Monday, December 8, 2008

Copper and Iron Smelting

Sharpening Knives and Axes

The Machete

How to make fire with water and a condom

Ultimate Survival Technolgies

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Celestial Navigavtion

The Ottomani Sun Compass

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Best .338 Sniper Rifle in the World

Photo of McMillan Bros Tac-50 used by Canadian Special Forces

The sniper is one of the most feared specialists of war and he is one workman who definitely relies on the right tools. There are a surprising number of sniper rifle manufacturers out there, so it’s a big call when one declares itself to be the best .338 in the world, though the raw specifications of the Accuracy International L115A3 sniper rifle suggest there is merit to the claim. The UKP23,000 (USD$34,000) rifle was designed incorporating performance-enhancing features gleaned from international target shooting and fires an 8.59mm bullet which is heavier than the 7.62mm round of the previous L96 and hence less likely to be deflected over extremely long ranges. Put the 6.8kg rifle in the right hands and it can hit a human-sized target from 1400 metres. Even at that range, it hits harder than a .44 Magnum does in the same room.

The muzzle velocity of the L115A3 is 936 metres per second (up from 838m/s) giving it an effective range of 1400 metres compared to the L96’s 800m, and not surprisingly, the Schmidt & Bender day sights now magnify up to 25 times, compared with the L96’s 12 times.

The L115A3s are part of the British Ministry of Defence’s Sniper System Improvement Programme (SSIP), which includes new night sights, spotting scopes, laser range finders and tripods.

The first batch of SSIP systems was deployed to Afghanistan with members of 16 Air Assault Brigade earlier this year and reports suggest the claim of "the best .338 sniper rifle in the world"

Portsmouth-based Accuracy International was established in 1978 by two-times Olympic shooting Gold medallist Malcolm Cooper, and its high-accuracy sniper rifles are in use with military and police forces worldwide including many elite military units (the British SAS and reportedly the US Delta Force too).

In terms of the best .5o sniper rifle in the world, that mantle almost certainly goes to the McMillan Bros Tac-50 used by Canadian Special Forces in Afghanistan that holds the all time record kill at 2430 meters.

The skill of Canadian snipers combined with the fire power of the “Big Mac” made it very dangerous for the Taliban fighters to expose themselves if only for a few seconds. There are many accounts of the 2430 meter kill shot on the net. That's two and a half kilometres!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A brief encounter changed the world forever

A chance encounter about 1.9 billion years ago, led to life on Earth, say scientists.

New research finds that an amoeba-like organism engulfed a bacterium that had developed the power to use sunlight to break down water to make oxygen.

The bacterium could have been intended as prey, but instead became incorporated into its attacker's body, transforming it into the ancestor of every tree, flowering plant and seaweed on Earth today.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cosmic Calendar

Forgotten Experiment May Explain Origins of Life

Originally considered a dud, an old volcano-in-a-bottle experiment designed to mimic conditions that may have brewed the components of life might have been right on target.

After reanalyzing the results of unpublished research conducted by Stanley Miller in 1953, chemists realized that his experiment had actually produced a wealth of amino acids — the protein foundation of life.

Miller is famed for the results of experiments on amino acid formation in a jar filled with methane, hydrogen and ammonia — his version of the primordial soup. However, his estimates of atmospheric composition were eventually considered inaccurate. The experiment became regarded as a general rather than useful example of how the first organic molecules may have assembled.

But the latest results, derived from samples found in an old box by one of Miller's former graduate students, come from a device that mimicked volcanic conditions now believed to have existed three billion years ago. The findings suggest that amino acids could have formed when lightning struck pools of gas on the flanks of volcanoes, and are a fitting coda for the late father of prebiotic chemistry.

"What's amazing is that he did it," said study co-author Jeffrey Bada, a Scripps Institute of Oceanography biochemist and Miller's former student. "All I did is have access to his extracts."

Bada stumbled across the original experiment by accident when a colleague of Miller's mentioned having seen a box of experimental samples in Miller's office. Bada, who inherited Miller's scientific possessions after his death in 2007, found the box — literally labeled "1953-1954 experiments" — in his own office.

Inside it were samples taken by Miller from a device that spewed a concentrated stream of primordial gases over an electrical spark. It was a high-powered variation on the steady-steam apparatus that earned him fame — but unlike that device, it appeared to have produced few amino acids, and was unmentioned in his landmark 1953 Science study, "A Production of Amino Acids Under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions."

But Miller didn't have access to high-performance liquid chromatography, which lets chemists break down and classify samples with once-unthinkable levels of precision. And when Bada's team reanalyzed the disregarded samples, they found no fewer than 22 amino acids, several of which were never seen by Miller in a lifetime of primordial modeling.

Perhaps amino acids first formed when the gases in Miller's device accumulated around active volcanoes, said Bada. "Instead of having global synthesis of organic molecules, you had a lot of little localized factories in the form of these volcanic islands," he said.

"The amino acid precursors formed in a plume and concentrated along tidal shores. They settled in the water, underwent further reactions there, and as they washed along the shore, became concentrated and underwent further polymerization events," explained Indiana University biochemist Adam Johnson, a co-author of the study. "And lightning" — the final catalyst in the equation — "tends to be extremely common with volcanic eruptions."

Luke Leman, a Scripps Institute biochemist who was not involved in the study, published today in Science, agreed.

"These findings add to a growing body of literature suggesting that areas near volcanoes could have been hotspots of organic chemistry on early Earth," he said.

Leman continued, "These findings will likely inspire a next generation of prebiotic chemists, much as Miller's original experimental results have inspired the field for more than fifty years."

Added Bada, "There's a lesson here: don't throw anything away."

The Miller Volcanic Spark Discharge Experiment

Christian the Lion Reunion

Sky Diving Sans Parachute

The Goodbye and F-You Letter

Written by Andrew Lahde

Today I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, “What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it.” I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

There are far too many people for me to sincerely thank for my success. However, I do not want to sound like a Hollywood actor accepting an award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the endless list those deserving thanks know who they are.

I will no longer manage money for other people or institutions. I have enough of my own wealth to manage. Some people, who think they have arrived at a reasonable estimate of my net worth, might be surprised that I would call it quits with such a small war chest. That is fine; I am content with my rewards. Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. Steve Balmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten. I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.

So this is it. With all due respect, I am dropping out. Please do not expect any type of reply to emails or voicemails within normal time frames or at all. Andy Springer and his company will be handling the dissolution of the fund. And don’t worry about my employees, they were always employed by Mr. Springer’s company and only one (who has been well-rewarded) will lose his job.

I have no interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate. I truly do not have a strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life — where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management — with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.

On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to make a modest proposal. First, I point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reigned in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. Since Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith passed, I would argue that there has been a dearth of worthy philosophers in this country, at least ones focused on improving government. Capitalism worked for two hundred years, but times change, and systems become corrupt. George Soros, a man of staggering wealth, has stated that he would like to be remembered as a philosopher. My suggestion is that this great man start and sponsor a forum for great minds to come together to create a new system of government that truly represents the common man’s interest, while at the same time creating rewards great enough to attract the best and brightest minds to serve in government roles without having to rely on corruption to further their interests or lifestyles. This forum could be similar to the one used to create the operating system, Linux, which competes with Microsoft’s near monopoly. I believe there is an answer, but for now the system is clearly broken.

Lastly, while I still have an audience, I would like to bring attention to an alternative food and energy source. You won’t see it included in BP’s, “Feel good. We are working on sustainable solutions,” television commercials, nor is it mentioned in ADM’s similar commercials. But hemp has been used for at least 5,000 years for cloth and food, as well as just about everything that is produced from petroleum products. Hemp is not marijuana and vice versa. Hemp is the male plant and it grows like a weed, hence the slang term. The original American flag was made of hemp fiber and our Constitution was printed on paper made of hemp. It was used as recently as World War II by the U.S. Government, and then promptly made illegal after the war was won. At a time when rhetoric is flying about becoming more self-sufficient in terms of energy, why is it illegal to grow this plant in this country? Ah, the female. The evil female plant — marijuana. It gets you high, it makes you laugh, it does not produce a hangover. Unlike alcohol, it does not result in bar fights or wife beating. So, why is this innocuous plant illegal? Is it a gateway drug? No, that would be alcohol, which is so heavily advertised in this country. My only conclusion as to why it is illegal, is that Corporate America, which owns Congress, would rather sell you Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and other additive drugs, than allow you to grow a plant in your home without some of the profits going into their coffers. This policy is ludicrous. It has surely contributed to our dependency on foreign energy sources. Our policies have other countries literally laughing at our stupidity, most notably Canada, as well as several European nations (both Eastern and Western). You would not know this by paying attention to U.S. media sources though, as they tend not to elaborate on who is laughing at the United States this week. Please people, let’s stop the rhetoric and start thinking about how we can truly become self-sufficient.

With that I say good-bye and good luck.

All the best,

Andrew Lahde

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

100 Skills Every Man Should Know

1. Handle a blowout
2. Drive in snow
3. Check trouble codes
4. Replace fan belt
5. Wax a car
6. Conquer an off-road obstacle
7. Use a stick welder
8. Hitch up a trailer
9. Jump start a car

Handling Emergencies
10. Perform the Heimlich
11. Reverse hypothermia
12. Perform hands-only CPR
13. Escape a sinking car

14. Carve a turkey
15. Use a sewing machine
16. Put out a fire
17. Home brew beer
18. Remove bloodstains from fabric
19. Move heavy stuff
20. Grow food
21. Read an electric meter
22. Shovel the right way
23. Solder wire
24. Tape drywall
25. Split firewood
26. Replace a faucet washer
27. Mix concrete
28. Paint a straight line
29. Use a French knife
30. Prune bushes and small trees
31. Iron a shirt
32. Fix a toilet tank flapper
33. Change a single-pole switch
34. Fell a tree
35. Replace a broken windowpane
36. Set up a ladder, safely
37. Fix a faucet cartridge
38. Sweat copper tubing
39. Change a diaper
40. Grill with charcoal
41. Sew a button on a shirt
42. Fold a flag

Medical Myths
43. Treat frostbite
44. Treat a burn
45. Help a seizure victim
46. Treat a snakebite
47. Remove a tick

Military Know-How
48. Shine shoes
49. Make a drum-tight bed
50. Drop and give the perfect pushup

51. Run rapids in a canoe
52. Hang food in the wild
53. Skipper a boat
54. Shoot straight
55. Tackle steep drops on a mountain bike
56. Escape a rip current

Primitive Skills
57. Build a fire in the wilderness
58. Build a shelter
59. Find potable water

Surviving Extremes
60. Floods
61. Tornados
62. Cold
63. Heat
64. Lightning

Teach Your Kids

65. Cast a line
66. Lend a hand
67. Change a tire
68. Throw a spiral
69. Fly a stunt kite
70. Drive a stick shift
71. Parallel park
72. Tie a bowline
73. Tie a necktie
74. Whittle
75. Ride a bike

76. Install a graphics card
77. Take the perfect portrait
78. Calibrate HDTV settings
79. Shoot a home movie
80. Ditch your hard drive

Master Key Workshop Tools
81. Drill driver
82. Grease gun
83. Coolant hydrometer
84. Socket wrench
85. Test light
86. Brick trowel
87. Framing hammer
88. Wood chisel
89. Spade bit
90. Circular saw
91. Sledge hammer
92. Hacksaw
93. Torque wrench
94. Air wrench
95. Infrared thermometer
96. Sand blaster
97. Crosscut saw
98. Hand plane
99. Multimeter
100. Feeler gauges

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Harmony House Freeze Dried Foods

Great for anyone who loves the outdoors or does not like shopping alot... Frozen and dried foods are enevitably healthier than most "fresh" produce you purchase at the grocery store. This is becasue fruits and vegatbales are picked fresh (maximum nutirent absorption) for long life preparation. Whereas grocery store produce is usually picked before it is ripe (minimizing nutrient absorption) to increase saleability.

FYI about induction ranges

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008

Eureka: A Prose Poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Overview from Wikipedia...

Eureka is Poe's last major work and his longest non-fiction work at nearly 40,000 words in length. The work has its origins in a lecture Poe presented on February 3, 1848 titled "On The Cosmography of the Universe" at the Society Library in New York. He had expected an audience of hundreds; only 60 attended and were confused by the topic. Poe had hoped the profits from the lecture would cover expenses for the production of his new journal The Stylus.

Eureka is Poe's attempt at explaining the universe, using his general proposition "Because Nothing was, therefore All Things are." In it, Poe discusses man's relationship to God and the universe or, as he offers at the beginning: "I design to speak of the Physical, Metaphysical and Mathematical – of the Material and Spiritual Universe: of its Essence, its Origin, its Creation, its Present Condition and its Destiny." In keeping with this design, Poe concludes "that space and duration are one" and that matter and spirit are made of the same essence. Poe suggests that people have a natural tendency to believe in themselves as infinite with nothing greater than their soul - such thoughts stem from man's residual feelings from when each shared an original identity with God. Ultimately individual consciousnesses will collapse back into a similar single mass, a "final ingathering" where the "myriads of individual Intelligences become blended." Likewise, Poe saw the universe itself as infinitely expanding and collapsing like a divine heartbeat which constantly rejuvenates itself, also implying a sort of deathlessness. In fact, because the soul is a part of this constant throbbing, after dying, all people, in essence, become God.

Online version of the Poem can be found at

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Kitesurfing Videos shot with a camera mounted on the kite.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008 aspires to use the power of information and technology to address the global challenges of our age: climate change, poverty and emerging disease.

Monday, June 9, 2008

ZAGG Scratch-Proof InvisibleSHIELD

Scratch-Proof anything you own...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008


Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of life?

Why are we here?What are we here for?
What is the origin of life?
What is the nature of life (and of reality itself)?
What is the purpose of, or in, (one's) life?
What is the significance of life?
What is meaningful or valuable in life?
What is the value of life?
What is the reason to live? What are we living for?

Friday, April 11, 2008

I'm F*cking Obama

The PLB - Risk Mitigation for Adventurous People

Boating, camping, four-wheel driving, hiking, off-road motorcycling, snowmobiling – they’re all fun to do, and they all carry considerably more risk if you’re on your own – break a leg, sprain an ankle, get bitten by a snake or a spider, and suddenly you may not be able to get out without assistance. The availability of the Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) changes that – it’s risk mitigation for adventurous people. Set off your PLB and it transmits your location (GPS coordinates) on internationally recognized distress frequencies monitored by the likes of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System (SARSAT). In the event you’re under the canopy and GPS isn’t acquired, they can still calculate your position through Doppler Shift.

If you’re going somewhere remote or dangerous on your own, take heed of the following parable. During a three-day span last month, two separate outdoors enthusiasts ran into life-threatening situations in the wilderness and used Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) in order to survive.

Even though the circumstances of each rescue were different, one involved a hiker and the other an ATV rider, their outcomes were very similar – two lives saved.

PLBs are proving to be valuable emergency life-saving devices for outdoor activities of all kinds. Since the first of this year, 18 people in eleven incidents have used PLBs to signal for help in the U.S.

“A continued increase in PLB registrations in the U.S. last year indicates a growing popularity and consumer interest in these locator beacons, especially among hunters, campers, hikers, climbers, skiers and boaters,” said Paul Hardin, executive vice president of sales and marketing for ACR Electronics, Inc., a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based manufacturer, which introduced PLB products to the U.S. in 2003.

PLBs, unlike other recently introduced personal tracking gadgets, transmit signals on internationally recognized distress frequencies. The 406 MHz signal is monitored by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System (SARSAT) detects and locates distress signals. GPS coordinates greatly assist search and rescue crews, and in the event GPS isn’t acquired, position can be calculated through Doppler Shift as a reliable backup.

NOAA has reported that in 2007, PLBs assisted in the rescue of 88 people in 38 incidents. In 2006, PLBs assisted in the rescue of 37 people in 22 incidents. PLB registrations in 2007 showed a 66.85 percent increase over the previous years’ total. Worldwide, the COSPAS-SARSAT 406 MHz satellite system, which is celebrating 25 years of operation, is credited with rescuing more than 23,000 people since the program’s inception in 1982. Of that number, more than 5,000 persons were rescued in the U.S.

James Langston, Search and Rescue (SAR) Program Coordinator for Arizona’s Division of Emergency Management, directed the March 18th rescue of ATV rider James Tibbetts, a 65-year-old Las Vegas retiree, in the northwest corner of the state. Langston personally owns a PLB and wants people who venture into the backcountry to know about the usefulness of the beacons. “If we get a call from the RCC (Rescue Coordination Center) about someone being in a life threatening situation, then we respond. If people need help, there’s a spirit of cooperation among all the rescue agencies.”

Langston recommends that once victims determine that all means of self-rescue have been attempted and assistance is needed, then they should not hesitate to activate a PLB. “I don’t want people to wait until they are on the verge of death to seek help. They need to know that are we (SAR) are already out looking for them by then,” he said. “That’s what the beacons are for. I’d rather they set it off sooner than when they get to the verge of death.”

On March 15th just three days before this rescue, Dr. John Vaughan and his son, Scott, both experienced hikers from Southern California, activated their ACR MicroFix™ PLB during an ill-fated hiking trip in the San Bernardino Mountains, east of Los Angeles. It was a complicated and technical rescue involving severe injuries to Dr. Vaughan and 15 ground responders who climbed to 8,500 feet in the middle of the dark, snowy night to carry the victim down on a litter.

Dr. Vaughan said he had decided a month earlier to purchase an emergency-locating mechanism of some kind because he often hikes alone. His busy medical practice makes it difficult to pair up with other hikers. He went online to research what was available and found that a PLB was what he needed. “For people who backpack, a PLB is an excellent device. In looking at the other devices on the market, I saw that they do not connect up with national government services, like NOAA and the Air Force. After reading reviews, they also showed that they had spotty connections. There is a fair amount of information written up on it.”

ACR Electronics, Inc. (, a Cobham plc Company, designs and manufactures a complete line of safety and survival products including EPIRBs, PLBs, SSAS, AIS, SARTs and safety accessories. The quality systems of this facility have been registered by UL to the ISO 9001:2000 Series Standards. Recognized as the world leader in safety and survival technologies, ACR has provided safety equipment to the aviation and marine industries as well as to the military since 1956.

Quick PLB facts:

* Works in concert with the COSPAS-SARSAT System. Dedicated global satellite SAR system * Serious Life Saving Equipment. Designed to work when all else has failed. Approved to International Standards for life saving equipment. * SAR agencies: NOAA, USCG, US Air Force and NASAR (National Association of Search & Rescue) * Emergency signals received by two satellite groups: GEOSAR (stationary/provides immediate alert) LEOSAR (provides location/orbits every 100 minutes) * User Fee: NONE (tax payer supported system) * NO annual subscription fee * Three redundant methods of pinpointing location: 406 MHz/Satellite Triangulation, GPS transmission and 121.5 MHz homing frequency * Alert notification 50 seconds with GPS; one hour without GPS * Lithium batteries with 11-year shelf life * Antennas: 1 for GPS and 1 for distress message * Cost: US$499-$$699 (one time cost/no annual subscription or special user fees)

Dear God

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Aerogel has been around for decades. It's the lightest substance ever created, being 99% air. It's strong, light, translucent and is excellent for sound-proofing. But the really exciting thing about aerogel is that it insulates 37 times better than fiberglass. Using aerogel as insulation in walls, ceilings, and (as it's transparent) even between double-pained windows, could drastically reduce the amount of energy used in heating and cooling.

Unfortunately, aerogel isn't easy to make. In fact, it costs about $1,300 per pound to produce. But a Malaysian researcer at the Universiti Teknologi, Dr Halimaton Hamdan, has led a team of researchers who have created a way to produce aerogel that will be 80% cheaper.

What's more, the new aerogel is produced from rice husks, a discarded agricultural product. As you might expect, Malaysia has plenty of rice husks, so they're pretty excited about the possibility of turning them into something valuable. As such, the government has given Hamdan a $65 M grant to help develop a technique for the large-scale production of the new aerogels.

Hamdan's breakthrough was at first accidental. She wanted to do research on silica, but was having a hard time finding the raw material. One night, she saw a television program on the difficulty of disposing of rice husks. And rice husks, it turns out, are 20% silica. After eight years of work, Hamdan finally found a cheap way to produce pure silica from rice husks. And once the silica is acquired, making the aerogel is a cinch.

If Dr Hamdan and her colleagues are able to use that $65 M to scale up production of this material, we should soon be seeing it everywhere. If that happens, the energy savings would be incredible. As a bonus; the production of Maerogel (short for Malaysian Aerogel) would also make use of an abundant natural waste product.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Building Blocks of the Universe

Ever wonder what the universe is made of?

Your first answer probably goes to things such as atoms and photons and maybe even the undiscovered Higgs boson particle. But what the hell are THOSE things made of? Everything is made of something else, right?

So where does the trail end? (If this question seems familiar, it’s because I wrote about it in my book God’s Debris.)

I think if you could answer that question, even at a high conceptual level, you would have the answer to whether God exists, or whether we are a hologram programmed by someone else, or if all of this is just lucky random combinations.

If you keep drilling down to find out what the smallest things are made of, would you eventually find just one thing that everything is made of, guided by some sort of universal rules of physics? That’s my guess, but only a guess. It feels right.

In a longer post I could explain that such rules of physics would qualify as God. Those rules plus the basic particles eventually created the Bible, the Ten Commandments, the Koran and the rest of the universe as we know it, while working in undeniably mysterious ways. If that isn’t the definition of God, what is?

I know some of you will say, “People wrote the Bible.” But that view would be based on the superstition of free will. The “stuff” of the universe and the rules of physics wrote all of our books. People were just an interim step we happened to label.

I can’t imagine that the universe is made of things that are made of other things and so on to infinity. That seems absurd. If it turned out to be true, I would favor the theory that we are a hologram and our creators programmed the truth of our nature to be forever beyond our grasp. I don’t get to that conclusion by logic. I feel this way because if I wrote the program myself, it’s the sort of thing I would do. The hypothetical programmers are presumably like us in some ways, so they might think the way we do. Therefore, if it looks like someone is yanking your chain, maybe someone is. Maybe someone like you, only real.

I’m watching the construction of the Large Hadron Collider with interest. If it works, we’d possibly unlock the secrets of the universe. If we really are a hologram, look for the collider to get stopped by legal action or an earthquake before the truth of our nature is revealed. Either that or the particles they discover will spell “hello.”

Total Isolation... Research on Sensory Deprivation

'God Particle' Expected to Be Found Soon

GENEVA (AP) -- The father of a theoretical subatomic particle dubbed "the God particle" says he's almost sure it will be confirmed in the next year in a race between powerful research equipment in the United States and Europe.

British physicist Peter Higgs, who more than 40 years ago postulated the existence of the particle in the makeup of the atom, said is visit to a new accelerator in Geneva last weekend encouraged him that the Higgs boson will soon be seen.

The $2 billion Large Hadron Collider, under construction since 2003, is expected to start operating by June at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (known as CERN).

It likely will take several months before the hundreds of scientists from around the world are ready to start smashing together protons to study their composition.

Higgs said Monday the particle may already have been created at the rival Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago, where the Tevatron is currently the world's most powerful particle accelerator.

"The Tevatron has plenty of energy to do it," Higgs said. "It's just the difficulty of analyzing the data which prevents you from knowing quickly what's hiding in the data."

The massive new CERN collider, which has been installed in a 17-mile circular tunnel under the Swiss-French border, will be more powerful still and will be better able to show what particles are created in the collisions of beams of protons traveling at the speed of light.

The new Geneva collider will re-create the rapidly changing conditions in the universe a split second after the Big Bang. It will be the closest that scientists have come to the event that they theorize was the beginning of the universe. They hope the new equipment will enable them to study particles and forces yet unobserved.

But Fermilab still has time to be first if it can show that it has discovered the Higgs boson, Higgs said.

Nobel laureate Leon Lederman has dubbed the theoretical boson "the God particle" because its discovery could unify understanding of particle physics and help humans "know the mind of God."

Higgs told reporters he is hoping to receive confirmation of his theory by the time he turns 80 in May 2009.

If not, he added, "I'll just have to ask my GP to keep me alive a bit longer," referring to his general practitioner, not the God particle, a term he does not embrace because he fears it might offend some people.

Higgs predicted the existence of the boson while working at the University of Edinburgh to explain how atoms - and the objects they make up - have weight.

Without the particle, the basic physics theory - the "standard model" - lacks a crucial element, because it fails to explain how other subatomic particles - such as quarks and electrons - have mass.

The Higgs theory is that the bosons create a field through which the other particles pass.

The particles that encounter difficulty going through the field as though they are passing through molasses pick up more inertia, and mass. Those that pass through more easily are lighter.

Higgs said he would be "very, very puzzled" if the particle is never found because he cannot image what else could explain how particles get mass.

Higgs said initial reaction to his ideas in the early 1960s was skeptical.

"My colleagues thought I was a bit of an idiot," he said, noting that his initial paper explaining how his theory worked was rejected by an editor at CERN.

He said a colleague spent the summer at CERN right after he did his work on the theory.

"He came back and said, 'At CERN they didn't see that what you were talking about had much to do with particle physics.'

"I then added on some additional paragraphs and sent it off across the Atlantic to Physical Review Letters, who accepted it. The mention of what became known as the Higgs boson was part of the extra which was added on."

Roxy Presents.... Shimmer

Sunday, April 6, 2008

We Think

Top 5 Recreational Drug Experiments

Recreational drugs are a ridiculously fun topic for scientific research. They could also be the inspiration for powerful new medications. We are often amazed by the fascinating, and sometimes hilarious, stories that make their way into peer-reviewed journals. Here are some of our very favorites:

5. Harvard Scientists Build a Device to Smoke Weed During a Brain Scan
To better understand addiction, and how to treat it, scientists need to get a better look at the human brain as it is under the influence of weed. Unfortunately, smoking weed inside the narrow chamber of a functional MRI is not easy. To prevent smoke damage and allow their research subjects to puff without moving around too much, Blaise Frederick and his team at Harvard built what amounts to a giant bong.

4. Stanford Chemists make THC from Scratch
Since 1965, chemists have been trying to make the active ingredient of marijuana [pdf]from scratch. Back then, the researchers could only make tetrahydrocannabinol along with its enantiomers -- impurities that have the same chemical composition, but a different shape. Then, in 2006, a pair of chemists from Stanford University used a Molybdenum catalyst and other sophisticated techniques to produce the coveted molecule in its pure form. Despite their discovery, mother nature is still the best chemist and closets with high-intensity lamps will outperform the most sophisticated laboratories.

3. Researchers Learn How Salvia Works
Diviner's sage contains a powerful hallucinogen that may someday inspire a new class of depression, pain, and addiction medications. In at least one instance, a woman has used the substance to rid herself of depression. Tests on animals have shown that the Oxaccan plant, a relative of the culinary herb, can also control pain.

Last year, Catherine Willmore and her colleagues at Ohio Northern University ended a controversy about how the drug works. In the Sep. 2007 issue of Neruopharmacology, she confirmed that the active chemical, Salvinorin A, binds to signal-carrying proteins called kappa opioid receptors.

Willmore and her team trained rats to recognize the sensations caused by a well-understood drug that also targets kappa opioid receptors. It is impossible to know exactly how the rats felt during the test, but they could not tell the difference between the active chemical in sage and the one they had been trained to identify. Since the drugs feel the same, both of them must activate the same target.

2. British Army Tests LSD on Soldiers

1. Researchers Combine Chemicals from Sea Urchin Eggs and Weed to Make Powerful Painkillers
Scientists at organix, a small research and development firm, made hybrid molecules which resemble the euphoria-causing compounds THC and anandamide. In the Dec. 2007 issue of Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry they explained that both drugs have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Anandamide starts working faster than its marijuana-derived counterpart, but it is more quickly destroyed by the body. A fusion of the two chemicals may last longer while maintaining an equal or stronger effect.

Although the researchers at Organix did not comment on the recreational potential of their new chemicals, their data makes it very clear that the new drugs push the same pleasure buttons as THC and anandamide.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Engineers Without Borders

A group of volunteer engineers are finishing the design for a home-brewed wind turbine that will bring electricity to off-the-grid Guatemalan villages by this summer.

After the U.S. engineers finish the design, local workers in the town of Quetzaltenango will manufacture the small-scale turbine. It will produce 10-15 watts of electricity, enough to charge a 12-volt battery that can power simple devices like LED lights.

"They're replacing kerosene lamps, if anything at all," said Matt McLean, a mechanical engineer by day and leader of the wind-turbine project by night. "The biggest driver is just keeping the cost way down. We're shooting for under $100, which is a challenge, but we're in that range."

The effort comes amidst recent efforts to bring new light and power to small towns in the developing world. An estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide are without electricity, and many of them are forced to light their homes with kerosene. Using one of these lamps is like smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, says the World Bank, and the lamps present a significant fire risk. That's why many startup companies, such as d.Light, are trying to bring cheaper LED lights to homes, but they still need a solution for producing power locally.

That's where organizations like Engineers Without Borders come in. Founded in 2002 by Bernard Amadie, a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, it has grown to more than 10,000 members in over 250 chapters. According to Cathy Leslie, the executive director of the U.S. organization, 340 projects are underway.

The turbine was created by the Appropriate Technology Design Team of EWB's San Francisco chapter. Team members like Malcolm Knapp and Heather Fleming spend their nights and weekends inside D2M's design shop trying to perfect low-tech gadgets for people 2,500 miles away. D2M, which is Knapp and Fleming's employer, donates the lab space for after-hours use by the EWB team.

Unlike the large-scale assemblies found in wind farms, the roughly two-foot-wide and three-foot-tall turbine has a vertical axis. McLean said that orientation worked better in the choppy conditions likely to meet the turbine out in the field, where it'll be bolted on to buildings, towers or even trees.

The turbine, which Fleming refers to as a "she," is undergoing its final tweaks. Next Sunday, the prototype will undergo its next-to-last build before Fleming and another volunteer head down to the Guatemalan manufacturing facility, XelaTeco, with the building plans in hand.

The engineering team had to make their design simple enough that it could be assembled from cheap and widely available components. As a result, their plans call for building the turbine out of hard plastic (or canvas) bolted on to a steel-tube structure. The rotor, which creates mechanical energy from the movement of the blades, runs into an alternator (actually a cheap DC motor running in reverse), which converts the mechanical energy into electricity.

"We've had to simplify the way we were thinking and get rid of the idea that everything had to be as efficient as possible," McLean said.

For instance, one key obstacle was creating a good bearing system to reduce friction within the turbine. Steel bearings proved unavailable to the Guatemalan manufacturer. Instead, the designers were forced to dig deep into their bag of tricks, eventually pulling out Teflon tape.

"It's normally used for sealing pipes," said McLean. "But it's a very low cost way of reducing friction."

XelaTeco, for its part, received seed funding from the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, a nonprofit dedicated to incubating for-profit businesses in developing countries. AIDG's goal is not just to bring cheap wind-powered generators to Guatemalan villages, but also to build self-sustaining businesses that are well integrated with the local economy.

"For us, this is hopefully the start of a lot more projects like this in other areas as we start more businesses," said Peter Haas, executive director of the AIDG.

Bring Compassion Back to Religion

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Seize Your Saturdays (From Men's Health)

Saturday mornings, especially in spring, should be spent outside. That's why we asked the Utah-based strength and conditioning coach Dan John to design this fast, portable series of cardio workouts, one for each Saturday of the month. Use them as breathers from your weekly routine.

**Stretch before and after workout

Week 1: The Core Blast

The Moves

Pushup-position plank (change grip; diamond, wide, staggered)
Dumbbell swings, wood chopper or jumping jacks (clean jerk press)

The Workout

Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Hold the pushup-position plank for 60 seconds.
Without resting, do 20 dumbbell swings or jumping jacks.
Repeat the above sequence, without resting, until the timer goes off.

Rest for less than a minute and complete 2 more rounds.

Pro tip: Crank up the difficulty by increasing rep speed.

Week 2: The Sprint Set

The Moves:

Pushup (spiderman, decline, clap, behind the back clap or Under the Fence)
30-second sprint
Situp (full open and close toe touch or Russian side to side)
Prisoner squat (one legged or squat-thrust-jump)

The Workout:

Rest as little as possible between these exercises.
10 pushups
30-second sprint
10 situps
30-second sprint
15 prisoner squats
30-second sprint

Repeat 3 times.

Pro tip: Squeeze your glutes as you press up in your squats.

Week 3: The Doubleheader

The Moves

Pushup-position plank (change grip; diamond, wide, staggered)
30-second sprint
Dumbbell swing, wood chopper or jumping jack (clean jerk press)

The Workout

Combine elements of the first two workouts, resting as little as possible between exercises.

30-second pushup-position plank
30-second sprint
30 seconds of dumbbell swings or jumping jacks
30-second sprint

Rest for 30 seconds; repeat the sequence 6 to 8 times.

Pro tip: Treat the sprint as your recovery period.

Week 4: The Kitchen Sink

The Moves

All exercises combined

The Workout

Follow each of these exercises with a 30-second sprint.

30-second pushup-position plank (change grip; diamond, wide, staggered)
30 seconds of dumbbell swing, wood chopper or jumping jacks (clean jerk press)
10 pushups (spiderman, decline, clap, behind the back clap or Under the Fence)
10 situps (full open and close toe touch or Russian side to side)
15 prisoner squats (one legged or squat-thrust-jump)

Rest 1 minute and repeat the sequence twice.

Pro tip: On the final circuit, do as many reps as you can.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Survive an Avalanche

Your odds of outrunning the snow? Not so good. An avalanche can accelerate to 80 mph in seconds. But if you follow these tips, you might just limp away from it or get carried on a stretcher to the ER.

Ski one at a time. Ski between islands of safety. Make sure somebody is watching your entire descent. Shout to warn others. Ditch your poles. Keep your pack on. Insert AvaLung mouthpiece. Pull the ABS ripcord.

1. Grab a tree. The more snow that slides past you, the less likely you'll be buried alive. Hang on for dear life until the force knocks you off.

2. Do Not Swim. Research has shown that swimming does not increase odds of survival and it's better to protect yourself and conserve energy.

3. Create space. Once the snow stops, it'll set like concrete. As it slows, exhale to clear the snow that is packed in your mouth.

4. Raise a hand. Before the flow ceases, get a limb to the surface to help rescuers find you. Between 15 minutes and 45 minutes under the snow, your odds of survival fall from 90 percent to 30.

5. Breathe slowly. To delay an impermeable ice mask forming around your face, stay calm and don't bother yelling until rescuers are on top of you. Your fate is now in their hands. Pray that your beacon is working. Pray that their beacon is working. Pray that they have practiced using their beacon. Pray that they have a shovel that won't break. Pray that they have practiced the latest shoveling techniques. Pray that there is no major trauma.

Chapelle's Black Bush