California Budget Woes

California is a beautiful state - from the arc of the Golden Gate bridge - the land of beaches, deserts, tall trees, mountains, farms, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley.

But underneath is the miasma of fraud. The state is prone to off-the-books operations, double-book accounting, shady deals, and coercion - from investors to bankers, and third parties. Sometimes, major companies get involved.

A recent snapshot of the problem here identified payments of $768 million which were underreported or obscured.

The impact is felt by the state as a whole in terms of gaps in tax revenue. Activities like this make it tough for the State to run a balanced budget and dampen innovation. There is hope, however, that these dark corners that shroud the golden future will be illuminated by the light of truth, over time.

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Say Cheese: 1st Picture of a Memory Being Made

Incredible...it's the first picture of a memory being made in a...sea slug through the efforts of UCLA researchers.

The increase in green fluorescence represents the imaging of protein synthesis at synapses when memories are made. Credit: Martin et. al

For the first time, an image of a memory being made at the cellular level has been captured by scientists.

The image shows that proteins are created at connections between brain cells when a long-term memory is formed. Neuroscientists had suspected as much, but hadn't been able to see it happening until now.

The experiment also revealed some surprising aspects of memory formation, which remains a somewhat mysterious process.

Kelsey Martin, a biochemist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues investigated memory formation in neurons from the sea slug Aplysia californica, a good model for brain cells in other organisms, including humans.

Read all

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Bad Day for Generation X

Two Gen-X childhood icons have suddenly passed away, as this AP story puts it, in that characters who adorned lunchboxes, are gone - and the generation might be feeling its mortality.

But, Billy Idol (originally of the punk band Generation X), Axl Rose, and 80's group Bananarama (old,80s | newer,2005) are still around.

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Cerebrogelatinizing Mushy-Mush

Reduced to cerebrogelatinous mush by the food industry?

It's by design.

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Water on Saturnian Moon

Enceladus, a moon of Saturn

NEW YORK – Scientists have found new evidence that one of Saturn's moons has an ocean beneath its surface. That's important because liquid water is a key ingredient for life.

The moon is an icy body called Enceladus (en-SELL-uh-duss.) It gives off huge plumes of water vapor and ice grains, and scientists used the Cassini spacecraft to sample material from those jets.

They found particles containing sodium salts, which indicates that the plumes arise from liquid water.

But a second team of scientists found no sign of sodium with a different sampling method. They concluded there could still be a deep ocean on Enceladus, but that there are also other possible explanations for the moon's jets.

Both papers are reported in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

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Lunar Impact on the Brain

Does the moon exert a significant tidal pull on the brain, causing behavioral changes? The answer is probably no, although its fun to think of the brain changing shape - or rising and then receding, based on the inexorable pull of the luminous object.

Pliny, Bede, and others' Cognitive Tidal Hypothesis

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Retro TV: Spock's Brain

YouTube has begun running full-length episodes of original Star Trek, courtesy of syndicator CBS, such as Spock's Brain. Here is the episode, if you don't mind some advertisements. Previously you could get it from Amazon.com.



Study Examines Depression-Alzheimers Link

Researchers often show an association between Depression and Alzheimer's, as both conditions have a cognitive source. A recent study attempts to impact Depression occurring concurrently with MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) using an Alzheimer's treatment (Donepezil). A well-known Depression scale has been developed by Stanford scientists and been in use for some time. (GDS)

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Wrap Your Brain Around This: New Museum

At the Acropolis in Athens, a new museum opened.

Journalists walk amongst statues during a tour of the new Acropolis museum in Athens on Friday, June 19, 2009. Greece opens its long-anticipated new Acropolis Museum Saturday, boosting its decades-old campaign for the return of 2,500-year-old sculptures removed from the ancient citadel by a 19th century British diplomat.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Gods, heroes and long-dead mortals stepped off their plinths into the evening sky of Athens on Saturday during the lavish launch of the new Acropolis Museum, a decades-old dream that Greece hopes will also help reclaim a cherished part of its heritage from Britain.

The digital animated display on the museum walls ended years of delays and wrangling over the ultramodern building, set among apartment blocks and elegant neoclassical houses at the foot of the Acropolis hill...

Full Article

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Did you know tangerines got their name from Tangier, Morocco? This was the port from which they were shipped to Europe. Cultivation goes back 3000 years to China, as tangerines are really a variety of mandarin orange. My tree is 22 feet tall and has about 120 ripe fruit on it now, even though it's off season. They're perfect. Right next to it is a yew tree. There are 5 or 6 good staves that could be broken off and shaped into longbows. This is the tree (in the Pacific yew variety) that is used to make the cancer drug Paclitaxel - an effective treatment for breast cancer.

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Another all time high

On Sunday, we beat Saturday's visit count (our all-time high) by a factor of 10%. Take Saturday's count and multiply times 110% or 1.1 = another new all time high for cognitivelabs.com.

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History of Scurvy

Having scurvy wouldn't be very fun, according to this well-referenced Harvard Law paper. In Western civilization, it took hundreds of years for the scientific consensus to build on a cure.

While a treatment was suggested in the Ebers papyrus (eat onions-which contain vitamin C) before 1500 B.C.E., this tip was forgotten amongst the general fragmentation of knowledge. Various cultures had remedies, but there was no way to preserve and share this information.

The disease occurs when consumption of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) drops below 8-10 mg per day for several months - a condition possible when there is no access to fruit and vegetables. Amongst mammals, humans and guinea pigs are uniquely unable to synthesize Vitamin C in the body, but require an external source. Lack of Vitamin C causes production of collagen to breakdown and faulty gene expression in cells, leading to the shocking symptoms.

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New Era of Personalized Medicine (article)

The McClatchy news organization syndicated this article about how genetic determinants are getting increasingly involved in healthcare. The APOE gene is mentioned.

But this is only one gene among thousands that are significant for various disorders as well as simple variation - not disorders, but differentiation between lifeforms.

Crick, Watson, DNA

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Yesterday's total was just short of 50,000 people...about 45 minutes was not logged because the analytics server gateway was overpowered and knocked out, until it was restored, and there may have been a significant undercounting. A worthwhile brain-training audience.

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The Biggest Day Ever

This titan truck represents today...biggest in cognitivelabs.com's history by a significant gap, still 3:02 to go in the day. :-)

Home page/entry page is revised, too...we'll recap the total later.

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Floating Bed Returns

Do you recall this?

A top piece of linkbait in 2006...sustainable in that no power is used to suspend the bed, rather it floats on a repelling cushion emanating from magnets in the bed and embedded in the floor.

The same principle could be used in our roadways - for far more comfy and fuel efficient vehicles, powered horizontally by solar fans.

Creator's website is http://universarchitecture.com

It was inspired by Arthur C. Clarke's plinth, you know, with the scary atonal chorus.

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Could a Dose of Ether Contain the Secret of Consciousness?

This question was asked in a recent Discover Magazine article.

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Weill and Columbia Scientists Announce Transgenic Mouse Model

Scientists from Columbia and Cornell have announced a new Transgenic mouse model version relating to Parkinson's Disease. Here's the abstract from Nature Neuroscience:

Mutations in leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) are the most common genetic cause of Parkinson's disease. We created a LRRK2 transgenic mouse model that recapitulates cardinal features of the disease: an age-dependent and levodopa-responsive slowness of movement associated with diminished dopamine release and axonal pathology of nigrostriatal dopaminergic projection. These mice provide a valid model of Parkinson's disease and are a resource for the investigation of pathogenesis and therapeutics.

The Full article is here

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5 Truths that Spawned 5 Myths about Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Dennis Fortier, President and CEO of Medical Care Corporation, contributes the following about the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's:

Sometimes the truth can be very misleading. This is often the case with complex topics when an "expert" makes a narrow but accurate statement that is subsequently generalized by the lay public. This is a common phenomenon in the fields of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Here are five examples of true statements that have been so commonly misinterpreted that they have spawned five harmful yet well-entrenched myths.

Narrow Truth: There is no cure for AD.

General Myth: Because there is no cure, nothing can be done for patients diagnosed with this disease.

Like diabetes and hypertension, we cannot yet cure Alzheimer’s disease. However, physicians can intervene and manage the symptoms with more success than most headlines would indicate. In fact, with a timely diagnosis, a physician can prescribe a treatment plan including pharmaceutical therapy, improved diet, physical exercise, mental and social activity, and certain OTC supplements. When this approach is combined with an educated caregiver, disease progression can be commonly slowed for some meaningful period of time.

Narrow Truth: The only certain method for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease is to inspect a sample of brain tissue during autopsy.

General Myth: Alzheimer’s disease cannot be accurately diagnosed until death.

If "certain" means 100% accuracy, then there is no certain diagnostic method for many well known diseases (Lou Gehrig's disease springs immediately to mind). However, physicians following published diagnostic guidelines can get a highly accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (90%-95), even at a fairly early stage of the disease. This diagnostic accuracy is on par with commonly accepted clinical practice.

Narrow Truth: Current treatments do not stop the progression of AD.

General Myth: Since the disease will continue to progress, there is no need to bother with treatment.

There is no doubt that reversing all memory loss would be the best treatment result and halting further memory loss would be better than ongoing decline. However, this does not mean that slowing the pace of further decline is not a worthy pursuit. We all want better treatment options in the future but until they arrive, preserving quality of life during a patient’s final years is definitely a worthwhile and attainable goal.

Narrow Truth: Cognitive decline is a part of normal aging.

General Myth: Pronounced cognitive deficits just need to be expected and tolerated

As we age, all of our organic functions tend to slow. Our ability to think, make calculations, use judgment, and store and retrieve information is not immune to this process. However, a pronounced loss of cognitive capacity severe enough to impact a person’s ability to lead an independent life is not normal. When such decline occurs, there is some underlying pathological explanation that can be identified and treated by a physician. Accepting significant loss of mental function as a normal artifact of aging is a tragedy.

Narrow Truth: It’s best not to know if you have Alzheimer’s disease

General Myth: It’s best if the problem stays undiagnosed

This final "truth" is a stretch to begin with. I can imagine that, if it were possible, an Alzheimer’s patient might enjoy life more if they could receive the highest standards of care without ever knowing they had a terrible disease. However, this does not make the case that the problem should be ignored. The published evidence in favor of managing the symptoms and prolonging a higher quality of life outweighs the presumed benefits of bliss. Additionally, patients need to know about their condition if they are to participate meaningfully in their own care and end of life decisions.

I hear and read these narrow "truths" in the media everyday. I also see first hand how the public mischaracterizes them and takes away a broader and more harmful message than is intended.

Education remains a major barrier between our current ability to care for AD patients and the higher standards that are within our immediate grasp. To address the educational gap, leading researchers distill the daily news through a non-commercial blog called "Brain Today" (it can be viewed at http://braintoday.blogspot.com).

Through this and many other educational efforts, I hope we can begin to divorce ourselves from these sound bites of misleading truth and begin to see the Alzheimer’s picture with more clarity.

Dennis Fortier
President & CEO
Medical Care Corporation

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Social or One to Many

Harvard study points out drive-by nature of Twitter usage. The median number of user twitter postings is one. 10% of users account for 90% of activity. So, for power users, it's perhaps more analagous to accumulating a large email list or generating a large number of RSS feed subscriptions....it follows then that those who do not generate large followings like celebrity-publicist driven efforts will have a dis-incentive to use the service over time. It depends on how the product evolves. However, It has surged in the consciousness as a new kind of sub-second communications tool. The idea of a short, attention-deficit safe broadcast to phones + computers was brilliant, though there may not be voluminous barriers to switching at some point in the future.

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When Sleep Leaves You Tired

The Wall Street Journal discusses the issue of sleep problems. It turns out, chronic sleep deprivation is a major issue. Lack of sleep causes caffeine dependency, a desire to increase food intake, and problematic brain wave patterns.

The solution? Better, longer, quality sleep.

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Spicy Brain Agents

Red Pepper Software was one of the initiators of the supply chain movement via its response agent technology



Happy Birthday (Hippo Birdie) Tetris

Tetris is now 25! Remember kids playing it at the local bus stop?

Here's a Tetris Cake....

Read more at co-creator Vadim Gerasimov's
website. It came out just before the era of glasnost and perestroika.

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The Internet's Neuron Expansion

Growth of Internet hosts and active domains (neurons, for argument's sake) since the 1990's. Expansion has been steady with surprisingly little impact from economics, the dow jones, or level of venture capital funding. One would expect a dramatic plummet in 2001 and 2002, perk up, and drop again. But this is not the case. What is seen is a temporary pause in an inexorable expansion - that's probably still in the early days, looking at the accelerating pace of growth in host names - including the fastest-ever growth between November 2008 and February 2009, according to this sample.

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New Pic and Cambrian Web Data

A new pic. Also, check out this note page about early web sites.

According to Matthew Gray at MIT, the growth in the number of sites (via domains) was this:

* Jun 1993— 130
* Dec 1993— 623
* Jun 1994— 2738
* Dec 1994— 10,022
* Jun 1995— 23,500
* Jan 1996— 100,000
* Jul 1996— 230,000
* Jan 1997— 650,000

The first web server was here at CERN in 1990. (Yes, we understand this is now a bad link...try this additional archive of CERN-related links, though not that amazing 1st link.) The first web server outside Europe was at SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator) in 1991.

(CERN now is in the anti-matter biz)

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Red Hot Pepper Brain - Caliente!

here it is - or just play here.


Curry as Anti-Alzheimer's Substance

Duke researchers are asserting that eating curry-prepared foods two or more times per week may reduce the chance of Alzheimer's by targeting amyloid plaque formations.

In particular, the team of scientists believes that curcumin, which helps to make up the spice tumeric, works to prevent the spread of amyloid protein plaques in the brain, linked to the onset of Alzheimer's in a number of previous studies.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK, lead researcher Professor Murali Doraiswamy said: "There is very solid evidence that curcumin binds to plaques, and basic research on animals engineered to produce human amyloid plaques has shown benefits."

Greg Cole at UCLA has found similar benefits in other research. 1 | pdf

The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer's disease was first recognised by the German neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1905.

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Whitney Trek

Dr. Ashford did the Mt. Whitney hike (climb) a couple years back. It was a snap. Tallest point in the lower 48 states of the US of A.

This is by Ansel Adams, sometimes the subject of aspiring filmmakers who want to make an action-adventure epic. The action would consist of Adams setting up his gear and taking readings with his light meter, loading up fine-grained B&W film plates, and getting flat tires and oilpan leaks as he traversed drypan, washboard roads strewn with pumpkin sized boulders...then developing in the dark room.

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Moon Power

Physicist David Criswell at the University of Houston's Space Sciences Center proposed a lunar-based solar energy capture system in some detail in 2002. Here's the article.

Some quick facts:

-Enough power can be produced for 10 billion people by 2050
-The cost is much lower per unit of energy production via the moon's surface than various satellite options
-microwave relay stations transmit power from the moon to receiving arrays on earth that plug into the existing grid

Another paper (Chen, 2008) from NASA scientists discusses building the next generation astronomical observatory on the moon. An interesting observation is that the common raw material of the moon (glassy breccias) could be processed on site to create huge quantities of mirror blanks, which can then be aluminized. While this usage is for optical telescopes - solar energy reflectors would be similar, with less precise tolerances required.


Nobel Prize winner says Wind Power Full of Hot Air

According to this piece. Instead, solar is the place you oughta be. So, they packed up the windmill and they moved to Beverly.

I'm still kind of bullish on the Dyson sphere....problem being the immense scale and construction cost...

another option is a configuration where the moon is used to bounce sunlight back to the earth or near-earth orbit using hundreds of thousands or millions of mirrors. the advantage to this is avoiding the atmosphere's effect on diluting sunlight and utilizing the fact that the moon is locked in earth-facing orbit all the time, which should be good for something...builds on archimedean concept

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