Thursday, April 28, 2011

Crocodile Blood Could Help People who are HIV Positive by Everything Dinosaur

Crocodile Blood could Hold Key to Improving Human Immune System

Crocodiles, those ancient predators may have a reputation as being man-eaters but new research suggests that their remarkable physiognomy may prove beneficial to humans when it comes to combating AIDS and other diseases.

Researchers at Kasertsart University (Thailand) have discovered a new medicine to help HIV positive children using crocodile’s blood, which has been successfully tested on rats and is now ready for wider research on people suffering from a number of diseases including those with the HIV positive condition.

Win Cheichomsri, Chief of Crocodile Blood Research, Faculty of Zoology, has conducted an experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of crocodile’s blood in unhealthy rats. For the university, the third oldest in Thailand, these tests mark the beginning of an extensive crocodile blood testing programme. For years, scientists have been aware of the remarkable properties of crocodile blood. These animals live in dirty, stagnant water stuffed full of bacteria but even though they may have open wounds their blood and it's anti-bodies prevent infections.

The researchers experiment involved two rats groups – one fed with supplement capsules made of crocodile’s blood and the other fed without the pills, a control group, as the scientists state.

Win Cheichomsri stated that the results indicate that the controlled group (fed without capsules) have bigger spleens than those in the experimental group.

The experimental rats (fed the crocodile supplements) became healthier and more fertile, reproducing many pups later on, the chief concludes. The Food and Drug Administration committee has certified the crocodile-blood tablets as clean and safe supplements for consumption.

Mr. Cheichomsri believes that the crocodile-blood pills could improve the immune systems and general health of HIV positive children. In fact, the capsules have been offered to twenty-four HIV infected children at Lorenzo Orphanage House in Panusnikom, Chonburi.

These children show remarkable physical changes after the consumption of the pills. They show less fatigue and have more energy to play. Their pustules are also gradually disappearing, Mr. Chiechomsri says.

He adds that those children who have suffered from hepatomegaly and splenomegaly, are presented with decreasing liver and spleen sizes. In particular during cold weather these children do not fall ill, indicating an improvement in their immune systems, according to Mr. Chiechomsri.

Based on the results, Mitri Temsiripong (Manager of Sriracha Tiger Zoo) and Wisachini Rungtaweekchair (Wanithai Part, Ltd) donate the crocodile blood supplements to the children at the orphanage, as accepted by Sister Wichuda Kusub. At the moment, the blood can be taken from the crocodiles without harming them and the crocodiles soon recover.

Perhaps these animals with a reputation for being man-eaters, may soon have gained a reputation for being man-savers as scientists search for new ways of combating disease and bacterial infections.

A Dangerous Design

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Earth Day Pictures: 20 Stunning Shots of Earth From Space

Earth Day Pictures: 20 Stunning Shots of Earth From Space

Amis on Hitchens: 'He's one of the most terrifying rhetoricians the world has seen'

Christopher's personal devil is God, or rather organised religion, or rather the human "desire to worship and obey". He comprehensively understands that the desire to worship, and all the rest of it, is a direct reaction to the unmanageability of the idea of death. "Religion," wrote Larkin: "That vast moth-eaten musical brocade/ Created to pretend we never die …"

And there are other, unaffiliated intimations that the secular mind has now outgrown. "Life is a great surprise," observed Nabokov (b. 1899). "I don't see why death should not be an even greater one." Or Bellow (b. 1915), in the words of Artur Sammler: "Is God only the gossip of the living? Then we watch these living speed like birds over the surface of a water, and one will dive or plunge but not come up again and never be seen any more … But then we have no proof that there is no depth under the surface. We cannot even say that our knowledge of death is shallow. There is no knowledge."

Such thoughts still haunt us; but they no longer have the power to dilute the black ink of oblivion.

Anyway, we do know what is going to happen to you, and to everyone else who will ever live on this planet. Your corporeal existence, O Hitch, derives from the elements released by supernovae, by exploding stars. Stellar fire was your womb, and stellar fire will be your grave: a just course for one who has always blazed so very brightly. The parent star, that steady-state H-bomb we call the sun, will eventually turn from yellow dwarf to red giant, and will swell out to consume what is left of us, about six billion years from now.

Sam Harris

Sam Harris

On Academic Blogging

How Public Like a Frog: On Academic Blogging
By Natalia Cecire 04.20.2011

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one's name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

An Arcadian who shall remain nameless asked me a few weeks ago, "Wait, how come you don't blog on Arcade?" My first thought was, "Because I'm the Transactions editor, dummy,"* but because I'm socially well adjusted and have an appropriateness filter, what I said was, "Dude, I have my own blog."

Upon reflection, that statement warrants some unpacking. I've given a fair amount of thought to why I blog as an academic. Many of the reasons are outlined in Dan Cohen's now-classic post "Professors, Start Your Blogs," published in 2006, which is a million internet-years ago. (I would Instapaper it--those margins are brutal.) In blogging, I've come around to the idea that academics need to do a lot more thinking in public if we want said public to have a clue as to what it is that we actually do. It really only seems fair.

Thinking in public is a difficult habit to get into, though, because public is the place where we're supposed to not screw up, and thinking on the fly inevitably involves screwing up. Blogging with any regularity in essence means committing oneself to making one's intellectual fallibility visible to the world and to the unforgiving memory of the Google cache. This is particularly a problem for academics, who are, after all, professional thinkers; we have a culture of making it look easy, and of concealing as much as possible "the raw material of poetry in all its rawness."

Two things cause me to recur to the difference between blogging on my own blog and blogging on Arcade. First, there's been a posting lull on the Arcade blogs recently, a natural effect, I suspect, of the spring semester hurtling toward its crisis of grade-submission deadlines. (Stanfordians, Davisians, and others on the quarter system, I don't know what the hell your excuse is.) And second, there's our Conversations editor Meredith's reflection back in February on the gender dynamics of Arcade and of other online collaborative spaces.

In response to Meredith's post, Cécile Alduy quoted Virginia Woolf's expression of unwillingness to expose the messiness of thinking: "When will come the day when I will be able to read my own writing printed on the page without blushing with shame?" This is a fear that afflicts all writers, but is nonetheless gendered as well; those of us trained in literary studies are familiar with the trope of the publication substituting for the author's body, making the circulation of the text into a highly immodest act for a woman in particular.

So when I say, "Dude, I have my own blog," I am in part acknowledging that having A Blog of One's Own (as it were) is a more comfortable proposition than thinking in public on Arcade, a sort of private room in contrast with Arcade's more public, well, arcade, where traffic is orders of magnitude higher and passers-by peer into your glass windows.

One Arcade feature that has incited debate in the past is our username policy--real, full names only.Passage des Panoramas, Paris, 1910; source: Wikimedia This policy puts into practice the theory that academics should be able to think in public and stand behind their ideas, even the ones they formulate on the fly. Here's how Dan Cohen puts it in the above-mentioned post:

Another factor that has distanced professors from blogs was anonymity. Most early blogs, and especially the ones the media liked to cover, were anonymous or pseudonymous. But I would say that the vast majority of new blogs are clearly attributed (even if they have odd monikers, unlike the boring Attribution and its associated goods, such as responsibility and credit, should make academics feel better about the genre.

Responsibility and credit sound great, and reassuringly academic. I've certainly come out in favor of responsibility and credit in the past. Yet as Marilee Lindemann points out in the Journal of Women's History, eschewing anonymity is gendered (among other things), not neutral. Moreover, Lindemann observes, less authoritative genres like blogging are often the scene of anonymity precisely because they are the places where the disempowered--those who need to be anonymous, for one reason or another--have access to authorship. For these reasons, she celebrates the construction of pseudonymous online identities:

There is a lot of Emily Dickinson in this postmodern Madwoman, playing fast and loose with identity, reveling in the space opened up by declaring oneself a delighted "Nobody" rather than a dreary "Somebody." Dickinson offers the Madwoman more than lessons in the ironies of non-identity, however. With her homemade books and the hundreds of poems circulated to an audience of intimates, she also provides an enabling example of self-publication. Dickinson's careful insistence to Thomas Higginson on the distinction between "print" and "publish" ("I had told you I did not print," she writes, when she wants to explain to him that "A narrow fellow in the grass" appeared in a Boston newspaper without her knowledge or consent) has new resonance in the postprint era that brought today's academic feminist bloggers into being. (210-2)

Indeed, the post-Web 2.0 tendency toward real names has serious privacy implications, and what seemed like an innocuous enough comment from Cohen in 2006 looks a little more troubling juxtaposed with later pronouncements against anonymity by Mark Zuckerberg and others, which my colleague Aaron Bady has ably demonstrated very frequently amounts to good old-fashioned privilege. Certainly a graduate student is less free to post under her or his real name than is a professor with tenure; ignoring power differentials does not make them go away. In requiring real names, Arcade enforces a particular kind of publicness that is in some ways riskier than print publishing.

How dreary to be somebody!

And yet, it's often as somebodies that we reveal ourselves as scholars and teachers. One of the bees recently in my proverbial bonnet is the notion that students have been misguided into thinking that academic thought is neither applicable to nor motivated by "the real world." It's in blogging that I've found this notion most profoundly refuted, as trivial posts on the minutiae of everyday life eventually link up with larger theoretical concerns, casually strung together by the idiosyncratic tagging taxonomy in my head. The humanities in particular are aimed at developing theoretically supple ways to answer questions that we seriously want answered. I'm not going to lie: when I heard I was going to be an aunt, I went and read Eve Sedgwick's essay "Tales of the Avunculate." (Recommended, by the way.) To me, revealing those connections is part of the point of thinking in public.

Sometimes a glass arcade is more of an "admiring bog"--but that's okay, I think.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Beethoven at the end of his life:
"Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est"
("Applaud, my friends, the comedy is over")

Quotable Hitchens

Now, all of this massive Big Bang cosmological churning and destruction and annihiliation—which is paralleled, by the way on our own earth where 99% of all species that have already been on the planet have ever gone extinct, leaving no descendants. All of this could be part of a plan. There’s no way an atheist can prove it’s not. But it’s some plan, isn’t it, with mass destruction, pitiless extermination, annihilation going on all the time and all of this set in motion on a scale that’s absolutely beyond our imagination in order that the Pope can tell people not to jerk off. This is stupid.

I think despair is quite a good starting point myself. I mean I think it’s very good to know that we’re born into a losing struggle. I think that the stoicism that comes from that and the reflection that comes from that is very useful. I’m not very impressed by people who say, “Well, I wish it wasn’t true so I’ll try and act as if it isn’t.” It is true. Everything is governed by entropy and decline and annihilation and disaster and you’re born into a losing struggle and because you’re a mammal primate, a primate mammal, you know you are and you know you’re going to die and there’ll be a lot of struggle and pain along the way.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Big Universe. Small Religion.

"It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil - which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama. "
Feynman, 1959 Interview (From Genius by James Gleick)

"A general problem with much of Western theology in my view is that the god portrayed is too small. It is a god of a tiny world and not a god of a galaxy much less of a universe."
-Carl Sagan

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mass Killings of Gazelles Marked Rise of Human Civilization - ScienceNOW

Mass Killings of Gazelles Marked Rise of Human Civilization - ScienceNOW

The mass killing of wildlife by humans is not a modern phenomenon. A new study concludes that around the time the first cities were founded in the Near East, people herded hundreds of gazelles into long stone passageways that ended in circular pits, where they would slaughter every animal. These massive hunts may have been rich with symbolism at the time, yet the authors argue that they have left the gazelles of the Near East a highly endangered species today.

Gazelles were the favorite prey of hunter-gatherers who lived in the Near East—an area that includes modern-day Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria—before farming began about 11,000 years ago. But there is little evidence that their numbers declined at that time. And when early farmers began domesticating cattle, sheep, and goats, the gazelle's importance as food declined rapidly.

Yet the three gazelle species still found today in the Near East—mountain gazelle, dorcas gazelle, and Persian gazelle—are all endangered. Historical records, based on eyewitness accounts, attest that Bedouin tribes used the long stone walls, known as desert kites and which ranged for up to tens of kilometers, to wantonly slaughter migrating gazelle herds in the 19th and early 20th centuries, much as settlers of the American West massacred buffalo and the antelope-like pronghorn around the same time.

But some researchers have suspected that such practices began thousands of years ago. They think that the hundreds of mysterious desert kites found in the Near East were used to corral and kill wild gazelle and other animals. Scientists have had a hard time figuring out when the kites were used, however, because they contain few traces of organic materials such as bone and charcoal that can be radiocarbon dated.

Now a team led by zooarchaeologist Guy Bar-Oz at the University of Haifa in Israel has found what it thinks is strong evidence that gazelles were massacred at the kites. The researchers analyzed a cache of 2631 pieces of gazelle bone, found during excavations in the early 1990s at the site of Tell Kuran in northeastern Syria, a settlement or hunting camp dated to between 5500 and 5100 years ago—shortly before early cities rose in the Near East. The bone fragments represent at least 93 individual Persian gazelle and bear butchery marks from stone tools. They include all ages of gazelle—juveniles, young adults, and older adults—suggesting that an entire herd had been wiped out.

Earlier archaeological surveys have identified several desert kites within 10 kilometers of Tell Kuran and nearly 50 kites in the Khabur River basin in which the site is located. Rock art near the kites depicts what appears to be the outlines of stone traps used to hunt animals that can be clearly identified as Persian gazelles. Some of this rock art also depicts humans holding clubs that are tethered to lions and bulls, which archaeologists have interpreted as symbolic of the deities worshipped in the cities of Mesopotamia some 5000 years ago. All this adds up to a strong circumstantial case for the ancient mass killings, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This paper presents the first compelling archaeological evidence that gazelles were mass hunted," says Natalie Munro, a zooarchaeologist at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Munro adds that this practice might have had economic as well as symbolic importance, despite the ready availability of domesticated animals, because being able to kill a large number of animals at one time would have been worth the large communal effort it required.

Historical records of gazelle hunting in desert kites suggest that the team is probably correct, adds zooarchaeologist Simon Davis of the Portuguese Institute of Archaeology in Lisbon. Nevertheless, Davis says, he has some "minor quibbles" with the paper, noting that the age distribution of the butchered gazelles could also have come about if the killing had taken place randomly over a long period of time and the bones deposited in one central place. Davis says he would also like to see "more solid evidence for the dates of these kites" before accepting that they were used to hunt the 5000-year-old gazelles found at Tell Kuran.