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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Alabama, USA Tornado

We are no match for Mother Nature, but unlike her awesome power, humans have hearts and your heart has to go out to those who survive such disasters. The photos are unbelievable.

A tornado moves through Tuscaloosa, Ala. Wednesday, April 27, 2011. A wave of severe storms laced with tornadoes strafed the South

Downtown

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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in News Article, Photo

 

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More on Zombies

One would think I have this sick fascination with Zombies, I honestly don’t. I just happened to write a short story about The Walking Dead and received a lot of nice comments from the piece. At that point I moved onto other things, but it seems like every time I turn around there is another new news piece regarding Zombies. Like the blog I posted Zombie Ants. Now this new one “The Zombie Autopsies”.

Actually, it is starting to make me feel like we are slowly being told that such a virus really does exist and that it may be released. . .

(Only kidding, I Hope!)

In "The Zombie Autopsies," Dr. Steven Schlozman imagines a virus that strips the brain down to its basest levels.

Hope You Enjoy the Article, it is a bit long and originally was posted on CNN.com

An airborne virus is rapidly turning people into zombies. Two-thirds of humanity has been wiped out. Scientists desperately look for a cure, even as their own brains deteriorate and the disease robs them of what we consider life.

Relax, it’s only fiction — at least, for now. This apocalyptic scenario frames the new novel “The Zombie Autopsies” by Dr. Steven Schlozman, a child psychiatrist who holds positions at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Program in Child Psychiatry.

You might not expect someone with those credentials to take zombies seriously, but it turns out the undead are a great way to explore real-world health issues: why certain nasty diseases can destroy the brain, how global pandemics create chaos and fear, and what should be done about people infected with a highly contagious and incurable lethal illness.

“One of the things zombie novels do is they bring up all these existential concerns that happen in medicine all the time: How do you define what’s alive?” says Schlozman, who has been known to bounce between zombie fan conventions and academic meetings.

“When is it appropriate to say someone’s ‘as-good-as-dead,’ which is an awful, difficult decision?”

What a zombie virus would do to the brain

So maybe you’ve seen “Night of the Living Dead,” read “World War Z,” or can’t wait for the return of the AMC show “The Walking Dead,” but you probably don’t know what differentiates the brains of humans and zombies.

First things first: How does the zombie disease infect its victims? Many stories in the genre talk about biting, but Schlozman’s novel imagines a deliberately engineered virus whose particles can travel in the air and remain potent enough to jump from one person to another in a single sneeze.
Now, then, to the brain-eating. The zombie virus as Schlozman describes it basically gnaws the brain down to the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure responsible for the “fight or flight” response. The zombies always respond by fighting because another critical part of the brain, the ventromedial hypothalamus, which tells you when you’ve eaten enough, is broken.

The brain’s frontal lobes, responsible for problem-solving, are devoured by the virus, so zombies can’t make complex decisions. Impairment in the cerebellum means they can’t walk well, either. Also, these humanoids have an unexplained predilection for eating human flesh.

“The zombies in this book are stumbling, shambling, hungry as hell,” Schlozman said. “Basically they’re like drunk crocodiles; they’re not smart, they don’t know who you are or what you are.”

Why we love those rotting, hungry, putrid zombies

How a zombie virus would be made
So the bloodthirsty undead wander (or crawl) around spreading a lethal illness ominously called ataxic neurodegenerative satiety deficiency syndrome, or ANSD, for short.

“When something really terrifying comes along, especially in medicine or that has a medical feel to it, we always give it initials. That’s the way we distance ourselves from it,” Schlozman said.

The virus has several brain-destroying components, one of which is a “prion,” meaning a protein like the one that causes mad cow disease. In real life, prions twist when they are in an acidic environment and become dangerous, Schlozman said. How our own environment has changed to make prions infectious — getting from the soil to the cows in mad cow disease, for instance — is still a mystery.
Now here’s something to send chills up your spine: In Schlozman’s world, airborne prions can be infectious, meaning mad cow disease and similar nervous-system destroyers could theoretically spread just like the flu. Swiss and German researchers recently found that mice that had only one minute of exposure to aerosols containing prions died of mad cow disease, as reported in the journal PLoS Pathogens. A follow-up described in Journal of the American Medical Association showed the same for a related disease that’s only found in animals called scrapie. Of course, these are mice in artificially controlled conditions in a laboratory, and humans do not exhale prions, but it could have implications for safety practices nonetheless.

Like mad cow disease, the zombie disease Schlozman describes also progresses in acidic environments. In the book, a major corporation doles out implantable meters that infuse the body with chemicals to artificially lower acidity when it gets too high. But, sadly, when acidity is too low, that also induces symptoms that mimic the zombie virus, so it’s not a longterm solution. Everyone who gets exposed eventually succumbs, Schlozman said.

As for the unknown component of the zombie disease that would help slowly zombifying researchers in their quest for a cure, that’s up for the reader to figure out — and the clues are all in the book, Schlozman said.

How we’d fight back
You can’t ethically round up fellow survivors to kick some zombie butt unless the undead have technically died. And in Schlozman’s book, a group of religious leaders get together and decide that when people reach stage four of the disease, they are basically dead. That, of course, permits zombie “deanimation,” or killing.

The ‘zombie theology’ behind the walking dead
And how do you kill a zombie? Much of zombie fiction knocks out zombies through shots to the head. That, Schlozman said, is because the brain stem governs the most basic functioning: breathing and heartbeat.

A zombie-apocalypse disease like the one he describes probably wouldn’t evolve on its own in the real world, he said.

But, as we’ve seen, individual symptoms of zombies do correspond to real ailments. And if they all came together, the disease would be creepily efficient at claiming bodies, Schlozman said.
Bad news, folks: Even if people contracted a zombie virus through bites, the odds of our survival aren’t great.

A mathematician at the University of Ottawa named Robert Smith? (who uses the question mark to distinguish himself from other Robert Smiths, of course), has calculated that if one zombie were introduced to a city of 500,000 people, after about seven days, every human would either be dead or a zombie.

“We’re in big, big trouble if this ever happens,” Smith? said. “We can kill the zombies a bit, but we’re not very good at killing zombies fundamentally. What tends to happen is: The zombies just win, and the more they win, the more they keep winning” because the disease spreads so rapidly.
The best solution is a strategic attack, rather than an “every man for himself” defense scenario, he said. It would take knowledge and intelligence, neither of which zombies have, to prevail.

Why study zombies?
In his day job, Smith? models how real infectious diseases spread. But he’s already reaped benefits from his work on zombies. For instance, while many mathematical models only deal with one complicated aspect of a situation at a time, he tackled two — zombie infection and zombie-killing — when it came to speculating about outbreaks.

When it came time for modeling of real-world human papillomavirus (HPV), then, Smith? felt equipped to handle many facets of it at the same time, such as heterosexual and homosexual transmission of HPV.

“Knowing what we knew from zombies allowed us to actually take on these more complicated models without fear,” he said.

Studying zombies is also a great way to get young people excited about science. Smith?, who was on a zombie-science panel with Schlozman through the National Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange in 2009, has also seen math-phobic people get interested in mathematics by reading about his work with zombies.

“There are insights that we gain from the movies, and from fiction, from fun popular culture stuff, that actually can really help us think about the way that science works, and also the way science is communicated,” he said.

And as to why people like reading about zombies and watching zombies so much, Schlozman points to the impersonal nature of things in our society, from waiting in line in the DMV to being placed on hold on a call with a health insurance company.

Think about all the situations in daily life where you sense a general lack of respect for humanity, and zombies make a little more sense.

“The zombies themselves represent a kind of commentary on modernity,” Schlozman says. “We’re increasingly disconnected. That might be the current appeal.”

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in News Article, Sci-fi, Science

 

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The Water Planet – Photo

And so we float through space and time like a giant blue gem teeming with life. A planet that began as a fiery gaseous world. Mother Earth has seen so many changes and evolved slowly into this rare liquid beauty. It is only from perspectives like this that we realize just how fragile our planet really is.

The Water Planet

Image Credit: NASA

Viewed from space, the most striking feature of our planet is the water. In both liquid and frozen form, it covers 75% of the Earth’s surface. It fills the sky with clouds. Water is practically everywhere on Earth, from inside the planet’s rocky crust to inside the cells of the human body.

This detailed, photo-like view of Earth is based largely on observations from MODIS, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, on NASA’s Terra satellite. It is one of many images of our watery world featured in a new story examining water in all of its forms and functions.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Photo

 

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NASA Captures a Monster Prominence – Video

NASA image captured Feb. 24, 2011

To see an image showing the size of the prominence in comparison to the size of earth.

NASA image posted March 2, 2011

When a rather large-sized (M 3.6 class) flare occurred near the edge of the Sun, it blew out a gorgeous, waving mass of erupting plasma that swirled and twisted over a 90-minute period (Feb. 24, 2011). This event was captured in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft . Some of the material blew out into space and other portions fell back to the surface. Because SDO images are super-HD, we can zoom in on the action and still see exquisite details. And using a cadence of a frame taken every 24 seconds, the sense of motion is, by all appearances, seamless. Sit back and enjoy the jaw-dropping solar show.

Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in News Article, Photo, Video

 

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Eyjafjallajökull Volcano – Photo

Eyjafjallajökull Volcano Photo, Iceland Wallpaper – National Geographic Photo of the Day.

Cool photo to make as a screen saver or background. Hope you enjoy!

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Photo

 

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ICESCAPE – Photo

There is no doubt about it. Our polar ice caps are melting. It does not matter if this is a natural phenomenon, the result of mankind or the effects from the sun’s solar output. It can be termed Global Warming or Climate Change, but the fact remains that our ice caps are melting away.

A broader look at our Solar System indicates that all of the planets are showing an increase in temperature. This may be because our solar system is a binary system, meaning we have two suns, not one. This second sun may have burnt out and is still cooling like charcoal in a barbecue. In this case, the second sun would be a brown dwarf. If our sun and our known planets orbit this brown dwarf, and if ancient text logs are correct that this other sun has a 26,000 year orbit. Then we are on the cusp of this close approach and could be the reason for planetary warming.

So it could be an infinite number of reasons why our ice is melting, but the fact remains that we don’t know the reasons why and it makes these investigative trips worth its weight in gold as we need the knowledge in order to prepare. There is scientific proof that our ice caps have melted away and reappeared many times before, but what we don’t know is how these changes affected the inhabitants of the planet. That is what we need to find out.

Regardless. The photo is cool.

The terrain for the scientific work conducted by ICESCAPE scientists on July 4, 2010, was Arctic sea ice and melt ponds in the Chukchi Sea. The five-week field mission was dedicated to sampling the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the ocean and sea ice. Impacts of Climate change on the Eco-Systems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment, or ICESCPE Mission, is a multi-year NASA shipborne project. The bulk of the research will take place in the Beaufort and Chukchi Sea’s in summer of 2010 and fall of 2011.

Image Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2011 in New Article, Photo, Science

 

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Bloggers beware: WordPress.com data breached

Article Appeared on MSNBC.com

WordPress.com, which hosts millions of blogs using the popular WordPress blogging software, announced yesterday that its servers had been breached and that sensitive data was likely taken.

“We presume our source code was exposed and copied,” WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg said in a blog posting yesterday. “While much of our code is Open Source, there are sensitive bits of our and our partners’ code.”

Mullenweg was unusually candid for a company president disclosing a major data breach.
“We don’t have any specific suggestions for our users beyond reiterating these security fundamentals,” he wrote. “Use a strong password, meaning something random with numbers and punctuation; use different passwords for different sites; if you have used the same password on different sites, switch it to something more secure.”

He added that “it appears information disclosed was limited,” but said the company would continue to investigate. WordPress.com’s own statistics page says it hosts more than 19 million blogs. Last month, the site was hit by a crippling distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, which temporarily knocked all WordPress.com sites offline.

Mullenweg said at the time that the DDoS attack “may have been politically motivated against one of our non-English blogs,” but further details have not been disclosed. Mullenweg developed the WordPress blogging software in 2003, when he was 19. The software is free and open-source, and can be downloaded from WordPress.org. Millions of websites use WordPress software without being connected to WordPress.com.
In 2005, Mullenweg founded a software-development company called Automattic, which in turn launched WordPress.com as a competitor to larger blogging hosts such as Blogger and LiveJournal.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Computer, News Article

 

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