December 19

Sweet Solutions from Nature

first_img1.  Rammensee, Slotta, Scheibel and Bausch, “Assembly mechanism of recombinant spider silk proteins,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online on April 29, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0709246105.In the alligator story, National Geographic noted that alligators have “innate” immune systems while humans have “adaptive” immune systems.  “Although innate immunity is often considered primitive, there is nothing primitive about its effectiveness, [Adam] Britton [biologist, northern Australia] said.”  Britton called the antimicrobial peptides in alligator serum “extremely effective agents” against bacteria.  Remember that the first extremely effective antibiotics were also found in a “primitive” organism – fungus.  Design follows design, not chaos.  Imitation is the highest form of flattery.(Visited 7 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 Human engineers continue to look at plants and animals for inspiration.  Biomimetics – the imitation of biology for design technology – shows no sign of running out of ideas.Sweet gas:  A spoonful of sugar in the gas tank?  Science Daily reported on progress in converting plant sugars into clean-burning hydrogen – using biological enzymes.  This could give a new meaning to “power plant.”Moooove on:  Speaking of enzymes, fuel technicians have isolated an enzyme in a cow’s stomach that shows promise for efficient conversion of plant sugars into ethanol.  Science Daily’s gut reaction to this story was positive: “The fact that we can take a gene that makes an enzyme in the stomach of a cow and put it into a plant cell means that we can convert what was junk before into biofuel,” said one professor of crop and soil science.See ya sooner, alligator:  Yuck: alligator blood.  What good could come from that?  Infection-fighting drugs, reported National Geographic News.  Scientists are intrigued that alligators live with frequent bloody wounds in bacteria-laden muddy swamps but rarely get infected.  Scientists at Louisiana University found that alligator serum fights more bacteria than human serum.  If we can harness the alligator’s secrets, said one researcher, “we could be on the verge of a major advance in medical science.”Drag queen:  The dragline silk of spiders continues to be a holy grail for materials scientists.  A German physics team reported in PNAS some initial success in getting the proteins to assemble into fibers.1  To do it, they squeezed the proteins through tiny orifices similar to the spinnerets on a spider’s abdomen.  The BBC News published a report about it.  Spiderman, here we come.last_img read more

December 19

Darwin Demo Falls Short

first_img(Visited 55 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 What the new “evolution in action” experiment lacks in Darwin support is compensated by its propaganda value.A cursory look at a story in The Atlantic would lead readers to suspect that the creation-evolution debate is over, and Darwin won. You can even watch the victory lap in the embedded video clip. Bacteria at both ends of a rectangular grid, made out like a football field, race to the midline, overcoming antibiotics first 10, then 100, then 1000 times the strength needed to kill them. It’s survival of the fittest! Send this demo to the classrooms of America:Beyond any applications in research and medicine, the MEGA-plate also makes for a wonderful teaching tool. It makes the abstract concrete. It vividly brings the process of evolution to life—and to view. “We’re visual creatures,” says Baym. “Seeing is believing.”When Michael Baym and Tami Lieberman of Harvard shared the video at an evolutionary conference last month, their colleagues were instantly cured of lockjaw:…many attendees were awed and slack-jawed. “It’s exciting, creative and, game-changing,” says Shelly Copley from the University of Colorado, one of the organisers. Baym himself, who has seen the movies hundreds of times, is still blown away by them. “You can actually see mutations happening,” he says, before shaking his head and smiling.The results were published in Science Magazine under the title, “Spatiotemporal microbial evolution on antibiotic landscapes.” Does a closer look at the methods and results vindicate Darwin? The “evolution” of antibiotic resistance is nothing new. ID advocate Michael Behe discussed it at length in his second book, The Edge of Evolution. He showed that in ideal test conditions—the evolution of malarial parasite resistance to chloroquine and other chemicals—Darwinian evolution was incapable of crossing fitness landscapes requiring more than two coordinated mutations. Malaria parasites could sometimes survive antimalarial drugs, but only by “throwing stuff overboard” – i.e., engaging in desperate attempts to survive through loss of information. (By analogy, a criminal can evolve resistance to handcuffs by having his hands cut off.)To succeed in demonstrating Darwinian evolution, Baym would need to show (1) realistic starting conditions, (2) the unguided emergence of new genetic information, (3) positive selection, (4) fitness increase over wild type, (5) speciation, (6) some innovative heritable structure capable of leading to new branches of organisms, and (7) successful competition of the winners in the real world, alongside other organisms in the ecology. Let’s examine the paper for these requirements.Realistic starting conditions? The Materials & Methods section shows that they used a “strain from the Keio collection of E. coli K-12 BW25113 knockout variants.” The platform on which the experiment was run was highly artificial, consisting of purified agar, with several rounds of artificially-selected bacteria as starters. The environment contained no other organisms that wild E. coli were likely to encounter in the wild.New genetic information?  The authors discuss mutations, but there is no mention of beneficial mutations or gain-of-function mutations. Michael Behe claims at Evolution News & Views that over half the identified mutations amount to loss of function. The others are likely deleterious as well:The key to understanding the paper is its Figure 3C. There it shows the genes that have undergone more than one mutation across tested bacteria. They break the mutations down into silent changes, changes of amino acids (point mutations), and insertion-deletion or nonsense mutations, which almost certainly are loss of function (LOF). Over half of genes contain such LOF mutations, along with some point mutations, which likely also degrade or destroy function. In other words, devolution.Positive selection?  There is no mention of positive selection in the paper among the 11 mentions of the word. Nor is there mention in The Atlantic.Fitness increase?  There is no mention of fitness increase in the paper among the 5 words “fit” or “fitness” and no mention of the word in The Atlantic.Speciation?  The organisms at the beginning and end of the experiment are still not only E. coli, but descendants of the original strain of E. coli.Innovation?  The word “innovation” is lacking in the paper. The word “novel” is only mentioned as a possibility for future experiments: “Owing to the relaxed evolutionary constraints in range expansion dynamics, the MEGA-plate is likely to reveal novel mutational pathways to high-level multiantibiotic resistance.” In a companion piece in Science, Luke McNally and Sam P. Brown claim innovation, but provide no specifics: “The advent of evolutionary innovations via mutation and the subsequent selection of these mutants are thus imprinted on the plate, providing an unprecedented visualization of evolution through time and space.” The innovation, however, is merely inferred from the fan-shaped patterns on the advancing fronts of resistant strains.Competition in the wild?  No mention is made of releasing the winning germs back into the wild to see if they could survive and proliferate in real-world conditions against their less-evolved progenitors. McNally and Brown admit this: “the MEGA plate could be criticized as merely a caricature of real-world environments, but such a perspective misses its value as a tool to elucidate the fundamental principles of evolution in a spatial environment.” Surprisingly, they also consider Lenski’s Long-Term Evolution Experiment (LTEE) with E. coli to be vulnerable, too: it “could be similarly criticized for being unrealistic yet has provided key insights into the longterm bounds of evolutionary fitness and the dynamics of evolutionary innovations, among many other discoveries.” But if they are both unrealistic caricatures, how can they provide insight? Maybe it’s just in the propaganda arena.Propaganda ValueThe true significance of this paper is its visualization potential to promote evolution to unsuspecting students. Baym’s statement “seeing is believing” makes that clear, but the last sentence in the paper is even more explicit:Its relative simplicity and ability to visually demonstrate evolution makes the MEGA-plate a useful tool for science education and outreach.In short, a visual aid that demonstrates nothing of Darwinian evolution can nonetheless serve as a “useful” teaching tool to promote Darwinian theory. Useful to whom? “In other words, the MEGA-plate does not correspond to the real world and may be irrelevant to medicine,” Behe says. “Instead, its value will be primarily to indoctrinate students in evolution.”We want to see the germs evolve powered flight, sonar, and the ability to compose symphonies. Then we’ll be impressed.last_img read more

October 23

DP World Starts Building Deep Water Port in Ecuador

first_imgzoom Dubai-based port and terminal operator DP World held a ground-breaking ceremony to mark the start of construction of the greenfield multi-purpose port project at Posorja, Ecuador on August 31.The move follows the 50-year concession the company won in June 2016 from the Government of Ecuador to build a facility with 750,000 TEU of capacity to fuel the country’s economic growth and connect it with international markets. Posorja’s first deep water port would be built under a total investment of over USD 1 billion.Phase 1 includes a USD 500 million initial investment which would cover the purchase of land, dredging of a new access channel, a 20-kilometre access road and a 400-metre berth equipped to handle containers and other cargo.Construction of the port, which is located 65 kilometres from the country’s main business city of Guayaquil, is expected to take around 24 months to complete. A 1 square kilometre logistics and industrial park, marked as a Special Economic Development Zone, will be developed adjacent to the port.“The port has been designed to serve the growing needs of global markets…and will dramatically improve the global competitiveness of Ecuadorian exporters,” Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, DP World Group Chairman and CEO, said.“This facility will help Ecuador become an important player in regional and global trade and its deep drafts and quay lengths will handle Post-Panamax vessels to complement Guayaquil and other nearby terminals,” Jorge Velásquez, DP World Posorja General Manager, added.last_img read more

October 14

Its going to be a hot Indian Summer Secwepemc Women Warriors call

first_imgJustin BrakeAPTN NewsMembers of the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society are calling land defenders and warriors to British Columbia, where prominent Secwepemc Ktunaxa land defender Kanahus Manuel was arrested Saturday morning while asserting Secwepemc title and rights and resisting the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.At around 10 a.m. Manuel live streamed a visit by RCMP to North Thompson Provincial Park in Secwepemcul’ecu — the unceded Secwepemc territory in what is now interior B.C. — where she and others had reoccupied a former Secwepemc village inside the park.Manuel and her fellow land defenders said their people have never signed a treaty or otherwise collectively given Canada or the province of B.C. permission to settle or use their territory.“Justin Trudeau has left us no choice,” Manuel said in a July 11 press release from the Tiny House Warriors—the name she and other land defenders are using to describe the mobile tiny houses volunteers have built as a feature of their resistance movement.“This pipeline violates our rights and endangers our lands and waters,” she said. “To stop it, we’re reclaiming our ancestral village and bringing our traditions back to life.”Messages for Canada, province, warriorsManuel, a traditional tattoo artist, mother and midwife, led a tattoo gathering at the park last weekend as part of an ongoing effort to celebrate and revive the important tradition. But when the weekend came to a close she and several others stayed.“If Trudeau wants to build this pipeline, he will need to empty this village a second time,” Manuel said in the July 11 statement. “In doing so, he would make continued colonization and cultural genocide part of his legacy of so-called reconciliation.”Watch a video of Kanahus Manual’s arrest here: B.C. Park arrestOn Friday Manuel was served with an eviction notice from B.C. Parks.“How can the province of British Columbia, B.C. provincial parks evict Secwepemc from their own village site,” she said in a Tweet showing the notice, adding “if they choose to remove Secwepemc it would amount to genocide, forceful remove Indigenous Peoples.”The RCMP officers, about an hour after they asked the group to vacate the park Saturday, arrested Kanahus while her sister Mayuk filmed the arrest. Kanahus shouted that the land defenders were already in the process of packing up to leave.Speaking with APTN shortly after her sister’s arrest Saturday, Mayuk said the land defenders, who are part of the Tiny House Warriors movement against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, will move the three tiny houses out of the park and “directly onto the pipeline route.”She also issued a call to warriors across Turtle Island.“I want to let the warriors know that we need their help right now and to make their way to B.C. It’s going to be a hot Indian Summer.”She also addressed federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who she said “has to respect Secwepemc law, and she has to respect Indigenous title and start respecting and acknowledging our Indigenous title.“And to the province,” she continued, “they must change their outdated land policies to reflect [Canada’s] own supreme court rulings that affirm that we have title in our lands, and that our current use and occupation of land is as powerful, and maybe even more powerful, than stones and bones archaeological assessments.”The B.C. NDP won last year’s provincial election on a platform that acknowledged the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision.“Three years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada set down law on the legal rights of First Nations people in this province,” the platform read. “The message was clear: Aboriginal Title and Rights are a matter of law and justice.“John Horgan’s BC NDP will make reconciliation a cross-government priority.”The province, like Canada, has promised to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, and to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which include the right to self-determination and for Indigenous people to live on their own lands by their own way of life.APTN has reached out to B.C. Premier John Horgan, B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, and Wilson-Raybould for comment on the Tiny House Warriors, but none responded by the time of publication.Indigenous resistance in Secwepemcul’ecw and across countryMore than 500 kilometres of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project runs through unceded Secwepemc territory, just the latest industrial project locals say threatens their land and waters, ignores their inherent Aboriginal title to their land and violates their Indigenous rights.While four of the 17 Secwepemc bands established by Canada under the Indian Act have signed agreements to allow the pipeline through their territory, the Secwepemc Women’s Warriors Society and others maintain Kinder Morgan and Canada do not have collective Secwepemc free, prior and informed consent.The Trans Mountain pipeline has faced extreme opposition from the Government of British Columbia and many First Nations whose territories it is scheduled to run through, or whose lands and waters it will impact.If built, the pipeline will transfer up to 890,000 barrels of diluted bitumen from Alberta to Burnaby, three times the amount already flowing from the tar sands to BC’s coast, and lead to a significant increase in tanker traffic in the Salish Sea and coastal waters.Trudeau has staunchly supported the project despite opposition from First Nations in Alberta and B.C., the B.C. government and the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, a coalition of First Nations across the country.“Now is the time to stand beside Indigenous people in support of our timeless struggle to defend Mother Earth,” Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip has said.The pipeline also faces a number of legal challenges currently making their way through the courts.Facing a host of uncertainties, Kinder Morgan, the Texas oil giant that owns the pipeline, suspended non-essential spending in early April and announced it would give Canada until the end of May to secure an agreement of the province of BC and secure certainty for the project.In a recent interview with APTN, D.T. Cochrane, an economist and researcher with the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, said Canada’s purchase of the pipeline and its hopes of selling to private investors are “untenable” due to the outstanding issue of Aboriginal title on unceded Secwepemc and other First Nations’ lands.Cochrane said that local Indigenous resistance to the pipeline, which is led by grassroots people and Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies in B.C. and across Canada, makes the project’s “unquantifiable risk” the “death for any potential asset.“If you cannot assess the risk of an asset, you cannot price an asset – so how could investors possibly back that asset?” Cochrane said.“The ancestors are with us”Following her arrest Saturday Manuel was held at an RCMP detachment in the nearby town of Clearwater and later released from custody.Late Saturday evening she posted another Facebook live video, and said she was “being held captive as a prisoner of war here in Canada,” but that she was released on conditions she “signed under duress facing this war against us for our lands and our freedom here in Secwepemcul’ecw.“We are on Highway 5, five kilometres south of Clearwater and we’re asking everybody to join us,” she continued.“We are going to be on the move — we’re stopping pipelines. That’s why we’re here. We are pipeline fighters. We’re land defenders. We’re water protectors. We’re the Indigenous women of this land. We are the title holders to this land. We are the mothers. We are your sister. We are your aunties, and we are your Godmothers.“And we are calling for all of our people who care for our water, those that are serious in stopping the pipeline, to join with the Tiny House Warriors as we…shut this pipeline down.”At a May 2 press conference announcing the Chiefs of Ontario, who represent 133 First Nations in that province, were joining the Treaty Alliance, Squamish Nation councillor Khelsilem predicted the Indigenous-led resistance to Trans Mountain would be big.“I think we’re seeing the beginning of what will become the largest civil disobedience in Canadian history,” he said.Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has indicated that the Trudeau government will not rule out using police or military force to quash resistance to the pipeline.Last month the Edmonton Journal reported former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge said at an event in Edmonton that “we’re going to have some very unpleasant circumstances,” and that “there are some people that are going to die in protesting construction of this pipeline. We have to understand that.“Nevertheless, we have to be willing to enforce the law once it’s there … It’s going to take some fortitude to stand up.”Manuel and many others maintain Canadian laws used to force unwanted development on unceded Indigenous lands, including the use of force to physically remove Indigenous people from defending their lands and waters, do not respect the Supreme Court of Canada’s own rulings or international law.On Sunday night Manuel signed off her Facebook live stream in saying: “The ancestors are with us as we stop this pipeline and defend everything that is sacred to us.”[email protected]@justinbrakenewslast_img read more

August 31

Banish dark eye circles with DIY tips

first_imgMore than grey hair strands or wrinkles on the face, it’s dark shadows below the eyes that tend to age your appearance. Using chilled tea bags or applying buttermilk paste can help, says an expert.Navin Taneja, director of capital-based National Skin Centre, has shared tips on how to get rid of dark circles and shadows beneath your eyes: * Tea bags: Chill two used green or black tea bags in the refrigerator for half an hour. Place one tea bag over each eye and leave it on 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the tea bags and wash your face. Repeat once or twice daily for a few weeks. Also Read – ‘Playing Jojo was emotionally exhausting’* Cold compress: Soak a washcloth in cold water or milk. Put it over your closed eyelids for several minutes. Wrap a few ice cubes in soft napkin and place it under your eyes for a few minutes. Alternatively, use a bag of frozen peas or a cold spoon.* Buttermilk paste: Mix one-fourth table spoon of turmeric and two tablespoon of buttermilk. Apply this paste to your dark circles. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes. Wash off with lukewarm water.* Mint: Grind handful of mint leaves. Add lemon juice to this mint paste. Apply and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes. Wash it off and repeat twice a day.last_img read more

August 26

Researchers release unCaptcha2 a tool that uses Googles speechtotext API to bypass

first_imgA team of researchers at the University of Maryland released unCaptcha2 last week, an updated version of their tool Uncaptcha that defeated Google’s reCAPTCHA audio challenge with 85.15% accuracy in 2017. Google’s Audio challenge is aimed at solving reCAPTCHA’s accessibility problem for visually challenged people who can’t see where to “tick the box” to prove that they’re a human and not a robot. Hence, they’re offered an option to listen to the audio and enter what they hear as a response. UnCaptcha, which was released in 2017, managed to pass the reCAPTCHA audio system by using an approach that involved downloading the audio and segmenting it. These segments were then uploaded to multiple speech-to-text services, which in turn would convert the message.                                                         unCaptcha Finally, the response obtained would be typed into the reCAPTCHA form to solve the challenge. However, after the attack in 2017, Google updated the reCAPTCHA form by introducing changes such as improved browser automation detection and using spoken phrases instead of digits for reCAPTCHA. These changes managed to successfully protect reCAPTCHA from the 2017 unCaptcha attack but failed to protect it from the new unCaptcha2. “As of June 2018, these challenges have been solved. The reCAPTCHA team..is..fully aware of this attack. The team has allowed us to release the code. The code now only needs to make a single request to a free, publicly available speech to text API (by Google) to achieve around 90% accuracy over all the captchas”, states the team. UnCaptcha2 makes use of a screen clicker that helps it move to certain pixels on the screen and move around the webpage as a human would. However, this method is not very robust and still needs more working. Also, unCaptcha2 uses a different approach than the first version and no longer requires the use of multiple speech-to-text engines as well as the segmentation approach. UnCaptcha2 involves navigating to Google’s ReCaptcha Demo site, navigating to audio challenge for reCAPTCHA and then downloading the audio challenge. After this step, the audio challenge is submitted to Speech To Text services. Finally, the response obtained is typed in and submitted to solve the challenge. “unCaptcha2, like the original version, is meant to be a proof of concept. As Google updates its service, this repository will not be updated. As a result, it is not expected to work in the future, and is likely to break at any time,” state the researchers. Read Next Google launches score-based reCAPTCHA v3 to filter abusive traffic on websites Google’s secret Operating System ‘Fuchsia’ will run Android Applications: 9to5Google Report Google Cloud releases a beta version of SparkR job types in Cloud Dataproclast_img read more