Monthly Archives: August 2010

STS-124 Launch with Sound

by Irma Arkus

Kubric-like camera work, with Earth’s surface practically never disappearing out of the field of vision, this so-called “NASA’s accidental art” video represents one of the most beautiful, interesting and haunting visages of Earth from the International Space Station.

The beginning is a bit rough, but the action starts at around 1:40.

Will Ferrel: The Future That Could Be


[graphic: The people, places, and things that were once the future—but vanished.]

Wired.com has its magazine feature dedicated to Will Ferrel and the Future. Let’s just say that the results are as depressing as they are hilarious.

What happened (or is happening) to concepts such as nanotechnology, singularity, pill shaped food, or birthday cake containing a burrito? Read HERE.

The Avengers: Whedon Confirmed, and So Is Ruffalo


By Irma Arkus

In the interview with About.com, Joss Whedon is confirmed to be attached to The Avengers as a director, as well as what some of the casting choices are.

Mark Ruffalo is announced as Hulk, and Whedon successfully defends his choice. Ruffalo, he says, “visually from new place, and I wanted someone with the qualities that Mark has that was knocked around and still gets up… (when he looks at me from the screen) he’s not thinking about himself that’s me, that’s my guy.”

While that is a strangely worded statement, what Whedon is trying to say is that connecting to Ruffalo and identifying with his version of Hulk on screen comes easier then it had with Eric Bana.

This version of The Avengers will be produced by Marvel, and it will belong in the Marvel universe. Aside from Ruffalo, the film is going to feature Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlet Johannson as the Black Widow, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Don Cheadle as Rhodey, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) as Hawkeye, and Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man.

Watch the interview with Whedon HERE.

Lab Rats: When Working in Science Turns Dangerous

By Irma Arkus

It is important to remind ourselves that recent deterioration of labour rights and working conditions does not only entail low skilled jobs, but those of higher skilled workers as well. I present to you the case of Becky McClain, a Pfizer molecular biologist, who has been battling her employer over disclosure of exposure to dangerous, cancer-causing chemicals.

Safe working environment is not only desired by workers in distant lands of seemingly infinite cheap labour – lack of safe working conditions will also affect YOU, and your friends and family.

BACKGROUND OF BECKY MCCLAIN:

Becky McClain is a 23-year career molecular biologist who has worked on cutting edge technologies in mouse embryonic stem cell, vaccine development, molecular genetics, neurobiology and developmental biology research within both academia and private industry.

In 2002-2004 she incurred biological exposures at Pfizer, Groton, CT from a biological hood and co-worker using a Lentivirus on her lab bench next to her desk. As a result of requesting the Lentivirus exposure records through OSHA she was terminated and filed a lawsuit in 2006. On April 1, 2010 she won her federal lawsuit against Pfizer, Inc. for whistleblower and freedom of speech claims. Pfizer still refuses to give her the Lentivirus exposure records.

The speech was given in New Britain, CT at the AFSCME Council 4 union office advocating worker rights to their biological exposure records for directed healthcare and public health and safety issues to be addressed to prevent work-related illness, to provide a safe work environment, and to protect the public’s health and safety.

Anonymity: Your Body Stored For Future Reference

Security equates to big bucks. City of Vancouver for example, spends more money on cops than anything else on the books. 2010 Winter Olympics, for example, spent $1b on security for the event, and we all thought that was overboard. But then G20 in Toronto surprised us even more – apparently, there is gold in ‘them hills – with its whopping $1.2b spent on security for a 3 DAY EVENT!

Either there is a war that we’re preparing for, or the pursuit of securitization is taking our intelligence for granted. Either way, since the 2001 events such as: G. W. Bush elected, plains crashing into Pentagon, Twin Towers, etc…those in the industrial-military complex have made a pretty penny selling security as the recent events prove that the consultants and suppliers pretty much function by being handed a blank cheque for their efforts.

Apart from money, we’ve been parting with personal biometric information at every nook, cranny, and corner.

While Tweeting about our daily bread, Facebook(ing), peeing in a cup, being harassed at the border, and Foursquare-ing our movements, there is little that is left of our sense of selves outside the cybersphere, or better yet, the security apparatus.

The recent introduction of body scanners at the airports caused a good deal of controversy – not because of the potential invasion of our privacy, but rather our collective sense of shyness – we are, collectively speaking, squeamish about our naked bodies. Nudity somehow, hits a nerve.

(This does not mean though that we are suddenly opposed to strip and cavity searches. Innocent until proven guilty does not apply to suspects who are submitted to this rather humiliating and painful process.)

But the body scanners are coming back into controversy corner, because despite the initial promises: genitals are to be blurred, bodies shown do not display full details, images to be immediately erased…as it turns out, that was a lie.

In US, recent survey of these handy scanners, revealing all bits and pieces, including potential contraband and weapons (beware of hair gel!) has also found that Federal Bureau has not quite complied with its initial statements. The Electronic Privacy Information Center released a finding: “approximately 35,314 images…[are] stored on the Brijot Gen2 machine” currently used in Florida federal courthouse.

Furthermore, the images are often stored and then sent to the manufacturer. Great! That way, your personal information, such as detailed minutiae about your height, weight, and those pesky flesh folds, can be now considered to be privately owned by the manufacturer.

Say cheese! [via cnet]

HiSciFi – Synthetic Anti-Bodies

This week we have the amazing Kenneth Shea from University of Irvine, joining us to discuss his new project, synthetic anti-bodies.

This major stepping stone is opening doors to a seemingly unlimited potential in medical advancements: nano-particles are utilized to produce anti-bodies that would not be detected or rejected by an immune system.

Experiments on mice have shown the anti-bodies to be effective. Human trials are expected to begin shortly. More on the topic to follow.
HiSciFi – Synthetic Anti-Bodies