Archive for the ‘Tech News’ Category

 

Gore Denies that Ken Lay, Goldman Sachs CEOs Helped Develop C02 Trading ‘Scheme’: VIDEO

Carbon-swaps would lead to another derivatives bubble and those who created financial crisis would benefit once again, Congressmen warn

Aaron Dykes / Jones Report | April 27, 2009

After insisting once again that there is a consensus on man-made global warming (while paradoxically comparing those not in consensus with those who deny the moon landing), Al Gore obfuscates, downplays and refuses to discuss the role that CEOs have played in crafting his Cap-and-Trade C02 trading schemes and carbon swapping systems.

Al Gore tries to put a lid in Congressional committee testimony on a little reported but vitally important subject in the global warming, carbon-tax ‘debate’– the new derivatives bubble in the emerging green-energy credit-swap market.


Fmr. Vice President Al Gore denies that Ken Lay and other CEOs developed carbon scheme: “I didn’t know him well enough to call him ‘Kenny-boy’.”

Gore’s body language makes clear he does not want to dwell on the issue, as he spins every point critical of the carbon-schemes’ financial structure in light of the current financial meltdown into another dire warning about the much-heralded global warming meltdown that is said to be coming.

But Rep. Scalise and others try to turn focus on the huge financial burden that will be pinned on American taxpayers and U.S. industry. Scalise claims that President Obama has already scheduled in his budget an estimated $650 billion that would be generated under the carbon taxes proposed in the bill.

The point from Rep. Scalise that is gaveled over by the chairman and stuttered-over by Gore is that many of the Congressmen are ‘concerned about turning over our energy economy over to firms like Enron and some of these Wall Street firms that wrecked out financial economy.’

Fmr. Vice President Al Gore denies that Ken Lay and other CEOs developed carbon scheme: “I didn’t know him well enough to call him ‘Kenny-boy’.”

But the point is a fair one. Gore’s founding partner in his carbon-trading / sustainability investment firm is none other than David Blood, CEO of Goldman Sachs’ asset-management division until 2003.

Gore & Blood founded Generation Investment Management, LLC in 2004– giving Gore an obvious conflict of interest in pushing a carbon tax.

Yet Gore ridicules the question: “I guess what you’re trying to say– state there is… some kind of guilt by association- is that–”

“I’m saying there are going to be big winners and big losers in this bill– big winners and big losers. Some of the big winners are some of the very financial experts that helped destroy our financial marketplace. And I think it should be noted that companies like Enron helped come up with this trading scheme that we’ve got,” Scalise notes.



One can hear what is presumably former Vice President Gore breathing heavily into the microphone in a subtle but immature protest over being questioned about the scientific conclusions he has reached about global warming.

Scalise reiterates that because the architecture for carbon trading is set up much in the same way as credit-default swap derivatives were during the previous economic climate, and he and others, therefore, don’t feel comfortable handing over the energy economy over to them as well.

This is obvious. Don’t hand over the keys to the new energy system to those who’ve just been caught with their hand in the cookie jar during the current economic crisis. Even if incompetence is used to diffuse the blame for what is really criminal activity, such financial manipulators can’t and should not be trusted to take over a new system of swaps .

In a separate segment, Rep. Michael Burgess warns also about the ‘big winners and losers’ that could result from the currently-presented global-warming scheme.

“Why do we have be in a position of picking winners and losers? We’ve just watched a financial meltdown in this country the likes of which we haven’t seen in sometime… Now if people like credit-default swaps, they’re really going to like the carbon-swaps that are going to occur and the carbon-future swaps,” Rep. Michael Burgess states.

He warns of another energy system with manipulation on the scale of the oil-futures market:

“We going to create, I fear, another such system that people that are– that have an inclination to react dishonestly to systems are going to have a new opportunity.”

Barton estimates that 7 billion metric tons of manmade carbon per year would price at $700 billion dollars at a rate of $100 / per metric ton. This is not a small financial burden.

One can hear what is presumably former Vice President Gore breathing heavily into the microphone in a subtle but immature protest over even being questioned about the scientific analysis in any way.

Goldman Sachs and leveraged-buyout kings like Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts have been seen in recent years attempting to pick off the bones of clean-energy schemes such as the TxU coal & energy deal in Texas.

Goldman Sachs is implicated all over the still-unfolding fallout from the last derivatives bubble? And have key former-associates in both the Bush Administration (Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson, Asst. Sec. Neel Kashkari) AND a key associate in the Obama Administration (Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner)?

This firm must not be allowed to drive a new form of taxation we already can’t afford. We must say no to more Blood & Gore. There’s been enough of this already.

Posted by ben on April 28th, 2009 No Comments

Soon soldiers will have 3 tiny choppers in their pocket

Norwegian ‘Black Hornet’ shown off outdoorsVideo

Top Norwegian microcopter boffins say they have now successfully tested the fagpacket-sized PD-100 Black Hornet vidcam whirlybird – outdoors. The firm has also released video of the tiny aircraft in indoor flight tests:

The PD-100 isn’t the same as your common-or-garden cheapo remote control toy copter, great as those are. As owners will know, these little machines don’t offer full control of the sort a real chopper does: there’s no real option to hover in one place, speed up, decelerate etc. Remote-control copters which can fly like a real full-size one are comparatively large, complex and expensive – indeed, some of them are full size.

But the main special sauce of Prox Dynamics, the Norgie firm behind the PD-100, is very tiny control servos – “the smallest and lightest in the world, weighing less than 0.5 grams”. Thus a PD-100 is even smaller than a typical toy battery-copter, but has full control and is able to hover and to achieve airspeeds approaching 20mph.

The latest prototype, the Hornet-3a, was flown outdoors in light winds earlier this month. The test was reported this morning by Flight International. According to a Prox Dynamics statement:

The advanced flight controls system makes the Hornet-3a very easy to fly. Being able to operate the 15 grams UAV outdoors in wind and gust is considered a vital part of its operational capabilities. It is also one of the most challenging tasks for the flight controls and autopilot system. A major milestone was therefore reached on April 7th when the Hornet-3a made its first flights outdoors.

With the Norwegian snow still present the Hornet-3a was flown in dry conditions with light variable wind up to 2 m/s. The aircraft showed no adverse controllability issues either in hover or during high speed passes. Over distance the Hornet-3a was able to maintain an average horizontal speed of 7 m/s with a maximum airspeed of 8 m/s. The test also confirmed some of the low signature capabilities of the system. Outside a distance of approximately three meters the sound from the helicopter was completely drowned by the ambient noise.

The full PD-100 microcopter, just over 10cm long, would easily fit in a flat pocket-sized case. It will be controlled from a handheld gadget offering video from the camera, simple manual controls, and “route following” using GPS, though this wouldn’t work inside buildings. The little aircraft will even offer auto-hovering hands off, with the ability to resist gusts of wind to some degree; and “deployment of special payload” (presumably very small). Flight reports that endurance on a battery charge is expected to be 30min.

The idea is that soldiers might carry a few Black Hornets in a pocket. If they fancied a look inside a building, over a hill or crest, down a tunnel or something, they’d simply launch an almost-silent palmtop microcopter for a recce. Should the tiny chopper come to grief due to flat batteries, a prang or perhaps a rolled-up newspaper, no matter – several cheap replacements could easily be carried. The standard package will come with three aircraft, a pocket controller and a charger.

Black Hornet isn’t quite the smallest microvidcopter design around – nor the stealthiest – but it seems to be much the nearest to reaching service.

“First delivery of an operational system is expected by the end of next year,” according to Prox Dynamics.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04…outdoor_tests/

Posted by ben on April 27th, 2009 1 Comment

CU scientists’ breakthrough could shrink computer chips

Colorado engineers have found a way to shine a doughnut-shaped laser of light over a second light, thus trimming its edges and offering the hope that computer chips can be made five times smaller.It’s a potentially huge breakthrough because the entire global electronics industry, and much of the success of the American economy, relies on Moore’s Law, which says transistors and circuits will double in power every 18 months without increasing in size or cost.

The assumption that iPods and computers will continue to grow ever more powerful is running up against the limits of physics, a problem that if not solved could devastate the entire semiconductor industry.

University of Colorado Assistant Professor Robert McLeod and a team of engineering students used tightly focused beams of blue light on liquid molecules known as monomers to record lines and dots thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair on a substrate.

They then “chopped off the edges” of the lines using a halo of ultraviolet light, trimming the width of the structures significantly.

“We are essentially drawing a line with a marker on a nanotechnology scale and then erasing its edges,” said McLeod, who teaches in CU’s electrical, computer and energy engineering department.

The method offers potential new approaches in the search for ways to shrink transistor circuitry in a global electronic market that is always pursuing smaller, more powerful microchips, said McLeod.\

A paper on the subject was published in the April 10 issue of Science Express, the online version of Science magazine. Co-authors included Timothy Scott and Christopher Bowman of the chemical and biological engineering department and graduate students Benjamin Kowalski and Amy Sullivan of the electrical, computer and energy engineering department.

Why not start simply with a skinnier blue light to inscribe the pattern on a substrate? INDenverTimes asked.

“There are some fundamental physics that keep you from doing that,” McLeod said. It’s determined by the wavelength of light. It’s hard to squeeze light into a spot much shorter than its wavelength.”

The law, named after Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, states that the semiconductor industry’s growth depends on the confidence that chips can be made ever smaller.

But there seems to be a limit of about 45 nanometers – “that’s incredibly tiny” – to how skinny a line can be made with one color.

“We don’t know how to make it smaller, and that’s a big worry,” he said. “The entire foundation of Silicon Valley is now shaking. The reason you buy a new iPod every year is that you know it can give you twice as much power as the old model” and still be just as small.

So, the CU team and a few others around the nation asked the question, “OK, if we’ve run into the defraction limit, what else can we do?”

”What if we had two colors available and made them do different things?” said McLeod. Once the question was asked, the fun began.

McLeod and his team used a tabletop laser to project tightly focused beams of visible blue light onto the photo-sensitive materials. A chemical reaction initiated a bonding of the monomers into a plastic-like polymer solid, he said.

If the beam was focused in one place, it inscribed a small solid dot. If the beam was moving the focus through the material, it created a thin thread, or line.

“One color is used just like the current process, to make changes in photo-sensitive materials to create a plastic,” he said. “Then you have the other color as a stop.

“You lay two different optical patterns down there, and have it happen at the same time. It’s like a whiteboard marker and an eraser.
You engineer the chemistry such that when the second color hits, it’s the eraser, it’s the ‘don’t go.’ ”

Imagine the period at the end of the sentence. To make it smaller, the doughnut-shaped ultraviolet light shines on the same spot as the period is being formed, lopping off its edges.

The process seems capable of shrinking circuits by a factor of five, which is crucial, because as it turns out, polymers 1,000 times thinner than a human hair aren’t skinny enough for the semiconductor industry.

Each time scientists find out a way to make chips twice as small, it’s good news, but requires Silicon Valley to invest some $5 billion in new instruments.

If this process works, it can leapfrog over several smaller incremental changes.

CU and McLeod have filed for a patent on the new process.

“This is the first toe in the water,” McLeod cautioned. “Now we move toward the engineering and see if we can start making things with it, maybe nano-scale robots.”

http://www.indenvertimes.com/2009/04/20/cu-scientists-breakthrough-could-shrink-computer-chips/

Posted by ben on April 21st, 2009 No Comments

NASA Trumps Star Trek: Ion Drive Live!

Thrust_panels We’re one step closer to Star Trek, with NASA successfully testing an experimental Ion Drive in Earth orbit.  In fact, since the Enterprise only had thrusters for low-speed maneuvers, this means we’ve got something even the guys with Warp Drive didn’t think of.

It turns out that carrying tanks of volatile chemicals on your space ship and setting fire to them every time you want to move has a few problems.  Just ask Apollo 13.  And once you run out, that’s it.  The Ion Drive instead operates electrically, carrying tanks of utterly inert Xenon gas – a “noble gas”, so called because you could poke its mother in the face with matches and it won’t catch fire.

You’ll still run out awful fast if you just squirt gas to move like some kind of interstellar balloon, which is why the Ion Drive uses electrical acceleration.  An electric field is used to strip the Xenon of electrons, rendering it positively charged, then accelerate them out of the engine.  This gives a tiny amount of gas a much larger momentum, and by Newton’s laws, an equal but opposite change in momentum is imparted to the spacecraft.

The resulting acceleration is tiny, but constant, and can be maintained entirely under solar power – in other words, running the engines is now free.  The first probe to use this system is the GOCE satellite, the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer.  GOCE must fly in a dangerously low orbit to gather data with its fantastically accurate gravity sensors.  So low that friction with the outer atmosphere will drag it down into an early, and remarkably fiery, grave – unless it’s equipped with a revolutionary new engine.

The Ion Drive will operate to cancel out the Earth’s effects on the satellite, keeping it in a constant balance between electrically powering out and plunging in.  The Ion Drive isn’t limited to station-keeping, however – small but solar-powered accelerations are perfect for interplanetary, or even interstellar missions.  The GOCE engines can provide 20 milliNewtons of thrust – for a one-ton satellite, that’s an acceleration of less than the width of a human hair per second squared, which is less than impressive.  Unless you keep it on for a month, say, and end up moving at four kilometers a second – and with a little work, you can refuel anywhere there’s an atmosphere.

Ion Drive http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090406132821.htm

Posted by ben on April 13th, 2009 No Comments

Cybersecurity Act would give president power to ‘shut down’ Internet

Greg Fulton
Published: Monday April 13, 2009

A recently proposed but little-noticed Senate bill would allow the federal government to shut down the Internet in times of declared emergency, and enables unprecedented federal oversight of private network administration.

The bill’s draft states that “the president may order a cybersecurity emergency and order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic” and would give the government ongoing access to “all relevant data concerning (critical infrastructure) networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access.”

Authored by Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 seeks to create a Cybersecurity Czar to centralize power now held by the Pentagon, National Security Agency, Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security.

While the White House has not officially endorsed the draft, it did have a hand in its language, according to The Washington Post.

Proponents of the measure stress the need to centralize cybersecurity of the private sector. “People say this is a military or intelligence concern,” says Rockefeller, “but it is a lot more than that. It suddenly gets into the realm of traffic lights and rail networks and water and electricity.”

Snowe added, “America’s vulnerability to massive cyber-crime, global cyber-espionage and cyber-attacks has emerged as one of the most urgent national security problems facing our country today. Importantly, this legislation loosely parallels the recommendations in the CSIS [Center for Strategic and International Studies] blue-ribbon panel report to President Obama and has been embraced by a number of industry and government thought leaders.”

Critics decry the broad language, and are watchful for amendments to the bill seeking to refine the provisions. According to opencongress.com, no amendments to the draft have been submitted.

Organizations like the Center for Democracy and Technology fear if passed in its current form, the proposal leaves too much discretion of just what defines critical infrastructure. The bill would also impose mandates for designated private networks and systems, including standardized security software, testing, licensing and certification of cyber-security professionals.

“I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t include communications systems, which are certainly critical infrastructure,” CDT General Counsel Greg Nojeim told eWEEK. “The president would decide not only what is critical infrastructure but also what is an emergency.”

Adds Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Essentially, the Act would federalize critical infrastructure security. Since many systems (banks, telecommunications, energy)are in the hands of the private sector, the bill would create a major shift of power away from users and companies to the federal government.”

http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Cybersecurity_Act_seeks_broad_powers_0413.html

Posted by ben on April 13th, 2009 No Comments

‘Fallujah’ video game draws early controversy

By Brett Molina

Two days after publisher Konami unveiled Iraq war video game Six Days in Fallujah, opponents have rushed out to blast the title as being inappropriate.

Video game blog Game Politics has followed the uproar closely.  It began with a report from the U.K.’s Daily Mail, in which a former British Army colonel and the father of a soldier killed in Iraq blasted Fallujah for being “crass” and “insensitive.”

Reg Keys, whose son was killed by a mob in Iraq in 2003, says the game is an example of poor taste.  “These horrific events should be confined to the annuls of history, not trivialised and rendered for thrill-seekers to play out, over and over again, for ever more,” Keys tells the Daily Mail.

Former British Army colonel Tim Collins also expresses his opposition in the Daily Mail story, calling the game insensitive in light of the events in Fallujah.  Both say they will seek a ban.

Meanwhile, an Iraq War veteran interviewed by Game Politics condemns the game as well, claiming it may dishonor those involved.  Below is a brief excerpt from the interview:

A “realistic” war game is not going to be fun — who wants to play a game where you sit around doing nothing, punctuated by raiding the wrong house and tearing apart the home of an irate Iraqi family, or sitting around on a convoy until your vehicle gets hit by an IED and your character dies, with no clear enemy in sight? Who wants to play that? In order to make the game fun (it’s a “game” after all), it simply has to sacrifice some amount of realism for fun factor.  When you do that with a war game based on a real war, with real people, you run the risk of dishonoring their memories and sacrifices, and I think that this game has a dangerous potential to do that.

Six Days in Fallujah, developed by Atomic Games, was created in cooperation with Marines who participated in the Iraqi battle in 2004.  You can read more about the game here.  Studio president Peter Tamte defends the decision to recreate the event.

“I think video games are the most powerful communications tools that have ever been created because I can make you that guy,” says Tamte. “I can put you in the exact dilemma and situation he was in, and when you have to make those decisions yourself, you will get insight  you cannot get from any other means. You will understand that situation on a deeper level.”

The game will release on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 next year.  Readers, do you think it is too soon to create a video game based on the war in Iraq?

Posted by ben on April 9th, 2009 No Comments

Presidential Directive opens door for release of antigravity technology

On February 13, 2009, President Obama released his first National Security Directive. Titled Presidential Policy Directive -1, it greatly expands the power of the National Security Council (NSC) to oversee all executive departments and agencies. The Directive introduces new members into top level NSC meetings including the Energy Secretary and the U.S. representative to the United Nations. Most significant is that Obama’s National Security Advisor, General James Jones (ret.), was given direct authority to develop and implement policy throughout the NSC system. Under previous Presidential administrations, a number of interagency committees were not chaired or controlled by the NSC. “Under Obama”, according to one Foreign Policy analyst, “the NSC chairs everything, though some committees can and will be cochaired.”  Prior to his current appointment, General Jones was involved in a secretive Boeing Corporation effort to declassify antigravity technology for commercial application. Boeing’s declassification efforts were denied. Obama’s Directive now gives General Jones a second opportunity to have antigravity technology declassified for commercial development.

Classified antigravity technologies have been kept from the public realm for over six decades while secretly developed by military-corporate entities. It was revealed in 1992, for example, that the B-2 Bomber used electrostatic charges on its leading wings and exhaust.  According to aerospace experts, this was confirmation that the B-2 used electrogravitic principles based on the Biefeld-Brown Effect. The Biefeld-Brown Effect is based on the research of Thomas Townsend Brown who in 1928 gained a patent for his practical application of how high voltage electrostatic charges can reduce the weight of objects. The B-2 bomber employs sufficiently high voltages to significantly reduce its weight. This enables the B-2 and other classified antigravity vehicles to display flight characteristics that appear to defy conventional laws of physics. The idea that advanced antigravity technologies exist and have been developed by military-corporate entities is supported by the former CEO for Lockheed Skunk works. Ben Rich said:

We already have the means to travel among the stars, but these technologies are locked up in black projects and it would take an act of God to ever get them out to benefit humanity.. anything you can imagine we already know how to do.


While a Presidential Directive is not quite an “act of God”, it may be enough to open the door for the release of antigravity technology. Especially so given the background of the man given the responsibility to run the NSC – former Marine Commandant, General Jim Jones.

After retiring from the Marines on February 1, 2007, General Jones served on the Board of Directors of the Boeing Corporation from June 21, 2007 to December 15, 2008. Boeing had been active at least since the early 1990’s in studies to apply antigravity technology for commercial use. In 2002, an internal Boeing project called “Gravity Research for Advanced Space Propulsion” (GRASP) had been disclosed to the aerospace industry. A GRASP briefing document obtained by Jane’s Defense Weekly stated Boeing’s position:

If gravity modification is real, it will alter the entire aerospace business.

According to a 2008 book by Dr Paul LaViolette, Secrets of Antigravity Technology, Boeing completed a separate classified study for the U.S. military of electrogravitic propulsion recently before October 2007. Boeing was rebuffed in its efforts to have such technology declassified and released into the public sector. As a Board Director and member of Boeing’s Finance Committee at the time of the 2007 classified study, General Jones was privy to and supported Boeing’s efforts in antigravity research and development. The governmental entity that rebuffed Boeing efforts was very likely an interagency committee that was not under the direct control of the NSC at the time of the Bush administration. This has been part of a historic trend in which antigravity and other highly advanced technologies have been increasingly placed under the control of corporate entities as trade secrets.The most practical way of reversing this historic trend is to increase the power of the NSC and ensure it has direct oversight over all interagency committees. This is precisely what Presidential Policy Directive -1 makes possible.

General Jones’ authority under Obama’s first Presidential Directive, places him in a strong position to ensure that new energy ideas such as antigravity propulsion become integrated into a comprehensive national security policy. He can now ensure that the NSC takes direct oversight over all parts of the NSC system. Jones will then be able to exercize his authority over corporate entities involved in joint research and development projects with government agencies and military departments. This could not come at a better time given the present economic difficulties in the U.S. and the world. The release of antigravity and other advanced technologies will spur financial investment and development in ways that can greatly stimulate the global economy. This may lead to a signficant behind the scenes power struggle between Obama’s enhanced NSC and elements of the corporate sector. Jones appears to be the right person to succesfully head Obama’s NSC during such a struggle. The first 100 days of the Obama administration promises much progress towards the commercial release and development of antigravity technologies.

Posted by ben on March 18th, 2009 No Comments

The Brain – Could a Dose of Ether Contain the Secret to Consciousness?

I was looking forward to my first experience with anesthesia. I had been laid out on a stretcher, and nurses and doctors were prepping my midsection so they could slice it open and cut out my appendix. After a bout of appendicitis, a short vacation from consciousness seemed like a pleasant way to spend a few hours. I had no idea what anesthesia would actually feel like, though, and suddenly I was seized by skepticism. I tried to hoist myself up, already swabbed in iodine, as I suggested that I ought to pop into the men’s room before the scalpels came out. I wouldn’t want to interrupt the surgery with a bathroom break. “Don’t worry,” one of the nurses replied. “We’ll do that for you.”

I lay back down, puzzling over that. After a nurse put the IV into my hand, I had to interrupt again: The anesthesia flowing into my arm was not working. I just couldn’t believe that anything would keep me asleep while someone was knitting up my intestines. The nurses and doctors nodded in my direction as I tried to explain the problem to them, but I was sure they weren’t taking me seriously. I took a long, slow blink. And then there were no doctors and nurses around me. I was lying alone in a new room, recovering from my surgery.

Ever since that experience, I’ve wondered what exactly happened in my head. It didn’t feel like sleep. It was not a blackout, either. It was as if the surgeons had simply cut a few hours out of my life and joined together the loose ends. So I decided to get more familiar with the science behind anesthesia. To my surprise, I discovered that anesthesiologists are a bit in the dark themselves. “How anesthesia works has been a mystery since the discovery of anesthesia itself,” writes Michael Alkire, an anesthesiologist at the University of California at Irvine School of Medicine, in the new Encyclopedia of Consciousness.

http://discovermagazine.com/2009/apr/16-could-dose-ether-contain-secret-consciousness

Posted by ben on March 17th, 2009 No Comments

Belief and the brain’s ‘God spot’

Scientists say they have located the parts of the brain that control religious faith. And the research proves, they contend, that belief in a higher power is an evolutionary asset that helps human survival. Steve Connor reports

A belief in God is deeply embedded in the human brain, which is programmed for religious experiences, according to a study that analyses why religion is a universal human feature that has encompassed all cultures throughout history.

Scientists searching for the neural “God spot”, which is supposed to control religious belief, believe that there is not just one but several areas of the brain that form the biological foundations of religious belief.

The researchers said their findings support the idea that the brain has evolved to be sensitive to any form of belief that improves the chances of survival, which could explain why a belief in God and the supernatural became so widespread in human evolutionary history.

“Religious belief and behaviour are a hallmark of human life, with no accepted animal equivalent, and found in all cultures,” said Professor Jordan Grafman, from the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, near Washington. “Our results are unique in demonstrating that specific components of religious belief are mediated by well-known brain networks, and they support contemporary psychological theories that ground religious belief within evolutionary-adaptive cognitive functions.”

Scientists are divided on whether religious belief has a biological basis. Some evolutionary theorists have suggested that Darwinian natural selection may have put a premium on individuals if they were able to use religious belief to survive hardships that may have overwhelmed those with no religious convictions. Others have suggested that religious belief is a side effect of a wider trait in the human brain to search for coherent beliefs about the outside world. Religion and the belief in God, they argue, are just a manifestation of this intrinsic, biological phenomenon that makes the human brain so intelligent and adaptable.

The latest study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved analysing the brains of volunteers, who had been asked to think about religious and moral problems and questions. For the analysis, the researchers used a functional magnetic-resonance imaging machine, which can identify the most energetically-active regions of the brain.

They found that people of different religious persuasions and beliefs, as well as atheists, all tended to use the same electrical circuits in the brain to solve a perceived moral conundrum – and the same circuits were used when religiously-inclined people dealt with issues related to God.

The study found that several areas of the brain are involved in religious belief, one within the frontal lobes of the cortex – which are unique to humans – and another in the more evolutionary-ancient regions deeper inside the brain, which humans share with apes and other primates, Professor Grafman said.

“There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures. Religion doesn’t have a ‘God spot’ as such, instead it’s embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use everyday,” Professor Grafman said.

The search for the God spot has in the past led scientists to many different regions of the brain. An early contender was the brain’s temporal lobe, a large section of the brain that sits over each ear, because temporal-lobe epileptics suffering seizures in these regions frequently report having intense religious experiences. One of the principal exponents of this idea was Vilayanur Ramachandran, from the University of California, San Diego, who asked several of his patients with temporal-lobe epilepsy to listen to a mixture of religious, sexual and neutral words while measuring their levels of arousal and emotional reactions. Religious words elicited an unusually high response in these patients.

This work was followed by a study where scientists tried to stimulate the temporal lobes with a rotating magnetic field produced by a “God helmet”. Michael Persinger, from Laurentian University in Ontario, found that he could artificially create the experience of religious feelings – the helmet’s wearer reports being in the presence of a spirit or having a profound feeling of cosmic bliss.

Dr Persinger said that about eight in every 10 volunteers report quasi-religious feelings when wearing his helmet. However, when Professor Richard Dawkins, an evolutionist and renowned atheist, wore it during the making of a BBC documentary, he famously failed to find God, saying that the helmet only affected his breathing and his limbs.

Other studies of people taking part in Buddhist meditation suggested the parietal lobes at the upper back region of the brain were involved in controlling religious belief, in particular the mystical elements that gave people a feeling of being on a higher plane during prayer.

Andrew Newberg, from the University of Pennsylvania, injected radioactive isotope into Buddhists at the point at which they achieved meditative nirvana. Using a special camera, he captured the distribution of the tracer in the brain, which led the researchers to identify the parietal lobes as playing a key role during this transcendental state.

Professor Grafman was more interested in how people coped with everyday moral and religious questions. He said that the latest study, published today, suggests the brain is inherently sensitive to believing in almost anything if there are grounds for doing so, but when there is a mystery about something, the same neural machinery is co-opted in the formulation of religious belief.

“When we have incomplete knowledge of the world around us, it offers us the opportunities to believe in God. When we don’t have a scientific explanation for something, we tend to rely on supernatural explanations,” said Professor Grafman, who believes in God. “Maybe obeying supernatural forces that we had no knowledge of made it easier for religious forms of belief to emerge.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/belief-and-the-brains–god-spot-1641022.html

Posted by ben on March 10th, 2009 No Comments

Pop Superstar Sting Supports Pentagon Hacker, Condemns U.S.

International pop star Sting is the latest British celebrity to throw his weight behind 9/11 truther and admitted Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon, the U.K. man who’s still fighting tooth and nail to avoid a U.S. trial on computer hacking charges.

“It’s a travesty of human rights that Gary McKinnon finds himself in this dreadful situation,” the former Police front man told the Mail on Sunday.

“The U.S. response in relation to the true nature of Gary’s crime is disproportionate in the extreme,” Sting said, referring to the extremely disproportionate response of charging a 42-year-old man with computer intrusion, when all he did was intrude into some computers.

Prosecutors say McKinnon broke into more than 90 unclassified Pentagon systems in 2001 and 2002, allegedly crashing some of them. He has said he was looking for proof of a UFO cover-up, though he left this message in an Army computer in 2002:  “U.S. foreign policy is akin to government-sponsored terrorism these days … It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand down on September 11 last year … I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels.”

With the help of British police, “Solo” was easily tracked down, and is now charged with damaging protected computers in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Threat Level knows better than anyone that hackers in the United States are starting to face life-ruining sentences stretching to decades in prison. McKinnon, though, is not. He already turned down an 18-month plea deal, and he now faces six months to six-and-a-half years in custody under federal sentencing guidelines, depending on how much damage he caused. He claims to have caused none, and if he’s telling the truth, he could be extradited tomorrow and be back home for Christmas.

Instead, McKinnon has garnered massive support in the U.K. in a years-long legal battle to avoid extradition. Several prominent British lawmakers joined his side after his lawyer announced last August that McKinnon had been diagnosed with Asperser’s syndrome. It’s not clear, though, if any of them have the foggiest idea what they’re talking about, since they’re often heard grumbling about McKinnon’s “70-year” sentencing exposure on “terrorism charges.”

Even Sting worries that the hacker might take his own life rather than go to jail “as a terrorist.” He also complains: “The British Government is prepared to hand over this vulnerable man without reviewing the evidence.”

That last bit is especially puzzling, because McKinnon gave the British government a signed confession in January. He was hoping to get U.K. prosecutors to charge him locally, keeping him out of America. They recently declined and his case is now under judicial review to decide if his alleged Asperger’s syndrome should keep him from being tried in the United States.

Throwing the kitchen sink into his defense of his countryman, Sting even told the Mail that  McKinnon faces extradition under a one-sided treaty the U.K. signed, and the United States did not. Wrong again. Who would have thought a pop star would be ignorant of international treaty law?

http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2009/03/pop-superstar-s.html

Posted by ben on March 4th, 2009 No Comments