Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mouse brain simulated on computer

Alright. It is not a full human brain. A half a mouse brain instead. Simulated in a supercomputer with 4096 processors. Each processor has 256 MB of memory. That is quite a staggering number. "Using this machine the researchers created half a virtual mouse brain that had 8,000 neurons that had up to 6,300 synapses.The vast complexity of the simulation meant that it was only run for ten seconds at a speed ten times slower than real life - the equivalent of one second in a real mouse brain."

A good start, indeed! In a short period of time, more structures and details will be added in this simulation, a full mouse brain is not that far away, it seems. This will surely lead to other more "closer to home" simulation, like a full human brain in a computing simulator.

One may wonder, what practical applications beneficial to human and animal kind will be adopted from these and other similar future simulators?

Article Link:
Mouse brain simulated on computer

Regards,
Sohel

Losing Bangladesh, by Degrees

Two degrees temperature rise may not be much for many affluent parts of our world, but for Bangladesh, it can bring disaster, even its existence may get threatened in an unimaginable scale. A Bangladeshi writer, Tahmima Anam, writes in her eloquent and heart-felt prose in The New York Times article, a few excerpts are given below:
For whatever else it strains to hold, it is the crush of humanity that makes Bangladesh what it is: a calamitous country, a country so full of people that every slight shift in circumstance has dire consequences. The weather does not have to be extreme. It has only to be intemperate, and the country does the rest.

According to the United Nations, the temperatures this winter in some parts of Bangladesh were the coldest in 38 years. The last time it was this cold, Bangladesh was called East Pakistan. Looked at another way, however, the mean temperature was only two degrees below the average for January.

Yet in a country so precariously balanced, two degrees meant the difference between life and death. In the districts of Rajshahi, Nilphamari, Srimangal and Gaibandha, people died of the cold because they had no protection against the weather, no walls between them and the elements — not a long sleeve or a sock. Only two degrees, but instead of enjoying their jilapis and weddings and cauliflower, 134 people died. A mere two-degree rise in the global climate will cause large tracts of the delta to disappear, and two degrees after that, the rivers will be wider than the plains, and two degrees after that, the water will have swallowed Bangladesh.

Two degrees either way for this country is not two degrees: it is catastrophe itself, borne on the waves of our warming world.

Read this article in its full from the following link:
Losing Bangladesh, by Degrees - New York Times

Regards,
Sohel

Are Persons Just an Illusion?

Read the following excerpt from an article in Reason magazine:
the personhood brain network evolved because as an intensely social species, our ancestors' survival was enhanced by understanding the beliefs, motivations and personalities of others. They also speculate that the cost of ascribing intentions to non-intentional systems might have been far less than the cost of failing to recognize intentions in intentional systems. Thus the brain's personhood network may err on the side of activating too often. (This may account of religious belief systems that attributed intentions to the sun, rain, rivers, volcanoes and the like. Interestingly, the less humanity has attributed intentions to natural phenomena, the greater control we have obtained over them -- or is it the other way around?)

Farah and Heberlein then claim that since the personhood network makes frequent mistakes and often attributes personhood to non-intentional systems that "suggests the personhood is a kind of illusion." They conclude, "If personhood is not really in the world, then there is no fact of the matter concerning the status of a given being as a person or not, and there is no point to the philosophical or bioethical program of seeking objective criteria for personhood more generally because there is none."
Responses to above claims are given below:
a number of thoughtful responses to Farah and Heberlein. One of the more devastating is by University of California, San Diego neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland. "Are there no mountains, no vegetables, no weeds, and no diseases?," she begins. Her point is that there are no precise criteria, or "natural kinds" that completely specify what a mountain, a vegetable, a weed or a disease is. Lambs quarter can either be a salad green or weed depending on how various gardeners regard it. Is obesity really a disease in quite the same way as smallpox? Yet despite the lack of precise criteria for all kinds of things out in the world (matters of fact, if you will), we manage to know what we're talking about and get along quite well.

As Christian Perring, a philosopher from Dowling College in Oakdale, New York, points out there is a great deal of agreement on what constitutes personhood. These include attributes such as rationality, memory, ability to self-reflect, intelligence, and a concept of self. "We are good at distinguishing persons from non-persons in most ordinary circumstances," writes Dowling. It is the extraordinary circumstances that modern medicine engenders -- embryos in Petri dishes, severe Alzheimer's patients, anencephalic newborns, early fetuses, and patients in persistent vegetative state - that are problematic for many people. For example, it is clearly the case that prolife activists hope to activate the personhood networks of women seeking abortions by requiring them to view ultrasound images of their fetuses before undergoing the procedure.

University of Maryland philosopher Mark Sagoff makes the extremely interesting point that the notion that personhood is somehow a moral trump that demands that others recognize a being's rights is an historically new concept. "The idea that every human being prima facie is entitled to equal respect and concern under rules fair to all seems to depend not on hard-wired biological factors but on contingent historical variables," writes Sagoff. Human history, after all, is replete with tribes who kill outsiders, men who kill "dishonored" women, believers who kill and torture infidels, and so forth.
Read this article from the following link:
Are Persons Just an Illusion?

Regards,
Sohel

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Could black holes be portals to other universes?

This title from The New Scientist is somewhat misleading. The article describes the difficulties in differentiating wormholes from black holes. This problem in separating the two also raises the possibilities that many of the "indirectly" discovered black holes are perhaps wormholes, instead, the doorway to other universes. Two definitions are given below for black holes and wormholes for the interested ones:

A black hole is an object with such a powerful gravitational field that nothing, not even light, can escape it if it strays within a boundary known as the event horizon. Einstein's theory of general relativity says black holes should form whenever matter is squeezed into a small enough space.

Though black holes are not seen directly, astronomers have identified many objects that appear to be black holes based on observations of how matter swirls around them.

Wormholes are warps in the fabric of space-time that connect one place to another. If you imagine the universe as a two-dimensional sheet, you can picture a wormhole as a "throat" connecting our sheet to another one. In this scenario, the other sheet could be a universe of its own, with its own stars, galaxies and planets.

It is beyond our contemporary scientific realm finding concrete information from either black holes and wormholes, since that would require "direct plunge" in these unimaginably "twisted" and compressed space in cosmos "because if it is a black hole, the incredibly strong gravitational field inside would tear apart every atom in your body. Even if it turns out to be a wormhole, the forces inside could still be deadly."

Even if one can survive this surrealistic vigor from cosmic force, the excruciatingly long transit time through wormholes, measured in billions of years, would make this journey impractical in our present reality.

For us the very mortals of this 21st century bounded by our limited imagination and quite primitive advancement in science considering the vastness of uncharted scientific territory beyond our reach, there is perhaps some comforts to gain in some new progresses in this exciting field. Read the following excerpt:
Some physicists say that future particle accelerator experiments could produce microscopic black holes. Such tiny black holes would emit measurable amounts of Hawking radiation, proving that they are black holes rather than wormholes. But if Solodukhin is right, and microscopic wormholes are formed instead, no such radiation would be expected. "In that case, you would actually see if it is a black hole or a wormhole," he says.

Read this article from the following link:
Could black holes be portals to other universes?

Regards,
Sohel


Thursday, April 26, 2007

The real scandal at the World Bank

Meet a few victims from World Bank's mysterious economic directives toward the developing nations around the world. This global financial institution was created in the vision of "help the poor" and "end the poverty" motto, but its apparently ruthless and forceful ordering of the developing nations' governments adopting neoliberalism are fueling more miseries and even unaccounted deaths from lack of water and electricity, high priced imported foods that is contributing to poor nutrition to millions, etc. How could this be expected from this "benevolent" world institution? The answer is the following: "It does not promote a sensible mix of markets and state action - the real path to development. No: the World Bank pursues the interests of US corporations over the poor, every time."

Here is a few excerpt from Johann Hari's timely article in The Independent:
Meet Hawa Amadu, 70-something, living in the muddy slums of Accra, the capital of Ghana, and trying to raise her grandkids as best she can. Hawa has a problem - a massive problem - and the World Bank put it there. She can't afford water or electricity any more. Why? The World Bank threatened to refuse to lend any more money to her government, which would effectively make it a leper to governmental donors and international business, unless it stopped subsidising the cost of these necessities. The subsidies stopped. The cost doubled. Now Hawa goes thirsty so her grandchildren can drink, and weeps: "Am I supposed to drink air?"

She is not alone. Half a world away, in Bolivia, Maxima Cari - a mother - is also thirsty. "The World Bank took away my right to clean water," she explains. In 1997 the World Bank demanded the Bolivian government privatise the country's water supply. So Maxima couldn't afford it any more. Now she has to use dirty water from a well her villagers dug. This dirty water is making her children sick, and she is sullen. "I wash my children weekly," Maxima says. "Sometimes there's only enough water to wash their hands and faces, not their whole body ... This is not a nice way to live."

Meet some more victims. I have met hundreds, from Africa to Latin America to the Middle East. Muracin Claircin is a rice farmer in Haiti - only he can't grow rice any more. In 1995, the World Bank demanded Haiti drop all restrictions on imports. The country was immediately flooded with rice from the US, which has been lavishly subsidised by the US government. The Haitian government barely exists and can't offer rival subsidies anyway: the World Bank forbids it. So now Muracin is jobless and his family are starving.

Some 5,000 miles away, Charles Avaala in Ghana is watching his tomatoes rot. He used to grow them for a government-owned community tomato cannery that provided employment for his entire community. The World Bank ordered his government to close it down, and to open the country's markets to international competition. Now he can't compete with the subsidy-fattened tomatoes from Europe. He, too, is starving.

The problem is that the very pervasive and influential media have not done their journalistic duties, they have not raised this globally affecting issues to the forefront of public mind, rather than it is hidden away in the depth chart of hyped scandals in entertainment world and minute statistical arrays of scoring bonanzas of never ending sporting events. Here is a statistics from grim reality:
The World Bank's own Independent Evaluation Group just found that barely one in ten of its borrowers experienced persistent growth between 1995 and 2005 - a much smaller proportion than those who stagnated or slid deeper into poverty. The bank's own former chief economist, Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz, says this approach "has condemned people to death... They don't care if people live or die."
"They don't care if people live or die" -- but we the ordinary people do care. And it turns out that we the ordinary people "in the West - through their trade unions, churches, town councils, universities and private investments" owns The World Bank. How do we own "The World Bank"? Here is the answer:
The bank raises nearly all its funds by issuing bonds on the private market. They are often held by socially minded institutions, the kind who signed up to Make Poverty History.
An activist in this area clearly explains how to play role in caring for millions of poor families perhaps in thousands of miles away from us, but share the same humane bonding like rest of us:
we have a simple power: to sell the bonds and bankrupt the World Bank. "We need to break the power of the World Bank over developing countries just as the disinvestment movement helped break the power of the apartheid regime in South Africa,"

The campaign to make World Bank bonds as untouchable as apartheid-era investments has already begun. The cities of San Francisco, Boulder, Oakland and Berkeley have sold theirs. Several US unions have also joined. Even this small ripple has caused anxiety within the bank about the threat to its "AAA" bond rating.
My humble recommendation to this blog readers would be the following: start digging more neutral but credible information on this very urgent subject. A few books I recommend on this related issue by World Bank's past President and Nobel Prizer winner in economics Joseph Stiglitz, Muhammad Yunus who won Nobel prize in peace last year and a few other noted authors are the following:

Globalization And Its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz

Fair Trade For All : How Trade Can Promote Development by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton

Making Globalization Work by Joseph Stiglitz

Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Muhammad Yunus

End Of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs

Wealth And Poverty Of Nations by David Landes

A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright
With concerted and cohesive actions, we can all play vital role dissolving apparent "mysterious" World Bank policies that is clearly hurting millions, perhaps billions of poor people around the world who are not as lucky as we are using modern electronic media like Blogging and Internet.

Regards,
Sohel

Link to the original article:
The real scandal at the World Bank

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Put a lid on wastefulness

From time to time a hot cup of tea or coffee, specially blended Frappuccino or Vanilla Bean can surely uplift a sour mood after a horrific morning rush traffic. If it is a wintry morning with unexpected snow, then the bitter sweet flavor of Caramel mocha can jump start those icy cold but stressed nerves. Various flavors of coffee, tea and other dairy or non-dairy beverages are here to stay for a foreseeable time. With its bitter-sweet taste, these beverages bring "The Lids", like Hitchcock's horror movie "The Birds". Read the following excerpts from Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

.... when plastic lids are put into recyclable bins, they contaminate the contents. Most lids are made from polystyrene, a liquid hydrocarbon manufactured from petroleum. If polystyrene mixes with recyclable paper, the recyclables become waste.

The Environmental Protection Agency has not come to a definitive conclusion on the direct carcinogenic effects of polystyrene, but the evidence is mounting and science is slow. While we wait for more controlled studies to validate whether polystyrene is toxic to the human body, more lids are being made all the time.
Using one's own coffee mug or recyclable lids perhaps are the quickest solution. However, the market is governed by "profit", and seldom by the "Inconvenient Truth".

Read the article from its original source:
Put a lid on wastefulness

Regards,
Sohel

NASA - Status of "Warp Drive"

Ever since Star Trek had started its journey where "no man has gone before", traveling faster than the speed of light, warp drives, warm holes, etc., all these techie terms have seeped into mainstream consciousness. Sound barrier was crossed many and many years ago by the inventive human beings that certainly had raised the hope of doing the same with speed of light. However, there are differences. The following article published in NASA's website gives a succinct but good explanation what's this difference and what are the obstacles human ingenious are facing in crossing this "impossibility". Here is an excerpt:

Ever since the sound barrier was broken, people have been asking: "Why can’t we break the light speed barrier too, what’s the big difference?" It is too soon to tell if the light barrier can be broken, but one thing is certain -- it’s a wholly different problem than breaking the sound barrier. The sound barrier was broken by an object that was made of matter, not sound. The atoms and molecules that make up matter are connected by electromagnetic fields, the same stuff that light is made of. In the case of the light speed barrier, the thing that’s trying to break the barrier is made up of the same stuff as the barrier itself. How can an object travel faster than that which links its atoms? Like we said, it’s a wholly different problem than breaking the sound barrier.

Read this excellent article along with the links embedded in it from the following location:
NASA - Status of "Warp Drive"

Regards,
Sohel

Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons

Could it be that genetically modified crops or commonly used pesticides like "neonicotinoids" behind this sudden "vanishing" of bees in several countries in the past few months? Bees are vital for agricultural field for their natural pollination abilities. How much affect it would play on world's food production if this trend of "vanishing" bees cannot be reversed in time? If the scientists find out that genetically modified or engineered crops or chemicals are the reasons for this outbreak of "mad bee disease", what does it tell of long term effect of human consumption of genetically modified food that have not been put into any long term rigorous systematic testing?

The New York Time's article "Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons" strokes many "unpleasant" questions in mind.

What is really happening to the bees?

Read the full article from the following link:
Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons

Regards,
Sohel

The Organ Market

The underground organ market where economically deprived, poverty stricken poor men and women are selling their living organs to the rich men and women with money to pay. If one's loved one is struggling with an organ failure or severe malfunction, that one knows what it is like to be in this delicate painful scenario. It is true that since there is no effective government regulations except worthless "paper-laws" in world nations, in many cases, the underground activities in organ buying and selling have potential of bending the established rules, like discarding"brain-death standards, donor age limits and recipient health requirements. States have let transplant agencies put patients on life support, contrary to their living wills, to preserve their organs. If Congress revises its ban on organ sales, as some advocates hope, lawmakers in South Carolina plan to offer prisoners reduced sentences in exchange for organs or bone marrow."

Whether government wants it or not, the desperation that human being feels when death knocks on one's door, there will be unstoppable activities in this shadowy market. However, market capitalism can perhaps provide a palatable solution by "flooding the market with free organs", motivating everyone signing organ donation card can make economics play its part in supply and demand equation. Read the following excerpt:

The key to reversing the organ market is to turn that equation on its head. Stop fighting capitalism and start using it. What's driving the market is scarcity. Americans, Britons, Israelis, Japanese and South Koreans are going abroad for organs mostly because too few of their countrymen have agreed to donate organs when they die. Fewer than 40 percent of Americans have signed organ-donor cards, and only about half of their families consent to the donation of a loved one's organs. Some have religious objections. Others are squeamish. Many assume that if they don't supply the organs, somebody else will.

They're right. Somebody else will supply the organs. But that somebody won't be a corpse. It'll be a fisherman or an out-of-work laborer who needs cash and can't find another way to get it.

Regards,
Sohel

Link to Washington Post article:
The Organ Market

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Power of Web Programming

Look at the following sites, examples of what to come in a very short time when Web 2.0 goes the mainstream. The first website let you create your own picture puzzles, and the second one is a handy one in managing all To-Do-Lists, reminders, planning, etc., a nice alternative to pricey hand-held organizers. The immense power of web programming is only beginning to emerge!

picture dots • dot to dot / connect the dots generator

Remember the Milk: http://www.rememberthemilk.com/

Web 2.0 wave starts to take hold

It has already started. Cool online softwares slowly but definitely are replacing the old pc based ones. If you consider the benefits of online software, it makes sense:

One incentive for companies to supply online software is compatibility. In one go all customers can be upgraded to the newest version and create files that are universally compatible, unlike different generations of Word documents.

"Another advantage of online software is that the companies can track exactly what you do and how you use it. Then they can target specifically to you," said Mr Thompson.

"If you send a lot of e-mails about they'll know that maybe you're trying to buy a cellphone, and they can serve you ads on cellphones.

"So the companies really like it, and it's to the companies' advantage for the software to work extremely well and for you to use it all the time because then they get more information and then they can sell you more stuff."

That is surely a huge incentive in the world of market oriented societies.

Link:
Web 2.0 wave starts to take hold

The Following Should Not Be Questioned

Here is a poem from The Paris Review, Spring 2007 edition. The link is the following:
The Following Should Not Be Questioned More features like excellent interviews, fictions and other items can be read from The Paris Review online presentation. One of the best magazines for literature lovers!

The Following Should Not Be Questioned
Adam O. Davis



Never before such a distant season of derision.
Across town, the silo siren heralds an encore to panic.
The lake below Mexico City shivers like a Plexiglas dance floor.

A fine time to forget about our appointment with the radioman
who was appropriately hostile with his briefcase blues:
somewhere in California something is on fire.

A smattering of pay phones is known as a “currency” of pay phones.
Currently, this currency has no customer. Stay alert.
Watch your neighbors.
Leave us a backgammon board

and your buttons for checkers. Leave us sharks and soapboxes
and sleight of hand, Triffids and tercets and a Teflon pan.
It had been warm, and we spoke in open air on suburban streets

about pleasant things. Peace like that cannot be paid for.
We borrowed it and blink accordingly, indebted and grateful.
Whose racketeer etched warnings on the restroom wall?

How deep the sinkhole that swallowed that Florida town?
The least of your ledgers is neither brittle nor bone nor leafy
browning. That is your farce, your rissom of immaculate manners,

your deception on this scrap heap of dinner plates and dumbwaiters.
Who else to cry out for? Doubt sits in the smolder and song of soil,
where water pipes house the runaways of Temecula, all shivering, all shod

in black nail polish. A telegram trickles through the line
to a general store in Missoula, long abandoned. Given to nature,
the piano grazes in a treeless pasture. Elsewhere, saguaros

stand in rows of infinite surrender. And from within a room
inside this house, a bed shifts and voices rise from beneath.
Voices without a door. Believe us.

Saudi moral police 'under attack'

Saudi Arabia's repressed people have started to take "actions" against the monarchy instituted "moral police" whose purpose is to harass men and women if they are seen together in public, or if women choose not to cover the strands of their young or gray hear beneath the suffocating veil. These "moral police" is called (ironically) "Organization for the Promotion of Morals and Prevention of Vice", but like the unaccountable "divine" emperor at the throne, who is going to implement "Promotion of Morals and Prevention of Vice" on these wretched "moral" and "virtue" crunchers? It seems, Saudi Arabian oppressed people have started to take the "sticks" in their own hands.

Link:
Saudi moral police 'under attack

How To Revive An Old PC With Linux

Useful instruction on how to revive those dust gathering "old pcs" that most of us bought paying hefty price in their hey days is hard to find. Windows have solid strangle hold in consumer pc market, but Linux is slowly gathering steam in the last few years. The article below published in Byte.com provides a short instruction on how to get up to speed in rejuvenating your old computers.

Link to the article:
How To Revive An Old PC With Linux

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Becoming Your Own Boss

Having day dreams and make them come true may sometimes prove to have an ocean between. What does it take to become one's own boss? Is it huge reserve in the bank? Or having arcane technicalities embedded in neocorex? Working for someone else, making monies for corporate entities who mostly stay out of reach in La-La-La lands or scuba diving in exotic places while you, the "hard-working" individuals, busting your stressed cranium to pay the never stopping monthly bills. What does it take to break away from having that eerie feelings of being strapped in a hospital gurney, no movement is allowed, waiting to inhale the last breath?
The following article published in The Spectrum may not give you the complete answer, but it can be a starting point for most earth-bound ones like me.

Regards,
Sohel

Becoming Your Own Boss

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The New Silk Road

While some powerful nations are too busy "putting out the fire", economic necessity, demands for energy in highly booming nations like China and India, are realigning "the geoeconomic and geopolitical landscape of the East, with serious ramifications for U.S. policy."

The writer Afshin Molavi in his Washington Post article describes this new "realignment" between Middle-East and Asia as the "New Silk Road", "the growing business and trade corridor". Read the following extract:

"The new Silk Road is largely the result of the confluence of China's and India's economic growth and high oil prices. China and the six oil-rich members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) -- Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- are flush with cash. What's more, Chinese and Indian energy needs will ensure that the GCC region -- the equivalent of the world's 16th-largest economy -- continues to grow. By 2025, forecasts show, China will import three times as much oil from the Persian Gulf as the United States."
Keeping security and stability are definitely keys in keeping our world safe and prospered for many, however, "Security in the Persian Gulf is now as important to Beijing and New Delhi as it is to Washington. China will no longer be content to perch under America's security umbrella, and the Indian navy now more assertively patrols the Arabian Sea. What's more, China and India have far more influence with Iran than we do -- and less tolerance for a disruptive war. Many of the Islamic republic's political elites are also business elites, eager to find a way out of conflict."

"A way out of conflict" --
wise usage of free market, capitalism's ultimate bastion, can lift billions of world populace from hapless desperation of poverty into hopefulness, where business instincts mixed with education can certainly eliminate or subdue scaremongers and vicious thugs alike.

Regards,
Sohel

Read the article in the Washington Post from the following link:
The New Silk Road

More Trees, Less Global Warming, Right? -- Not Exactly

Well made point from this article is the following observation from the ecologist Ken Caldeira, co-author of this comprehensive studies on the effects of re-forestation:

"protecting the forest should be part of an effort to sustain the world's biodiversity. He also adds that the findings do not endorse clear-cutting or destroying wildlife habitats. "I think that it's important to look at preventing climate change as a means rather than an end in itself," he says. "Too narrow a focus on global warming and a loss of the broader focus of protecting life on this planet can lead to perverse outcomes." Rather than looking to forests to solve the current climate crisis by capturing carbon dioxide, he suggests targeting our "energy system," which continues to create the pollutant."
Scientists attributes the following three major functions affecting climate:

"They absorb carbon, which they pull from the atmosphere, creating a cooling effect; their dark green leaves absorb light from the sun, heating Earth's surface; and they draw water from the soil, which evaporates into the atmosphere, creating low clouds that reflect the sun's hot rays (a mechanism known as evotranspiration that also leads to cooling)."
Caldeira's studies find that these three major functions of trees "taken together created very different results in the primary latitudes studied: the equatorial tropic zone; the midlatitudes that include most of the U.S.; and the boreal areas, which are subarctic and include much of Canada, Russia and the northern extremities of the U.S."

Read the following scientific explanation given for why re-forestation may not work in every latitudes of our world preventing rapid climate warming:

In all three regions, forests dutifully perform their task of sucking carbon dioxide from the air, but light absorption and evotranspiration vary wildly. In tropical zones, forests have a significant, overall cooling effect. The soil is very wet and, so, via evotranspiration, the trees are covered by low-lying clouds that create a small albedo (power of light that is reflected by a surface). In nontropical areas, Caldeira explains, "the real significant factor is whether there's snow on the ground in the winter." If a forest covers a snowy expanse, "that has a strong warming influence," he notes, because of little cloud cover resulting from less efficiency in evaporating water. The poor cloud formation coupled with the intense absorption of light by the trees "far overwhelms the cooling influence of the carbon storage," he says.

"In midlatitudes, we got that it was basically a wash—the carbon dioxide effects were pretty much directly balanced by the physical effects," Caldeira says. He attributes this to the low contrast between light absorption from trees and from grass in pastures, though he notes that because there are some areas with wintry snow cover, the loss of a forest will probably have a slight, if any, cooling effect. He uses this example to point out the relative influence of the different forest functions. Whereas carbon levels can affect warming on a global scale, the effects of increased albedo and poor evotranspiration would affect temperatures only on a regional level. For instance, he says, "if you remove all the forest in the U.S., it would probably heat up the world, but have a slight cooling influence on the U.S., itself."

The link below will take you to the Scientific American Article:
More Trees, Less Global Warming, Right? -- Not Exactly: Scientific American

Regards,
Sohel

Optical Cloaking Design For Invisibility

Researchers using nanotechnology have taken a step toward creating an "optical cloaking" device that could render objects invisible by guiding light around anything placed inside this "cloak."

The Purdue University engineers, following mathematical guidelines devised in 2006 by physicists in the United Kingdom, have created a theoretical design that uses an array of tiny needles radiating outward from a central spoke.

The design, which resembles a round hairbrush, would bend light around the object being cloaked. Background objects would be visible but not the object surrounded by the cylindrical array of nano-needles, said Vladimir Shalaev, Purdue's Robert and Anne Burnett Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The design does, however, have a major limitation: It works only for any single wavelength, and not for the entire frequency range of the visible spectrum, Shalaev said.

"But this is a first design step toward creating an optical cloaking device that might work for all wavelengths of visible light," he said.

Exciting development. Harry Potter's invisibility cloak comes alive, albeit for a single wavelength for now, but further research will surely get the full "cloaked" spectrum, possibly in very near future. Let's hope it has peaceful applications, not being taken over by grand violent purposes. Unfortunately, human beings are fallible.

Regards,

Sohel

Read the full article from the following link:

Engineers Create Optical Cloaking Design For Invisibility

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Marauding maharajahs

Indian Cricket team exited the World Cup Cricket tournament in a shock. This single event has broken perhaps a billion or more Indian's heart across the globe. But in business, due to "reforms to capital markets, the stockmarket has exploded even as interest rates have remained low. Other bottlenecks have been removed, including rules limiting the debt that companies can accrue."

Here is another observation from The Economist:

"the tide of foreign acquisitions by Indian companies will continue to rise, with more and bigger deals. How successful they will be is less certain. No big foreign acquisition has failed so far—even though, according to consultants at McKinsey, that is the fate of 60-70% of cross-border takeovers. “It's important for companies to look at the economic rationale, and not get taken to extremes by emotion and ego,” says Ranbaxy's Mr Singh. Wise words for proud Indians, especially since their cricket team keeps losing."
Read the full article from the following link:
http://economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8934672

World populations - Boomers and losers

Read the extract below and see the graph from The Economist:

African and Arab countries have the fastest growing populations because of their high fertility rates. At the other end of the scale, many of those forecast to shrink most were formerly part of the Soviet Union. Economic decline and political uncertainty since its break-up has resulted in high emigration. For many countries, the opportunities arising from becoming members of the European Union has accelerated this trend.

AFP

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The American dimension

"Even though the prisoners are British rather than Americans, neocons have been desperate to head for television studios. The only reason they have not done so yet is a request by the British government to the Bush administration to stay out of it. Word has also reached members of Congress. The British fear is that even a mild rebuke from President George Bush, or a neoconservative such as John Bolton, will be counterproductive, escalating the crisis and making it harder to get the 15 back."
Cautionary but smart steps by the Brits taken on this present crisis. The article linked below describes this growingly tense issue better than Fox's Mr. O'Reilly or CNN's Mr. Glen Beck's apparent ratcheting up more tension for further violence. With subtle and prudent diplomacy Brits has better chance getting release of these prisoners from Iranian regime peacefully.

Read the complete article from the following link:
The American dimension

Regards,
Sohel

Bill O'Reilly Cuts Microphone of US Colonel Ann Wright

Watch the following video posted on You Tube, where a segment of Bill O' Reilly's The Factor broadcast on March 30th shows how this trickster put his own words on an American retired Colonel's mouth.

Does Mr. O'Reilly have any shame?

When Colonel Ann Wright rightfully informed Mr. O'Reilly that she had served 29 years for U.S. military, and asked him for his service record, that was the last straw for this "flamboyant" journalist. He signaled to cut her microphone off so that anymore pertinent questions like double standards in treatment of prisoners defying Geneva Conventions can not be raised.

Perhaps Mr. O'Reilly assumes American general populace to be completely dumbed down, cowed down after years of his and his cohorts' similarly relentless bombardments of fictitious accounts, fabrications of elaborate myth and forceful denial of any complicity in soaring war and violence in the name of his upholding "sacred" journalism.

Regards,
Sohel



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsuooIpnArQ