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Winds of Discovery: 2004-07-30

Welcome! This is the 3rd edition of "Winds of Discovery", a report by Glenn Halpern of HipperCritical that will take you on a wild ride across the spectrum of science and discovery.

Topics this week include: What is deja vu?; New virus fights cocaine addiction; APOE genes and Parkinsons; Nano-locomotion; Invisibility cloaks and stun guns; Anything into oil; Ancient brewery; Most massive black hole; Biocosm hypothesis; Birth of the moon; Lagrangian points; Alien detection in twenty years; 100 foot waves; Ecocide and de-ecocide; Cloud seeding; Post-Kyoto cooperation; World's oldest mouse; Monkeys yawn, monkey walks; Dogs can do anything; Male nipples

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  • What is deja vu and when did we know it? I feel like I was just thinking about that the other day. Yeah, that's the ticket. (Hat Tip: Paul Hsieh)
  • A new virus has been engineered in the lab to fight against cocaine addiction. This new method of intervention appears to be much more effective than the current protein delivery methods which struggle to escape the body's self-defense mechanism.
  • UNC-Chapel Hill scientists have concluded that a 'specific form of the gene APOE very slightly increases the risk of Parkinson's disease, even though the same gene is protective in Alzheimer's disease'. Hmmmm, APOE, where have I read about that before? It's that deja vu all over again.
  • Scientists can grow kidneys, and maybe some other organs too, in a dish. The field of organogenesis is the stuff of science fiction, but it's coming to a hospital near you. Simply amazing.
  • Doctors may soon be able to go straight to a stroke site to do their clot-busting, and stroke patients will benefit with improved outcomes.
  • Francis Crick has passed away, but this pioneer who helped discover DNA will forever be remembered in the biotech community.


  • There's a new dance craze out there. They're doing it in all the disco halls, on the nano level of course. (Hat Tip: Paul Hsieh)


  • You can catch a glimpse of past visions of future modes of transportation when you stop by the Transportation Futuristics exhibit in the Bernice Lynn Brown Gallery at UC-Berkeley. All these visions of the future were not to be, but Jamais Cascio lets us know what lessons we can learn for our future.
  • These stories are a bit old, but this technology and that technology are so new. Susumu Tachi may be wandering the streets of your neighborhood, right in front of your very eyes, and you may not even know it. Everybody get their stun guns!
  • Discover provides a mid-term report on the development of an industrial plant which will be able to turn anything into oil.
  • Archaeologists have discovered a 1,000 year old brewery in the mountaintop city of Cerro Baśl, Peru. No word yet on whether the brewery's well-aged chicha passed the taste test.


  • Scientists at Stanford have spotted a most massive black hole, measuring more than ten billion times the mass of the sun. This black hole sucks in matter so messily that it has been dubbed Jabba the Hutt. Whatever you do, Stephen Hawking warns, do not try to prove the biocosm hypothesis. If you were to jump into Jabba's mouth, then you'd surely be spit out in "mangled form".
  • Two Princeton professors have developed a compelling theory for the circumstances surrounding the birth of the Earth's moon. More than four billion years ago, a Mars-sized rock was knocked from one of the five Lagrangian points (or relatively stable gravitational spots) that surround the sun, and sent careening towards Earth. The low-speed sideways collision between the two objects then 'turned a chunk of Earth's rock into hot vapor and flung it into space'.
  • Seth Shostack of SETI proclaims that we will come into contact with alien life within the next twenty years. Anything is possible, but then, I know what Drake's Equation is, and I understand the influence of assumptions. They can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. I'm keeping an open mind on everything.
  • In an interview, Dutch astronomer Paul Groot tells about all the lessons we are learning during the 'golden age of astronomy'.


  • Severe weather has sunk more than 200 supertankers and container ships exceeding 500 feet in length over the last two decades. Rogue waves up to 100 feet tall are believed to be the major cause in many such cases - and a recent study reveals that giant waves are more common than we thought.
  • Japan has stepped up to the plate to donate a large sum of money towards the restoration of the marshlands of Southern Iraq. Chiasm reports on the ecocide and de-ecocide of this historic ancient land which some scholars believe to be the site of the Garden of Eden.
  • Chiasm has another super post on the scientifically unproven, but highly revered method of weather control called cloud seeding. All one's got to do is shoot some special rockets into some thick clouds and...voila. Between this, the stun gun and the invisibility cloak, I feel like we're living in a comic strip.
  • WorldChanging sent me here to read up on the history of the science of global warming. It's an excellent guide and I've still got much more to read, but I'm still not 100% sold on the hockey stick. I know when the thermometer was invented, and I understand the influence of assumptions. I'm keeping an open mind on everything.
  • At Foreign Affairs, John Browne offers a path for post-Kyoto international cooperation on the subject of global warming. The keys to advancement for the US government and the rest of the developed nations are to 'create incentives, improve scientific research, and forge international partnerships'.
  • Meanwhile, it looks like the Bush administration may be reaching for the keys. Well, at least President Bush is agreeing with seven other nations on something, right fellas?
  • I hope this is an example of progress on that second key.


  • Yoda, the world's oldest mouse, tells his life story. It's an epic tale with a teary ending, but such is life. You do not want to miss out.
  • Monkeys are so very close to human beings in the evolutionary context. While a new study shows that yawning is contagious among the chimpanzees (thereby indicating an ability to understand another chimp's state of mind), this macaque is already comporting himself like a human.
  • And finally, why do males have nipples? Scientific American asks an expert.

Please check back soon for another exciting edition of Winds of Discovery!

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