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General Discussion / Former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms dead at 86
« on: July 04, 2008, 10:20:04 AM »
July 4: Former Republican Senator Jesse Helms has died. He was 86. . NBC's Martin Savidge reports.

RALEIGH, North Carolina - Former Republican Sen. Jesse Helms, a leading conservative from North Carolina who served 30 years in the Senate before retiring in 2003, has died, the Jesse Helms Center said Friday. He was 86.

"Former United States Senator Jesse Helms died at 1:15 a.m. this morning in Raleigh," the center, which is based at Wingate University, said on its Web site.

Jimmy Broughton, Helms' former chief of staff, said the former senator died of natural causes in Raleigh.

The blunt-talking Helms was known as "Senator No" for opposing just about anything that obstructed his conservative view of the world.

Helms built a career along the fault lines of racial politics and battled liberals, Communists and the occasional fellow Republican during his decades in Congress. He was slowed in later age by a variety of illnesses, including a bone disorder, prostate cancer and heart problems.

General Discussion / Don Imus strikes again
« on: June 23, 2008, 06:24:53 PM »
NEW YORK (AP) - Don Imus has once again injected race into his radio show.

During an on-air conversation Monday about the arrests of suspended Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, Imus asked, "What color is he?"

Told by sports announcer Warner Wolf that Jones is "African-American," Imus responded: "There you go. Now we know."

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton issued a statement calling the exchange disturbing "because it plays into stereotypes." He says his National Action Network was still deciding how to respond.

Imus was fired from his previous show last year after he made a racially charged comment about the Rutgers women's basketball team.

Representatives for Imus and WABC Radio haven't returned calls.

Researchers are 'rewriting the software of life,' working to transform artificial DNA into synthetic fuel. This could revolutionize the production of energy.

By Jon Markman

As $100-per-barrel oil starts to look like a relic of happier days, every inventor worth his weight in plutonium dust will have a chance to propose a solution to the energy crisis -- and get funding.

The notion of harnessing the kinetics of the stars, oceans, wind, fermented garbage and cow flatulence to power blenders and Buicks has moved from the lunatic fringe to the public markets.

You really have to go way out toward the realm of science fiction to get anyone to tell you an energy idea is ridiculous. So that's just where we will go today, courtesy of genetics research pioneer J. Craig Venter and some Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists, who are focusing much of their efforts these days on the creation of synthetic fuel from artificial DNA.

Crazy? Well, why not dream a little? Whipping up a few billion gallons of power bacteria in a DNA refinery sounds a lot better than digging up more of the Badlands, the Arctic Circle or the Brazilian shoreline every time we need to turn on the lights at Yankee Stadium.

Better living through genomics?
Although it sounds way out on the edge, the new science of "synthetic biology" actually makes a lot of sense. After all, fossil fuels are nothing more than stored sunshine in the form of decayed biomatter that's been cooked and compressed into an easily accessed energy source. And ethanol is another form of biomatter that's transformed by heat and chemicals into fuel.

Biologists in this field start from the premise that all fuels are made up of DNA strands that produce proteins and other molecules. Using ingenious techniques developed recently in U.S. labs, they have figured out how to reformulate common chemicals into synthetic genes that generate DNA capable of creating artificial life forms, such as custom-made bacteria.

Cue the spooky music. These weird entities can be designed to do all sorts of neat tricks, but the most immediately commercial approach is aimed at metabolizing feedstocks such as sugar cane and a tropical wonder shrub called jatropha into fuel many thousands of times more efficiently than current industrial techniques.

In other words, Venter has turned his focus from mapping the human genome, for which he gained a measure of fame a few years ago, to mapping a way for humans to get home using planet-friendly energy.

Though it sounds bizarre to nonscientists, Venter assured me in an interview Tuesday from his San Diego office that the process of turning 580,000-odd base pairs of artificial DNA into a living thing is pretty similar to turning tens of thousands of lines of binary computer code into a video game.

Instead of creating Word 7.0 with the 1s and 0s of computer language, Venter and his teams are essentially creating Fuel 4.0 with the genes and chromosomes of genetics language. "We are rewriting the software of life, not creating life from scratch," he said.

Experts believe the process of creating synthetic molecules might do even more to revolutionize energy production. It can also create new ways to diminish the harmful effects of carbon already in the atmosphere and in landfills. Their slogan, if you can reduce a milestone human achievement into a Madison Avenue riff, might be "clean energy through genomics."

Veteran industrial sociologist Jim Williams, of the Williams Inference Center in Massachusetts, believes that synthetic biology has a shot at being the holy grail of future energy production and plastics manufacturing in part because it reduces the need for organic feedstock and in part because it can turn waste products into fuel, preventing more carbon from being thrown into the atmosphere.

Williams has helped his clients discover several other key trends over the past two decades -- such as the advent of now-ubiquitous devices like camera phones and radio-frequency identification, the rise of industry in China and India, the importance of natural gas and the global lack of grains and fresh water. He now says the question "is not so much whether synthetic biology will remake society but who will be in control when it does."

BioBrick by BioBrick
He notes that engineered genes could remake mass production and materials, and observes that biotech companies are stumbling over each other to file patents -- with one spinoff from Harvard, called Blue Heron, already locked in a patent fight in federal court with an MIT spinoff called Codon Devices.

"Look around the room," Williams says. "Anything manufactured or grown could very well be produced more efficiently in a cell."

Already, DuPont (DD, news, msgs) has made strides in that direction by launching a big plant in Tennessee to make propanediol, a key component of polymers used in cosmetics, detergents and antifreeze, with renewable feedstocks instead of petroleum. Synthetic genomics would take the effort a step further by creating the feedstock artificially.

Tom Knight is another top scientist pushing the envelope in this field. He and a pack of fellow MIT scientists have invented a set of interchangeable genetic components that they call BioBricks. They can be fitted into cells like Lincoln Logs to help construct synthetic life forms.

As evidence for his point of view that synthetic biology is the "next-generation biotech," Williams points out that MIT is pouring a tremendous amount of resources into the field. The school produces the annual International Genetically Engineered Machine competition to showcase the field and recruit engineers to work on campus. The strategy seems to be working: The competition last year attracted 56 teams from 20 countries for the purpose of seeing how many organisms and devices could be built from a set of off-the-shelf biological parts.

Jokes / Venquilotrist Joke
« on: March 24, 2008, 06:18:29 PM »
Venquilotrist Joke

A young ventriloquist is touring the clubs and one night he's doing a show in a small town.....

With his dummy on his knee, he starts going through his usual dumb blonde jokes when a blonde woman in the 4th row stands on her chair and starts shouting.

"I've heard enough of your stupid blonde jokes", she says. "What makes you think you can stereotype women that way? What does the color of a person's hair have to do with her worth as a human being?"

"It's guys like you who keep women like me from being respected at work and in the community, and from reaching our full potential as a person. Because you and your kind continue to perpetuate discrimination against not only blondes, but women in general and  all in the name of humour!"

The embarrassed ventriloquist begins to apologize, and the Blonde yells,

"You stay out of this, mister! I'm talking to that little jerk on your knee."

Jokes / Four little animals
« on: October 09, 2007, 04:32:46 PM »

Train them from small

A teacher asked her class, What do you  want out of life?"

A little girl in the back row raised her hand and said, "All I want out of life is four little animals."

The  teacher asked, "Really and what four little animals would that be  sugar?"

The little girl said, "A mink on my back, a jaguar in the garage, a tiger in the bed and of course, I'll need a jackass to pay for  all of it."

The teacher  fainted.

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