Friday, July 3, 2009

Diane Keaton rushed to hospital after sumo wrestling accident.

From a few days ago, but what a headline! From here.
Diane Keaton was rushed to hospital after hurting herself during a sumo wrestling match. The Oscar-winning actress was filming a fight scene for new movie "Morning Glory" in New York's Battery Park Monday and injured her head during the process.

The 63-year-old star left the set on a stretcher and was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was given precautionary tests.

A statement said: "Diane Keaton is in good health and spirits following a fall on set of 'Morning Glory' where she bumped her head. The actress was taken to a hospital for precautionary tests and has been cleared by doctors to return to work."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ant mega-colony takes over world!!

I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords. From BBC:
A single mega-colony of ants has colonised much of the world, scientists have discovered.

Argentine ants living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan belong to the same inter-related colony, and will refuse to fight one another.

The colony may be the largest of its type ever known for any insect species, and could rival humans in the scale of its world domination.

What's more, people are unwittingly helping the mega-colony stick together.

Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) were once native to South America. But people have unintentionally introduced the ants to all continents except Antarctica.

These introduced Argentine ants are renowned for forming large colonies, and for becoming a significant pest, attacking native animals and crops.

In Europe, one vast colony of Argentine ants is thought to stretch for 6,000km (3,700 miles) along the Mediterranean coast, while another in the US, known as the "Californian large", extends over 900km (560 miles) along the coast of California. A third huge colony exists on the west coast of Japan.

India decriminalizes gay sex.

From BBC:
A court in the Indian capital, Delhi, has ruled that homosexual intercourse between consenting adults is not a criminal act.

The ruling overturns a 148-year-old colonial law which describes a same-sex relationship as an "unnatural offence".

Homosexual acts were punishable by a 10-year prison sentence.

Many people in India regard same-sex relationships as illegitimate. Rights groups have long argued that the law contravened human rights.

Delhi's High Court ruled that the law outlawing homosexual acts was discriminatory and a "violation of fundamental rights".

The court said that a statute in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines homosexual acts as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" and made them illegal, was an "antithesis of the right to equality".

NY Post: Don't get a college degree.

Hmm... Less college... stupider people.... more subscribers to the NY Post?
The four-year college degree has come to cost too much and prove too little. It's now a bad deal for the average student, family, employer, professor and taxpayer.

A student who secures a degree is increasingly unlikely to make up its cost, despite higher pay, and the employer who requires a degree puts faith in a system whose standards are slipping. Too many professors who are bound to degree teaching can't truly profess; they don't proclaim loudly the things they know but instead whisper them to a chosen few, whom they must then accommodate with inflated grades.

Worst of all, bright citizens spend their lives not knowing the things they ought to know, because they've been granted liberal-arts degrees for something far short of a liberal-arts education.

EU says GM maize is safe.

Surprising since Europe is so anti-Frankenfood. As opposed to here in the US, where it ain't good unless it's got at least 16 essential chemicals and preservatives.
The European Union’s top scientific authority pushed aside doubts raised by several member states on Tuesday as it concluded that MON810, the only genetically modified maize cultivated in Europe, was as safe as traditional corn crops.

The opinion, issued by the European Food Safety Authority, marked the culmination of a politically charged review that has laid bare divisions among EU member states and government bodies over genetically modified foods.
More here, but you may need a subscription.

Study: Vegetarian diet weakens bones.

People who live on vegetarian diets have slightly weaker bones than their meat-eating counterparts, Australian researchers said.

A joint Australian-Vietnamese study of links between the bones and diet of more than 2700 people found that vegetarians had bones 5 per cent less dense than meat-eaters, said lead researcher Tuan Nguyen.

The issue was most pronounced in vegans, who excluded all animal products from their diet and whose bones were six percent weaker, Mr Nguyen said.

There was "practically no difference" between the bones of meat-eaters and ovolactovegetarians, who excluded meat and seafood but ate eggs and dairy products, he said.

Salamander limb regeneration mystery solved.

I've always wondered about this. Now if only this were in English... From Technology Review:
Salamanders have an enviable ability to regrow appendages that are amputated or injured; they re-create all the bones, muscle, skin, blood vessels, and nerves of the new body part so adeptly that it's hard to tell that it was ever missing. Because of this ability, salamanders have been popular subjects for scientists studying regeneration--and trying to learn how human cells might be coaxed to perform the same feat.

In salamanders, new tissues come from a tumorlike mass of cells that forms at the site of the injury, called the blastema. Until now, most scientists thought that the blastema contained a population of stem cells that had become pluripotent--capable of giving rise to all the needed tissues. But a new paper in the journal Nature provides evidence that this is not the case. Instead, stem cells involved in regeneration only create cells of the tissue that they came from. The finding suggests that regeneration does not require cells to reprogram themselves as dramatically as scientists had assumed.

Pigeons can tell the difference between good and bad art.

From the Daily Mail:
Pigeons can tell the difference between a beautiful piece of art and a messy scribble, according to radical new research.

The birds study the colour, pattern and texture of watercolour and pastel paintings and decide whether they are 'good' or 'bad' in the same way as an art critic.

They were able to successfully pick out the good paintings when shown a selection of work by school children.

A school art teacher and ten other adults classified pupils watercolour and pastel paintings as either 'good' or 'bad'.

Paintings were considered 'good' when the images were clear and viewers could see the specific characteristics of the subjects in the paintings.

Pigeons from a racing society were placed in a chamber where they could see a computer monitor displaying the children's art.

In the first series of experiments, four pigeons were trained to recognise 'good' paintings by being rewarded with food if they pecked at these pictures.
Pecking at 'bad' pictures was not rewarded.

They were then presented with a mixture of new and old 'good' and 'bad' paintings and the researchers noted which paintings they pecked at.

Pigeons consistently pecked at the 'good' paintings more often than at the 'bad' paintings.

FBI: Saddam lied about WMD to scare Iran.

From FOX News:
Before he was hanged, Saddam Hussein told the FBI that he let the world believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction because he didn't want his greatest enemy, Iran, to discover Iraq's weaknesses, according to newly released FBI interview notes.

The former Iraqi dictator, though, repeatedly contradicted the United States' case for war against his country, saying he had no connection to the "zealot" Usama bin Laden and never had any WMD's.

The detailed interviews, spanning February to June 2004, were obtained by the National Security Archive and posted on its Web site Wednesday.

In them, Hussein told FBI special agent George Piro that he viewed Iran and its "fanatic" mullahs as a bigger threat than the United States and thought, mistakenly, that his country could have "absorbed" another United States strike. He was less confident about a strike from Iran.

Percocet and Vicodin may be banned.

This is big. There's even talk of cracking down on Tylenol. From the NY Times:
A federal advisory panel voted narrowly on Tuesday to recommend a ban on Percocet and Vicodin, two of the most popular prescription painkillers in the world, because of their effects on the liver.

The two drugs combine a narcotic with acetaminophen, the ingredient found in popular over-the-counter products like Tylenol and Excedrin. High doses of acetaminophen are a leading cause of liver damage, and the panel noted that patients who take Percocet and Vicodin for long periods often need higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect.

Acetaminophen is combined with different narcotics in at least seven other prescription drugs, and all of these combination pills will be banned if the Food and Drug Administration heeds the advice of its experts. Vicodin and its generic equivalents alone are prescribed more than 100 million times a year in the United States.

30,000 different gene variations linked with mental illness.

From Reuters:
As many as 30,000 different gene variations may underlie schizophrenia and bipolar disease, meaning any kind of quick test to predict either disease is a long way off, scientists said on Wednesday.

Three studies by a multinational group of researchers analyzed the DNA of 10,000 people with schizophrenia, and 20,000 without, and found 30,000 common gene variations linked with the mental illness.

They also show just how complex such diseases are, the researchers told a news conference.

"It's like we've got a 'join-the-dots picture', and we now know we have several thousands of dots to be joined," Mick O'Donovan of London's Institute of Psychiatry, who worked on one of the studies, told reporters.

"But we don't even have numbers on them yet so we don't know in what order to connect them up."

Australian scientists kill cancer cells with trojan horse.

This is from a couple of days ago, but forgot to post it. It's worth reading if you haven't seen it yet. From Reuters:
Australian scientists have developed a "trojan horse" therapy to combat cancer, using a bacterially-derived nano cell to penetrate and disarm the cancer cell before a second nano cell kills it with chemotherapy drugs.

The "trojan horse" therapy has the potential to directly target cancer cells with chemotherapy, rather than the current treatment that sees chemotherapy drugs injected into a cancer patient and attacking both cancer and healthy cells.

Sydney scientists Dr Jennifer MacDiarmid and Dr Himanshu Brahmbhatt, who formed EnGenelC Pty Ltd in 2001, said they had achieved 100 percent survival in mice with human cancer cells by using the "trojan horse" therapy in the past two years.

The scientists plan to start human clinical trials in the coming months. Human trials of the cell delivery system will start next week at the Peter MacCullum Cancer Center at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and The Austin at the University of Melbourne.

Grandpa beats up burglar.

A would-be thief made the worst mistake of his career after breaking into the house of a retired Army boxer.

Gregory McCalium, 23, fronted court yesterday with a black eye and a fat lip after he was busted - and subsequently bashed - by 71-year-old Frank Corti in Mr Corti’s house in Oxford, UK.

Mr Corti said he was woken in the middle of the night by noises in his house and was confronted by the knife-wielding McCalium when he went to investigate.

He said McCalium “took a slash” at him, but Mr Corti ducked and threw two big right hooks at the lout.

And Mr Corti knows how to throw a right hook – he was famous for it as a featherweight in the Royal Engineers.

The blows almost knocked McCalium out, allowing Mr Corti to perform a citizens’ arrest and wait for the police.

McCalium’s lawyer told the court his client “looked like a car accident”.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Overheated hippo gets stuck in water tower.

From Ananova:
An over-heated hippopotamus got stuck after clambering into a 10ft water tower to cool down in South Africa.

After happily splashing around for a while, the animal found it could not get out of the pool again, reports Metro.

Luckily, a farm worker noticed water spilling over the side of the concrete container and spotted two enormous nostrils poking out of the tank.

He immediately rang for help and, within hours, rescuers arrived at the farm in Alkmaar, just outside Nelspruit.

Equipped with a hydraulic crane and a cage, hippo hunter Chris Hobkirk and his team from the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Association set to work.

In a four-hour operation, they drained the tank and used poles to gently nudge the hippo into a 10ft steel cage before winching it to safety.

UK more violent than US and South Africa.

From the Daily Mail:
Britain's violent crime record is worse than any other country in the European union, it is revealed today.

Official crime figures show the UK also has a worse rate for all types of violence than the U.S. and even South Africa - widely considered one of the world's most dangerous countries.

The figures comes on the day new Home Secretary Alan Johnson makes his first major speech on crime, promising to be tough on loutish behaviour.

The Tories said Labour had presided over a decade of spiralling violence.

In the decade following the party's election in 1997, the number of recorded violent attacks soared by 77 per cent to 1.158 million - or more than two every minute.

Monday, June 29, 2009

2009 Fancy Food Show!

I'm too full to explain. In fact, I may just explode now. Explode in happiness!

Seriously, best day of my life.

The abacus popular again in Japan.

From The Japan Times:
The popularity of the abacus, now rarely used in the world of calculators, has recently been on the rise as many parents concerned about their children's math ability have started sending them to abacus schools to develop their skills.

The number of applicants for the national abacus certification exam, which peaked at 2.04 million in 1980, slumped to a low of 180,000 in 2005. But since then, applications have been on the rise and hit 200,000 in 2008.

"(The recovery) coincided with the time when many parents started to worry about the academic performance of their children because of the (recent) relaxed style of education" at public schools, said Hiroshi Nakayama, managing director of the League of Japan Abacus Associations. The league organizes the certification exam.

"The value of the abacus has been reassessed because it can improve the calculating ability and concentration power of the user," Nakayama said.

Texan cops raid gay club, one patron hospitalized.

From Raw Story:
Forty years to the day after Stonewall — when a police raid of a New York gay club led to riots and launched the modern gay-rights movement — police in Fort Worth, TX, are being accused of repeating the incident.

Early Sunday morning, Fort Worth police, accompanied by agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, raided the Rainbow Lounge, a newly-opened gay club in Fort Worth.

According to CBS 11 News, “seven people were arrested for public intoxication and at least a dozen more were restrained. The incident was captured on camera and posted on local blogs. The scene was the topic of conversation at Sunday’s Million Gay March in Dallas.”

Police say they were investigating allegations that the club was over-serving its customers. They also allege one of the officers was “groped” during the raid, an allegation that witnesses dispute.

[...] According to the Dallas Voice, one man has been hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage after being thrown to the ground by police officers. Pictures of the incident have made their way to the Internet, sparking further anger among the gay community.

NY to pay women who give eggs for stem cell research.

From the Washington Post:
New York has become the first state to allow taxpayer-funded researchers to pay women for giving their eggs for embryonic stem cell research, a move welcomed by many scientists but condemned by critics who fear it will lead to the exploitation of vulnerable women.

The Empire State Stem Cell Board, which decides how to spend $600 million in state funding for stem cell studies, will allow researchers to compensate women up to $10,000 for the time, discomfort and expenses associated with donating eggs for experiments.

"We want to enhance the potential of stem cell research. If we are going to encourage stem cell research as a solution for a variety of diseases, we should remove barriers to the greatest extent possible," said David Hohn, vice chairman of the board's two committees that endorsed the move. "We decided to break some new territory."

The little-noted decision two weeks ago puts New York at odds with policies in every other state that provides funding for human embryonic stem cell research and with prevailing guidelines from scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences.

[...] "With the economy the way it is, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that when a woman is looking at receiving up to $10,000 to sign up for research project, that's an undue inducement," said Thomas Berg, a Catholic priest who directs the Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person and serves on the Empire State Stem Cell Board's ethics committee. He opposed the decision. "I think it manipulates women. I think it creates a trafficking in human body parts."

Others agreed, calling it an unnerving precedent. "Whenever society starts to pay for relationships that are traditionally done with altruism and generosity within families, it raises the issue of whether there is anything that is not for sale," said Laurie Zoloth, a Northwestern University bioethicist.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Geddy Lee talks fantasy baseball.

How amazingly awesome is Geddy Lee?!! Thanks Spankie for the tip!

Man dies after falling into sewage drain.

What a shitty way to go.
An elderly man cleaning a sewage drain died after falling into the drain and getting stuck in the sludge.

Luigi Cerrone was cleaning the drain on some property he owned in the Flushing section of Queens on Saturday.

Police said the 83-year-old slipped down the drain and got stuck with his face in the muck.

Emergency responders got to the scene shortly before 5 p.m., but Cerrone had already died.
From here.