October 30th, 2007


Space-Faring Fungus Hats and Synthetic Biology


If you share my view that technology drives history more than any other factor, then you will probably agree that the 21st century is going to be significantly shaped by the outcome of a single question: Will synthetic biology achieve radical success or not?


Synthetic biology is the current term for the outer reaches of ambition in biotechnology. More often than not, the notion includes making artificial biology more like digital computation. It could hardly be otherwise, for computers are central to most of the prior art we have for building highly complicated structures from scratch. Computers also symbolize the ultimate in freedom through technology. You can hypothetically program a computer to do virtually anything with its input and output devices.


If we could only find the right computer program to operate robotic medical devices, for instance, we could create a robot surgeon to cure any disease.


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Cool Town


Somehow, this building looks solid. As solid and stable as the other buildings around it.

The High Life

How Tibetans Enjoy the High Life


The secret is in the blood, and broader arteries to carry it.


The people of the Tibetan Plateau survive and thrive on the roof of the world, a region averaging 14,763 feet (4,500 meters), or nearly three miles, above sea level. The air at that elevation is not the rich soup of oxygen that humans enjoy at lower elevations. 

According to new research, Tibetans avoid altitude sickness because they have broader arteries and capillaries delivering oxygen to their muscles and organs.


"One of the ways they do that is to have very high blood flow—delivering blood to tissue at twice the rate that we are" says anthropologist Cynthia Beall of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.


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In Search of the Real Dracula


Such is the enduring power of Bram Stoker's classic horror story, first published in 1897 and never out of print, that modern-day Transylvania in Northern Romania has become a tourist Mecca.


Though the novel was first published in English in 1893, Romania's most famous fictional resident, Count Dracula, was almost unknown there until 1992. Only with the fall of communism was Bram Stoker's classic finally translated and published in Romania.


What is known of Vlad the Impaler comes from a series of lurid stories dating back to the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. They depict a man surrounded in corpses, a tyrant and madman, who literally drank the blood of his enemies. There are good reasons to think that Stoker was struck by this evil character and borrowed his surname, "Dracula," because he thought it meant "son of the devil," to create his own vampire.


In fact, it meant "son of the dragon," and this was because Vlad's father had joined an order of knighthood called the Order of the Dragon. Dragon is written dracul in Romanian, and so Dracula literally means "son of Dracul."


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Quote of the Day

"In attempts to improve your character, know what is in your power and what is beyond it."


Francis Thompson (1859 - 1907)

Image of the Day

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece, at 2,917 meters high. It is noted for its very rich flora with several endemic species. In Greek mythology, Mount Olympus is the home of the Twelve Olympians, the principal gods in the Greek pantheon. The Greeks thought of it as built up with crystal mansions wherein the gods, such as Zeus, dwelt.

Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7)