Welcome to Life

Posted by on June 10th, 2012

Love this video by Tom Scott, rightly subtitled “The Singularity ruined by Lawyers”:

YouTube Preview Image

via Mark Pesce

Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Tests Neither Accurate in Their Predictions nor Beneficial to Individuals, Study Suggests

Posted by on May 31st, 2011

From ScienceDaily, the study looked at the risk factors given by two large DTC companies, deCODEme (Iceland) and 23andMe (USA):

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests give inaccurate predictions of disease risks and many European geneticists believe that some of them should be banned, the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics heard May 31. In the first of two studies to be presented, Rachel Kalf, from the department of epidemiology at Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, will say that her research is the first to look at the real predictive ability of such tests, the results of which are available directly to an individual without having to go through a healthcare professional.

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Bruce Sterling interviewed by Andrew Keen @ SXSW

Posted by on March 18th, 2011

Here’s a selection of short clips from TechCrunch TV’s Andrew Keen interview with The Chairman, Bruce Sterling, at this year’s SXSW.

Watch the full selection on Tech Crunch: part1 & part2.

via Technoccult & @doingitwrong.

Forgotten: The most radioactive town in Europe

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

At about 10.30am on 17 January 1966, when Jesus Caceido heard a deafening explosion coming from the village of Palomares, the future mayor of the area had no idea he had just witnessed one of the Cold War’s most serious nuclear accidents – or that nearly half a century later, the 1,500 villagers would still be battling to have the ensuing contamination removed for good. After all, they live in Europe’s most radioactive village.

Today, 45 years after four nuclear bombs fell near the village when a US Air Force B-52 bomber and a refuelling aircraft collided in mid-air, tens of thousands of cubic metres of contaminated soil and an estimated – although never officially confirmed – half a kilogram of plutonium remain. And the radiation is getting potentially more dangerous, not less.

“As this type of plutonium decays, it is converted into another radioactive substance, americium, which is highly carcinogenic and can be released into the atmosphere,” says Igor Parra, a specialist for the Ecologistas en Accion pressure group for Palomares.

Via The Independent.

Policing Genes

Posted by on January 21st, 2011

The honey bee, pollinator and drug insect:

The genetics of the plants in your garden could become a police matter. Pharmaceutical companies are experimenting with genetically engineering plants to produce useful and valuable drugs. However, the techniques employed to insert genes into plants are within reach of the amateur… and the criminal. Policing Genes speculates that, like other technologies, genetic engineering will also find a use outside the law, with innocent-looking garden plants being modified to produce narcotics and unlicensed pharmaceuticals

Via Next Nature.

Microsoft patents altering parasites to fight disease

Posted by on January 18th, 2011

slashdot reports:

“In its just-published patent application for Adapting Parasites to Combat Disease, Microsoft lays out plans to unleash ‘altered parasitic organisms’ on humans, including mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, bed bugs, leeches, pinworms, tapeworms, hookworms, heart worms, roundworms, lice (head, body, and pubic), and the like.

‘Irradiated mosquitoes can be used to deliver damaged Plasmodium to individuals,’ explains Microsoft. ‘Instead of contracting malaria, an individual receiving the damaged Plasmodium develops an immune response that renders the individual resistant to contracting malaria.’ Don’t worry about runaway breeding, advises Microsoft — ‘a termination feature [that] can include programmed death’ makes this impossible.

The Thin Blue Line Between Super-Hero and Vigilante

Posted by on January 6th, 2011

This isn’t our normal sort of news, but I figured I’d showcase it anyway given my own recent spat of Autosuperheroic and Real Life Superheroes posts.

Over at Bleeding Cool, they have a fascinating tidbit about “The Punishers” – an alleged cadre of rogue police officers.

Shortly after the beating a Milwaukee Police Department commander investigated a suspected rogue group of officers known as “the Punishers,” who wore black gloves and caps embossed with skull emblems while on patrol, according to newly released documents.

Capt. James Galezewski wrote in 2007, “This is a group of rogue officers within our agency who I would characterize as brutal and abusive.. At least some of the officers involved in the Jude case were associated with this group, although there is reason to believe the membership extended beyond those who were convicted in the case.”

The piece goes on to describe how many of the alleged members had Punisher tats, and other assorted bits of Frank Castle paraphernalia that they often took with them on the job – not the least of which are the skull-emblazoned caps they wore on duty.  This, if it is true, is a good example of the dark side of the autosuperheroic urge. While cops playing vigilante isn’t new by any stretch of the imagination; cops playing The Punisher while playing vigilante is.

Yes, we can all be Batman but within that same current are the same kind of fascist undertones that superhero comics have always wrestled with, and nothing says that better than cops uniting under the flag of Frank Castle to bust a few heads.

[Via Bleeding Cool]

The SenseFly Swinglet CAM: Your Very Own UAV

Posted by on November 5th, 2010

The SenseFly Swinglet CAM, via crunchgear, who’s calling it “a micro version of real aerial survey vehicles“.

Nice. Need to carry something heavier than 150g? They can design a larger platform to fit your needs.

Movie screens will collect your facial expressions for ‘research’

Posted by on November 4th, 2010

What if I told you that movie theaters may become a little bit similar to Big Brother? A U.K. security firm just earned a grant to use special cameras embedded into movie theater screens to capture your facial expressions — to serve you more relevant ads. Just when I thought privacy couldn’t get any worse, this is sure to shake up movie goers.

The security firm, Arlia Sytems is planning to use infrared to detect the facial expressions of an individual’s face. It will use 3D facial recognition technology to determine things like whether the audience is looking at a certain ad, where on the screen their eyeballs are tracking and how targeted ads are being received.

Via dvice.com.

‘Skin Printer’

Posted by on November 4th, 2010

Via disinfo.com, a machine that prints layers of cells mixed with fibrinogen, type 1 collagen and thrombin has been reported by technologyreview.com.

The system, which lays down cells with the same fluid-based inkjet technology used in many printers, could print large swathes of living tissue directly onto the injuries of soldiers wounded on the battlefield. Covering burns and related wounds is of critical importance because, the scientists note, “any loss of full-thickness skin of more than 4 cm in diameter will not heal by itself.”

See also:

Hat-tip to @catvincent!

Toolbox: Setting up a home science lab

Posted by on September 17th, 2010

Make has an excellent guide to setting up your own home lab:

As is true of most hobbies and other organized activities, if you’re going to do home science, it’s desirable to have a dedicated place to do it. But dedicated lab space is by no means essential. After all, when most people think of home science the image that comes to mind is a kid working with a chemistry set at the kitchen table. Even if the kitchen table is the only available place to work, you can get a lot of home science done.

But before you settle on the kitchen table, give serious consideration to other possible locations for your home lab. Of course, you may have to choose between using the kitchen table and having no lab at all. In that case, do the best you can with what you have to work with. Here are some things to think about when you choose a location for your home lab.

Robotic helicopter that can grasp a payload

Posted by on August 29th, 2010


Like the Grand Theft Auto RC missions come to life, this helicopter can grasp objects for transport. They don’t have to be a special size or shape, and it can lift them even if they are not centered. This is thanks to a load-balancing hand (originally developed as a prosthesis) that relies on flexible joints and a tendon-like closing mechanism. As you can see in the video, the light-weight chopper has an on-board camera so that the operator can see what is being picked up. This little guy has no problem lifting objects that are over one kilogram while remaining stable in the air.

Link and photo from hackaday.com.

See also:

OUTLAW BIOLOGY: Public Participation in the Age of Big Bio

Posted by on January 31st, 2010

Outlaw Biology, present by the UCLA Center for Society and Genetics and Art/Sci, presented a symposium, workshop and exhibition this weekend.

A symposium exploring new forms of public participation in biological research, raising questions and cultivating ideas about how life could and should be studied. Panelists will address issues including do-it-yourself biology, open source science, at home medical genetics, bio-art, and novel ethical engagements with science at the cutting edge. Event schedule includes: Friday, a panelist discussion with artists, scientists and normal people; Saturday, workshops and an open-house exhibition throughout.

A tentative list of workshops and exhibitions included:

1. Bioweathermap, Jason Bobe. With field-trips to the UCLA Arboretum and Hammer Museum (in cooperation with Machine Project

2. Learn to Design a DNA-based nanostructure using cadnano software, Philip Lukeman

3. Paint colorful microbes – luminescent, fluorescent, and pigmented – on do-it-yourself solid media. With a little time and luck, we’ll preserve the painted results in epoxy, like microbiological paintings in amber, Mackenzie Cowell

4. SKDB: Learn to use software tools for open source manufacturing and bioengineering, Bryan Bishop and Ben Lipkowitz

5. Use of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus strain ADP1 as a DIY bioengineering platform, David Metzgar

6. Ars Synthetica: Have an informed, ethical, and open dialogue on the emerging field of synthetic biology, Gaymon Bennett

7. Extract DNA from Strawberries, CSG Staff

8. Lactobacillus Plasmid Recovery and Visualization for fun and profit, Meredith L. Patterson

9. DIY Webcam Microscopy. Join us for a worldwide webcam hacking event and make your own 100x USB microscope for less than $10. We’ll provide the webcams and a live internet feed from other workshop locations across the world, from Bangalore to Australia. Find out more at diybio.org/ucam

10. Velolab, See the first Bicyclized Mobile Biology lab, Sam Starr

The Brick Carriers of Bangladesh

Posted by on January 20th, 2010

In Bangladesh, people routinely stack mountainous piles of bricks onto their heads when loading and unloading the boats and Bedford trucks used to transport clay-fired bricks from the kilns where they are made to the construction sites where they are used. These feats of endurance and equilibrium look near inconceivable to blinkered Western eyes, but for the brick carriers it’s all in a day’s work.

That stack of some 20 bricks is almost as tall as the man carrying it, yet he still has room to flip a few more on top and walk the plank onto dry land. After this initial effort, workers often have to carry their precarious piles some distance, and when on site climb several flights of stairs to the rooftops where the bricks will be laid. Without wheelbarrows, single-minded stability is all that stands between a slip and tens of kilos of bricks falling – and perhaps even a snapped neck.

Words and link from environmentalgraffiti.com.

How To D*Face A Skate Pool With A Thousand Skulls

Posted by on December 25th, 2009

San Bernadino was hit hard by the economic slump and subprime mortgage fiasco, so many of its properties have been left vacant. This gave the skating community the chance to mark their turf on an abundance of abandoned swimming pools – echoing the era when Alba and others took their hardcore style to the pools following the 1970s drought in Southern California.

The invitation to paint ‘Ridiculous’ was put out by MTV, but if that makes this sound more commercial than it perhaps should, remember that the guys who found it could, in theory, have been arrested for this stunt. And look no further than D*Face’s skull designs, hundreds of which litter the pool basin, to see that this is a graphic artist doing what comes naturally to him – and an artist who loves skating.

Link, photo and video via environmentalgraffiti.com.

Protecting Your Virtual Privacy: A Closer Look At Digital And Internet Security

Posted by on November 4th, 2009

A gentle reminder that the social sites you frequent on the net shouldn’t be your only concern for data mining:

Dr. Michael Birnhack of TAU’s Faculty of Law and Prof. Niva Elkin-Koren from the University of Haifa recently completed a comprehensive study on information privacy laws in Israel and found compelling reasons for lawmakers everywhere to take notice. “Our research from Israel can serve as a case study of the shortcomings of a comprehensive data protection program,” says Dr. Birnhack.

“It’s not just sites like Facebook and Twitter that should cause concern,” he continues. “It’s all the trivial things that are collected about us that we’re not protected against.”
A health insurance provider doesn’t need to see your medical records to understand the state of your family’s health. It can learn just as much by looking at your grocery bill. “If you use a discount card at a supermarket, information on your purchases is added to a database. If you shop for halal or kosher products, your religion can be inferred, and the purchases of fatty or gluten-free foods can provide an indicator of your family’s overall health.”

Federal legislation in the U.S. regulates for some 15 different kinds of specific data sets, such as health data and credit histories, but not for information collected by club and discount cards or by commercial Web sites. And it’s more difficult to write a law to secure confidentiality in those areas, says Dr. Birnhack.

“Unless there are specific laws in place, this personal digital information is up for grabs. It can be bought and sold between governments and private companies, which can then conduct data mining and analysis on it and sell the results to third parties,” he explains.

Like Europe, Canada has a universal informational privacy policy, but U.S. data collection and dissemination regulation is more limited. Justice system lawyers are currently debating the issue of informational privacy, and Dr. Birnhack suggests that they look to Canada’s law as a good way to protect privacy. “Canada has the best data protection regime in the world,” he says. “It’s very powerful.”

Via sciencedaily.com.

Biotech Company Sued for Accidentally Growing Extra Bones In People’s Bodies

Posted by on November 4th, 2009

An illegal surgical mashup:

A company called Stryker Biotech was in court last week defending a bone-growth product it sold for years, despite reports that it would “drift” in the body, causing bones to grow in random locations.

To boost sales of a product called OP-1 Implant with a bone-setting filler called Calstrux. The mixture was not approved by the FDA, and in fact OP-1 was only supposed to be used on a rare bone disease, not on people who simply needed to have their bones knit together fast. Surgeons were urged by Stryker to shape the OP-1/Calstrux paste into a “tootsie roll” or “vienna sausage” shape and implant it. Unfortunately, the substance often broke down and drifted through patients’ bodies. Bids of sprouting bone that looked like “oatmeal” or “white sesame seeds” would appear far from the site of injury where the substance had been implanted.

The product has excellent application possibilities, too bad about the drift issue. Link via io9.com.

Original Artist Sued by Imitator

Posted by on October 26th, 2009

John T. Unger, creator of Artisanal Firebowls, is being sued in federal court by an imitator who wants to continue to make knockoffs of Ungers’ original art.

I need your help. My original art has been copied by a manufacturer who is now suing me in federal court to overturn my existing copyrights and continue making knockoffs. I have a strong case, a great lawyer and believe that if I can continue to defend myself, the case will be resolved in my favor. If I run out of funds before we reach trial, a default judgment would be issued against me and could put me out of business. I don’t believe my opponent can win this case in court and I don’t believe he really intends to try. I believe his goal is to use strong-arm litigation tactics to force me to keep spending money or risk losing my copyrights — not by true adjudication, but by default if he is able to outspend me.

Note, since the knockoff company initiated the lawsuit first, the default judgment will be entered in the knockoff company’s favor. Fighting in court takes time, but most importantly, money. Lawyers are expensive. He’s already spent 50K out of pocket so far, but attempts to settle have been unsuccessful.

Seeking a judicial ruling in federal court will cost more than any artist or small business can afford on it’s own, but attempts at settlement have been unsuccessful. I am holding a fundraising sale of my artwork to finance a defense in court. If you can contribute to the fund or share this story with others to help raise awareness, it would mean the world to me.

Money aside, this is an important judicial situation for artists, as the US Copyright Office approved Ungers’ designs as sculptural artwork and awarded him certificates of copyright as the originator of these designs. The law can not and should not be eroded further, but few artists have the money to defend their rights in court. This is a chance to do so now. Please spread the word!

Link via Warren Ellis, via twitter.

High court serves first writ on Twitter

Posted by on October 1st, 2009

AN anonymous Twitter user has received the first British High Court injunction to be issued on the social network.

The High Court ordered its first injunction via Twitter this week, saying the social website and micro-blogging service was the best way to reach an anonymous Tweeter who had been impersonating someone.

Solicitors Griffin Law sought the injunction against the micro-blog page www.twitter.com/blaneysblarney arguing it was impersonating right-wing blogger Donal Blaney, the owner of Griffin Law.

The legal first could have widespread implications for the blogosphere.

In December last year, an Australian court broke new ground by serving court documents on Facebook.

“I think this is a landmark decision to issue a writ via Twitter,” said Dr Konstantinos Komaitis of Strathclyde University’s law faculty.

“You are creating a precedent that people will be able to refer to. It only takes one litigant to open the path for others to follow,” Dr Komaitis said.

From news.com.au.

Personal Genomics & Privacy Survey

Posted by on October 1st, 2009

Do you think consumers should be able to order genetic tests? Let your opinion be known!

In this survey, you will be asked questions about issues of privacy and consent that arise in relation to personal genomics services. In addition to answering yes-or-no questions, you will also have the option of leaving comments explaining your answers to the questions, in your own words, for other participants to read. These comments/reasons will be seen by others and only associated with the pseudonym/username you chose.

Furthermore, you will be asked three questions about your level of familiarity with ‘research ethics’ and ‘personal genomics’.

Link via the Biotech Weblog.