Meat-eaters Club Members Only Please

If you had no natural predator then you can imagine how a sudden surge of invasive species could do unspeakable harm to an ecosystem.

What are US conservationists in the United States trying to curb burgeoning alien populations?

They are calling on chefs and foodies to consider putting them on a plate as a delicacy!

“Conservation can get so serious and dire, we want to put a little fun back in,” Laura Huffman, state director of the Texas Nature Conservancy, tells The Atlantic and here are four invasive creatures you should consider giving a try…

Lionfish
They’re striped!
They’re colourful!
They’re covered with venomous spikes!

But… those spikes can be removed and then the lionfish tastes rather good. According to National Geographic, lionfish have “moist, buttery meat that is often compared to hogfish.” One Connecticut sushi chef, in fact, has already given “spear-caught lionfish sashimi” a spot on his menu.

Feral hogs
Ask TV viewers: wild pigs are a serious problem. Not only are the mammals very smart but they reproduce at an astonishing rate AND devour everything and anything in their path.

Hogs is still pork by golly and by the divine will of the gods hogs is still bacon! Even veggies and vegans like bacon! The meat from feral boar tastes tender, dark, smokey, and sweet.

Snakeheads
Boasting razor-sharp teeth capable of tearing human flesh, capable of walking on land, AND able to survive for three days thanks to a lung-like adaptation that allows them to breathe out of water! PLUS females can lay 15,000 eggs in a single year. According to Nancy Matsumoto at The Atlantic, Scott Drewno, chef at Wolfgang Puck’s top-rated The Source, has a popular recipe for serving the monstrous fish.

[Drewno] cures snakehead with kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, cane sugar, ginger and garlic for about nine hours, and then smokes it using sencha green tea and serves it with a sauce of garlic chili, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and microgreens. Meaty, smoky, and exotically spiced, the dish is gaining a following. Although it is not on the lunch menu, “people are coming in and asking for it,” Drewno reports

Asian Tiger Shrimp
The shrimp can measure up to 13 inches long and weigh nearly a pound and are spreading through the Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Seaboard” menacing those areas’ ecosystem.” In a single cycle, females lay anywhere from 50,000 to 1 million eggs. Don’t try putting these with eggs as it would be disservice.

Eat up! Children are starving!

Burnt Offerings


Unlocking the scrolls of Herculaneum

Robin Banerji – BBC News Magazine

The British Museum 2013 show of artefacts from the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, buried in ash during an explosive eruption of Mount Vesuvius, was a sell-out. But could even greater treasures – including lost works of classical literature – still lie underground?

For centuries scholars have been hunting for the lost works of ancient Greek and Latin literature. In the Renaissance, books were found in monastic libraries. In the late 19th Century papyrus scrolls were found in the sands of Egypt. But only in Herculaneum in southern Italy has an entire library from the ancient Mediterranean been discovered in situ.

On the eve of the catastrophe in 79 AD, Herculaneum was a chic resort town on the Bay of Naples, where many of Rome’s top families went to rest and recuperate during the hot Italian summers. It was also a place where Rome’s richest engaged in a bit of cultural one-upmanship – none more so than Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a politician and father-in-law of Julius Caesar. In Herculaneum, Piso built a seaside villa on a palatial scale – the width of its beach frontage alone exceeds 220m (721ft). When it was excavated in the middle of the 18th Century, it was found to hold more than 80 bronze and marble statues of the highest quality, including one of Pan having sex with a goat.

Piso’s grand villa, which has come to be known as the Villa of the Papyri, also contains the only library to have survived from the classical world. It is a relatively small collection, some 2,000 scrolls, which the eruption nearly destroyed and yet preserved at the same time. A blast of furnace-like gas from the volcano at 400C (752F) carbonised the papyrus scrolls, before the town was buried in a fine volcanic ash which later cooled and solidified into rock.

When excavators and treasure hunters set about exploring the villa in the 18th Century, they mistook the scrolls for lumps of charcoal and burnt logs. Some were used as torches or thrown on to the fire. But once it was realised what they were – possibly because of the umbilicus, the stick at the centre of the scrolls – the challenge was to find a way to open them.

Some scrolls were simply hacked apart with a butcher’s knife – with predictable and lamentable results. Later a conservator from the Vatican, Father Antonio Piaggio (1713-1796), devised a machine to delicately open the scrolls. But it was slow work – the first one took around four years to unroll. And the scrolls tended to go to pieces. The fragments pulled off by Piaggio’s machine were fragile and hard to read. “They are as black as burnt newspaper,” says Dirk Obbink, a lecturer in Papyrology at Oxford University, who has been working on the Herculaneum papyri since 1983.

Under normal light the charred paper looks “a shiny black” says Obbink, while “the ink is a dull black and sort of iridesces”.
Reading it is “not very pleasant”, he adds. In fact, when Obbink first began working on them in the 1980s the difficulty of the fragments was a shock. On some pieces, the eye can make out nothing. On others, by working with microscopes and continually moving the fragments to catch the light in different ways, some few letters can be made out. Meanwhile, the fragments fall apart. “At the end of the day there would be black dust on the table – the black dust of the scroll powdering away. I didn’t even want to breathe.”

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A section of On the Good King by Philodemus of Gadara, in normal light…

This all began to change 15 years ago.

In 1999, scientists from Brigham Young University in the US examined the papyrus using infrared light. Deep in the infrared range, at a wavelength of 700-900 nanometres, it was possible to achieve a good contrast between the paper and the ink. Letters began to jump out of the ancient papyrus. Instead of black ink on black paper, it was now possible to see black lines on a pale grey background. Scholars’ ability to reassemble the texts improved massively. “Most of our previous readings were wrong,” says Obbink. “We could not believe our eyes. We were ‘blinded’ by the real readings. The text wasn’t what we thought it was and now it made sense.”

In 2008, a further advance was made through multi-spectral imaging. Instead of taking a single (“monospectral”) image of a fragment of papyrus under infrared light (at typically 800 nanometres) the new technology takes 16 different images of each fragment at different light levels and then creates a composite image. With this technique Obbink is seeking not only to clarify the older infrared images but also to look again fragments that previously defied all attempts to read them. The detail of the new images is so good that the handwriting on the different fragments can be easily compared, which should help reconstruct the lost texts out of the various orphan fragments. “The whole thing needs to be redone,” says Obbink.

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…And the same scroll seen in multi-spectral infrared light. There are four columns of text, with many gaps. The first column begins: “…hold power… think… but in both circumstances ‘one wise counsel conquers many hands’, and usually affairs succeed by this means, both without weapons and with a moderate force. This did not escape the poet, but he himself called Nestor ‘bulwark of the Achaeans’ because he was most experienced among them…”

So what has been found? Lost poems by Sappho, the 100-plus lost plays of Sophocles, the lost dialogues of Aristotle? Not quite.
Despite being found in Italy, most of the recovered material is in Greek. Perhaps the major discovery is a third of On Nature, a previously lost work by the philosopher Epicurus. But many of the texts that have emerged so far are written by a follower of Epicurus, the philosopher and poet Philodemus of Gadara (c.110-c.40/35BC). In fact, so many of his works are present, and in duplicate copies, that David Sider, a classics professor at New York University, believes that what has been found so far was in fact Philodemus’s own working library. Piso was Philodemus’s patron.

Not all of the villa’s scrolls have been unrolled though – and because of the damage they suffer in the unwinding process that work has now been halted. Might it be possible to read them by unrolling them not physically, but virtually? In 2009 two unopened scrolls from Herculaneum belonging to the Institut de France in Paris were placed in a Computerised Tomography (CT) scanner, normally used for medical imaging. The machine, which can distinguish different kinds of bodily tissue and produce a detailed image of a human’s internal organs could potentially be used to reveal the internal surfaces of the scroll. The task proved immensely difficult, because the scrolls were so tightly wound, and creased.

“We were able to unwrap a number of sections from the scroll and flatten them into 2D images – and on those sections you can clearly see the structure of the papyrus: fibers, sand,” says Dr Brent Seales, a computer science professor at the University of Kentucky, who led the effort. But the machine could not distinguish “the chemistry of the ink from the chemistry of the paper,” he says. It is unfortunate that ancient ink contains no metal. Seales is continuing to analyse the data produced by the 2009 scan. He has also begun testing a new way of reading the scrolls, using a beam from a particle accelerator. Others are more preoccupied with the idea that there may be more scrolls in the villa waiting to be discovered. Richard Janko, professor of classical studies at the University of Michigan is “pretty certain that there’s more there”.

The villa belonged to Latin-speaking Roman aristocrats, Lucius Calpurnius Piso and his son of the same name – so, Janko reasons, there would have been a Latin library as well as the mostly Greek library already discovered. Secondly, the villa was, he says, not merely a holiday home but a mouseion—a museum-like place to show off a collection of spectacular works of art and literature. If this mouseion had literature to compare to its sculptures, we should expect something more impressive than the working collection of a minor philosopher such as Philodemus. We might even hope for an early edition of the Aeneid, as Virgil and Philodemus knew each other. Thirdly, scrolls were found in various places in the villa. Although some were on shelves and in cabinets, others were piled on the ground and packed in the tubular boxes (capsae) in which scrolls were carried around. Could these boxes have been brought from another part of the building, as yet unknown, where further scrolls remain still?

Robert Fowler, professor of classics at Bristol University, points out that near the room where many of the scrolls were found, and on the same level, is a section of the villa that has never been dug up. The Swiss engineer Karl Weber, who led the dig of the villa in the 1750s “was defeated by the nature of the material in the site next to where the scrolls were found,” he says. And the villa also has three levels. Only the topmost has been substantially explored so far, but in the 1990s two other layers were partially revealed. In the middle floor, archaeologists have discovered a range of well-furnished rooms with views out to sea, some of which have been opened up while others remain closed. Could this be where the villa’s owners kept their good stuff? So far, all we have are guesses. Only digging will provide proof. But Fowler remains hopeful that the villa could yet contain a literary “bonanza”. Someday, he is sure, we shall be able to re-read the ancient scrolls.

The Italian authorities are reluctant to permit further excavation, arguing that this would be disruptive for residents of the modern town of Ercolano, built literally on top of Herculaneum. They also point out that 300-400 of the original rolls remain unread.
In the meantime Fowler tries to keep up the pressure. He reckons that we have perhaps 10% of the great works of classical literature, so any chance to recover the rest is precious. “Just imagine if there were two plays by Shakespeare which we knew of but had never read and which we believed lay underground in a particular place: do you think we would question the decision to dig them up? Do you think we would be hesitating?” And if we did need another reason for speed, there is always the volcano. Mount Vesuvius has erupted a dozen times in the last 200 years, the last major eruption in 1944. As Richard Janko says, another big eruption might end our chance of recovering the ancient literature in Herculaneum for ever.

Source – @BBCNewsMagazine © 2013

3D Printing? That’s So Last Month!

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This technology is inFORM, a new project that can reproduce digital content physically in 3D and which allows a user to interact with an object without being in its presence.

The latest invention, built by students from the Tangible Media Group in the MIT Media Lab, is a computer-operated device that manipulates actuators and linkages to move a set of pins, allowing it to change shape 3-dimensionally, as if it were moving on its own. The system is a “Dynamic Shape Display” that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way.

Created by Daniel Leithinger and Sean Follmer with the guidance of engineers, software developers, and Professor Hiroshi Ishii, inFORM users can highlight portions of the pin-board and raise them up without actually touching them.

In simpler terms, inFORM can easily connect with the physical world around it, moving objects on a table’s surface with the swipe of a hand, and even mimic the hand’s shape. The concept uses an overhead depth camera to track a users movements, or other 3D objects placed underneath it, which then triggers the pins on the board to move independently in real-time.

Of course there’s a video…!

Researchers said the system has the capability of allowing someone on the other end of a video conference call to have a “strong sense of presence and the ability to interact physically at a distance,” almost as if they were physically there.

“InFORM would allow 3D modellers and designers to prototype their 3D designs physically without 3D printing,” the inventors explain. “The traditional sort of interaction design and device design sort of assumes for a very static way of interacting and this [inFORM] device can change its physical form very quickly and that means that we need to come up with new ways that we interact with technology,” Follmer said.

inFORM contains 900 small motors which control each pin on it. Every pin works to render objects in 3D, and each motor costs anywhere from £15-20.

Sources – Boston Magazine / Memolition

It’s Got You, Under Your Skin…

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There is a lot more to this “tattoo” than meets the eye.

Affixed to a patient’s skin, it allows vital data and healthcare information to be monitored remotely, transmitting it directly to the doctor responsible. It is packed with sensors and could prove a flexible, practical and non-invasive solution for post-operation monitoring.

The tattoos were developed by Nanshu Lu, a 2009 Ph.D. graduate of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), who has been recognized for her work in wiring up the human body with electronic tattoos. Electronic tattoos will act as devices that can monitor vital signs like pulse, temperature, vocal vibrations, and brain signals. The tattoos are extremely thin and flexible silicone materials that adhere to the skin. They are so thin that they imitate the texture and elasticity of skin.

Simply, stuck to someone’s neck, it could analyze the vibrations of their vocal cords and transmit simple orders (left, right, start, stop, etc.) to an object or a video console.

Imagine getting hacked…!

FILM NETEXPLO 2011 – VF by netxplorateur

Lu is now an assistant professor in Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas, Austin, where her current research involves developing a more advanced balloon catheter, with new types of integrated sensors; perfecting the electronic tattoos; designing unconventional, flexible strain gauges; and exploring new ways to integrate stiff and brittle materials like ceramics into stretchable substrates.

Technology Review – Innovators under 35

Source – EDF pulse

Gel-ly Bones

A “biopen” that allows surgeons to draw layers of healing cells on damaged bones and cartilage is closer to entering clinical trials after its creators handed it over to scientists under Prof. Peter Choong at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, for further refinement.

Developed by researchers from the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong in Australia, the pen extrudes cells mixed with a biologically friendly material like seaweed extracts. The mixture is encased in a gel, which can then be painted on in layers. Each layer is cured with an ultraviolet light. The cells are painted onto damaged bone and cartilage sites during surgery and then multiply and grow into nerves, muscles or bone, healing the damaged section. Surgeons already have ways to encourage new growth, but the pen allows them to precisely place cells on the fly.

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Video!

“This type of treatment may be suitable for repairing acutely damaged bone and cartilage, for example from sporting or motor vehicle injuries. [The work of the] research team brings together the science of stem cells and polymer chemistry to help surgeons design and personalize solutions for reconstructing bone and joint defects in real time,” said Professor Choong.

The biopen will help build on recent work by ACES researchers where they were able to grow new knee cartilage from stem cells on 3D-printed scaffolds to treat cancers, osteoarthritis and traumatic injury. The device can also be seeded with growth factors or other drugs to assist regrowth and recovery from sporting or motor vehicle injuries.

I hope it’s not just rich football players and idiots doing a ton on the M6 who benefit…

All components in the implantable material are non-toxic and tuned to biodegrade as the cells begin to populate the injured bone area. The design of the device allows it to be easily transported and the surgeon can operate with ease and precision in the operating theatre.

Sources: YouTube / Designboom / AsianScientist

If I Could Talk To The Sycamore…

…just imagine it / chattin’ to an oak in oakenese…

Professor Suzanne Simard shows that all trees in a forest ecosystem are interconnected, with the largest, oldest, “mother trees” serving as hubs. The underground exchange of nutrients increases the survival of younger trees linked into the network of old trees.

I’m rubbish at this. The video explains with the aid of a fun guy… Cough… Sorry. [blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/g657gsm9dQI width=”620″ height=”400″]

Video from KarmaTube

Prof. Simard, The Tree Speaking Project