Russian Cosmonaut’s Blog Much Funnier Than NASA

It’s not just NASA that’s hip to the social media game anymore. Now, the Russian space agency Roscosmos has one of its own blogging from the International Space Station.
The blog, as translated by Russia Today, includes pictures from the ISS — and covers a much different array of topics than you usually see in NASA [...]

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See original: Science News Russian Cosmonaut’s Blog Much Funnier Than NASA

Science Fiction Prototyping [The Quantum Pontiff]

Last Friday I went to at talk by Brian David Johnson from Intel. That sentence sounds like any other that an academic could write--always with the going to seminars we acahacks are. That is until you hear that Brian David Johnson is a "consumer experience architect" in the Digital Home - User Experience Group at Intel. Okay that is a bit odd for a typical seminar speaker, but still lies in the "reasonable" range. And then you find out the title of his talks is "Brain Machines: Robots, Free Will and Fictional Prototyping as a Tool for AI Design" and you say, whah? Which is exactly what a group of about forty of us said upon hearing about this seminar, and is exactly why we showed up to hear the talk!

Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...

See original: ScienceBlogs Select Science Fiction Prototyping [The Quantum Pontiff]

Good news for OA from Netherlands

“The NWO wants scientific and scholarly publications to be freely
accessible to everyone on the Internet. The organisation will provide
five million euros to cover the cost of this kind of publication. This
is a major policy shift for the NWO. Moreover, NWO chairman Jos Engelen
has made an urgent appeal to leading scientists and scholars not to
publish their articles in the established journals but to place them in
an Internet journal.”

 Read more here: http://www.surffoundation.nl/en/actueel/Pages/NWOtoogoesforOpenAccesstop...

See original: PhysMath Central Good news for OA from Netherlands

Nobel Prize winners urge US open access to federally funded research

"The open availability of federally funded research for broad public use in open online archives is a crucial building block in laying a strong national foundation to support accelerated discovery and innovation.  It encourages broader participation in the scientific process by providing equitable access to high-quality research results to researchers at higher education institutions of all kinds – from research-intensive universities to community colleges alike. It can empower more members of the public to become engaged in citizen science efforts in areas that pique their imagination. It will equip entrepreneurs and small business owners with the very latest research developments, allowing them to more effectively compete in the development of new technologies and innovations.  Open availability of this research will expand the worldwide visibility of the research conducted in the U.S. and increase the impact of our collective investment in research."

 Read full text here: http://www.taxpayeraccess.org/supporters/scientists/nobelists_2009.shtml

See original: PhysMath Central Nobel Prize winners urge US open access to federally funded research

Tobacco harm reduction - no smoke without fire

Smoking kills millions of people every year and yet the medical community seems pathologically opposed to any measure to tackle the issue other than through the promotion of total abstinence. Carl Phillips suggests in his paper in the Harm Reduction Journal this month that smoking for just one month is more dangerous than switching to a smokeless nicotine product for a lifetime.

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Take a moment to take a deep drag on a few breathtaking statistics.

Across the world approximately 1.3 billion people use tobacco products and by 2030 it is estimated that 10 million people will die annually from smoking-related diseases and 70% of these deaths will be in developing countries. We’ve known about the harmful effects of smoking for over 50 years and yet over that same period 6 million Britons have died of tobacco-related disease.

It’s no secret that it’s hard to stop smoking. Bandolier published an interesting little analysis of trials which included smokers and heroin addicts. They asked: which is the most addictive? In a rather elegant twist they looked at the cessation rates in the placebo arms of all the relevant trials. Cessation rates for smokers were around 8-9% yet for opiates users were around 43%. No surprises there - smoking is extraordinarily difficult to stop. Even in those that are highly motivated 12 month cessation rates are often no better than 10%. Opposing a harm reduction approach might be doing a grave disservice to those that just find it too tough to stop.

I am intrigued by the concept of tobacco harm reduction - not least because it requires a considerable effort of will to put aside a pathological distrust of Big Tobacco. Some of this post is taken from one I posted over at doc2doc a few months ago. The very first comment on the blogpost at doc2doc sums up the gut reaction of many doctors:

I think we should dismiss this out of hand! This argument is like low tar cigarettes are healthier..so you can smoke more of them. There is no such things as a safe(r) cigarette. The safer cigarette makes no sense given my understanding of how nicotine receptors work, not to say addiction. Do not trust Big Tobacco who have a vested interest in not losing their customers.

End of. Decision made. One suspects that the notion of smokeless nicotine products is simply not endorsable by the scientific orthodoxy in any shape or form. Phillips addresses all the arguments and using a back of a fag packet (though he prefers an envelope) calculation suggests that:

Whatever the explanation for it, the present analysis shows that anti-THR [tobacco harm reduction] activism is deadly. Hiding THR from smokers, waiting for them to decide to quite entirely or waiting for a new anti-smoking magic bullet, causes the deaths of more smokers every month than a lifetime using low-risk nicotine products ever could.

If you are inclined to read the paper then flick to the back first and read the competing interests statement. Not for our Carl a bland 'nothing to declare' and instead it reads like a heartfelt plea that we pause, ignore the gut reaction and consider the evidence. It also speaks volumes for the ignominious role of mavericks in the scientific world; they may occasionally be lauded as heroes but more often they will be squeezed out of funding, shunned at the peer-review review stage and ostracised by their own community.

Within the wider medical community tobacco harm reduction remains an exercise in thinking the unthinkable. Doctors recommending it may be vilified and it opens up a researcher to accusations of acting as an industry patsy; labelled as a dull-eyed lackey in the pay of malignant giants. Yet it could save millions of lives and it certainly merits wider debate.

Phillips, C. (2009). Debunking the claim that abstinence is usually healthier for smokers than switching to a low-risk alternative, and other observations about anti-tobacco-harm-reduction arguments Harm Reduction Journal, 6 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1477-7517-6-29...

Phillips, C. (2009) Debunking the claim that abstinence is usually healthier for smokers than switching to a low-risk alternative, and other observations about anti-tobacco-harm-reduction arguments. Harm Reduction Journal, 6(1), 29. DOI: 10.1186/1477-7517-6-29  Debunking the claim that abstinence is usually healthier for smokers than switching to a low-risk alternative, and other observations about anti-tobacco-harm-reduction arguments


See original: Research Blogging - All Topics - English Tobacco harm reduction - no smoke without fire

Coming to a city near you: The Great American Hackathon

We love seeing collaborative efforts to help create technologies that are going to solve problems for society, so we're thrilled at all of the attention and focus that's been paid to the Great American Hackathon. On the weekend of December 12-13, coders from Minnesota to New York to Philadelphia to Chicago will be dedicating their time and efforts to help build the new open source technologies our country needs. The Hackathon is being supported by Open Source for America, Code for America, and Sunlight Labs, and we're happy to encourage our community to participate.

See original: Expert Labs Coming to a city near you: The Great American Hackathon

Tobacco harm reduction – no smoke without fire

Smoking kills millions of people every year and yet the medical community seems pathologically opposed to any measure to tackle the issue other than through the promotion of total abstinence.  Carl Phillips suggests in his paper in the Harm Reduction Journal this month that smoking for just one month is more dangerous than switching to a smokeless nicotine [...]...

Phillips, C. (2009) Debunking the claim that abstinence is usually healthier for smokers than switching to a low-risk alternative, and other observations about anti-tobacco-harm-reduction arguments. Harm Reduction Journal, 6(1), 29. DOI: 10.1186/1477-7517-6-29  Debunking the claim that abstinence is usually healthier for smokers than switching to a low-risk alternative, and other observations about anti-tobacco-harm-reduction arguments


See original: Research Blogging - All Topics - English Tobacco harm reduction – no smoke without fire

Coming to a city near you: The Great American Hackathon

We love seeing collaborative efforts to help create technologies that are going to solve problems for society, so we're thrilled at all of the attention and focus that's been paid to the Great American Hackathon. On the weekend of December 12-13, coders from Minnesota to New York to Philadelphia to Chicago will be dedicating their time and efforts to help build the new open source technologies our country needs. The Hackathon is being supported by Open Source for America, Code for America, and Sunlight Labs, and we're happy to encourage our community to participate.

See original: Expert Labs Coming to a city near you: The Great American Hackathon

That (carbon) sinking feeling

The world’s carbon dioxide ‘sinks’ are not able to keep up with the amount of the greenhouse gas being produced, according to a paper published in Nature Geoscience.

Reviewing the recent literature Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia, and colleagues report that between 1959 and 2008 43% of each year’s carbon dioxide emissions have remained in the atmosphere with the rest being absorbed by land and ocean sinks. However in the last 50 years they suggest that the fraction remaining in the atmosphere has increased from about 40% to 45%.

They also found that a 29% rise in carbon emissions between 2000 and 2008 can be attributed to a large extent to burning coal and the growth of the so-called ‘emerging economies’.

“The Earth’s carbon sinks are complex and there are some gaps in our understanding, particularly in our ability to link human-induced CO2 emissions to atmospheric CO2 concentrations on a year-to-year basis,” says Le Quéré (press release). “But, if we can reduce the uncertainty about the carbon sinks, our data could be used to verify the effectiveness of climate mitigations policies.”

Uncertainties in this area are huge. Another recent paper in Geophysical Research Letters suggested there has been no decline in the fraction absorbed by sinks.

The author of that paper, Wolfgang Knorr of the University of Bristol, says, “We are just at the very edge of being able to detect a trend in the airborne fraction. Our apparently conflicting results demonstrate what doing real science is like and just how difficult it is to accurately quantify such data.” (Press release.)

One thing the authors can apparently agree on: if global warming is going to be stopped emissions are going to have to be reduced drastically.

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See original: Science News That (carbon) sinking feeling

No Impact Man Movie Showing Near You

A couple of Seattleites (myself included) have banded together to host a screening of the No Impact Man documentary sometime during the two weeks of Copenhagen Climate Conference (December 7th through 18th). This great event was organized by the No Impact Project and the Center for the New American Dream to have community hosted screenings [...]

See original: Steady State Blog No Impact Man Movie Showing Near You

Carbon Guzzler

Ocean absorbs billions of tons of man-made carbon each year...

Khatiwala, S., Primeau, F., & Hall, T. (2009) Reconstruction of the history of anthropogenic CO2 concentrations in the ocean. Nature, 462(7271), 346-349. DOI: 10.1038/nature08526  Reconstruction of the history of anthropogenic CO2 concentrations in the ocean


See original: Research Blogging - All Topics - English Carbon Guzzler

Does Afghanistan Need One Laptop Per Child?

Some friends of mine from college asked the following question about OLPC Afghanistan:

Empowering girls' education

Greg Mortensen built 200 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan for less than the cost of one cruise missile. In doing so, he has done vastly more to end Islamic fundamentalism than the entire US effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is it enough, C.?

No, it isn't enough. Afghanistan needs its own army and police built up, plus a civil service and infrastructure: roads, schools, clinics, electricity, phones, Internet, microfinance. But if you do all of that, and don't build and supply schools, it all falls apart. The Taliban demonstrate this fact themselves by destroying every school they can get to, other than their own boys-only madrassas, and
shooting teachers.

See original: One Laptop Per Child News Does Afghanistan Need One Laptop Per Child?

If I were called Rusty Thomas, I might overcompensate a bit, too

Operation Save America has begun. Some of the fundagelicals are hoping to get militant, and I don't mean in that same sense that some atheists are called "militant", which generally means "atheists who say something". No, they are organizing and training kids to get out there and fight spiritual warfare. If you're wondering what they could be fighting for, we have som choice quotes from Rev. Rusty Lee Thomas, who wrote the manual for young Jesus warriors.

A patriarch is a family ruler. He is the man in charge. Biblical manhood demands men … defend and shield or cover women from injury, evil or oppression.

Feminists charge that Christianity promotes a patriarchal religion, which oppresses women and steals their potential. Although it is true that Christianity is patriarchal, the function of true patriarchy is to protect, provide, and care for women and children. Biblical patriarchy is expressed as chivalry.

A woman can manipulate, dominate and control a man to the point that his manhood is slowly eaten away like a cancer … Too many women seek value by trying to become men, lead as men, and be aggressive as men.

At least it's reassuring that they willingly cut their troop strength in half by treating women as servile weaklings who might eat away their manhood. I wonder if "Rusty Thomas" is feeling the effects of a lifetime of subliminal messages every time someone says his name?

He's vague on the details of the coming War for Christianity, but he is certain about one thing.

Beginning with God slaying the animals to cover Adam and Eve after the fall…to the final sacrifice by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, one theme rings true. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.

How barbarically bloody-minded.

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See original: Science News If I were called Rusty Thomas, I might overcompensate a bit, too