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Lobsters to Be Supersized by Climate Change?

A recent study has shown that increasing CO2 levels could result in larger crustaceans (lobsters, crabs, shrimp, etc.), but species like clams and coral on which these creatures depend would get weaker, adversely affecting crustacean populations.
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Amateurs are trying genetic engineering at home - Yahoo! News

The article title says it all. One of the groups, DIYbio out of Cambridge, Mass. is even setting up a community lab with bargain-basement equipment to attempt anything from new vaccines to new lifeforms. Many of them have minimal formal training in the biological sciences, like San Francisco's Meredith Patterson, a computer programmer, who genetically altered yoghurt bacteria to glow green in the presence of melamine using less than $1000 worth of equipment, most of which she built herself.

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Source: National Geographic
Researchers had previously observed that fungus displayed enhanced growth inside the Chernobyl nuclear facility. Subsequent work has revealed that fungi containing melanin grow faster and larger when exposed to radiation. They believe that the melanin traps ionizing radiation, much like chlorophyll traps sunlight in plants, and uses it as "fuel" using an as-yet unknown mechanism. They hope to adapt this knowledge to raise fungi as food in space where radiation is abundant.

Source: MIT Technology Review
University of Illinois researchers have succeeded in producing sheets of stretchable silicon. This should allow them to place transistors on complex surfaces, or even to flexible surfaces like rubber. One application they envision is a smart surgical glove that could provide information such as the pH of the surgical environment. They also envision wrapping silicon-based photodetectors around a sphere to create an electronic eye.

Source: ABC News
This week, two members of a cell linked to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) have been charged with committing acts of domestic terrorism. The sentences have generated a storm of controversy about whether deliberate acts of arson and vandalism, even when nobody has been killed, can be considered acts of terrorism. The ELF and ALF claim to have committed more than 1,100 acts of arson and vandalism without killing a single person, of which the defendants' cell group claimed 20 acts of arson resulting in more than $40-million (US) in damages. The question remains, is it terrorism when those performing the acts take care to avoid killing people?

Source: Manchester Evening News
Britain has added another piece of technology to their police force: head-mounted video cameras. The article discusses outfitting traffic wardens with the devices, but they have already started testing them out with police officers.

Source: Wired
Dutch scientists have developed a polymer-based bullet-proof vest that is thinner, lighter, and more effective than Kevlar. Unlike previous polymer-based vests, this one does not degrade when exposed to moisture.

Bonus tech note: As of May 25th, Star Wars is 30 years old. The film was first released on this date in 1977. I remember when the movie was released. Does that make me old?
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While I'm thinking of it, apparently some people are unable to see these tech posts (they show up as white-on-white). If you are one of these people, please let me know if yesterday's tech post was visible (I tried putting it in a text editor before pasting it here). Today's was constructed the usual way. For everyone else, carry on in some semblance of normality.

Source: Transmaterial
Bloomframe is part window frame, part balcony. Although I'm a little bit fuzzy as to why it is useful to be able to retract your balcony, the Bloomframe (as the image sequence suggests) starts as a window frame but can be extended out into a balcony.

Source: MSNBC
For those who are interested in keeping track, the number of lawsuits filed by the RIAA since September 2003 is 18,000, of which 1,000 are university students. The article notes that more than a quarter of the students have accepted the settlement offers, each offering to drop the lawsuit in return for paying the RIAA between $3,000(US) and $5,000(US). On a related story, read How I Became A Music Pirate which relates one long-time music lover's failed attempt to listen to music which he had legally purchased online.

Source: National Geographic
One type of parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, has evolved and unusual way to ensure it reproduces. The parasite can only reproduce in the gut of a cat, but spends much of its time infecting rats. The solution? It concentrates within the amagdyla of the mouse and causes the rat to be attracted cat urine, an action that goes counter to healthy rat behaviour for obvious reasons. They have not found any other rat aversions were affected, just the aversion to cat. The parasite is unique in the precision with which it is able to change the behaviour of the host.

Source: PhysOrg
A New Zealand scientists claims to have made a demonstration solar cell that can generate more electricity than conventional systems, is environmentally friendly, and can be produced for a fraction of the cost of contemporary solar cells. The secret? The dye-based solar cells consist of synthetic chlorophyll and titanium dioxide, the latter already a common ingredient in products as diverse as toothpaste and paint. He expects that a dye-based solar panel would cost 1/10th of an equivalent silicon-based solar panel. They plan to move to commercialization of the system after making some more tweaks on the dye and the design of the solar cell.

Source: Nature
Another one pointed out by [livejournal.com profile] ancalagon_tb. People with damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VPC) have been shown to make more Utilitarian decisions that those without VPC damage. Specifically, a recent study showed that VPC-damaged patients were more than twice as likely to make decisions that involve harming another person, even someone it is assumed they care about about, for the greater good. They appear to lack a common moral revulsion to harming other people. This study confirmed that the VPC is involved in the moral decision-making process rather than being activated in response to the decision. For a full list of the dilemma's examined used, go to http://www.neuron.org/cgi/content/full/44/2/389/DC1/ and try them yourself.

January 2010

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