Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sufficiently Advanced Wireless

Arthur C. Clarke once said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" (also known as Clarke's Third Law). That's obviously where the name of this blog comes from. A lot of technology in the modern era would pass as magic to someone from even several decades ago, let alone centuries.

Take wireless phones, for instance. The ability to communicate with someone else--to hear their voice, see their pictures and videos, and read their e-mail messages--when you are on opposite sides of the planet would seem truly mystical to people not inured in our modern culture.

With that in mind, thanks to the magic of modern technology, I'm happy to announce the launch of Sufficiently Advanced Wireless, a new wireless phone company. The marvels of modern technology have allowed Creativity Resources to partner with Sonopia and Verizon to offer wireless service to the world at a reasonable rate. All calls travel across Verizon's network, which I have personally found to be the most reliable network around.

Right now, we are offering a Motorola RAZR phone (a $299 value) for only $49.95 with the purchase of a two-year service agreement. In addition, we are offering an exceptional plan for only $39.95/month that includes:
  • 450 anytime minutes
  • Free nights and weekends
  • unlimited domestic long-distance calling (airtime applies)
  • No charge for domestic roaming (coverage not available in all areas)
  • Voice Mail (airtime charges apply when leaving/retrieving message and for setup)
  • Call Forward
  • Caller ID
  • 3-Way Calling
  • Call Waiting (airtime charges apply for each call)
  • Includes SMS, MMS and Data services. Web SMS is available at no extra charge when sent to other Sonopians or within the network
  • Free 911 calls

Other service plans are available with more minutes, including individual plans and family plans. Check out our plans today!

Monday, June 25, 2007

NASA's Vision for Antarctic Exploration

Monte Davis has an excellent guest post over at Space Cynics that compares space travel with the early explorations of Antarctica by Roald Amundsen.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Moment of Truth

C|Net's Michael Kanellos has an interesting article about how and why America is losing our scientific and technological edge over the rest of the world, and what we can do about it. It's definitely worth a read.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Scramjet Tested at Mach 10

Scientists and engineers from the U.S. and Australia successfully tested a supersonic combustion ramjet--or scramjet--aircraft high above the Australian outback, reaching speeds up to 11,000 km (6,835 miles) per hour, or 10 times the speed of sound.

Flight data will be examined over coming weeks and compared to ground tests conducted in the United States, DARPA chief researcher Steven Walker said in a statement.

Scramjets, in the shorter term, will allow more powerful military aircraft. Eventually, they will allow faster civilian air travel and cheaper satellite launches.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blood Pressure Drug Offers Hope for Parkinson's Treatment

Tests on mice at Northwestern University in Chicago showed isradipine, a drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure, can rejuvenate the brain neurons which are dying in Parkinson's patients.

Isradipine is a calcium-blocker which is usually used to tackle high blood pressure, angina and stroke.

But researchers at Northwestern University found mice, who had been engineered to develop a progressive Parkinson's-type disease, did not become ill when their condition was treated with the drug.

Their dopamine neurons - cells which start to die in Parkinson's patients - appeared to revert back to their original, youthful form. Dopamine is a critical substance which affects the control of movement. When it is lacking, that movement becomes increasingly difficult and unco-ordinated.

While these results are still very preliminary, and nothing has been tested in humans yet, isradipine is a medication that is currently on the market and readily available, with safety studies having already been completed. That could allow human testing to proceed at a rapid pace, which is good news for Parkinson's patients and their friends and families.

Friday, June 8, 2007

IBM Releases Free Pandemic Modeling Tool

IBM announced today that it is releasing its Spatiotemporal Epidemiological Modeler (STEM), software for public health scientists worldwide to forecast how diseases will spread in the same way meteorologists predict the paths of storms, free of charge.

The program provides base information, such as road maps and macro-economics, and allows public health officials to "tweak" it with local details such as air traffic patterns. Information available from anywhere in the world can be added to customize programs that forecast how particular diseases will likely spread in local regions.

IBM's open-source software, a refinement of a program released three years ago, is available to scientists, researchers and public health protectors worldwide through the nonprofit Eclipse Foundation.

Atlantis to Launch Tonight

Space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch this evening at 7:38 PM EDT, and NASA expects only a 20% chance of inclement weather interfering with the launch.

This launch, delayed three months by damage from a freak hailstorm, will be going to the International Space Station to attach two more pieces of structural framework and a new set of solar panels. The astronauts will also relocate an existing set of solar panels and install a rotary joint allowing the panels to track the sun.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Stem Cells Without Embryos

I've seen multiple reports in the past few days about lab work where scientists have turned adult tissue cells (usually skin cells from mice) into fully pluripotent stem cells, capable of differentiating into any type of cell in the body.

Three separate articles, according to the journal Nature, a fairly simple process can be used to reprogram skin cells into fully differentiating stem cells. What’s more, these reprogrammed skin cells can give rise to live mice, contributing to every kind of tissue type, and can even be transmitted via germ cells (sperm or eggs) to succeeding generations.

If this process can be applied to human cells (and so far, there's no proof that it can), it would be a major breakthrough for stem cell research. Those people who oppose embryonic stem cells on moral grounds--due to the destruction of embryos necessary for extracting the stem cells--will lose the basis for their arguments, allowing for greater research to be done than is being done now.

And let's face it, the potential for benefit from stem cells is probably greater than any other biomedical research being done today. Any single area of bio-technology that has potential for curing blindness, paralysis, certain forms of cancer, Parkinson's, and other diseases and disorders is an area of research we can't afford to not be investigating. Hopefully these breakthroughs will enable and encourage more research to be done in these areas.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Pope Gets It

The Vatican announced today that some Holy See buildings will start using solar energy, reflecting Pope Benedict XVI's concern about conserving the Earth's resources.

The first building upgraded to solar will be the Paul VI auditorium which, starting next year, will have its 6,000-square-yard flattened vaulted roof, currently covered with aging cement tiles in need of repair, replaced with photovoltaic tiles that will be capable of providing heat, cooling, and light to the auditorium. When the building is not in use (which is most of the time), that power will be redirected to other buildings in Vatican City.

The Vatican is considering the installation of photovoltaic cells on roofs of other Holy See buildings, although centuries-old landmarks like St. Peter's Basilica won't be touched.

I'm happy to see a world leader, like the Pope, taking the initiative to drive installation of solar power. I would like to see other world leaders, and other governmental bodies, drive toward alternative energy in a sustainable manner. There are a lot of roofs on government buildings and churches around the world, and it's time to put some of those to good use.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Global Warming "Is Three Times Faster Than Worst Predictions"

An article in the UK's Independent newspaper highlights our difficulties in predicting global warming:
...emissions of carbon dioxide have been rising at thrice the rate in the 1990s. The Arctic ice cap is melting three times as fast - and the seas are rising twice as rapidly - as had been predicted.

Not good news, and something we absolutely need to do something about, in spite of what NASA Administrator Mike Griffin seems to think.

Advances in Cancer Research

Some good news this week for people who are concerned about cancer (which is pretty much everyone, I would imagine). Over the past few days, a number of news articles have come out announcing the latest advances in treating and preventing cancer.

An Apple a Day
First, last Friday, researchers at Cornell University announced that they had found a dozen compounds, called triterpenoids, in apple peel that either inhibit or kill cancer cells in laboratory cultures. Three of the compounds had not previously been described in the literature.

Brush on the Marinade, Hold Off the Cancerous Compounds
Then yesterday, the Food Safety Consortium at the University of Arkansas announced that seasoning grilled meat with certain combinations of marinades and spices could not only improve the flavor, but could help fight cancer. Marinades containing rosemary and thyme had the greatest effect on reducing Heterocyclic amines (HCAs), but two other marinades with different herbs seasonings were tested and found to be almost as effective. The rosemary/thyme marinade also contained pepper, allspice and salt. Another marinade included oregano, thyme, garlic and onion. A third marinade had oregano, garlic, basil, onion and parsley.

Liver Cancer Breakthrough Found
Finally, also yesterday, the AP had an article about a breakthrough in treatment of liver cancer. For the first time, doctors said they have found a pill that improves survival for people with liver cancer, a notoriously hard to treat disease diagnosed in more than half a million people globally each year. Patients on the treatment, sorafenib, survived 10.7 months versus almost 8 months for those on dummy pills.

So good progress on the cancer front from all sides.