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> november 2001
sampling new cultural context
friday :: november 30, 2001
> sign language : dancing with words
sign language
boost children's learning of language

Teaching sign language to hearing young children can improve their early communications with their parents and later boost the children's learning of language. "When you see babies, you can see them experiment with their hands. They move them about, they touch their hands together, they try to reach things, they attempt to pick up objects, " says Dr. Marilyn Daniels, associate professor of speech communication at Penn State's Campus. "Sign language has the unique capacity to tap into the natural exchange between hand and brain, optimizing the emergence of language in the child because of the physiological advantage of American Sign Language over English... Knowing a second language, such as ASL, also boosts self-esteem of the children and their confidence in learning, as well as their awareness of the Deaf culture." In her recent book, "Dancing With Words: Signing for Hearing Children's Literacy," the Penn State researcher outlines her research on this topic since 1991 and the theories behind the benefits of sign language on hearing children's education.

From *Sign language enriches learning for hearing children*

thursday :: november 29, 2001
  electronic small world project
how e-mail connects people worldwide

In a new study supported by the National Science Foundation, an Ohio State University sociologist is trying to discover how e-mail has changed - or hasn't changed - the way people interact around the world. "What we're trying to do is map the social connections that link people together through e-mail," said James Moody, leader of The Electronic Small World Project. "We want to understand how information flows through e-mail, how different people are connected, and how small the social world we live in really is."

One goal of the project is to test some of the assumptions people have made about online communication. For example, some researchers have suggested that online relationships can break down barriers of race and sex and economics because those characteristics aren't obvious over the Internet. But has this promise been fulfilled? However, it is also likely that e-mail is making the world a smaller place in some ways, Moody says. In one famous study done in the 1960s, Stanley Milgram found that Americans were only about six acquaintances away from anyone else in the country. This concept was made famous in the play "Six Degrees of Separation" by John Guare. As well as answering important questions about the nature of social networks online, Moody said the project will also yield practical benefits. One benefit could be to better understand how computer viruses spread and how to prevent them from running amuck. In addition, he said the research may lead to better ways to share and find information. "New forms of technology can transform how people interact," Moody said. "We want to find out the role e-mail has had in transforming communication."

From *The Electronic Small World Project aims to find how e-mail connects people worldwide*

> layout showing IPs on 29 June 1999: technical topography of the Internet from Internet Mapping Project
wednesday :: november 28, 2001
> water
biological nanocomputer
trillion computers in a drop of water

Yaakov Benenson headed by Ehud Shapiro at the Weizmann Institute of Science has used biological molecules to create a tiny computer ­ a programmable two-state, two-symbol finite automaton ­ in a test tube. This biological nanocomputer is so small that a trillion (1,000,000,000,000) such computers co-exist and compute in parallel, in a drop the size of 1/10 of a milliliter of watery solution held at room temperature. Collectively, the computers perform a billion operations per second with greater than 99.8% accuracy per operation while requiring less than a billionth of a Watt of power. The computer¹s input, output, and "software" are made up of DNA molecules. For "hardware," the computer uses two naturally occurring enzymes that manipulate DNA. When mixed together in solution, the software and hardware molecules operate in harmony on the input molecule to create the output molecule, forming a simple mathematical computing machine, known as finite automaton. This nanocomputer can be programmed to perform simple tasks by choosing different software molecules to be mixed in solution.

"The living cell contains incredible molecular machines that manipulate information-encoding molecules such as DNA and RNA in ways that are fundamentally very similar to computation," says Shapiro. The nanocomputer created is too simple to have immediate applications, however it may pave the way to future computers that can operate within the human body with unique biological and pharmaceutical applications.

From *A trillion computers in a drop of water: Scientists build a nanoscale computing machine using biological molecules*

tuesday :: november 27, 2001
  independent e-book awards

Designed to recognize and reward excellence in electronic books and digital storytelling, the Independent e-Book Awards program is now accepting nominations for electronic books published between December 1, 2000 and November 30, 2001. The Indie Awards are open to authors and artists published by independent publishing houses, self-published authors, or authors who use non-exclusive publishers. The primary goal of the Awards program is to help authors gain recognition for their work. Works will be judged on quality of content, professional presentation of the work and creative use of the medium. Finalists will be announced on the website March 31, 2002 and winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony, early May 2002.

The Independent e-Book Awards were created last September as the result of a collaboration between M.J. Rose, author of Lip Service, the first e-book discovered online by the mainstream publishing industry, and Sunny Ross, Publisher and Founder of the Mystic-Ink Community, one of the first online communities for writers. Rose and Ross created the Indie Awards as a way to recognize the true pioneers in the new world of electronic literature. The inaugural Independent e-Book Awards were celebrated last March during Publisher's Day at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville.

From *Independent e-Book Awards website*

> related context

october 20, 2000. first electronic book awards

> movable type in the yi dynasty + world's oldest surviving printed document of verifiable age, the Hyakumanto Darani, or million Buddhist charms (764-770 a.d.)
monday :: november 26, 2001
> jana brenning diagram on therapeutic cloning: how it's done
reprogramming human cells
milestone in therapeutic cloning

Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. (ACT) announced publication of its research on human somatic cell nuclear transfer and parthenogenesis. The report, published in *e-biomed: The Journal of Regenerative Medicine* , provides the first proof that reprogrammed human cells can supply tissue for transplantation. Human embryonic stem cells (ES), and other cells derived from the inner cell mass of the preimplantation embryo are totipotent, that is, they are capable of forming any cell or tissue in the human body. While numerous human ES cell lines are now in existence, they are of little value in human transplantation, as they would be rejected by a patient as foreign. Human therapeutic cloning has the potential to solve this problem by providing cells that are an exact genetic match for the patient. ACT's paper reports preliminary studies on two means of manufacturing such cells: parthenogenesis and somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) to form preimplantation embryos. On October 13, 2001, was produced the first human embryos using cloning.

From *Advanced Cell Technology reports publication of results of human somatic cell nuclear transfer and parthenogenesis*, november 25, 2001.

José B. Cibelli, Robert P. Lanza and Michael D. West, from ACT, explained at Scientific American that "therapeutic cloning ‹which seeks, for example, to use the genetic material from patients¹ own cells to generate pancreatic islets to treat diabetes or nerve cells to repair damaged spinal cords‹ is distinct from reproductive cloning, which aims to implant a cloned embryo into a woman¹s uterus leading to the birth of a cloned baby. We believe that reproductive cloning has potential risks to both mother and fetus that make it unwarranted at this time, and we support a restriction on cloning for reproductive purposes until the safety and ethical issues surrounding it are resolved."

From *Cloned early-stage human embryos‹and human embryos generated only from eggs, in a process called parthenogenesis‹now put therapeutic cloning within reach*.

> related context

experts rip cloning 'story'

by kristen philipkoski. wired. nov 26, 2001
"scientists say they've cloned the first human embryo, but critics are calling the announcement a shameless cry for funding... despite the positive pitch of the company's press release, several researchers have called the work a failure... the fact that it did not develop beyond six cells suggests it is fairly lightweight research."

first human embryo cloned in korea or britain ?

"a south korean medical research team said on 16 december 1998 that they had succeeded in cultivating a human embryo using human cells, but claimed they had already been beaten by the british... experiment divided into four cells before the operation was aborted."

researchers transform human fat into bone, muscle, cartilage.

discovery of first plentiful source of stem cells could make fetal tissue use unnecessary. april 10, 2001

turning blood into brain:

new studies suggest bone marrow stem cells can develop into neurons in living animals. november 30, 2000

friday :: november 23, 2001
scientific study

For the first time, there is scientific evidence of the response of body tissue to acupuncture needling, using a unique computer-controlled acupuncture-needling device. Conducted at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, the two-year study takes a major step towards establishing credibility among Western medical practitioners. The key to acupuncture's biomechanical effect, says lead investigator Helene Langevin, is not the insertion of each ultra-fine acupuncture needle, but its manipulation. During an acupuncture session, each acupuncture needle is manipulated in order to elicit the "de qi" response. A phenomenon called "needle grasp" is a component of de qi that is often described by acupuncturists as feeling like a fish tugging on a fishing line. When de qi occurs, patients typically experience an aching sensation. Though previously believed to be a muscle contraction, research indicates that layers superficial to the muscle - skin and/or subcutaneous connective tissues - may be involved in the body's response to acupuncture needling. When the needle is pulled back during needle grasp, the biomechanical phenomenon is visibly recognizable as the tissue below the skin maintains its grasp on the needle, causing the skin to "tent." Langevin was also the lead author of a hypothesis paper on research that supplements these findings, titled "Mechanical signaling through connective tissue: a mechanism for the therapeutic effect of acupuncture."

From *Study Confirms Acupuncture's Effect*, november 19, 2001.

> acupuncture ancient charts
thursday :: november 22, 2001
> blaise pascal build the first mechanic calculator *[the pascaline] on the XVIIth century
world's fastest supercomputers
latest edition of top500 list released

The18th edition of the twice-yearly ranking finds IBM as the leader in the field, with (32% of installed systems and 37% of total performance). In a surprise move Hewlett-Packard captured the second place (30% of the systems,15% of performance). SGI, Cray and Sun follow. In the category of installed performance Cray Inc. keeps the third position ahead of SGI and Compaq. The IBM ASCI White system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is still the number one supercomputer in the world, with a performance of 7.2 teraflop/s (trillions of calculations per second) on the Linpack benchmark. The number two spot is now taken by the new Compaq AlphaServer SC system at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. The total combined performance of all 500 computers on the list is 134.4 Tflops/ compared to 108.8 Tflop/s six month ago and 88.1 Tflop/s one year ago. The 'slowest' system on the newest listing is now 94.3 gigaflop/s, compared to 67.8 Gflop/s 6 months ago and 55.1 Gflop/s in November2000. The new TOP500 list, as well as the former lists, can be found on the Web at http://www.top500.org/.

From *18th Edition of TOP500 List of World's Fastest Supercomputers Released*, november 9, 2001.

wednesday :: november 21, 2001
  structural radar to monitor vehicles
toward condition-based maintenance

The "structural health monitoring" system uses a network of devices that could be attached to, or embedded in, an aircraft or vehicle. Some of the devices, called actuators, send out high-frequency sound waves that create vibrations in surrounding materials. The other devices are arrays of sensors that detect acoustic signals bouncing off of the vibrating material. By continually comparing data from the sensors, the system can determine whether a material is damaged. Douglas E. Adams created the software algorithms that enable the system to properly interpret structural vibration and acoustic signals. The monitoring system relies on a theory known as structural diagnostics using nonlinear analysis, or sDNA. "Our system is a collection of structural health monitoring nodes, each of which implements the sDNA algorithm. The general idea is that we collect data all across the structure," Adams said. Future self-healing technologies could use such a monitoring system to detect when a part or material is about to fail and then release a substance that provides temporary strength or support, preventing immediate failure.

From *Engineers create 'structural radar' to monitor aircraft, vehicles*, november 15, 2001.

> the 'contour plot' shows how different pairs of vibration sensors can "see" damage in material being tested
tuesday :: november 20, 2001
> fumariaceae - the Bleeding-heart family a bisexual flower
acoustic device avoid surgery
find and stop internal bleeding

Researchers at the University of Washington¹s Applied Physics Laboratory are working on a device that could find and stop internal bleeding, without surgery. At the December meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, Dr. Shahram Vaezy and his colleagues will present research on using traditional ultrasound to image internal bleeding combined with High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) as an effective method of stopping the bleeding."The key issue," Vaezy says, "is that no current method can stop the bleeding non-invasively." In addition to stopping bleeding in blood vessels, Vaezy¹s team has been able to show that HIFU can safely stop bleeding in solid organs like the liver and spleen, where current techniques are not effective. "Imagine," he says, "if we could stop the internal bleeding of a car accident patient at the scene without opening the patient."

From *Stopping internal bleeding without surgery*, november 14, 2001.

monday :: november 19, 2001
pluto-kuiper belt mission
congress restored the funding

The U.S. House and Senate conference committee acting on the fiscal year 2002 NASA appropriations have approved $30 million funding for development of the Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission, despite opposition by the Bush Administration. "This is a victory for public interest," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. "The people let Congress know that they want NASA to explore Pluto -- the only remaining unexplored planet in our solar system -- and Congress responded." If Congress had not restored the funding, the opportunity for reaching the last unvisited planet in our solar system would have been lost for a generation. Additionally, the chance of seeing its atmosphere before it froze and condensed would have been lost for more than a century. The funding, and launch vehicle constraints, probably mean that the mission to Pluto cannot launch until 2006 -- two years later than had been hoped.

From *VICTORY! House - Senate Conference Approves Pluto Mission Funding*, november 7, 2001.

> related context

into the deep space of nowhere
by bruce moomaw. space daily. nov 16, 2001
"yesterday -- during hearings by the scientific advisory group assigned to come up with an official new design for NASA's Solar System over the next ten years -- the war took a totally unexpected and disastrous new twist, when the Bush Administration announced that it will respond to Congress' action by canceling BOTH missions --Pluto and Europe -- next year and completely eliminating all of America's plans to explore the outer Solar System after the Cassini Saturn mission."

> stamps showing pluto
friday :: november 16, 2001
> cross section of cerebellar fold diagrammed to show the network of cells which transmits nerve impulses trhough it
beauty perception and desire
philosophy and neuroscience

Nancy Etcoff, one of the study's lead authors, explains, "Earlier studies that I and others have conducted follow evidence that the perception of beauty is inborn, that similar features are regarded as beautiful universally. If beauty is indeed hard-wired into the brain by natural selection, we would expect to find circuits in the brain that respond to beauty." The brain imaging study found that the same brain areas previously identified as part of a "reward circuitry," showed increased response to the viewing of attractive faces. "While we know that experience, learning and personal idiosyncracies all have an impact on attraction between particular individuals, these results show that this basic reward response is deeply seated in human nature." Etcoff is author of Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty, as well as a number of research studies in the area of facial recognition.

From *Study finds beauty can be its own reward*, november 8, 2001.

An interesting note on the study was published in UniSci - Daily University Science News= Is there such a thing as objective beauty? If so, what defines it and why are we able to appreciate it? Is beauty distinct from what we desire?... work suggests that "beauty" and "desire" are not merely distinct concepts but they also reflect different activity patterns in our brain. Hence, the marriage of philosophy and neuroscience is brought one step closer.

From *Brain Study Shows Difference Between Beauty, Desire*, november 8, 2001.

thursday :: november 15, 2001
  vibration therapy
kept the bones healthy

The absence of mechanical stimulation to bones and muscles in microgravity leads to substantial bone loss and muscle weakness in astronauts. Reducing muscle atrophy requires exercise -- and lots of it. But there arn't yet solution for bone loss, as in Earth with osteoporosis. "Bone and muscle are plastic tissues that undergo structural changes to match the functional demands that are placed on them," said Dr. Bruce Hather.

Based in successful experiments with animals, NASA-funded scientists suggest that astronauts might prevent bone loss by standing on a lightly vibrating plate for 10 to 20 minutes each day. Experiments with humans are using 30 Hz vibrations.

"This is a real departure from the accepted theory of how mechanical signals control bone, and it is certainly controversial," Clinton Rubin, principal investigator for the study, says. Nevertheless, it might work. Good vibrations -- unexpected and controversial -- could be the key to healthy bones on Earth and beyond.

From *"Good Vibrations" May Prevent Bone Loss in Space*, october 1, 2001.

> healthy bone (up) bone with osteoporosis (down)
wednesday :: november 14, 2001
> phonon symmetries specular reflection of acoustical phonons
phonons measurement
reveals internal structure of objects

By picking up the tiny vibrations of thermal energy that exist naturally in all objects, researchers at the University of Illinois have performed ultrasonic measurements without using a source. The team measured minuscule sound waves ­ called phonons ­ propagating within a block of aluminum at room temperature.

"The sound we were listening to was created by arbitrary thermal fluctuations generated elsewhere in the sample, such as an electron hitting a lattice imperfection or an air molecule striking the surface," researcher Richard Weaver said. "While no one had really doubted that these tiny fluctuations existed, no one had ever measured them before."

Potential applications range from seismology to materials science.

From *Random noise from within objects reveals their internal structure*, november 1, 2001.

tuesday :: november 13, 2001
  magnetic semiconductor
spintronics advance

Today's semiconductors work by exploiting the electric charge attached to electrons. But electrons in solids have another fundamental property known as "spin." Spintronics would exploit this property, using magnetic semiconductors. In the long term, advances in spintronics may usher in vastly more powerful quantum computing.

A University of Florida-led research team has created one of the first practical magnetic semiconductor, using gallium phosphide doped with manganese, at room temperature. A step toward a new breed of computer chips that will couple memory with information processing and photonic capabilities, a technology called magneto resistive random access memory, or M-RAM.

From *No need for lengthy boot-ups with "m-ram" chips. Research By A Univ. Of Fla.-Led Team Edges Closer To Next Generation Electronics*, november 1, 2001.

> transistors at MIT Microsystems Technology Laboratories course
monday :: november 12, 2001
> west african slit drum used primarily as a signal gong to alert, assemble or inform the population
dancing beyond boundaries
artists and scientists around drum beat

The performance will rely on the ultra-high bandwidth Internet2 network and other emerging technologies, will be based at the SuperComputing Global conference in Denver. Engineers and computer scientists have already built the technical infrastructure for the production, using a new multipoint video-conferencing system called the Access Grid as the backbone. Anyone with an Internet connection can watch not only the production, but also rehearsals, through a dedicated Web site at www.digitalworlds.ufl.edu/sc2001

The dozens of people recruited in advance for the production will "meet" Monday morning via Internet2 access points in Denver and at the University of Florida, the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and the University of Campinas near Sao Paolo, Brazil. Mestre Boca, a world-renowned percussionist in Brazil, will provide what Oliverio called the artistic and metaphorical foundation of the project: the drum beat.

"The drum has been a means of communication at a distance since time immemorial," Oliverio said. "Call and response, music, movement and dance evolved from this marking of rhythm, and so, for this production, we are beginning with this same primal expression and expanding its reach across two continents."

From *Networked production to link artists, scientists in performance*, november 8, 2001.

friday :: november 9, 2001
  the public domain
a conference at duke law school

The last fifteen years has seen a rise in both the importance and the strength of intellectual property rights in the world economy; rights have expanded in areas ranging from the human genome to the Internet and have been strengthened with legally backed digital fences, lengthened copyright terms and increased penalties. Is this expansion of intellectual property necessary to respond to new copying technologies, and desirable because it will produce investment and innovation? Must we privatize the public domain to avoid a "tragedy of the commons," or can the technologies of cheap copying and global networks actually make common pool management more efficient than legal monopolies? Questions such as these have thrown attention on the "other side" of intellectual property: the public domain. What does the public domain do? What is its importance, its history, its role in science, art, and in the building of the Internet? How is the public domain similar to and different from the idea of a commons?

From *Conference on the Public Domain site*, november 9-11, 2001.

> lantern man
thursday :: november 8, 2001
  code on trial
dvd hacker case

A California appellate court unanimously overturned a trial court's injunction banning dozens of individuals from publishing on their websites DeCSS (Decode Content Scrambling System) computer code that unscrambles DVDs. Unscrambled DVDs may be played on any computer.

The studios objected to DeCSS software, which programmers wrote in the fall of 1999 as part of an independent project to create a DVD player for the Linux operating system. In early 2000, DVD-CCA filed this lawsuit against hundreds of Web publishers seeking to ban the publication of DeCSS.

From *Cautious optimism follows dvd ruling in California*, november 2, 2001.

> related context

2600 Magazine Seeks Relief from Court-Ordered Censorship. Urges Decision to Permit Publication of DVD Decoder Software. Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Release. January 14, 2002

wednesday :: november 7, 2001
  meteor impact collapse civilisations
first evidence in middle east

The catastrophic effect of these could explain why so many early cultures -- Akkad, fifth dynasty of Egypt's Old Kingdom -- went into sudden decline around 2300 BC. This date may also cast new light on the legend of Gilgamesh, dating from the same period. The legend talks of "the Seven Judges of Hell", who raised their torches, lighting the land with flame, and a storm that turned day into night, "smashed the land like a cup", and flooded the area.

From *Meteor clue to end of Middle East civilisations by Robert Matthews*, telegraph, november 4, 2001.

> related context

late permian mass extinction triggered by a collision with near earth object. context weblog, february 27, 2001

> Firmamentum Sobiescianem sive Uranographia [fragment] by Johannes Hevelius of Gdansk, 1690
wednesday :: november 7, 2001
> digital sky surveys + robot
world robotics 2001
2000 - record year for robot investment

Executive summary of newly released survey World Robotics 2001 produced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in cooperation with the *International Federation of Robotics (IFR)*

How many robots are now working out there in industry? Worldwide at least 750,000 units, of which 389,000 in Japan, 198,000 in the European Union and 90,000 in North America. In Europe, Germany is in the lead with 91,000 units. What are the forecasts for 2004? Some 975,000 worldwide, of which 447,000 in Japan, 306,000 in the European Union and 116,000 in North America. How large were the robot investments in 2000? "2000 was a record year with almost 100,000 new robots being installed worldwide, representing an increase of as much as 25% over 1999", says Jan Karlsson responsible for the publication. A robot sold in 2000 would have cost less than a fifth of what a robot with the same performance would have cost in 1990.

Are we seeing any service robots in our homes? Lawn mowing robots are about to have their commercial breakthrough while the market introduction of vacuum cleaning robots has been delayed until 2002/2003. The merging technologies of PC and entertainment robots -- including toy and hobby robots -- can become a very substantial business area in the near future.

From *UNECE issues its 2001 World Robotics survey*, october 30, 2001.

tuesday :: november 6, 2001
  national virtual observatory
to put the universe online

The *National Virtual Observatory (NVO)*, headed by astronomer Alex Szalay and computer scientist Paul Messina, will unite astronomical databases of many earthbound and orbital observatories. The goal is to maximize the potential for new scientific insights from the data by making them available in an accessible, seamlessly unified form to professional researchers, amateur astronomers and students.

"First, you have science conducted through theoretical models," explains Szalay. "Next, you have science tested through experiments. The new approach, scientific exploration through computational methods, is developing in response to the tremendous volumes of data we're starting to gather in many of the sciences." Astronomy has been at the forefront of archiving and sharing data electronically for at least two decades.

Messina notes that the NVO was inspired by the Digital Sky Project. Computationally, NVO will do this work through a set of approaches and techniques developed in the 1990s known as "grid" computing. Grid computing lets scientists in multiple institutions easily and rapidly share data and other problem-solving resources. "We'll rely on the same kinds of techniques to transfer data and [run computer programs] in a transparent way," Szalay says. "You won't necessarily know where your computer program is running or be aware that data's being accessed in one database or another ­ just that the work is getting done."

From *$10 Million NSF Grant to Fund "National Virtual Observatory"*, october 29, 2001.

> digital sky surveys

> context weblog
sampling new cultural context


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