Daily Archives: November 9, 2007

How can dangerous interference with the climate system be avoided?

This is the question asked in a current paper from PNAS that is available to you as an Open Access article.Peaking profiles for achieving long-term temperature targets with more likelihood at lower costs

AbstractHow can dangerous interference with the climate system be avoided? Science can help decision-makers answer this political question. Earlier publications have focused on the probability of keeping global mean temperature change below certain thresholds by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations at particular levels. We compare the results of such “stabilization profiles” with a set of “peaking profiles” that reduce emissions further after stabilization and thus result in a concentration peak. Given the inertia in the climate system, stabilization profiles lead to ongoing warming beyond 2100 until the temperature reaches equilibrium. This warming partly can be prevented for peaking profiles. In this way, these profiles can increase the likelihood of achieving temperature thresholds by 10-20% compared with the likelihood for the associated stabilization profiles. Because the additional mitigation efforts and thus costs for peaking profiles lie mainly beyond 2100, peaking profiles achieving temperature thresholds with the same likelihood as the original stabilization profile, but at considerably lower cost (up to 40%), can be identified. The magnitude of the cost reductions depends on the assumptions on discounting. Peaking profiles and overshoot profiles with a limited overshoot may, in particular, play an important role in making more ambitious climate targets feasible.

Someday the robots will rise up and kill us all

i-e75376a712e9fcd9d971010b2b9da05e-steamrobot1.jpg … or so says Lance Ulanoff. He continues…

They’ll record our lives, obliterate our privacy, set off nuclear war, and eventually turn on us and eat our brains. If any of this ever did happen, it would serve us right. We, at least American consumers, don’t deserve the future that robots really have to offer.

Lance might have a point. Essentially, he claims that American culture has a very short span of historical involvement with robots, as opposed, say, to the Japanese who apparently have been living with them (and possibly mating with them) for hundreds or thousands of years. This, I did not know, but Lance documents it all.I’m not actually sure I buy it. The ability of robots to actually take over the world probably depends mainly on if they run proprietary software or OpenSource software. I mean, really, can you imagine a robot uprising if they all ran on something like Microsoft Vista? Or how different it would be if they were all Macs at heart? Almost too much to contemplate.

Historic Zombie Attack Unearthed


Hierakonpolis is a site famous for its many “firsts,” so many, in fact, it is not easy to keep track of them all. So we are grateful(?) to Max Brooks for bringing to our attention that the site can also claim the title to the earliest recorded zombie attack in history….Recent work at Hierakonpolis has, however, revealed compelling evidence that zombies may have been problematic already in Predynastic Egypt (ca. 3500 B.C.).

This zombie work has been going on for some time but mostly very hush hush. Finally, we have a detailed report to sink our teeth into, over at Archaeology.org.Click here to find out more about the ancient zombies.

Giardia: Protozoan of never ending wonders

i-e499dbe326e9df357fe96d52516a27ca-giardia.gif… well, OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration.You know about giardia. Giardia intestinalis. It causes a nasty gut infection, and you get it by drinking water pretty much anywhere in the US (potentially). It is very hard to get rid of.Giardia adapt to immune system attacks (of their host) in a way that passes that adaptation down to their offspring without genes. It is a Lamarkian process. Giardia have no mitochondria, yet many of the genes known to be in mitochondria in eukaryotes are found in the giardian nucleus. So, ancestral giardia probably had mitochondria, but all those genes got transferred over to the nucleus.The absence of mitochondria and the significant reduction of some other organelles has led people to, probably falsely, believe that giardia is some kind of intermediate between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Again, this is probably a misinterpretation. Giardia, as a eukaryote which has lost specific organelles (yet still does just fine) would be in a sense “more evolved” than any eukaryote. Including, dear reader, you.And now, there is even a newer twist to the story. Continue reading Giardia: Protozoan of never ending wonders

Nature Neuroscience: Focus on Glia

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed ResearchEver since I started to learn about brains, back in the mid 1980s, from some really brainy brain experts like Terry Deacon and Joe Marcus, I always knew that glial cells were important. But I now read in current material in Nature Neuroscience, that “A decade ago, glia were the neglected stepchildren of neuroscience. Although glia outnumber neurons by about ten to 1 in the adult human brain, providing support for neurons has traditionally been viewed as their primary function. Glial biology has come into its own recently, as researchers have shown that glia are critical for the development of the nervous system and have key roles in various neurodegenerative disorders” (Aamodt 2007). So now I am even more impressed with Terry and Joe’s insights.Essentially, Glia do all the things that happen in the brain except the actual brain circuitry. Filtering, cleaning, structural support, repair of neurons, and so on. They also can do bad things and cause some neruopathies. This sudden (well, this decade anyway) realization of the importance of glial cells prompted piles of research, and this research is being highlighted in the current issue of Nature Neurobiology. The purpose of this blog entry is to provide you with a summary of that issue. Unless you subscribe, you can’t see it, but there area few links that are available to you here. Continue reading Nature Neuroscience: Focus on Glia

Homeopathy and Curing Cancer

A child with Melanoma, a mother tossed in jail, radio talk show hosts, ranting bloggers. It’s a good story.From the Natural Solutions Foundation Web Site:

There is a developing story from California that involves a mother with a 17 year old child who HAD melanoma. The mother, chose to go against her allopathic (conventional) doctor’s orders (to have surgery and chemotherapy) – and instead try advanced natural medicine first – since she understood that supporting the body’s ability to heal is more effective than destroying it as chemotherapy does.Not surprisingly this approach worked! This young man is now CANCER FREE!! However, the allopathic doctor is insisting that the child must have chemotheray as well as surgery, which the mother refuses to have her child undergo. Interestingly, doctor, the allopathic doctor’s unnecessary treatments will be compensated by the insurer or state, while the holistic strategies that actually worked are not eligible for coverage.[Quoted here]

Naturally, the mother and child were hunted down and harassed by authorities:

An unholy alliance of California Child Protective Services (CPS) with a hostile doctor and judge is attempting to railroad Laurie Jessop, framed as a threat to her son and the establishment for finding a way to cure him of malignant melanoma. She is now on trial, under a gag order, since she had gone to the press. When she was arrested, she was put in maximum security, solitary confinement, in the Orange County, CA jail. They claim that everything about. her says anti-Establishment, so she was told, as she was considered a threat in starting a riot.[source]

This story will become the centerpiece of pro-homeo antio-allo pathic medical pot shotting for a long time. Unless, of course, the truth gets out.It appears on further inspection (not done by me) that the story is a hoax. From Orac of Respectful Insolence:

The story was so obviously fraudulent, so obviously full of holes, so clearly ridiculous to anyone with even a little knowledge about melanoma and how it is treated, and so clearly containing elements suggestive of an urban legend, that anyone with a even modicum of responsibility and critical thinking skills would have investigated it before spreading it far and wide across the Internet and blogsophere. Clearly the Angry Scientist is no such person. He’s drunk the Kool Aid and is still trying to defend this story…[source]

Go here for the most current post by Orac on this story.