Sunday, November 18, 2012

World War II Love Letters Wash Up on NJ Beach After Sandy

Superstorm Sandy destroyed towns and homes, and took lives, but a stack of 57 letters tied together with a pink ribbon survived the devastating storm.
Kathleen Mullen was taking a walk along the Henry Hudson Trail in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., the day after the storm hit when she spotted the bundle of letters.
“They were obviously tied with a pink ribbon, so I automatically knew that they were love letters,” Mullen told ABC News
She took them home, carefully dried them under the fireplace in her powerless home and began to read. The letters were written by Dorothy Fallon of Rumson, N.J., and Lynn Farnham of Vermont between 1942 and 1947.
“There isn’t much more to tell you tonight, dear,” one letter read. “I love you very much. Yours always, Dotty.”
Mullen was determined to reunite the letters with their owners. She posted about the letters on Facebook, Craigslist and eventually did a search on findagrave.com, where a Lynn Farnham was listed who died in 1992 and was buried in New Jersey.
Through the website, Mullen connected with Shelly Farnham-Hilber, a niece of the couple, who lives in Virginia. She was thrilled to hear of the find.
“It’s magical. You go, ‘This can’t be real,’” Farnham-Hilber told WABC-TV. “It’s like a genealogical gold mine. It’s just that moment that you think is lost forever and here is something. It’s a gift.”
Farnham-Hilber said that Lynn Farnham, her uncle, served in WWII and was at Pearl Harbor. The couple had two children. The son has died and Farnham-Hilber’s family has lost touch with the daughter. Dorothy Farnham is 91 years old and lives in a nursing home in New Jersey.
The family is looking forward to being reunited with the letters and the find was a beacon of light to Mullen during tough times.
“It kind of sent the message that love conquers all, you know, in such devastation … something so delicate just washes ashore,” she said.

Best Women’s Clothing Choices for Shapely Females


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With Regards To Living Green You Will Find That Recycling Is Really A Good Place To Start

Living Green Can Begin Inside Your House Simply By Recycling
When many people think about going green, they immediately envision people dwelling in a camper and making their own clothes and growing their own food. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, you need not go to such measures to begin living a green lifestyle. Empty bottles and cans are still being routinely discarded with our daily scraps. The environment will be helped if you can just take the time to keep these items separate so they can be reprocessed.
Empty bottles and cans are possibly the best place to get started. If you actually went through your scraps, I can guarantee that you will see other items that you can recycle. In terms of what can be recycled, we will now take a look at what else might be appropriate even if most folks are not fully aware of this.
Old newspapers are the first example of items that could be recycled. On a daily basis, newspapers are discarded by people once they are satisfied they have read everything they wanted to. Recycling newsprint’s does not usually enter the heads of most folks. But newspapers are made out of paper, which can be recycled so newspapers must also be recycled. If more folks would only recycle their newspapers, we could help save millions of trees each year. Newspapers are simply a starting point here. Recycling paper of any sort must be considered rather than just discarding it. There are other paper products that are recyclable such as cardboard boxes.
One other thing many people forget ti recycle is their food containers. Plastic containers such as ketchup bottles, mayonnaise containers and even pickle jars are all recyclable. In some instances, these types of things are just going out with the normal trash. It is economic for these type of things to be recycled because they will be used in future goods and it is likewise good for the planet to do this. And when the production of containers is decreased because people are recycling, the smoke stacks from those factories also don’t create as much pollution.
Clothes are something else that are frequently overlooked in terms of recycling. There are different ways that clothes can be made use of. Unwanted clothes for recycling are being utilized by businesses to produce insulation for houses. As cotton is chiefly used, insulating a home in this manner is safe and there is the added benefit that unwanted clothes are not being taken to a landfill site. So next time, don’t just toss a shirt because it has a hole in it. There are numerous ways a torn shirt can be utilized.
Papers, glass and plastics are all recyclable and it is important that you try to remember this. Put differently, you can recycle most of what you currently put in your normal rubbish. The impact on our planet would be considerable if everyone began recycling all of those things that can be reused. So if you desire to start living a greener life, get started on recycling.

Monday, March 29, 2010

HOW TO WRITE GOOD

My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:
Avoid alliteration. Always.
Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
Employ the vernacular.
Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
Contractions aren't necessary.
Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
One should never generalize.
Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
Profanity sucks.
Be more or less specific.
Understatement is always best.
Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
One-word sentences? Eliminate.
Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
The passive voice is to be avoided.
Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
Who needs rhetorical questions?

Monday, March 22, 2010

The world's only immortal animal



(Photo: Peter Schuchert)

The turritopsis nutricula species of jellyfish may be the only animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth.

Since it is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again, there may be no natural limit to its life span. Scientists say the hydrozoan jellyfish is the only known animal that can repeatedly turn back the hands of time and revert to its polyp state (its first stage of life).

The key lies in a process called transdifferentiation, where one type of cell is transformed into another type of cell. Some animals can undergo limited transdifferentiation and regenerate organs, such as salamanders, which can regrow limbs. Turritopsi nutricula, on the other hand, can regenerate its entire body over and over again. Researchers are studying the jellyfish to discover how it is able to reverse its aging process.

Because they are able to bypass death, the number of individuals is spiking. They're now found in oceans around the globe rather than just in their native Caribbean waters. "We are looking at a worldwide silent invasion," says Dr. Maria Miglietta of the Smithsonian Tropical Marine Institute.

Free will is an illusion, biologist says

(PhysOrg.com) -- When biologist Anthony Cashmore claims that the concept of free will is an illusion, he's not breaking any new ground. At least as far back as the ancient Greeks, people have wondered how humans seem to have the ability to make their own personal decisions in a manner lacking any causal component other than their desire to "will" something. But Cashmore, Professor of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, says that many biologists today still cling to the idea of free will, and reject the idea that we are simply conscious machines, completely controlled by a combination of our chemistry and external environmental forces.
In a recent study, Cashmore has argued that a belief in free will is akin to religious beliefs, since neither complies with the laws of the physical world. One of the basic premises of biology and biochemistry is that biological systems are nothing more than a bag of chemicals that obey chemical and physical laws. Generally, we have no problem with the “bag of chemicals” notion when it comes to bacteria, plants, and similar entities. So why is it so difficult to say the same about humans or other “higher level” species, when we’re all governed by the same laws?

No causal mechanism

As Cashmore explains, the human brain acts at both the conscious level as well as the unconscious. It’s our consciousness that makes us aware of our actions, giving us the sense that we control them, as well. But even without this awareness, our brains can still induce our bodies to act, and studies have indicated that consciousness is something that follows unconscious neural activity. Just because we are often aware of multiple paths to take, that doesn’t mean we actually get to choose one of them based on our own free will. As the ancient Greeks asked, by what mechanism would we be choosing? The physical world is made of causes and effects - “nothing comes from nothing” - but free will, by its very definition, has no physical cause. The Roman philosopher and poet Lucretius, in reference to this problem of free will, noted that the Greek philosophers concluded that atoms "randomly swerve" - the likely source of this movement being the numerous Greek gods.

Today, as researchers gain a better understanding of the molecular details underlying consciousness, some people think that we may discover a molecular mechanism responsible for free will - but Cashmore doesn’t think so. Such a discovery, he says, would require a new physical law that breaks the causal laws of nature. As it is, the only “wild card” that allows any room for maneuvering outside of genetics and one’s environment is the inherent uncertainty of the physical properties of matter, and even this stochastic element is beyond our conscious control. (However, it can help explain why identical twins growing up in the same environment are unique individuals.)

To put it simply, free will just doesn’t fit with how the physical world works. Cashmore compares a belief in free will to an earlier belief in vitalism - the belief that there are forces governing the biological world that are distinct from those governing the physical world. Vitalism was discarded more than 100 years ago, being replaced with evidence that biological systems obey the laws of chemistry and physics, not special biological laws for living things.

“I would like to convince biologists that a belief in free will is nothing other than a continuing belief in vitalism (or, as I say, a belief in magic),” Cashmore told PhysOrg.com.

Conscious Deception

It all seems quite rational, so why is our lack of free will so difficult to accept for many people? Cashmore explains that there are several compelling reasons that people have for believing in free will, not the least of which is that we have a constant awareness of making decisions that seem to be driven by our own volition. In addition, free will is a very useful concept when it comes to the justice system; we take responsibility for our criminal actions and accordingly, are eligible for personal punishment, which is deemed to be necessary for protecting society.

However, Cashmore argues that there are deeper explanations for why we think we have free will. He thinks that there must be a genetic basis for consciousness and the associated belief in free will. Consciousness has an evolutionary selective advantage: it provides us with the illusion of responsibility, which is beneficial for society, if not for individuals as well. In this sense, consciousness is our “preview function” that comforts us into thinking that we are in control of what we will (or at least may) do ahead of time. As Cashmore notes, the irony is that the very existence of these "free will genes" is predicated on their ability to con us into believing in free will and responsibility. However, in reality, all behavioral decisions are nothing more than a reflection of our genetic and environmental history.

“Whereas the impressions are that we are making ‘free’ conscious decisions, the reality is that consciousness is simply a state of awareness that reflects the input signals, and these are an unavoidable consequence of GES [genes, environment, and stochasticism],” Cashmore explained.

“Few neurobiologists would argue with the notion that consciousness influences behavior by acting through unconscious neural activity,” he said. “More controversial is the notion that consciousness plays a relatively minor role in governing our behavior. The conscious mind is conceivably more a mechanism of following unconscious neural activity than it is one of directing such activity. I find it interesting to compare this line of thinking with that of Freud, who created a controversy by suggesting that the unconscious mind played a role in our behavior. The way of thinking regarding these matters now has moved to the extent that some are questioning what role, if any, the conscious mind plays in directing behavior. Namely, Freud was right to an extent that was much greater than he realized.”

To summarize, Cashmore’s argument is that free will is an illusion derived from consciousness, but consciousness has an evolutionary advantage of conferring the illusion of responsibility. So what is the point of publicizing the fact that we have no free will, and letting everyone off the hook of individual responsibility? Cashmore says that, as researchers deepen their understanding of the molecular basis of human behavior, it will become increasingly difficult to entertain the fallacy of free will.

Can’t Be Held Responsible

Perhaps the most obvious impact of this paradigm shift will be on our judicial system, in which the notions of free will and responsibility form an integral component. Currently, in order to be found guilty, a criminal must be considered responsible for his actions; otherwise, he can be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Cashmore disagrees with these rules, noting that psychiatric research is finding its way more and more into the courts and causing time-wasting debates. (For example, is alcoholism a disease? Are sex crimes an addiction?)

“Where is the logic in debating an individual’s level of responsibility, when the reality is that none of us are biologically responsible for our actions?" he said.

Cashmore proposes a change, based on “the elimination of the illogical concept that individuals are in control of their behavior in a manner that is something other than a reflection of their genetic makeup and their environmental history.”

He says that psychiatrists and other experts on human behavior should not be involved in initial judicial proceedings. The jury should simply determine whether or not a defendant is guilty of committing a crime, and not be concerned with mental issues. Then, if the defendant is found guilty, a court-appointed panel of experts would advise on the most appropriate punishment and treatment. Cashmore argues that, even though individuals are not biologically responsible for their actions, in order to minimize criminal activity, people should still be held accountable, and be punished when necessary. Such punishment is rationalized on the grounds that it will serve as an incentive (an environmental influence) not to participate in criminal behavior.

“Here I introduce the practice of ‘I am sorry about this but I am going to have to beat you,’” Cashmore said. “This punishment is rationalized in the sense that it serves as a lesson to individuals not to break the law. So people would be held accountable for their actions, even though they are not ‘biologically responsible’ for such actions. This punishment may involve fines or placing people in prison. Such punishment should not reflect any sense of retribution, and given this I do not personally see how one could continue to impose the death penalty - the alleged effectiveness of such a penalty presumably being far outweighed by its unfairness. The exact way in which one balances the presumptive requirement for punishment, and the lack of biological responsibility, would indeed be difficult, and would require much discussion within the legal system and society as a whole.”

He said that tailoring punishment on an individual basis is presently done, at least to some extent.

“Why is it important to make a change? Because increasingly the legal system is being forced to confront the reality that people’s behavior is governed by nothing other than their biological history: their genes, their environment and a degree of stochasticism (if you wish, a degree of chance). The legal system is increasingly seen to be a farce, with lawyers spending endless time and money debating this nonsensical question of how responsible or not their clients are. Why nonsensical? Because no one is biologically responsible for their actions. As Francis Crick said, ‘Dream as we may, reality knocks relentlessly at the door.’ And as a result of the rapid and ongoing progress in neuroscience, the reality that individual behavior is governed by one’s genetic and environmental history is becoming increasingly apparent.”

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

James Cameron congrats Kathryn Bigelow

Friday, November 13, 2009

Obama tops Forbes list of world's most powerful people


SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) – U.S. President Barack Obama can add another accolade to his already long list of awards after being named the world's most powerful person in an inaugural ranking by Forbes magazine.

Obama, whose popularity at home and abroad has boosted the image of the United States according to numerous surveys, topped the list that also features al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey as people wielding some influence over the world.

In compiling the inaugural ranking, Forbes said it had narrowed the list to 67 people, "a number based on the conceit that one can reduce the world's 6.7 billion people to the one in every 100 million that matter."

"The goal in compiling this list is to expose power and not glorify it, and over time reveal how influence is as easily lost as it is hard to gain," the magazine said.

World and industry leaders dominated the top 10 of the list, which Forbes said was assessed on the number of people the person influences, their ability to project power beyond their immediate sphere of influence, their control of financial resources and how actively that person wields power.

Also on the list were financial heavyweights including Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein (18) and billionaire investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett (14), as well as Pope Benedict (11).

Bin Laden came in at number 37 and Winfrey at number 45.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown came in at number 29 while Queen Elizabeth failed to make the list.

The top 10 list is as follows:

1. U.S. President Barack Obama

2. Chinese President Hu Jintao

3. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

4. U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

5. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page

6. Carlos Slim, Chief Executive of Mexico's Telmex

7. Rupert Murdoch, chairman of media group News Corp.

8. Michael T. Duke, Chief executive, Wal-Mart Stores

9. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz

10. Bill Gates, co-chairman, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Space hotel says it's on schedule to open in 2012


The cost of a three-night stay at ‘Galactic’ resort estimated at $4.4 million

BARCELONA, Spain - A company behind plans to open the first hotel in space says it is on target to accept its first paying guests in 2012 despite critics questioning the investment and time frame for the multi-billion dollar project.

The Barcelona-based architects of The Galactic Suite Space Resort say it will cost $4.4 million for a three-night stay at the hotel, with this price including an eight-week training course on a tropical island.

During their stay, guests would see the sun rise 15 times a day and travel around the world every 80 minutes. They would wear Velcro suits so they can crawl around their pod rooms by sticking themselves to the walls like Spiderman.
Galactic Suite Ltd's CEO Xavier Claramunt, a former aerospace engineer, said the project will put his company at the forefront of an infant industry with a huge future ahead of it, and forecast space travel will become common in the future.

"It's very normal to think that your children, possibly within 15 years, could spend a weekend in space," he told Reuters Television.

A nascent space tourism industry is beginning to take shape with construction underway in New Mexico of Spaceport America, the world's first facility built specifically for space-bound commercial customers and fee-paying passengers.

British tycoon Richard Branson's space tours firm, Virgin Galactic, will use the facility to propel tourists into suborbital space at a cost of $200,000 a ride.

Galactic Suite Ltd, set up in 2007, hopes to start its project with a single pod in orbit 280 miles above the earth, with the capacity to hold four guests and two astronaut-pilots.

It will take a day and a half to reach the pod — which Claramunt compared to a mountain retreat, with no staff to greet the traveler.

"When the passengers arrive in the rocket, they will join it for three days, rocket and capsule. With this we create in the tourist a confidence that he hasn't been abandoned. After three days the passenger returns to the transport rocket and returns to earth," he said.

More than 200 people have expressed an interest in traveling to the space hotel and at least 43 people have already reserved.

The numbers are similar for Virgin Galactic with 300 people already paid or signed up for the trip but unlike Branson, Galactic Suite say they will use Russian rockets to transport their guests into space from a spaceport to be build on an island in the Caribbean.
But critics have questioned the project, saying the time frame is unreasonable and also where the money is coming from to finance the project.

Claramunt said an anonymous billionaire space enthusiast has granted $3 billion to finance the project.

The Martian Torture Chamber


In a Berlin basement sits a small torture chamber. The air inside the hermetically sealed steel chest consists of a choking 95 percent carbon dioxide, some nitrogen, and traces of oxygen and argon. The pressure within is 1/170 that on Earth, and the thermostat is set to –50˚F—in other words, a nice afternoon on Mars. Experiments at the facility regularly subject some of Earth’s hardiest creatures to this hell, and they do just fine.
This August, several dozen scientific institutes combined forces to test a variety of Earth species in Mars-like conditions. Identifying life-forms that can survive on another planet, what mechanisms they use to do so, and what by-products they leave behind will give scientists a more specific idea of what to look for when searching for E.T., says Jean-Pierre de Vera, a biologist at the German Center for Aeronautics and Space Research (DLR), where most of the experiments are carried out.

At press time, the scientists had tested Deinococcus radiodurans, a bacterium known for its radiation tolerance, Xanthoria elegans, a lichen that thrives in Antarctica and low-oxygen conditions, and Bacillus subtilis, a comparatively ordinary bacteria found in soil around the planet. “I was astonished that organized, symbiotic communities such as lichens [which consist of fungi and photosynthetic algae or bacteria] can survive,” de Vera says. After 22 days, 80 to 90 percent of the lichens were not only alive but active—it seems that complex life-giving processes can happen off-planet. For one thing, de Vera says, “this is the first evidence that organisms might conduct photosynthesis on Mars.” Next he plans to investigate whether methane-producing bacteria, which could account for Mars’s methane clouds, can make it on the planet.