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Category: Science


In Florida there’s a guy named Tom Robinson, and he’s freaking related to Genghis Khan. Well, maybe he is.

Or so says some outfit out of England called Oxford Ancestors. They’re a firm that is pioneering a burgeoning field called “bioarchaeology“. It all sounds very suspect, especially given what Oxford University geneticist Bryan Sykes, the founder of Oxford Ancestors says.

Oxford Ancestors, founded in 2001, offers DNA testing to people who want to test their genetic lineage.

Sykes believes that humanity’s common ancestry can be traced through DNA. In 1994, he linked a woman in Britain and a frozen 5,000-year-old corpse found in the Tyrolean Alps, all through their common DNA.

From the AP –

Sykes’ 2001 book “The Seven Daughters of Eve” claimed that 95 percent of Europeans are descended from seven tribal matriarchs – he dubbed them Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine and Jasmine – who lived between 10,000 and 45,000 years ago. He also believes most Europeans can trace their descent to “Five Sons of Adam,” and offers tests to identify these paternal ancestral clans by mapping patterns of DNA within the Y chromosome, the genetic material handed down from fathers to sons that changes little over generations.

Published in an article in the American Journal of Human Genetics in 2003, research suggested that 16 to 17 million men, most in Central Asia, shared a form of the Y chromosome that indicates a common ancestor.

Sykes says that the obvious candidate for this is Genghis Khan, who conquered almost all of Asia and fathered many children in the process. Of course, there isn’t any actual tissue from the Mongol ruler – whose tomb has never been found – the tests are based on an assessment of probabilities.

“This is circumstantial evidence but it is very good evidence,” said Sykes. “I think it does mean that people who carry this chromosome are direct patrilineal descendants of Genghis Khan.” How this chromosome came to be so prominent was that when he conquered new territory Genghis Khan would kill the men and routinely inseminate all the women.”

Now, this totally sounds like BS. But what I found funnier than the explanation about how this man was related to Khan was his response in finding out he was related to the conqueror. Again, from the AP –

“My first impression was, ‘Oh no, who is it?’ imagining it was Adolf Hitler or something like that,” said Robinson, 48. “So I was actually pleasantly surprised.”

Now, I know Adolph Hitler was responsible for the deaths of millions, but Khan wasn’t much better. He took over the Asiatic continent, and, according to Jack Weatherford, author of “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World“, the death toll estimate caused by Khan was roughly 15 million people over 5 years of conquest.

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I need to go change my pants now.

Here’s the story

The US Air Force has unveiled its first hand-held laser weapon that gives security forces a non-lethal option for controlling crowds and protecting areas like checkpoints, according to service officials.

While only in prototype form and years away from fielding, the weapon, known as the Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response (PHaSR) system, holds great promise, they said.

The PHaSR is about the same size and weight of a fully loaded M60 machine gun – around 9 kg – but shoots a low-power beam of laser light instead of bullets. The light it generates is capable of temporarily impairing an individual’s vision, much like the disorienting glare one sees when looking into the sun, said the officials.

Upon completion of testing, one prototype will be handed over to the Department of Defense’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) and the second to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ): the law enforcement arm of the US Department of Justice. Both organisations support the programme, with the latter interested in its civil applications.

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A Tiny Huge Step for Nanotech

A sheet made from nanotubes, tiny carbon tubes only a few times bigger than atoms with remarkable strength and electronic properties. In today’s edition of the journal Science, however, scientists from the University of Texas and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization report the creation of industry-ready sheets of materials made from nanotubes. Nanotubes are tiny carbon tubes with remarkable strength that are only a few times wider than atoms. They can also act as the semiconductors found in modern electronics.

The same sheet, emitting polarized light after the voltage is applied through incandescent heating.

“This is fundamentally a new material,” says team leader Ray Baughman of the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson.

• Self-supporting, transparent and stronger than steel or high-strength plastics, the sheets are flexible and can be heated to emit light.

• A square mile of the thinnest sheets, about 2-millionths-of-an-inch thick, would weigh only about 170 pounds.

• In lab tests, the sheets demonstrated solar cell capabilities, using sunlight to produce electricity.

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2020 : A Nigerian Space Odyssey

Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo said that Nigeria would have astronauts in space within the next 15 years.

Hmm. Okay.


He said the feat was achievable if the momentum of current development drive was sustained. “In 15 to 25 years, we will put Nigeria into space. We will get there. It is not as unattainable as it looks. And we have to do it. For if we are going to make progress, we are going to make it on the basis of commitment, service and sacrifice. And we are not going to be found wanting. We must not be found wanting. We are making efforts not to lag behind. We are not where we would want to be. But we must consistently and cumulatively industrialise. And to do this, infrastructure is a must. We just cannot do without it. Whether it is in terms of road, rail, energy or water. These are non-negotiable. Because of money, we may not be able to do everything at same speed and same time,” Obasanjo said.

Great. Within 25 years it’s not going to be just the US and Chinese with Space Peace Platforms of Death, it’ll also be the freaking Nigerians!

Have a happy Monday!

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Cool Pic

I’m not a huge space shuttle freak. I think that the current NASA model of space exploration has completely lost its way from what the space program was originally designed to do – beat the crap out of the Russians. That, and EXPLORE SPACE. All the shuttle seems to be used for now is truckin’ food up to the poor sods on the ISS and fixing the Hubble. When the hell are we going back to the Moon? When are we finally getting off our duff and going to Mars?

Regardless, the space shuttle Discovery launched the other day and I’m sure you haven’t heard anything about it on the news (sarcasm) . I like this picture. It’s something you rarely see – an external fuel tank hurtling towards Earth.

Watch out, people! Hurtling fuel tank coming your way!

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A New Planet?!

2003 EL61, as it has been currently classified, has been discovered, and it may be another one of those elusive planets that seem to creep up every once in a great while in our solar system.

A new found object in our solar system’s outskirts may be larger than any known world after Pluto, scientists said today.

It also has a moon.

Designated as 2003 EL61, the main object in the two-body system is 32 percent as massive as Pluto and is estimated to be about 70 percent of Pluto’s diameter.

Other news reports that the object could be twice as big as Pluto are false, according to two astronomers who found the object in separate studies and another expert who has analyzed the data.

If the mass is only one-third that of Pluto, then theory holds that it can’t be larger than Pluto, according to Brian Marsden of the Minor Planet Center, which serves as a clearinghouse for data on all newfound objects in the solar system.

Marsden, who was not involved in the discovery but has reviewed the data, told that the mass estimate is very firm, within 1 or 2 percent. “I don’t think it is bigger than Pluto,” he said.

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Paging Rick Deckard…

See the man in the pic to the left? The one with the vaguely girlish hair next to the attractive girl in pink?

His name is Hiroshi Ishiguru. He is a professor at Osaka University in Japan. The woman with him is named Repliee Q1, and no, she doesn’t have some cool Dada-esque last name. She’s a FREAKING ROBOT.

She has flexible silicone for skin rather than hard plastic, and a number of sensors and motors to allow her to turn and react in a human-like manner.She can flutter her eyelids and move her hands like a human. She even appears to breathe.

Professor Hiroshi Ishiguru of Osaka University says one day robots could fool us into believing they are human.

Wonderful. Now all we need is a Voight-Kampff machine.

Fortunately, for us puny humans, we don’t yet have to bow to our robot masters.

She is designed to look human and although she can only sit at present, she has 31 actuators in her upper body, powered by a nearby air compressor, programmed to allow her to move like a human.

Great news for us. Just wait – the next thing you know Repliee Q2 will be out and telling us how to eradicated hunger and poverty from the world, cure diseases and the aging process and helping bring about complete nuclear disarmament, moments before she uses the Army’s Space Peace Platform of Death on us and starts the whole Humans vs. Terminator thing.

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The First Quantum Computer? 2008

A company going by the moniker of D-Wave is letting it be known that they will produce the world’s first quantum computer in 2008. Quantum machines, a sci-fi staple along with nanotech, would not rely on the traditional bits that today’s computers operate with, but qubits (quantum bits), computing at the molecular level. Take a teaspoon, fill it with qubits, and you have IBM’s Deep Blue to the trillionth power. We’ll see if it happens, but if it turns out to be vaporware like Duke Nukem Forever, don’t be surprised.

Of course, these computers would have some physical drawbacks in the beginning, such as having at its heart an analogue chip which would have to be cooled with liquid helium to – 269 °C — just 4 °C shy of absolute zero. And it’s not like you’ll be playing BF2 anytime soon on one of these mofos. D-Wave expects to sell computational services, not quantum hardware, which I’m guessing in the short term would help them make back some of that R&D budget.

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Clotting Battlefield Wounds with Shrimp

Scientists have developed a bandage that can clot a bullet wound in one minute or less. The magic ingredient? Ground shrimp shells and vinegar, a concoction that has been found to clot blood instantly. The key ingredient in the shrimp shells is called chitosan.

The bandages were developed by HemCon, Inc., which develops and markets technologies to control severe bleeding for traumatic skin and organ injuries. Gregory, who co-founded HemCon, says chitosan interacts with our blood cells because its molecules carry a positive charge. “The outer membrane of a red blood cell has a negative charge,” he explains, “and opposite charges attract. The red cell is attracted to the positively-charged chitosan, and when it touches, it fuses and forms a blood clot.” When a clot forms, the bleeding stops. And unlike a regular bandage, which slips off when wet, the HemCon bandage becomes adhesive and sticks to the wet wound site, sealing and stabilizing it.“Bleeding is the single largest cause of death on the battlefield,” says Jim Hensel, President and CEO of HemCon. “The technology that exists today prior to the HemCon bandage is a compression bandage and a tourniquet, which is the same thing used in the Civil War, the Revolutionary Way, and frankly, the Trojan War.”

Neato burrito!

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Nanotech Underwear

This is not one of the products of the future that I was looking forward to, but if it gets rid of that sweaty boxer feeling (if you live/have lived in Texas, and you’re a guy, naturally, you know what I mean) then I might give it a try.

Some company called Green-shield out of Taiwan, “a Taiwanese nanotech company specializing in socks and underwear designed to protect you from the traditional discomforts that plague these items”. Now that’s ingenuity.

The article where I read about this is basically all promo-speak, but here’s some from it-

They have created articles of clothing that they claim can eliminate up to 99.99 percent of bacteria, 90 percent of odor and 75 percent of sticky moisture within the cloth as well as contributing to the overall health of the wearer.This is achieved through nanotechnology. Before the material is woven and sewn together to create garments, Green-shield’s fibers are altered through a patented process so that they begin to release a constant stream of negative ions and far-infrared rays.

The negative ions create a magnetic field that inhibits the reproduction of bacteria, thus eliminating odor and lowering the risk of skin infection or irritation. The negative ions also help to increase circulation and eliminate toxins from the blood by reacting with them and breaking them down.

Meanwhile, the far-infrared rays are absorbed by cells—not just in the skin but throughout the body—causing all the individual atoms to begin vibrating at a higher frequency, which speeds up the metabolism and the elimination of wastes. This is particularly helpful for alleviating soreness due to fatigue or injury, according to Green-shield.

Well, thank god for a constant stream of negative ions and far-infrared rays around your privates. One question though about reducing 90% of the odor – either these people need some FDS or maybe they should just wipe better, huh?

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