oddly enough, Science

Falling in love, 21st century style (mostly for mice).

According to Spiegel Online (link in German), GenePartner, a Swiss company, is actually offering to match people based on their DNA structure since last July. They, like their American competitor ScientificMatch, base their product on recent research that was able to exploratorically establish an empirical preference for sexual partners with a genetically different immune system, yet with only a weak theoretical explanation for the empiric findings. While researchers in the field are apparently still modest about the importance of their findings for human mating, the two companies seem confident in their ability to identify and numerically encode the previously unconscious preferences which then allows to identify prospective mates with a different immune system and thus, it is assumed, a significant potential for a relationship. Weiterlesen

oddly enough, Science

The new feminism?

Given that really no one, including self-identified feminists, really knows what feminism actually is, or, rather, can agree upon a useful definition thereof, I find it strange that hardly any day passes in Germany these days without yet another public demand for a “new feminism (today featuring Thea Dorn, in the Parliamentary Publication “Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte”, in German).” Well, maybe that is all well, and if more choice is really helping, I’m only happy to help to add to the confusion and propose a “medical” version – which, I may add, goes back to the origins of the term, as Sally Haslanger and Nancy Tuana write in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

“[i]n the mid-1800s the term ‘feminism’ was used to refer to “the qualities of females”, and it was not until after the First International Women’s Conference in Paris in 1892 that the term, following the French term féministe, was used regularly in English for a belief in and advocacy of equal rights for women based on the idea of the equality of the sexes.”

Probably thinking of those humble origins, reporting from the sixth annual meeting of the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health, Salon.com explains today that science is only now realising something most men have always known on some level – no one, not even women themselves, really know anything about women. In what may be the scary state of art in scientific exploration of female sexuality,

“… sexologist Michael Sand told the Tribune, “We don’t understand normative, healthy sexuality well enough to make judgments about what’s dysfunctional.” … According to one of the governing models, it “starts with desire, progresses through excitement or arousal and ends with orgasm.” Sand received a prize for his research on female sexuality…”

But there’s hope for the discipline: Medical companies are known to be busy investing in their own model of feminism, although it is unclear if the result will be little pink pills…


Need a better computer?

Why not directly get a black whole? Apparently, some people think they’re not just the ultimate vacuum cleaner, but could also be used as some kind of universal supercomputer.

Scientist SPACE – Black holes: The ultimate quantum computers?

Nearly all of the information that falls into a black hole escapes back out, a controversial new study argues. The work suggests that black holes could one day be used as incredibly accurate quantum computers – if enormous theoretical and practical hurdles can first be overcome.

As this may still be a little out there, you may be interested to learn that some people seem to have managed to boot Windows XP on a Core Duo Imac. If someone at Apple is reading this, now I’m suddenly considering to buy one of your computers. Now I’m looking forward to using ILife ’07 for Windows Vista using an OS-X user interface.

Quite frankly, I think the most profitable thing Apple could do now that they realised the potential of selling cool hardware (through their Ipod experience) is to separate “OS-X the User Interface” entirely from “OS-X the operating system”, a move that would allow users to decide between a customized windows with an Apple GUI. On the hardware front it would allow to throw support behind an integration of their Unix based open source OS Darwin with Linux, all while offering the UI for Windows the base as well as other operating systems.

Imagine the possibilities. Selling much more hardware than before while – in the long run – giving people the ability to choose between the underlying system. The separation of user interface and operating system would allow Apple to remove a significant amount of the lock-in that Microsoft has been exploiting for more than a decade now.

The big if, of course, would be Microsoft’s attitude towards such an attempt. Apple’s switch to Intel CPUs has made the hardware world a whole lot more interesting, and that’s no small achievement.

health, Science

Hopeful PR?

Let’s hope this is not just PR well timed for this week’s world HIV/AIDS awareness week, but indeed a promising sign:

“Paris – French doctors have issued a highly encouraging report about a test treatment which slashed levels of the Aids virus among a small group of HIV-infected volunteers.

The treatment was delivered in three injections, each a fortnight apart. There were no side effects.

Four months after the first dose, the viral load – the quantity of HIV in the blood – had fallen on average by 80 percent.

A year after the jabs, eight out of the 18 patients still showed viral loads that had diminished by more than 90 percent.

Four of them had a viral load of less than 1 000 particles per millilitre, “which, in theory, means they are not infective”, chief researcher Jean-Marie Andrieu, a cancer professor at the Saint-Peres Biomedical Centre in Paris said.”

quicklink, Science

Corporate Social Responsibility

Talk about Corporate Social Responsibility. Not that I don’t think big business often deserves a slap for it’s behavior in struggling economies, but when the opposite is true, it also deserves to be mentioned: Reuters reports that

“German auto makers with assembly plants in South Africa are spending “big money” on antiretroviral drugs, treatment and education to combat HIV/AIDS among their workforces. Car maker DaimlerChrysler South Africa spends approximately $420,000 each year to offer antiretroviral treatment to its HIV-positive employees, who make up an estimated 9% of the company’s total workforce. Mike Folan, human resources manager for DCSA, said, “We decided on giving antiretroviral drugs to our employees because of the government’s policy at the time. It (the government) wasn’t providing antiretroviral therapy.” An estimated 6% of Volkswagen South Africa’s employees are HIV-positive, and the company operates a program similar to DCSA’s with an annual budget of about $420,000. Gustav Meyer of the Department of Trade and Industry said, “Several of the motor vehicle assemblers in South Africa have indicated a willingness to increase the outreach of these programs. We are aiming to rollout the HIV/AIDS programs by the vehicle assemblers to the supplier base as well as the community. This will maximize the impact of efforts against HIV/AIDS” (Mutikani, Reuters, 1/22). “

almost a diary, oddly enough, Science

The Rose Wars or The End Of Vegetarianism.

I’m still laughing at the thought of half of my female friends’ denial to eat anything but chemically engineered, synthetic food…

Why would they do that, you ask?

Well, it’s simple enough. They are vegetarians – some more, some less. But about half of the women I know (while hardly any men) voluntarily renounce to eating meat on a regular basis. Some claim to do it “because it’s healthier”, but whatever they say, in most cases it is fairly obvious that it is only the thought of personal responsibility for the suffering and eventual death of a creature with a nervous system that was only bred to be eaten which prevents them from enjoying this particular form of carnal pleasure.

There are some exceptions – I call them “fashion vegetarians” – to this rather fundamental rule, but to the benefit of all lobsters on this planet “nothing-with-a-face” aesthetic discrimination is actually rare these days. It’s just too un-pc.

On the other hand, the days of politically correct foodstuffs may be over for good. The Three-Toed Sloth calls our attention to a recently published study which presents “Evidence for complex, collective dynamics and emergent, distributed computation in plants“.

In other words, some scientists claim that plants can think.

So how long do you think will it take until we will see the first starved Vegetarians? Until men will be considered compassionate for forgetting to bring flowers for a date? Until we will see naked models fighting rose wars in front of flower shops, demonstrating for the rights of plants?

I don’t know. And probably this will never happen. But just the thought of my vegetarian friends being forced to decide between spacefood or starvation was worth writing this entry.

oddly enough, Science

Turning Right…

Remember Derek Zoolander, the hyper-intelligent male supermodel that cannot turn right on the catwalk? The Guardian reports that Onur Güntürkün, a professor of biopsychology at the University of the Ruhr, in Bochum, Germany, has just published a short article in Nature concerning Derek’s problem, the subject of “turning right” – albeit paying more attention to kissing than to catwalks.

See? Even these days, there is important news concerned with making love, rather than making war.

Science, USA

One Of The Hardest Days.

It is disasters like today’s tragic loss of seven lives, who died when Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated in 60 km altitude during the re-entry into the atmosphere, that remind us of the courage, the risks and the possible hardship involved in human space exploration which are all too often forgotten when success has become routine.

It is days like these that make it difficult to believe in the rationale Kennedy once gave for human space exploration.

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”

Those two women and five men who died today did not choose to board a shuttle because it was hard. They, as all other astronauts before them, pursued a dream for all of mankind which gave them the courage and strength to take extreme risks even though they knew it could be so hard for them and their loved ones.

I am not sure if it is already the time for NASA to announce that

“[w]e’ll find the cause, fix it, and then move on”

– as one official just stated on CNN. But remembering the days when I had a picture of shuttle Columbia in my room, there’s something I know for sure.

The crew of STS-107 will not be forgotten. And their dream is still alive.