Friday, October 30, 2009

Scientifically Haunted House Suggests You’re a Sucker

Wired Science: "Fake blood, canned screams and plastic skeletons are fun, but if you want a real haunted house, turn to scientists.
To test whether it’s possible to artificially induce paranormal experiences — or, from a different perspective, to technologically summon a spirit — researchers at London’s Goldsmith College and architect Usman Haque designed a scientifically haunted room.
They were inspired by earlier studies in which test subjects reported contact with the phantasmic when exposed to electromagnetic fields and waves of infrasound.
This hasn’t just taken place in the laboratory. Odd EMF fields have been recorded at reputedly haunted castles. And geomagnetic flux caused by shifting tectonic plates reportedly produces surges in poltergeist sightings. Meanwhile, infrasound waves below the level of human hearing have been linked to visitation.
Of course, ghosts — which 40 percent of the American public claim to believe in — are only one possible explanation. Perhaps people feel something, and what they call “haunting” is their uniquely sensitive power of perception. Maybe they’re just suggestible.
So Christopher French, head of Goldsmith’s Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit and editor of the Skeptic magazine, built the haunted room: a white, wood-frame canvas tent 9 feet in diameter, located in the front room of a London row house. It was entirely featureless, but hidden speakers cast infrasound waves like those measured in supposedly-haunted Coventry Cathedral. Other speakers projected sound waves that produced an electromagnetic frequency used in laboratory stimulation of paranormal feeling.
Each field’s range was focused in a different part of the room, and some areas were field-free. If haunting indeed had a wavelength, then people would ostensibly report unusual experiences in the target areas."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

$1.26 Billion awarded to two Wisconsin Men from Pepsi Co. over the idea to bottle water

What's the cost of not showing up to court? For PepsiCo Inc., it's a $1.26 billion default judgment. A Wisconsin state court socked the company with the monster award in a case alleging that PepsiCo stole the idea to bottle and sell purified water from two Wisconsin men.

Now the company is scrambling to salvage the situation. The damages award was handed down on Sept. 30. PepsiCo filed motions to vacate the order and dismiss the claims on Oct. 13, saying it wasn't even aware of the lawsuit until Oct. 6.

The litigation began in April when Charles Joyce and James Voigt sued the soft drink maker and two of its distributors, alleging they had misappropriated trade secrets from confidential discussions the plaintiffs had with the distributors in 1981 about selling purified water. The information was illicitly passed to PepsiCo, which used it to develop and sell Aquafina bottled water, the plaintiffs allege in the case filed in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County before Judge Jacqueline Erwin.

In court documents, PepsiCo argues it was improperly served with the Wisconsin lawsuit in North Carolina, but also asks the court to excuse the corporate bureaucracy that buried a legal document for weeks. While plaintiffs say they served the lawsuit in June on PepsiCo's registered agent in North Carolina, where the company is incorporated, PepsiCo says its law department at the company's Purchase, N.Y.-based headquarters was not notified until September.

**Ridiculous! I love it.**

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Daddy Chihuahua leads family to safety "A daddy dog with a deformed leg led his family of nine to safety this week along the shoulder of a busy highway during rush-hour traffic, officials said.
His destination: Animal Care Services.
“Animals come in every single day,” whether they're picked up or dropped off, said Lisa Norwood, ACS spokeswoman. “In this particular case, they brought themselves in.”
An ACS employee and a volunteer caught sight of the pack of Chihuahua mixes Wednesday around 5 p.m., Norwood said.
From the shoulder of a bustling Texas 151, the patriarch of the family led an older female dog and seven puppies down a grassy slope and to the gate of ACS, located along the frontage road of the highway.
The leader has a cloven leg — likely a birth defect caused by inbreeding.
“He gets along fine and was able to lead his family off of the highway and into the shelter,” Norwood said."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Glow in the Dark Mushrooms

A newly identified luminescent fungus called Mycena luxaeterna has been discovered in a forest in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

It sounds like something from a fantasy movie but these tiny mushrooms do actually glow in the dark. These newly discovered species take the number that glow from 63 to 71.

The mushrooms glow 24 hours a day but the effect can only be seen at night.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hospital error leads to CT scan radiation overdoses in 206 patients

How well do hospital medical technicians know their equipment? Not well enough in the case of some healthcare workers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where 206 X-ray computed tomography (CT) scan patients were given eight times the normal of radiation during brain scans over an 18-month period. The Los Angeles Times reports today that the cause of the overdoses has been traced back to a mistake the hospital made resetting a CT scanner.

The problem began in February 2008 when the hospital began using a new protocol for CT brain perfusion scans, which expose the brain to radiation in an attempt to help doctors analyze disruptions in the flow of blood to brain tissue and diagnose strokes. This change involved resetting the machine to override the pre-programmed instructions that came with the scanner when it was installed, the Times reports.

"There was a misunderstanding about an embedded default setting applied by the machine," according a written statement issued by the hospital. "As a result, the use of this protocol resulted in a higher than expected amount of radiation." Eight times higher, to be precise.

The error went unnoticed until this August, when a stroke patient informed the hospital that he had begun losing his hair after a scan.

Concerned that this error might not be limited to Cedars-Sinai, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week issued an alert to CT facilities, radiologists, neurologists and several other types of healthcare professionals to warn them of possible "widespread problems with CT quality assurance programs," meaning the problem might not be isolated to Cedars-Sinai's equipment or this particular imaging procedure. The alert concluded, however, "While unnecessary radiation exposure should be avoided, a medically-needed CT scan has benefits that outweigh the radiation risks."

General Electric, the manufacturer of the scanner, released its own statement Monday saying there were "no malfunctions or defects" of the machine, the Times reports.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hillary Clinton says she won't run for president again

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday she would not run for president again, and brushed off suggestions that she is being marginalized in the Obama White House.

Clinton, who lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama, said "No" three different times when asked by NBC's Ann Curry "Will you ever run for president again? Yes or No?"

"This is a great job," Clinton said in the interview broadcast Monday. "It is a 24-7 job. And I am looking forward to retirement at some point."

After the 2008 elections, Clinton accepted Obama's offer to serve as his top diplomat.

Unless she challenged President Obama in the 2012 Democratic presidential primary, Clinton would have to wait until 2016 to run again if she changed her mind. She turns 62 on October 26.

Clinton also denied that her voice is not being heard in the administration, and said it is not her style to try and be the center of attention.

"I find it absurd," she said. "I find it beyond any realistic assessment of what I am doing everyday."

"Maybe there is some misunderstanding which needs to be clarified. I believe in delegating power. You know, I am not one of these people who feel's like I have to have my face in the front of the newspaper or on the TV every moment of the day. I would be irresponsible and negligent were I to say 'Oh no everything must come to me,'" she said.

"Now, maybe that is a woman's thing. Maybe I am totally secure and feel absolutely no need to go running around in order for people to see what I am doing. It is just the way I am. My goal is to be a very positive force to implement the kind of changes that the president and I believe are in the best interests of our country. But that doesn't mean it all has to be me, me, me all the time. I like lifting people up."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Making us Proud: Al Franken's first amendment - No Halliburton/KBR rapes!

Today the Senate "debated" the Department of Defense appropriations bill passed by the House (H.R. 3326) for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010. Republicans added frivolous amendments all day, that were defeated one after the other. The amendment du jour, however, came from Al Franken D-MN.
And what a doozy it is! S. Amend. 2566 simply prohibits "the use of funds for any Federal contract with Halliburton Company, KBR, Inc., any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, or any other contracting party if such contractor or a subcontractor at any tier under such contract requires that employees or independent contractors sign mandatory arbitration clauses regarding certain claims." The "certain claims" have to do with sexual assault.
I might have phrased it differently myself -- like "prohibits any member of the executive team and Board of Directors of Halliburton and KBR from ever getting out of prison for any reason whatsoever" or something like that. But my amendment probably wouldn't have gotten many votes, unlike Franken's which passed 68-30, every Democrat being joined by 9 Republicans. (Does anyone know if LeMieux has to call Charlie Crist and get his OK before he votes?)

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

NASA to bomb the moon

NASA is launching a dramatic mission to bomb the moon.
The LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite) mission will send a missile traveling at twice the speed of a bullet to blast a hole in the lunar surface near the moon's South pole.
Scientists expect the impact of the Centaur rocket to be powerful enough to eject a huge plume of debris from the moon. The moon dust should even be large enough to be seen from earth through telescopes 10-to-12 inches and larger, says NASA.
So what's our beef with the moon?
The bombing isn't an act of hostility: it's all part of our search for water in space.
The missile will impact the lunar surface at crater Cabeus A (see photo below). The crater is located on the moon's South pole, an area in which scientists estimate there may be billions of tons of trapped ice.

Scientists intend to examine the debris from the blast for traces of water ice or vapor. Discover Magazine explains how it works:
Detecting that water is tough. Radar results have been inconclusive, with some people saying there's lots of water, and others saying there's none at all. By impacting a probe there, any ice located at the impact site will be shot up above the lunar surface, where sunlight will break it up into O+ and OH- molecules, which can be detected. Thus, LCROSS.
Locating water on the moon would be a big boon for future space missions, NASA notes:
Transporting water and other goods from Earth to the moon's surface is expensive. Finding natural resources, such as water ice, on the moon could help expedite lunar exploration.
Check out an awesome video simulation of the LCROSS mission here.
Watch the LCROSS launch on a Live NASA TV Broadcast that will start at 6:15 a.m. EDT/3:15 a.m. PDT on October 9, 2009.

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