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Submission + - Spy Agency is Head Over Heels for Metaphors (

SoyChemist writes: When terrorists talk to each other online, or over the phone, they most likely speak in code. To keep tabs on them, the Intelligence Research Projects Agency is offering millions of dollars in funding to computer scientists who analyze human language. In theory, they could develop a program that red flags Farsi, Pashtun or Arabic metaphors that mean "let's light this firecracker" or "it will be a dark day for New York" and then translates them to plain English.

Submission + - Bell Labs Makes its Archives Public (

SoyChemist writes: Bell labs has released its entire archive of scientific documents to the public. It is packed mostly with raw data and dry scientific reports, explains Alexis Madrigal of the Atlantic. Until the 1980's, Bell Labs was the best institution in the world for physical science researchers. Later on, it was rocked by a huge scandal, when one of its youngest researchers was found guilty of faking a lot of data in high impact papers.

Submission + - Federal Research Funds for 2008 are Disappointing

SoyChemist writes: Wired Science has asked their readers to complain about the biggest problems with federal research funding. Some of the comments are quite revealing: Lead scientists must rush to buy supplies before their grants expire, they sometimes get stuck when equipment breaks and they did not anticipate replacement parts in their budget, and there are only token incentives for alternative energy research. Worst of all, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which could exceed $1.2 trillion, are particularly appalling when compared to the measly $6.43 billion requested by the National Science Foundation and $28.6 billion requested by the National Institutes of Health for supporting science in 2008.

Submission + - Vote for the Biggest Research Fundinding Problems

AngryEngineer writes: The Wired Science blog has asked their readers what the biggest problems with research funding are. The responses range from a lack of money for odds and ends like refrigerator repairs to limitations on stem cells and medical marijuana research. Considering that it costs about one billion dollars to develop a new drug, if that attempt is successful, the twenty-eight billion that the National Institutes of Health will receive this year does seem rather small.

Submission + - Lecture Videos by an Amazing MIT Physics Professor

SoyChemist writes: While teaching large physics lectures at MIT, Walter H. G. Lewin radiates enthusiasm and performs fantastic demonstrations. Yesterday, Sara Rimer of the New York Times [login required] profiled Lewin. She explained that the energetic 71-year-old professor became a celebrity when video footage of his lectures hit the web. Today, Wired is running a similar story that links to three collections of Levin's lectures as well as several of his viral hits.

Submission + - Arthur C. Clarke's 90th Birthday Video Message

SoyChemist writes: Just before completing his 90th orbit around the sun, Sir Arthur C. Clarke recorded what may be one of his last messages to the world. "The golden age of space is only just beginning... Space travel and space tourism will one day become almost as commonplace as flying to exotic destinations on our own planet," said the legendary science fiction author. He wished for proof of extraterrestiral life, freedom from our addiction to oil, and an end to the civil war in Sri Lanka — his adopted home. The wheelchair-bound legend concluded by saying that in spite of his many accomplishments, he would most like to be remembered as a writer that entertained many people.

Submission + - Avastin Failure Highlights Drug Research Problems

SoyChemist writes: "When an FDA committee decided that blockbuster oncology drug Avastin should not be used to treat breast cancer because the risks outweigh the benefits, shares of Genentech stock plummeted. Rather than reciting financial figures, Business Week reporter Arlene Weintraub took a step back and painted a detailed picture of how the biotech company is trying to skirt major industry problems within the field of autoimmune disease research. Wired Science provided further analysis, explaining the importance increasing the variety of avoiding me too drugs, not rushing research, and using a personalized medicine approach."

Submission + - Microfluidic Chips made with Shrinky Dinks

SoyChemist writes: "When she started her job as a new professor at UC Merced, Michelle Khine was stuck without a clean room or semiconductor fabrication equipment, so she went MacGyver and started making Lab-on-a-Chip devices in her kitchen with Shrinky Dinks, a laser printer, and a toaster oven. She would print a negative image of the channels onto the polystyrene sheets and then make them smaller with heat. The miniaturized pattern served as a perfect mould for forming rounded, narrow channels in PDMS — a clear, synthetic rubber."

Submission + - New Nerve Gas Antidotes ( 1

SoyChemist writes: Scientists from Korea and the Czech Republic have discovered new drugs that can counteract the chemical overload caused by nerve gas. All of the experimental medications belong to a family of chemicals called oximes. Those molecules reactivate the enzyme that is damaged by the chemical weapons. Last year, the FDA approved the first combined atropine and oxime auto-injector for use by emergency personnel. Israel has been providing them to their citizens since the first Gulf War.

Submission + - Scary Lab Automation Commercial Evokes David Lynch (

SoyChemist writes: When the German biotech company Qiagen made a commercial for their spiffy new lab automation product, they seem to have miscalculated the taste of their American customers. The video, which showcases a robot that can purify DNA, RNA, or proteins with the push of a button, is exceptionally creepy. It has a style similar to Twin Peaks and other bizzare and akward projects by filmmaker David Lynch.

Submission + - The Muddy Waters of Taser Safety

SoyChemist writes: Many scientists have asked the question: Can Tasers kill people? Yet, the waters surrounding the less lethal weapon remain very murky. The Wired Science Blog has a compilation of some of the more spectacular safety studies. They include case reports of a dart penetrating the skull of a young man, a pacemaker logging cardiac data when an old man was zapped, and conclusions drawn from seventy-five separate investigations. This follows an earlier report in New Scientist which showed that some of the safety studies were funded by Taser International.

Submission + - Update: Arthur C. Clarke Independent Film Delayed

SoyChemist writes: When an Industrial Light and Magic employee set out to complete a short film based on Maelstrom II by Arthur C. Clarke's 90th birthday, it looked like he would finish on time. When his sources of funding backed out, filmmaker Jeroen Lapré watched his project slow to a crawl in post-production. Just over a month before his self-imposed deadline, Lapré is far behind schedule and terrified that he may not be able to complete the film before the bedridden legend passes away. A rough cut of the first third of the film is available on his website. It shows that his project is far from complete.

Submission + - Fascist Administrators Fail to Close School

SoyChemist writes: "Despite the fact that students developed a mysterious twitching sickness, officials decided not to close the William Byrd High School high school campus and told parents it was safe — even though the source of the illness has still not been identified. In the wake of the Virginia Tech Massacre, this reluctance to keep students out of harm's way is terribly alarming. The state of mind that is necessary to prioritize order and an uninterrupted school day over the safety of young people vaguely resembles the merciless button pushing of volunteers in the notorious psychology experiments of Stanley Milgram. Those test subjects would persist in torturing people with fake electric shocks simply because an authority figure told them that the experiment must continue. In this case, the classes must continue."

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