Monday, December 19, 2005

Dead Sea Fungus Survives In Salt

Dead Sea fungus's secret of survival may help crops
Kurt Kleiner

An extraordinary fungus that manages to thrive in the super-salty Dead Sea could one day open up new genetic approaches to creating crops that can tolerate saline soils.

The fungus Eurotium herbariorum is able to tolerate the Dead Sea's incredible salt content of 340 grams per litre – about 10 times saltier than ocean water. Most of the Earth's organisms are far less tolerant of salt, and will dehydrate and die if exposed to too much of it.

But researchers are interested in developing salt-tolerant food crops because soil salinity is increasing in some parts of the world. Land that needs to be constantly irrigated gradually becomes more saline, and crop yields go down.

The researchers say if the gene could be inserted into a plant, it might eventually be used to increase stress tolerance in crops. They add that other genes from Dead Sea organisms might also be promising.

Does anyone see possible problems with cultivating salt tolerant fungus? I bet it would thrive in the snack chips aisle in the grocery store? It would certainly enjoy munching away on the world's supply of salt cured meats.

New Scientist Breaking News - Dead Sea fungus's secret of survival may help crops

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Clothes That Connect

The need to stay connected.
"Libertyville, Ill and Burlington, VT. – Kicking off the winter sports season, Motorola Inc, a global leader in wireless communications, and Burton Snowboards today announce the commercial availability of the Bluetooth-enabled Audex Jacket Series.

The new Audex jacket allows winter sports enthusiasts to experience seamless connectivity – at the touch of a button – from one environment to the next. The product was jointly developed by Motorola and Burton to bring wearable technology to active consumers

“It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the commercial availability of the Audex Jacket Series,” said Bruce Hawver, VP and Director, Companion Products Group, Motorola, Inc. “Whether you’re an amateur rider or professional, this jacket equipped with Bluetooth wireless technology will change the way you connect – on and off the slopes.”"

At the center of the Audex jacket is a control panel located on the left-hand sleeve, allowing for simple and easy access to your incoming and outgoing calls, and music selections. Connect a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone to the panel wirelessly, while hooking up your iPod player via hidden, unobtrusive wires within the jacket. Speakers and a microphone are located in the hood for taking and making calls as well as listening to music.

The Bluetooth®-enabled Audex™ Jacket Series is now available online at and Burton specialty shops. Costs range from $599.95 for the jacket.
For more information on product and Motorola’s relationship with Burton, visit
Motorola Mediacenter - Press Releases:

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

"Pass-thoughts" Thinking To Unlock Your Door

Canadian researchers hope to soon be able to use brain waves to unlock doors and get access to bank accounts.
Julie Thorpe, a researcher at Carleton University in Ottawa wants to take the idea much much further.

She says it is possible to do away with key cards, pin numbers and a litany of other security tools that allow people to retrieve bank money, access computer data or enter restricted buildings.

"A user would simply think their password," said Thorpe, who hopes to develop the first biometric security device to read your mind to authenticate users.

Her research builds on other efforts to develop rudimentary brain-computer interfaces to help paralyzed patients control their environment and communicate.
Whereas slight differences in brainwave patterns created difficulties for researchers trying to build universal tools that could translate thoughts into computer commands, these peculiarities make brainwaves ideal for security applications, Thorpe said.

"You could use a sound or music or childhood memory as your pass. You could even flash someone an image to help them remember their passthought," she said.

Researchers seek brain wave access to bank accounts and homes

Passthoughts: Authenticating With Our Minds (pdf)

The price of eternal vigilance is indifference

Sentenced to a cell(phone)
Cellphones give a sense of staying connected, but a new study finds the devices are actually interfering with family life.
By Marilyn Gardner

Evidence from interviews quoted in above article distilled into McLuhan's Tetrad, The Four Laws of Media:

Tetrad of Cell Phone Use 2005

What is enhanced, intensified, accelerated or made possible?
Stay connected with family and work
Being in touch.
Being reachable.
Flexibility in scheduling time.

What is replaced, pushed aside, displaced or rendered obsolete?
Separation of home and work lives.
Being unreachable.
Sacrificing family for work.
Boundaries between work and family time.
Being out of touch.

What older, previously obsolesced, is retrieved or brought back?
Connection with family
Able to attend children’s activities.
Caring for older family members.
Family input into decisions.

When pushed to an extreme, what is produced or what does it reverse into?
Intrusions from work into home life.
Ringing about trivial issues
Bringing job worries into the home.

“Absent Presence”
McLuhan – “When you are on the phone, you have no body.”

“You trivialize me.”

Addiction to being in touch.
Fear of missing something.
Losing our ability to concentrate on one task.

The Estate of Marshall McLuhan

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Views of the Political Storm After Katrina

New York Times vs. New Orleans Times-Picayune

It always fascinates me how 'unbiased' journalists can describe the same event and give such different interpretations.

I noticed one striking example this morning. The Louisiana govorners office released a bunch of memos and emails related to the response to hurricane Katrina. They were compiled at the request of congressional inquiries into the state's preparedness.

I saw two articles describing the communications. The New York Times described memos that "demonstrate the enormous sense of frustration that overcame Ms. Blanco's staff members."
The New Orleans piece, also published in the Houston Chronicle, described it as, "The Louisiana governor's staff tried to protect her image during the slow aid response."

A single quote was used as an example in both articles:

The documents and correspondence put in full light the rivalry between the White House and the governor, a Democrat, along with the rising anger in Louisiana as requests for federal assistance went unanswered.
"We need to keep working to get our national surrogates to explain the facts - that the federal response was anemic and had been shortchanged by budget cuts and avoiding responsibilities like protecting Louisiana levees and wetlands," Mr. Kopplin wrote in one e-mail message a week after the storm hit.

New Orleans Times-Picayune:
E-mail turned over by the state to the congressional committees investigating the hurricane response show that the governor's senior staff was deeply involved in trying to preserve her political standing and make sure that the White House was blamed for the slow pace of the initial response.
"We need to keep working to get our national surrogates to explain the facts — that the federal response was anemic and had been shortchanged by budget cuts and avoiding responsibilities like protecting Louisiana levees and wetlands," Chief of Staff Andy Kopplin wrote to senior staff on the morning of Sept. 4, six days after Katrina made landfall.

History, it seems, even when based on a single piece of evidence can have different meanings.