Saturday, February 25, 2006

Nanotechnology Revolution

There's a revolution going on in the world of science called nanotechnology and it seems to be happening without a lot of fanfare, although you may catch the odd news snippet here and there. Perhaps it's because few of us can relate to the idea of machines or functions being controlled and operating at the molecular and atomic scale. There are also concerns and fears related to this technology, such as the potential development of nanorobots programmed for malicious acts like warfare, biological, and technological destruction. The scale is incredible when you consider that a nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter... Full Story

Here are some definitions quoted from two sources:

"The development and use of devices that have a size of only a few nanometers. Research has been carried out into very small components, many of which depend on quantum effects and may involve movement of a very small number of electrons in their action. Such devices would act faster than larger components. Considerable interest has been shown in the production of structures on a molecular level by suitable sequences of chemical reactions or lithographic techniques. It is also possible to manipulate individual atoms on surfaces using a variant of the atomic force microscope to make, for example, high density data storage devices."
- About Now Physics
"Nanotechnologies are the body of theories and techniques that allow the production and manipulation of minute objects that measure as little as one billionth of a meter (the nanometer). These technologies require tools of very high precision to maneuver atoms one by one and visualize what is occurring at such a small scale."
-Lexicon Encyclobio

Nanotechnology gear chain examined by a mite

"Courtesy Sandia National Laboratories, SUMMiTTM Technologies,"

Although I do have a science background, I am not an expert in nanotechnology. Nevertheless, after dwelling on the subject for a while I managed to come up with a few scenarios where nanotechnology could have a pivotal role. I thought they might capture the imagination of some readers, and stimulate them to come up with even better ideas. In the end, it might be better for nanotechnology product ideas to arise from the grassroots consumer first rather than be purely laboratory inventions.
These are my own concepts for nanotechnology devices conceived from the basic concept without reference to any research studies. I don't claim them to be original (although some of them may be), and I'm sure that others with superior credentials have come up with similar ideas. One would think that the uses of nanotechnology will be virtually unlimited in the not too distant future, and so it's not much of a stretch to imagine many uses for these devices.

  • Nanorobots that remain on the enamel surface of teeth and also near the gum line designed to act as intelligent cleaning and dental health agents. This probably would require some sort of enamel and gum affinity or recognition etc. The potential for nanotechnology in the medical field is enormous and I believe the old 1966 science fiction movie "Fantastic Voyage" has been one inspiration for micro devices that could patrol the blood stream, clean blood vessels, destroy aberrant cells, enhance immune function, and perform other maintenance tasks.

  • Intelligent nanosensors in engineered load bearing structures such as bridges or skyscrapers that can act as warning devices by detecting the early microscopic features of stresses and strains that ultimately lead to structural failure. A bridge could then be repaired or reinforced long before there are any visible signs of wear or failure.

  • Nanotechnology hearing aids that won't be visible to the human eye. These devices might connect directly to the mechanical and neural anatomy of the auditory structures after a minor microscopic implantation procedure.

  • Nanocrystal arrays used in projection systems and nanoparticles used in projection screens for super high resolution video display in 2D or even 3D immersive environments. You might envision high definition visual systems that surpass reality.

  • Liquid metal that can form virtually any solid shape all controlled by programmed nanobots (like the Terminator). This one conjures up more sinister potential applications.

  • Nanomood changers with no side effects. These will be devised as the genetic receptors controlling various mood states become better understood. These mood modifiers might reside permanently in neurons, and then taking pills for mood disorders will no longer be necessary.

  • Nanomeditative state inducers that can trigger the gamma wave brain activity seen in those who are skilled in meditation techniques.

  • Near indestructible nanovehicles. Various nanotubules of various composition will be combined to create new materials that can withstand and absorb incredible impacts. Combined with nanoairbags you could survive a major MVA with no more than a few scratches and bruises.

  • Nanofuels will be invented that have incredible energy efficiency allowing machines to operate at prolonged times and speeds before refeuling.

  • Nanocleaning agents that will continually roam and scour various surfaces breaking down stains, dust and other particles - no more vacuuming etc.

  • Painless Nanoneedles - the needle tip size and injection shape could be molecularly adjusted for painless injections (temporarily create a tiny caliber tip to traverse the skin surface and then increase the needle lumen for an injection).

I wasn't under the influence of any intoxicants, stimulants, depressants, or other mind altering substances when this list was composed, so there are no excuses if it doesn't meet exacting scientific descriptions. Again, I would emphasize that this amounts to a layman's list for nanotechnology innovations. Luddites and technophobes might create a less optimistic list with some negative scenarios. Please leave your comments and suggestions below, especially those regarding any available, present day working uses of nanotechnology that you may be aware of.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

You can digg it or reddit for Link Submissions!

There is a poll included in this post, so that members of the popular "non-hierarchical" digg and reddit link submission sites, bloggers and others can give their opinions as to what the status of blogs should be on those sites.

The poll allows for multiple answers, and when enough data is collected I will publish the results. The digg and reddit site operators might be interested in this opinion poll as well. You can also weigh in with a specific comment or remark below.

Both digg and reddit are busy, prominent sites where members can submit links to news stories and other articles. The linked articles are read, reviewed and voted on by member readers rather than an editorial board. If you submit a good article link that gets promoted by readers it can generate more than a few visits to the host web site for that article. One site is called digg and the other is called reddit. They both allow links to blogs, and that may be of interest to some of you wanting to get wider exposure for published articles or stories. However you may not find a welcome committee for your submitted blog links at either site, especially digg, as some members have a bias against blog content. On the other hand, a good article posted by a blog can still do well in the rankings on either site... Full Story

What is Digg?

"Digg is a technology news website that combines social bookmarking, blogging, RSS, and non-hierarchical editorial control. With digg, users submit stories for review, but rather than allow an editor to decide which stories go on the homepage, the users do."
-Quoted from the sites frequently asked questions page.

Readers select or vote on story/article links they like and these "Diggs" promote them to higher prominence on the site. A popular article link can generate many hits to the site hosting that article. Although Digg has expanded its categories of links it still has a strong bias for technology related stories, and there is a tendency for blog links to be flamed by nasty comments, or not get "Dugg".

What is Reddit?

Reddit is a similar service, but perhaps more democratic because they don't specify categories for submitted links.
"A source for what's new and popular on the web -- personalized for you. We want to democratize the traditional model by giving editorial control to the people who use the site, not those who run it. Your votes train a filter, so let reddit know what you liked and disliked, because you'll begin to be recommended links filtered to your tastes."
-Quoted from the sites frequently asked questions page.

What should digg and reddit do with blog links?
Legitimate blogs should be allowed to post links to their articles
Neither digg or reddit should allow links to blogs
Both digg and reddit should have a separate blog category
Never heard of digg or reddit
I am registered at digg
I am registered at reddit
I am registered at digg and reddit
I publish a blog

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

ChoicePoint Inc. Ten Million Dollar Fine a Joke?

Seasons Under The Sun is pleased to present a post that was provided in response to the recent Guest Author Invitation.

David Anderson who publishes the fine web site "Italian's Insight to Travel Italy" submitted this compelling article about the recent ten million U.S. dollar fine of ChoicePoint Inc. The fine was levied by the FTC for a data security breach that compromised the financial records of more than 163,000 consumers, over 800 of whom became the victims of identity theft. While some have praised the efforts of the FTC to extract "significant" penalties in this case, David doesn't believe that the fine, and other imposed penalties on ChoicePoint go nearly far enough. Those who are concerned about the privacy of their personal information and individual civil rights should take heed... Full Story

Choice Point fined 10 million USD
by David Anderson

Recently, ChoicePoint Inc., a publicly traded Credit Rating company, was fined 10 million USD. Touted by the FTC as something important I propose this fine is a joke, simply a move engineered to avoid taking on the very serious problem of rampant corporate greed sacrificing the right to privacy of individuals and politician’s compliance with corporate America for personal gain.

Some time ago I would have suggested that a credit report has nothing to do with the qualifications of an individual for a job. I have come to understand that, while the practice is abused, most jobs have nothing to do with credit worthiness, there are some instances where credit history can signal future problems. Additionally, as our society becomes more and more superficial credit reports are an important part of our lending industry and therefore, necessary to the current economic structure.

The indiscriminate amassment of information regarding individuals is inappropriate. No corporation should be allowed to maintain or gather information that is not strictly pertinent to a financial operation requested by an individual. Our politicians allow corporations to gather information and data mine in order to market goods and services.

Corporations sell this information to others who perform the same operation. Then, when this information is used inappropriately and the individual concerned has no idea that this information even exists, it is the individual’s responsibility to fix the problem. Again, the individual did nothing to create this problem and most likely did not even know that the information had been gathered by some corporation.

To further exasperate the problem, corporations do not employ sufficient security measures to guarantee the confidentiality of the information. The corporations claim that it would be too costly to continually stay ahead of the technology used to crack their systems. This argument is absurd, it is a cost of doing business and should the business model not support proper security they should not be involved with this product.

In most European countries, where we consider them to be socialist and less of a free society, strict privacy laws exist. If information is stolen because of negligence or the company sells the information it is a criminal offense. They go to jail. Needless to say they are very conscious regarding the type of information they acquire and hold on their systems.

We consider ourselves the bearers of freedom. We say that we protect individual rights. We want the world to have our freedom. A 10 million dollar fine for negligence where the company made 100s of millions of dollars with this information and where the cost to the individuals damaged will be significantly higher, is this a joke?

Politicians, make yourselves useful, stop yelling at each other and do your job. Protect our individual freedoms! The free market is a marvelous thing but I grew up with the notion that “my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.
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Monday, February 13, 2006

Post your Anonymous Rant or Flame

" A closed mind is a good thing to lose "
- Anonymous

Everybody online has their own opinions about being anonymous, or leaving anonymous comments. At Seasons Under The Sun the anonymous commenting option is always left on - and while that policy could encourage trolls or flamers there have been surprisingly few negative or nasty comments posted in the seven month life of this site. In fact some interesting, and down right inspiring anonymous comments have been left on some of the posts here. So far, no anonymous comments have been deleted with the exception of comment spam before word verification was instituted.

This post is an open invitation for readers to voice a strong opinion, vent some anger, or otherwise fire off a pointed rant about current news or a pet peeve by leaving an anonymous comment here.

Please fire off a shot or critique at Seasons Under The Sun as well if something about this site ticks you off. My only request is that your opinion is sincere, and not just a vindictive blast. Please do not leave comments that are racially motivated, or otherwise hateful of any particular group. Other than those provisos, let the barbs fly! Of course, you may prefer not to be anonymous and that's fine. The comments (remarks below post) could generate more subject interest, and lead to some interesting links or cross chat at other sites too. It's your forum Mr. and Mrs. Anonymous!

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Is Vioxx still a Tempest for Merck?

Is Merck the sinister, mega- pharmaceutical company as portrayed in the media, or is the Vioxx story just business as usual in the complex world of the drug research and approval process?

There are still storm clouds gathering for the company, since there may be thousands more pending and potential lawsuits out there relating to Vioxx, and in recent news a former FDA official testified that Merck had plenty of time to warn about Vioxx. On the other hand, they are a giant in the pharmaceutical industry with deep pockets, and probably have new potential block buster drugs in the research pipeline. In all likelihood Merck will remain a power house in the pharmaceutical industry once the near term turmoil has subsided, and it could be that their present, somewhat depressed share price is a value buy assuming it discounts the Vioxx bad news... Full Story

Do we know for sure that Vioxx is linked to the serious cardiovascular health risks it is accused of exacerbating such as heart attack and stroke? The answer to that question may be a statistical research nightmare. Surely there must be other drugs out there in the market that may have potentially devastating side effects, or might be linked to adverse events? There are billions of dollars at stake plus significant health implications, and so the answers to such questions have huge implications to the consumer, and the companies involved. Even with impeccable research protocols and data significant drug side effects may not show up in study results. As well, there have been accusations that pharmaceutical companies will play down or ignore valid study results that suggest adverse drug effects to sanitize their marketing and advertising campaigns because of the huge revenue implications. There is an understanding that the FDA follows fairly stringent guidelines in the drug approval process. In fact, it has been accused of being too stringent in the past (i.e. approving experimental AIDS cocktails). When Merck voluntarily withdrew Vioxx from the market in September, 2004 the FDA issued a detailed question and answer discussion about it to address concerns.

Perhaps our society is simply over medicated, and Physicians need to scrutinize their drug prescribing habits.

"Studies show that many simply don't heed even the sternest warnings issued by the FDA. When patients taking the diabetes drug Rezulin from the former Warner-Lambert Co. (now Pfizer (PFE )) started dying from liver failure in the late 1990s, the FDA repeatedly warned doctors to carefully test patients' liver enzyme levels to spot early signs of trouble. Yet fewer than 5% of patients got the tests, and more people died." - Lessons From The Vioxx Fiasco
It may well be impossible to screen out every possible potential adverse event that a drug might be implicated in no matter how many expensive research studies are funded. In the real world as opposed to the laboratory other variables come into play including interactions with other medications taken, and unfortunately those variables might play around with the next pill you take. So consumers beware, and do your homework when it comes to medications prescribed or otherwise - and be just as wary and diligent when it comes to alternative, or herbal treatments as well.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Get Gretzky's Gold?

Are American judicial authorities so desperate to restore Olympic hockey gold medal pride that they would resort to smearing the name of Canada's greatest sports hero Wayne Gretzky
on the eve of the Winter Olympics? Isn't it a cynical and transparent ploy to release wire tap documents, and other innuendo for the media feeding frenzy in a vague effort to link the Great One to an organized crime gambling ring? Could it be an attempt to create enough distraction and emotional turmoil in Gretzky's life such that his upcoming Olympic efforts as Executive director for team Canada are undermined? In that event, player morale could be sabotaged to the point of losing the gold medal or not even reaching the podium. Why couldn't the authorities have waited until soon after the Olympics to release these damaging allegations, especially those that might concern Gretzky or his wife if he likely had no direct involvement or liability as compared to his associate coach Tocchet? Perhaps there is another sinister side to the timing of these news releases that the general public will never know...

News commentary by your paranoid Canuck hack reporter on the spot in Hockeyville Canada,

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Free Memory Improvement and Mnemonic Fun

The following describes a humorous misadventure that was caused by being absent minded. We can probably all relate to similar events in our own lives.

"In August 1967, David Margetts played second violin in the Roth String Quartet at UCLA. He had been entrusted with the care of a valuable, vintage Stradivarius that was owned by the department of music. One day Margetts put the violin on his car's roof and drove off without removing it. UCLA made massive efforts to recover the instrument, but nonetheless it went missing for 27 years before resurfacing in 1994 when the Stradivarius was brought in for repair and a dealer recognized the instrument. After a lengthy court battle, the violin was returned to UCLA in 1998."

-Daniel L. Schacter Ph.D.
The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers

Everyone wishes they could improve their memory. You can be the sharpest tool in the shed, and yet be completely befuddled by forgetting an important fact, or action at the wrong time. Youth gives you some protection against the vagaries of a poor memory assuming you are generally healthy, but absent minded deeds afflict all ages. Unfortunately, lapses in memory have also resulted in injury or death. Businesses have been ransacked because someone forgot to "lock up". Nuclear reactors have failed because someone forgot to close a valve (Three Mile Island). Examinations have been failed because because someone didn't remember the right test date. Marriages have been threatened because someone forgot an anniversary, or birthday. Sound familiar?... Full Story

This concern with our memory has created quite a market for people in the memory aid business, but you can help your memory a lot without signing up for an expensive program or gimmick. There are good books out there on the subject, and I would recommend one by Kenneth L. Higbee, Ph.D. called YOUR MEMORY, How It Works & How To Improve it. He has an academic background, but discusses many practical exercises, and techniques to improve memory. I was blown away when I used the Loci Mnemonic system described in the book to memorize any long list of items. It dates back to 500 B.C., and was used by famous Roman orators to remember long speeches. There are two steps: First memorize a series of familiar locations in a logical order (rooms in a building etc.) You will use this set of locations each time you need to remember a series or list. Secondly, associate a visual image that identifies each list item with a location in the series as you take an imaginary walk past the locations. Use fanciful images for each item. I tried this once with a very long grocery list, and easily remembered twenty items after taking a few minutes to mentally place each item at a memorized house location (bread in the oven, cherries in a basket etc.) Try this and I guarantee you will amaze yourself with how many objects you can remember! The book discusses this in greater detail along with many other excellent methods.

Jessica Rowlands recently reported in Medical News Today a PET imaging study that indicated improved brain efficiency after subjects under went a memory improvement plan.

"New research released at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology's
Annual Meeting found that older Americans may improve their memory by making
simple lifestyle changes - including memory exercises, physical fitness, healthy
eating and stress reduction. The study was conducted at the University of
California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and funded by the Fran and Ray Stark Foundation
Fund for Alzheimer's Disease Research, the Judith Olenick Elgart Fund for
Research on Brain Aging, and the Parlow-Solomon Professorship on Aging."

Here is the memory improvement plan that could help improve memory function at any age:

* Memory Training - Brainteasers, crossword puzzles and memory exercises, which emphasized verbal skills, were conducted throughout the day to stimulate the brain.

* Healthy Diet - Participants ate five meals daily, which included a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fats, low-glycemic index carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains) and antioxidants. Eating five small meals throughout the day prevents dips in blood glucose levels and glucose is the primary energy source for the brain.

* Physical Fitness - Brisk daily walks and stretching were done daily to promote physical fitness, which has been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's Disease.

* Stress Reduction - Participants used stretching and relaxation exercises to manage stress. Stress causes the body to release cortisol, which plays an important role in memory preservation. Cortisol can impair memory and has been found to shrink the memory centers in the brain.

Now where did I leave those damn car keys?

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