time can be imported, using a site that converts the exported WordPress .xml files to the Blogspot format, and there are many errors that happen during the process.

3) You people are awesome. Thanks for the email of support and extra points to those who found my back up blog right away by going to www.Xenophilia.com and following the link there to my new blog.

Sleepily yours,

Xeno

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cell Towers in Your Area: Find out who owns them and more

Tonight, while trying to figure out why I’m getting so many dropped calls over the past week from AT&T, I found a few interesting web sites.
Now you can know who owns every tower around you and even the frequencies transmitted by that tower.

The first link builds a nice  data sheet for you that you can download and open. CSV stands for Comma Separated Values. In addition to Excel, you can open a CSV file with the free OpenOffice Calc software.

http://www.antennasearch.com/

http://www.cellreception.com/towers/

After you have this, many of your questions may be answered… but you may also have new questions, like who are some of the mysterious corporations that own towers around you … and what are they doing on all of those frequencies?

 

Posted in Technology | Leave a comment

We Want YOU, Say Hacktivists … but Is It Legal?

Cyberactivism — call it “hactivism” — is sweeping the web. But legal experts put a starker label on it: criminal.

To show support for WikiLeaks and its controversial head Julian Assange, an anonymous group calling itself Operation: Payback has disabled numerous websites and targeted others over the past few days. The group offers free software to let anyone help takedown websites they believe are the “enemies” of WikiLeaks, targeting MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, Amazon and others.

But is it legal? Experts told FoxNews.com that several international laws ban just this sort of activity.

In the U.K., Laws combating what is called “distributed denial of service,” or DDoS, “have been in place since 2006 and could result in you being sent to jail for up to ten years. Similar laws have also been present in Sweden since 2007,” wrote Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for security firm Sophos, in a blog post on his site.

“It’s the same story in the USA, where they take a tough line on those who engage in denial-of-service attacks against websites. For instance, last year saw the jailing of a man who launched a DDoS attack against the Scientology website,” he added. …

“In the United States, yes, it would be a breach of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to intentionally attack a website in the U.S. with the intent of denying service,” Wisniewski told FoxNews.com.

Operation: Payback seems unconcerned with the legality of its actions, comparing the online activism to other acts of civil disobedience in U.S. history.

“During the Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the 1960s access to many businesses were blocked as a peaceful protest against segregation. In their efforts, the protesters of the time managed to make drastic changes to police and governments by refusing to be silenced.”

“In the spirit and memory of that movement and many others we will refuse to be silenced. We will protest!” …

via FoxNews.com – We Want YOU, Say Hacktivists … but Is It Legal?.

 

Posted in Politics, Technology | 2 Comments

'Diamond exoplanet' idea boosted by telescope find

Artist's impression of Wasp 12bA US-British team of astronomers has discovered the first planet with ultra-high concentrations of carbon.

The researchers say their discovery supports the idea there may be carbon-rich, rocky planets whose terrains are made up of diamonds or graphite.

“You might see land masses and mountains made up of diamonds,” the lead researcher Dr Nikku Madhusudhan told BBC News.

The study in Nature journal raises new questions about how planets are formed.

The work has been described as an astonishing astronomical tour de force.

They have detected the thermal radiation (heat) from a planet 1,200 light years away using Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

From this information they have calculated the composition of its atmosphere, according to Dr Marek Kukula of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in London.

“It is absolutely astonishing that these scientists are able to start to tease out the details of what planets around other stars are made of,” he said.

“The planet is thousands of times fainter than the star it orbits. So the scientists have to perform an amazing feat of precision measurement to extract anything at all. …

via BBC News – ‘Diamond exoplanet’ idea boosted by telescope find.

No reason to doubt that there are diamond planets… but just keep in mind that an entire planet vanished once due to a miscalculation.

Posted in Space | 1 Comment

Avoid Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice for Urinary Tract Infection

The title of this article was “Cranberry Juice Fails to Prevent Recurrent Urinary Tract Infection: Results From a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial”, but that is misleading.

 

Drinking cranberry juice has been recommended to decrease the incidence of urinary tract infections, based on observational studies and a few small clinical trials.  However, a new study published in the January 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, and now available online, suggests otherwise.

College-aged women who tested positive for having a urinary tract infection were assigned to drink eight ounces of cranberry juice or a placebo twice a day for either six months or until a recurrence of a urinary tract infection, whichever happened first.  Of the participants who suffered a second urinary tract infection, the cranberry juice drinkers had a recurrence rate of almost 20 percent, while those who drank the placebo suffered only a 14 percent recurrence.

via IDsociety

I suspected they used sweetened cranberry juice, so I looked at the methods section of this study:

… Participants were randomly assigned to drink either 8 oz of 27% low-calorie cranberry juice cocktail twice per day or 8 oz of placebo juice twice per day for the test period of 6 months. Study juices were packaged and distributed by Fisher BioServices. Cranberry juice was provided by Ocean Spray Cranberries and was formulated under contract with NCCAM to fulfill research requirements of RFA.AT-03-004 grantees. A Drug Master File for this research grade—low-calorie juice cocktail (LCJC)—is on file with the United States Food and Drug Administration. Research juice was formulated to be similar to the commercially available Ocean Spray LCJC and was sweetened with Splenda (sucralose), exactly as is the retail juice. Commercially grown cranberries from Vaccinum macrocarpon Aiton were used for the juice production. Batches of LCJC were standardized for proanthocyanidin content. Proanthocyanidin is the cranberry juice component that is thought to produce the antiadhering activity against E. coli [20]. Each dose consisted of one 8-oz bottle (240 mL) containing a mean proanthocyanidin concentration of 112 mg per dose (range, 83–136 mg; standard deviation, ±14.1 mg), as measured by Fisher Bioservices by the DMAC(N,N-dimethyacetamicle) method. The placebo juice was formulated by Ocean Spray to imitate the flavor (sugar and acidity) and color of the cranberry beverage, without any cranberry content. In addition to other food and pharmaceutical-grade substances, both juices contained ascorbic acid in their formulations. Fisher Bioservices used identical bottles for the cranberry juice and the placebo beverage. All study juice (cranberry and placebo) was stored under refrigerated conditions (2–8oC) until delivery to study participants.

Patients were instructed to refrain from cranberry- or blueberry-containing foods during the study period. Study juice was delivered to participant’s home every 1–2 weeks starting on the day of enrollment in order to promote compliance. …

via Cranberry Juice Fails to Prevent Recurrent Urinary Tract Infection: Results From a Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial — Clin Infect Dis.

According to foodInsight, sucralose appears in over 4,000 products and bacteria can’t eat it, so it doesn’t produce tooth decay. However, another site says bacteria can feed on sucralose:

Splenda, aka sucralose, is a sucrose-like molecule. Basically, they have added Chlorine atoms to sucrose to make it indigestible by humans. However, since it is not digestible by us, it does not get absorbed and passes down the GI tract. It is digestible by bacteria. So in essence, if you consume sucralose, you are sending down an energy source to the bacteria you are trying to starve. So sucralose is not allowed.

That, if true, would by itself make this study inconclusive. But there’s another negative to consider. Splenda is the trade name for sucralose,  a synthetic compound,  sugar modified by adding chlorine atoms, discovered in the 1970s by researchers looking to create a new pesticide. It concentrates in the gastrointestinal tract.

… The human body is very good at detoxifying itself of certain substances, but this is not the case with organochlorine compounds, which are organic compounds that have been chlorinated. Dioxin, one organochlorine compound that is a by-product of the paper bleaching process, is 300,000 times more carcinogenic than DDT, an insecticide that was banned because of its toxicity. These compounds have been linked to birth defects, cancer, and immune dysfunction. These chemicals stay in the body and accumulate over time. According to the Sucralose Toxicity Information Center, the absorbed sucralose and its metabolites (chemically altered substances) concentrate in the liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract. Splenda manufacturers claim there is minimal absorption of Splenda and its metabolites. The FDA says there is only 11 percent to 27 percent absorption, but the Japanese Food Sanitation Council says as much as 40 percent is absorbed by the body.

According to claims by the manufacturer, the chlorine part of the sucralose molecule is similar to the chorine part of common table salt (NaCl – Sodium Chloride). However, some would caution that using sucralose may be more like ingesting small amounts of chlorinated pesticides like DDT. … Research in animals has shown:

  1. Up to 40 percent shrinkage of the thymus gland. (Critical for the response to disease – the ‘heart’ of our immune system)
  2. Enlarged liver and kidneys
  3. Atrophy of lymph follicles
  4. Reduced growth rate

– via DownToEarth

In my view this study is not examining the action of cranberry juice on UTI, it is examining OceanSpray’s formula including Splenda. The researchers don’t take into account the possible damaging effects of Splenda on the immune system. Repeat this study with unsweetened organic cranberry juice, and they might find what other placebo controlled studies have.

(1.) Jepson RG, Mihaljevic L, Craig J. Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2001: CD001321.

Seven trials met the inclusion criteria (four cross-over, three parallel group). The effectiveness of cranberry juice (or cranberry-lingonberry juice) versus placebo juice or water was evaluated in six trials, and the effectiveness of cranberries tablets versus placebo was evaluated in two trials (one study evaluated both juice and tablets). In two good quality RCTs, cranberry products significantly reduced the incidence of UTIs at twelve months (RR 0.61 95% CI:0.40 to 0.91) compared with placebo/control in women. One trial gave 7.5 g cranberry concentrate daily (in 50 ml), the other gave 1:30 concentrate given either in 250 ml juice or in tablet form. There was no significant difference in the incidence of UTIs between cranberry juice versus cranberry capsules (RR 1.11 95% CI:0.49 to 2.50). Five trials were not included in the meta-analyses due to methodological flaws or lack of available data. However, only one reported a significant result for the outcome of symptomatic UTIs. Side effects were common in all trials, and dropouts/withdrawals in several of the trials were high.

via NIH

 

Posted in Biology | 4 Comments

Autism breakthrough: Researchers identify possible drug for impaired sociability

Dan Shuman – Eastern Virginia Medical School researchers have identified a potential novel treatment strategy for the social impairment of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), an aspect of the condition that has a profound impact on quality of life.

“Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders are either disinterested in social interactions or find them unpleasant. They often don’t understand what other people are thinking or feeling and misinterpret social cues,” said Stephen I. Deutsch, MD, PhD, the Ann Robinson Chair and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “Sadly, persons with autism spectrum disorders are often painfully aware of their limited sociability, which can lead to profound feelings of sadness and frustration.”

As part of their research, EVMS scientists verified that a specific mouse strain, known as the BALB/c mouse, is a valid animal model of the limited sociability seen in persons with ASD. In the presence of another mouse, BALB/c mice move as far away as possible and do not interact as normal mice do — just like people with autism often avoid making social contact with other people.

This finding gave researchers a way to test whether an existing medication can alter the function of certain receptors in the brain known to affect sociability and help the animals be more at ease around others. The medication used, D-Cycloserine, originally was developed to treat tuberculosis, but previous studies showed, by chance, that it might change social behavior. In preliminary studies at EVMS, the medication appeared to resolve the Balb/c mouse’s deficits of sociability; it behaved as a normal mouse would when placed near another.

Dr. Deutsch will discuss the research at EVMS’ Quarterly Autism Education Series at noon, Dec. 14, in the school’s Hofheimer Hall auditorium.

EVMS’ laboratory studies with the Balb/c mouse led its investigators to hypothesize that D-Cycloserine could ease the impaired sociability of persons with autism, such as avoiding eye contact and personal interaction. Those traits can severely limit the possibility of employment and independent living for someone with autism.

“What makes this important is you might have someone with a 125 or 130 IQ who’s unemployable” because of their social impairments, said Maria R. Urbano, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

Dr. Urbano is moving this promising research from the laboratory directly to patient care by starting a pilot clinical trial of D-Cycloserine in adolescent and young adult patients with autism spectrum disorders. The trial will show whether the medication, which is already known to be safe for use in humans, has similar effects on the sociability deficits of persons with autism as it did in the mice. …

via Autism breakthrough: Researchers identify possible treatment for impaired sociability.

Great, no side effects except “… irritability, depression, psychosis convulsions…” Wait…  I think Wikipedia is missing an important comma. Is that psychosis and convulsions or are “psychosis convulsions” a special kind of convulsions?

It is also being trialed as an adjuvant to exposure therapy for anxiety disorders (e.g. phobias), depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. It has been experimentally used for treatment of Gaucher’s disease. Recent research suggests that D-cycloserine … may be effective in treating chronic pain. The side effects are mainly central nervous system (CNS) manifestations, i.e. headache, irritability, depression, psychosis convulsions. Co-administration of pyridoxine can reduce the incidence of some of the CNS side effects (e.g. convulsions). These psychotropic responses are related to D-cycloserine’s action as a partial agonist of the neuronal NMDA receptor for glutamate and have been examined in implications with sensory-related fear extinction in the amygdala, and extinction of cocaine seeking in the nucleus accumbens. D-cycloserine is a partial agonist at the glycine receptor, and has been shown to have cognition-enhancing properties for models of Parkinsons disease in primates.

via Wikipedia

In any case, I don’t think a drug is going to make people much more interesting than they already are… although if I was psychotic and convulsing, I might think otherwise.

Posted in Biology, Mind | 6 Comments

Discovery of the secrets that enable plants near Chernobyl to shrug off radiation

Pripyat

Michael Bernstein – American Chemical Society

Scientists are reporting discovery of the biological secrets that enable plants growing near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant to adapt and flourish in highly radioactive soil — legacy of the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Ukraine. Their study, which helps solve a long-standing mystery, appears in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

Martin Hajduch and colleagues note that plants have an unexpected ability to adapt to an environment contaminated with radiation following the April 26, 1986 accident at the Chernobyl. Their previous research, for example, showed that soybean plants in the area have adapted to the contaminated soil with certain changes in their proteome. A proteome is the full complement of proteins produced by the genes in a plant or animal. But the broader range of biochemical changes in plants that allow them to thrive in this harsh environment remained unclear.

The scientists grew flax seeds in radiation-contaminated soil in the Chernobyl region and compared their growth to those of seeds grown in non-radioactive soil. Radiation exposure had relatively little effect on the protein levels in the plants, with only about five percent of the proteins altered, they note. Among them were certain proteins involved in cell signaling, or chemical communication, which might help the plants shrug-off radioactivity, the scientists suggest.

via Discovery of the secrets that enable plants near Chernobyl to shrug off radiation.

If a disaster strikes, plants cannot move to better conditions – they either adapt, or die.

Soybean plantWhen, on 26 April, 1986, one of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, the accident was said to be the worst nuclear disaster in human history.

Scores of people died, hundreds became ill with acute radiation sickness.

The entire population of the industrial city of Pripyat that housed the power plant’s workforce was evacuated.

Many believed that the area would remain lifeless for generations.

Almost a quarter of a century later, Pripyat remains a ghost town. But despite deserted streets, the soil is not bare – plants have sprung back to life. …

The scientist noted that there were probably historic reasons why it was a lot easier for plants to get used to living in increased levels of radiation.

“It is just unbelievable how quickly this ecosystem has been able to adapt,” he said.

“[There must be] some kind of mechanism that plants already have inside them. Radioactivity has always been present here on Earth, from the very early stages of our planet’s formation.

“There was a lot more radioactivity on the surface back then than there is now, so probably when life was evolving, these plants came across radioactivity and they probably developed some mechanism that is now in them.”

via BBC

Posted in Radiation, Survival | Leave a comment