Monthly Archives: November 2009 - Page 2

Ancient Viruses Uncovered


by Irma Arkus

Recent efforts to drill core samples of ancient frozen lakes in Antarctica and Arctic have been controversial to say the least.

Many in scientific circles have been outspoken over the facts that drilling those samples may contaminate precious life that still may exist in the lakes underneath the permafrost. Others have warned that collecting ice samples may even release ancient bacteriae and viruses.

But the value of these samples is undeniable. Not only do they represent an immense amount of information in terms of climate change, but recently, samples have uncovered a remarkable number of viruses which may shed light on evolution of life in general.

Recent study revealed some 10,000 virus species present in the samples from Lake Limnopolar at Antarctic Peninsula.

Furthermore, the viruses are extremophiles, meaning that many of them are still very much alive, prone to surviving in extreme conditions including low grade temperatures, low light, oxygen deprivation and low nutrient factors. [SciAm

iRobot: Soft Shape Allows It To Move

The soft spongy properties of its body allow the robot to move and manouver through squeeze spaces.

The Adventures of Tintin Update


by Irma Arkus

Tintin has been one of most beloved comic book characters begging for a big screen interpretation.

This Belgian comic book by Hergé has been one of the international top sellers for decades, and I’ve spent many of my childhood summer days leafing through the Tintin intrigues.

It has been a long while since I’ve been reading the comics, but it looks like the film is well under way with two heavy weights at its helm: Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

Estrenos deCines has released this conspicuous image of the two, obviously involved in planning an action scene for The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of The Unicorn while wearing bowler hats.

While you may be running off to dust off your bowler hat, you should know that the film is scheduled to be released in December of 2011. Meanwhile, you should be relieved that Tintin will be played by Jamie Bell, a young, yet veteran actor. Simon Pegg as Inspector Thompson, and Nick Frost is right there with him as Thomson, better known as Dupond, a stereotypical bafoon of a police investigator who has a twin brother.

Andy Serkis, Cary Elwes, the line-up goes on and on. But then again, we are talking Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg in bowler hats…[ Estrenos deCine]

Is Our Universe a Result of a Multiverse Collision?


by Irma Arkus

According to Anthony Aguirre, a collision between our universe and an alien one, decimating everything in its path, may have already happened.

Apparently, “there are tantalizing hints that our universe has already survived such a collision—and bears the scars to prove it.” Not only are initial theories prompting scientists to think differently about our universe, but about the concpet of multiverses as well.

Our universe, for example, is superbly uniform and smooth. Physicists say that the reason for such uniformity is fast expansion at high rate. Andrei Linde and Alex Vilenkin at Tufts University proposed that such expansion does not occur only once, but could potentially reoccur. Every such event would cause a bubbling of yet another space and time bubble, and this continuous bubbling would lead to ongoing creation of multiverses.

But more importantly, these would, however unlikely, run into other bubbles and collide with them.

The question posed then is whether our universe would survive such collision, or whether such an event already occured?

According to Vilenkin, “when you think about it, in an infinite multi­verse, with bubbles being formed all the time, sooner or later a bubble will form near the boundary of our bubble, and we will be hit,” Vilenkin says. “There’s the possibility of a benign collision when the cosmological characteristics of the alien bubble are similar to ours, so that it doesn’t destroy us but recedes away.”

But what are these scars? They are everywhere, physicists posit, and since the idea is relatively novel, they are still uncertain as to what it all means.

Microwave radiation for example, shows variable hot and cold spots, which may imply scars of an earlier collision.

Furthermore, New York University physicsist Thomas Levi, doing work on string theory, has also located a spot in the universe that defies explanations. Except that the explanation of a multiverse, and more specifically, a multiverse collision may lie at the heart of it. [Discover]

SGU: I’m Feeling the Darkness


by Irma Arkus

This week’s episode of Stargate Universe has provided a few laughs, a little bit of relief from the “we are on a million-year-old spaceship and weeeze are gonna die!” dread.

Lou Diamond Phillips, for one, is utilized in a wise and sparse manner. The kind that implies he will no longer represent the fly in the ointment. In fact, the episode marked Everett Young’s coming into leadership position supported by remainder of the ancient ship’s crew. In other words, Young just pissed all over the Earth command post and he didn’t do it alone. He had help.

The idea was to dial up the gate during that precious moment when the ship is powering up, fueled by a sun. At that moment, Earth scientists say, you would have enough energy to get these confused and lost in space back home, and send the “right” crew in.

In fact, Earth is so unhappy about who is leading the crazed monkey people in ancient starship that they relieve Young temporarily of duty. Using communication stones, Young goes back home, begging his wife for forgiveness and some solace. Romance ensues. Bodily contact follows. FTL drives going of and on, and interrupting communication stones at the most inopportune moments. Like during the love-making session between Young and his wife.

Then there are others.

Eli attempts to go home and check on his mom, instead opting to pretend to be a co-worker. Chloe decides to revisit her friends, looking for a bit of solace and escapism, instead finding out that reality is not as half as pretty as she remembers it. Eli and Chloe have more moments that deepen their relationship, positing the question of how exactly strong is her connection to Matthew, or for that matter, what is it based on?

More importantly though, there is a melancholic realisation that being stuck on that dingy (yet technologically hyper cool ship) is perhaps more real and more relevant than half the little things they used to think about and obsess about.

Even Dr. Rush decides to play his cards this time around, going along with Earth’s plan to surge the gate with potentially alarming amount of energy, all in an attempt to regain the command of the ship. In reality though, he is betting on Young.

Hail Young. He is the new father. Hail the leader. Leader amongst them is found.

I guess this is the only problem I am finding with the show. Considering the personality clashes, the power structure up for grabs, is there noone amongst the writers who is willing to present us with some other system of decision making?

It seems that even on a far, far away ship, a million year old ship, destined to provide us with potentially years of entertainment, the only envisioned system of power, decision-making, and control is a direct hierarchy.

What a cop-out!

EU’s Stand on Internet Access as Fundamental Right Breaks Under Corporate Pressure

by Irma Arkus

In an unusual, yet not entirely unforseen manner, European Parliament has “softened” their position on Internet access as a fundamental right, allowing French Parliament to exercise the 3-strikes-and-you’re-out law.

The law, brought on by attempts of media conglomerates, including music and film distributors, to control “Internet piracy” was not applicable due to the fact that the European Parliament called acceess to Internet, a fundamental right.

Now, after a closed door meeting with big business, the European Parliament settled on a compromise saying that the “prior fair and impartial procedure” is required in order to disconnect users from access.

While political parties, such as the Green party are “celebrating” their apparent victory, it is obvious to anyone that business interests have successfully pressured the EU to partially accept the draconian measures made to punish potential “pirates.”

The very concept of considering access to the Internet as a fundamental right was seen as a relatively progressive move on the part of EU. While it puzzled North American lawmakers and big business, it did not fail in envisioning what Internet access represents to civil participants, even disobedient ones, in EU’s version of Information Society or Knowledge-Based society. [BusinessWeek]