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Submission + - Student rejected for "India's rape problem". Professor reprimanded (bbc.com)

vigmeister writes: A professor at the University of Leipzig is in hot water for rejecting a student's internship application citing "India's rape problem". While this led to a strongly worded reprimand from the German ambassador to India, the University seems to be backing the professor. However, the story of a second student to whom this happened previously may throw the "out of context" theory to rest. What is, of course, alarming is the overtly racist tone of the professor and the apparent lack of consequences (other than a reprimand). In an occupation rife with dishonesty , bullying and "a pressure cooker culture", is racism (and tolerance to it) yet another plague that seems to permeate academia in an entirely different way compared to other professions?

Submission + - Tractable acoustic tractor beams (aps.org)

vigmeister writes: Structured acoustic fields can pull macroscopic objects towards the source by means of nonconservative forces.
In order to generate the tailored acoustic field, the team used a square matrix array of about 1000 transducers, operating at ultrasound frequency (550 kilohertz), placed at the bottom of a water-filled chamber. Each one can be individually addressed, not only with on-off states, but also by programming up to eight discrete phase values. This device allows the researchers to imprint a spatial modulation on the emitted acoustic field. In this case, the generated patterns behave, in the region of interest, as a pair of plane waves whose wave vectors are symmetrically inclined towards the array centerline, where the target was suspended from a force balance. The two waves intersect at a certain height over the array plane, having a hollow core underneath; the height of the intersection point can be readjusted by changing the emission pattern from the array.

By varying the vertical position of the target, the researchers were able to obtain a detailed map of the acoustic force as a function of the distance from the object to the source plane, which was measured in terms of changes in weight of the target. Based on a theoretical analysis, two contributions of the force were clearly identified; a negative (pulling) force due to the reflection in the walls of the prisms, and a positive (pushing) one, owed to the absorbed radiation at the base. The qualitative behavior of the total force and its order of magnitude (millinewtons) agreed well with the experiments. The equilibrium position, where the two contributions of the force are exactly balanced, can be controlled by reconfiguring the acoustic field. All the measurements were done for different configurations of the acoustic pattern and for each of the two targets, whose volumes are of the order of tens of cubic centimeters.
Although the intensity gradients may play a role in the force towards the low-pressure regions, the careful design of the experiment for maximizing the forward scattering, the ability to control the equilibrium position, and the fair comparison with simulations guarantee that the main role is indeed played by the scattering force. Therefore, this is the first demonstration of a nonconservative pulling force in the acoustics realm, which complements previous demonstrations in optics.

In addition, the authors point out the potential impact that the control of acoustic forces and the generation of structured ultrasound fields may have in modern biomedical techniques. In therapeutic treatments involving focused high-intensity fields, for example, the precise control of energy deposition could be greatly improved with the use of complex beams.

Interaction between matter and waves always seems to surprise scientists in new ways. The more we advance in the study and generation of structured wave fields and novel materials, the higher the possibility of finding new effects and applications.

Submission + - Cornell researcher demonstrates precognition (wired.com)

vigmeister writes: "Most science papers don’t begin with a description of psi, those “anomalous processes of information or energy transfer” that have no material explanation. (Popular examples of psi include telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis.) It’s even less common for a serious science paper, published in an elite journal, to show that psi is a real phenomenon. But that’s exactly what Daryl Bem of Cornell University has demonstrated in his new paper, “Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect,” which was just published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Bem’s experimental method was extremely straightforward. He took established psychological protocols, such as affective priming and recall facilitation, and reversed the sequence, so that the cause became the effect. For instance, he might show students a long list of words and ask them to remember as many as possible. Then, the students are told to type a selection of words which had been randomly selected from the same list. Here’s where things get really weird: the students were significantly better at recalling words that they would later type."

These results are claimed to be statistically significant in the article. The relevant paper is here . If I start saving money for a rainy day does that mean I am going to get drenched in a downpour soon?

Submission + - Muslim only FaceBook for Pakistan? (indiatimes.com)

vigmeister writes: A few young entrepreneurs seem to have come up with a solution to Pakistan blocking facebook. They're seemingly working round the clock to recreate facebook and target it towards muslims. It is not just a new social networking portal. It is actually a facebook clone intended for use by the (large) facebook userbase in Pakistan who, as a country, spurned facebook for it's user generated content. Intellectual property issues aside, I am not sure why they are trying to clone facebook. They could and possibly should contribute code and resources to Diaspora which they can ostensibly simply run an installation of and target it towards Muslims.

In their youthful naivete, they also invite 'sweet' users of other religions to join in. Which, to me, sounds like an invitation to the culturally insensitive, freedom of speech wielding crowd to defeat one of the purposes of MillatFaceBook which is to avoid blasphemy rampant in the original facebook.

"We want to tell Facebook people 'if they mess with us they have to face the consequences'," warns Usman Zaheer, COO. "If someone commits blasphemy against our Prophet Mohammed then we will become his competitor and give him immense business loss"

Submission + - Artificial life created as a synthetic organism (bbc.co.uk)

vigmeister writes:

Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first synthetic living cell. The researchers constructed a bacterium's "genetic software" and transplanted it into a host cell. The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species "dictated" by the synthetic DNA. The advance, published in Science, has been hailed as a scientific landmark, but critics say there are dangers posed by synthetic organisms. The researchers hope eventually to design bacterial cells that will produce medicines and fuels and even absorb greenhouse gases.

The 'synthetic' aspect and the rest of the article makes it seems like they can control the properties of the cell. Since the dangers mentioned in the article are easy to enumerate, I wonder what the scientific community can do to escape paranoid legislation. In addition to the ethical dilemma associated with this development, the philosophical ramifications are just as significant. Also, which existing religious frameworks accommodate something approaching 'creation of life'? Or is this to religion what synthesis of urea did for chemistry? P.S. Is it just a coincidence that this came about as soon as Jack took the job? *cough*God complex*cough*

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For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. -- H. L. Mencken