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Comment Re:It Hurts (Score 1) 320

The Exodus of Moses and the Jews from Egypt?

We know that the Egyptians were really good at keepin records. Like "small family of farmers came in to Egypt to get some grain" kind of good records. And yet, there is no mention of 1000's of Hebrew slaves existing in Egypt, let along escaping, let alone the plagues that were supposedly brought upon the pharaoh, let alone the parting of the sea and murder of 100's (or maybe 1000's) of soldiers when the sea collapsed.

And then there's the lack of archaeological evidence of a large group of people "wandering" the deserts for 40 years.

Canadian Blood Services Promotes Pseudoscience 219

trianglecat writes "The not-for-profit agency Canadian Blood Services has a section of their website based on the Japanese cultural belief of ketsueki-gata, which claims that a person's blood group determines or predicts their personality type. Disappointing for a self-proclaimed 'science-based' organization. The Ottawa Skeptics, based in the nation's capital, appear to be taking some action."

Scientists Create Artificial Meat 820

Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that scientists have created the first artificial meat by extracting cells from the muscle of a live pig and putting them in a broth of other animal products where the cells then multiplied to create muscle tissue. Described as soggy pork, researchers believe that it can be turned into something like steak if they can find a way to 'exercise' the muscle and while no one has yet tasted the artificial meat, researchers believe the breakthrough could lead to sausages and other processed products being made from laboratory meat in as little as five years' time. '"What we have at the moment is rather like wasted muscle tissue. We need to find ways of improving it by training it and stretching it, but we will get there," says Mark Post, professor of physiology at Eindhoven University. "You could take the meat from one animal and create the volume of meat previously provided by a million animals." Animal rights group Peta has welcomed the laboratory-grown meat, announcing that "as far as we're concerned, if meat is no longer a piece of a dead animal there's no ethical objection while the Vegetarian Society remained skeptical. "The big question is how could you guarantee you were eating artificial flesh rather than flesh from an animal that had been slaughtered. It would be very difficult to label and identify in a way that people would trust.""
The Military

The Jet Fighter Laser Cannon 464

fahrbot-bot sends in a Register piece about DARPA issuing the penultimate contract for what is intended to be a jet-mounted laser cannon. The Reg outdoes itself in a BOTEC involving downsizing to shark scale. "The US military will shortly issue a brace of contracts for 'refrigerator sized' laser blaster cannons. One of the deals will see a full-power ground prototype built which will be the final stage prior to America's first raygun-equipped jet fighter. ... If it scales down far enough, this would seem to put handheld HELL-guns within an order of magnitude of the striking power offered by conventional small-arms. A 9mm pistol bullet has about 750 joules muzzle energy: a 5kg portable HELL-ray weapon would put out this much energy in a blast less than a second long. ... A dolphin can carry a human being weighing up to 100kg along for a ride. A thoroughbred shark in good training can surely match this. Thus, we seem to be looking at practicable head-[laser] output in the 20-kilowatt range."
Input Devices

Project Natal Release Details Emerge 173

scruffybr writes "Today the first information about the pricing and launch of Microsoft’s Project Natal has emerged. The pricing for the hardware will be much much lower than many had anticipated, coming in at around £50 when sold separately from the console. The idea being that it’s low enough that people will purchase on impulse."

Computer Failure Causes Gridlock In MD County 483

Uncle Rummy writes "A central traffic control computer in Montgomery County, Maryland failed early Wednesday morning, leading to widespread gridlock across the entire county. The computer, which dates to the 1970s, is the single point of unified control for all traffic signals in the county, which comprises a number of major Washington DC-area suburban communities. When the system failed, it caused all signals to default to stand-alone operation, rather than the highly-tuned synchronization that usually serves to facilitate traffic flow during rush hours. The resulting chaos is a yet another stark reminder of how much modern civilization relies on behind-the-scenes automation to deliver and control basic services and infrastructure. The system remains down Thursday, with no ETA in sight."
The Military

Iraq Swears By Dowsing Rod Bomb Detector 652

jggimi writes "According to the New York Times, more than fifteen hundred remote sensing devices have been sold to Iraq's Ministry of the Interior, at prices ranging from $16,500 to $60,000 each. The devices are used for bomb and weapon detection at checkpoints, and have no battery or other power source. Sounds great, but according to a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, they work on the same principle as a Ouija board — the power of suggestion. He described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod. Even though the device has been debunked by the US Military, the US Department of Justice, and even Sandia National Laboratories, the Iraqis are thrilled with the devices. 'Whether it's magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs,' said Maj. Gen. Jehad al-Jabiri, head of the Ministry of the Interior's General Directorate for Combating Explosives."

Possible Dark Matter Signs At the Core 234

Scientific American has a piece on speculation that dark matter may be behind diffuse radiation in the galactic center. Beginning in 2003, researchers led by Douglas Finkbeiner noticed a curious excess of microwave radiation in the WMAP data, after all known sources of such radiation were accounted for. Data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope resulted in a similar anomaly in gamma rays. "A paper posted to the physics preprint Web site on October 26 and submitted to the Astrophysical Journal points to a possible signature of dark matter in the Milky Way, although the study's authors are careful to keep their observations empirical and table such speculation... In the new paper [the researchers] describe the Fermi gamma-ray haze and make the claim that it confirms the synchrotron origin of the WMAP microwave haze. And as with the microwave haze, the authors argue that the electrons responsible for the gamma-ray haze appear to originate from an unknown astrophysical process. ... 'We are absolutely in the process of exploring the Fermi haze in the context of dark matter physics,' [one of them] says."

Microsoft Opening Outlook's PST Format 319

protosage writes to tell us that Microsoft Interoperability is working towards opening up Outlook's .pst format under their Open Specification Promise. This should "allow anyone to implement the .pst file format on any platform and in any tool, without concerns about patents, and without the need to contact Microsoft in any way." "In order to facilitate interoperability and enable customers and vendors to access the data in .pst files on a variety of platforms, we will be releasing documentation for the .pst file format. This will allow developers to read, create, and interoperate with the data in .pst files in server and client scenarios using the programming language and platform of their choice. The technical documentation will detail how the data is stored, along with guidance for accessing that data from other software applications. It also will highlight the structure of the .pst file, provide details like how to navigate the folder hierarchy, and explain how to access the individual data objects and properties."

Disney Close To Unveiling New "DVD Killer" 498

Uncle Rummy writes "The Wall Street Journal reports that Disney is close to releasing a new system that will sell permanent, multi-device access to digital media. The system, dubbed Keychest, is being positioned as an answer to consumer concerns about purchasing digital media that are locked to a small number of devices, and thus as a way to finally shift media sales from an ownership model to an access model. They claim that such a service would reduce the risk of losing access to content as a result of a single vendor going out of business, as purchased content would remain available from other vendors. However, they do not seem to have addressed the question of what happens to customers' access to purchased content if the Keychest service itself is discontinued."

Comment Re:hmmm (Score 1) 461

There is a lecture series that was filmed in the 80s/90s (one of the questions asked was "do you know how to use a computer?") which featured Richard Dawkins explaining the process of evolution. If it helps you to pretend that it's someone else, do that, because it is definately worth watching on youtube, he even addresses the Bombardier beetle "problem".

The Evolution of Sexual Reproduction is another complex subject, but you can read about it at the link above. I beleive that the advantage of sexual reproduction was that when you swap genes, you can adapt faster (more possiblity for a bad transfer, more combinations of genes etc). The first sexual reproducers were probably hermaphrodites like flowers, fertilising each other with the wind (before insects). And that eventually developed into male and female genders. The other things that you mention are all explainable in a plausible way (see argument from personal incredulity).

Comment Re:hmmm (Score 5, Informative) 461

This is not entirely true, E. Coli is known to be able to metabolise glucose. The bacteria were "grown" in a solution that included glucose as it's main component. There were also many populations of the bacteria that were being evolved seperately (they NEVER mixed). Suddenly, in one population, a bacteria emerged that could metabolise citrate. This gave that bacteria a massive advantage, because it could now consume two types of food and it had no competition for the citrate (unlike glucose, which all the other bacteria could consume as well).
This also allowed the total population in that group to explode (there's now more food in total, glucose + citrate).

Another cool thing is that this smashes the "Irreducible Complexity" argument. The ability to metabolise citrate is developed by two separate mutations, which, on their own achieve nothing. Some of the populations developed the first mutation and some developed the second one, but none of them had previously developed both. This shows that the "preliminary" mutations were not harmful to the bacteria, so they just "hung around" until one of them was lucky enough to get the second mutation too.

Anyway, look up Lenski's work, I'm sure his papers (and those of his students/colleagues) are better at explaining it all than me...

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