Thursday, January 18, 2007

Best First Prize Ever!

For the Vanishing Point Contest

A trip to orbit:

The Rocketplane® XP Vehicle is a four-seat fighter-sized vehicle fitted with a delta wing and a V-tail which provide good flight characteristics both subsonically and supersonically. The vehicle is powered by both turbojet engines and a rocket engine, enabling it to accelerate to speeds just over 3,500 feet per second (2,386 miles per hour) and reach altitudes in excess of 330,000 feet (100 kilometers) providing the sensation of weightlessness for three to four minutes!

too bad I am disqualified :(

Can Tylenol Make You Stoned?

Probably not, but it's interesting that it's mode of action is based on activating cannabinoid receptors. I wonder if the Ant-Drug lobby will try to get rid of tylenol. Or at least confiscate it at airports.

Paracetamol (acetaminophen) is one of the most popular and widely used drugs for the treatment of pain and fever. It occupies a unique position among analgesic drugs. Unlike NSAIDs it is almost unanimously considered to have no antiinflammatory activity and does not produce gastrointestinal damage or untoward cardiorenal effects. Unlike opiates it is almost ineffective in intense pain and has no depressant effect on respiration. Although paracetamol has been used clinically for more than a century, its mode of action has been a mystery until about one year ago, when two independent groups (Zygmunt and colleagues and Bertolini and colleagues) produced experimental data unequivocally demonstrating that the analgesic effect of paracetamol is due to the indirect activation of cannabinoid CB(1) receptors. In brain and spinal cord, paracetamol, following deacetylation to its primary amine (p-aminophenol), is conjugated with arachidonic acid to form N-arachidonoylphenolamine, a compound already known (AM404) as an endogenous cannabinoid. The involved enzyme is fatty acid amide hydrolase. N-arachidonoylphenolamine is an agonist at TRPV1 receptors and an inhibitor of cellular anandamide uptake, which leads to increased levels of endogenous cannabinoids; moreover, it inhibits cyclooxygenases in the brain, albeit at concentrations that are probably not attainable with analgesic doses of paracetamol. CB(1) receptor antagonist, at a dose level that completely prevents the analgesic activity of a selective CB(1) receptor agonist, completely prevents the analgesic activity of paracetamol. Thus, paracetamol acts as a pro-drug, the active one being a cannabinoid. These findings finally explain the mechanism of action of paracetamol and the peculiarity of its effects, including the behavioral ones. Curiously, just when the first CB(1) agonists are being introduced for pain treatment, it comes out that an indirect cannabino-mimetic had been extensively used (and sometimes overused) for more than a century.

What Did I Get My Niece for XMas?

Fizz Wizard Reaction Kit
Space Sand
Safety Goggles
Periodic Table of Elements Poster with Bios
Cool Blue Light Experiment Kit
Glowing Gel Experiment Kit
Rubber Flubber Experiment Kit
Chemistry Wiz – Solids, Liquids and Gases
My First Chemistry Kit
Amethyst Crystal Kit
Rose Quartz Crystal Kit
Our Solar System iCD
Keychain Laser Pointer

there is a theme here....

Why Am I Excited About This?

Gears of War:

Despite the mantra of many gamers, graphics do matter. (As Bleszinski told GameSpy last year, "[U]ntil recently you couldn't express a nuanced brow raise or a wry grin which can say a thousand things to the user. Instead we'd just go, 'That's hard, let's give her some huge boobs and call it a day.' ")

I don't play this genre much, so why do I care? Because Microsoft is doing the next version of City of Heroes, Marvel Universe, and this is what I am looking forward to :)

Codependant Enabler

There is a very interesting debate going on over at AS on the top of the religious and the atheists. Interesting because Sullivan's logic is clearly wrong, i.e. he's trying to have it both ways, believing that reason leads to faith. His opponent, Sam Harris, keeps calling him on this and pointing out that reason leads to less faith, not more.

Personally, I think faith is a fine thing, if you have it, good for you. Where I step off is when you try to hedge your faith (believing something without evidence) and say it's based on reason (i.e. evidence). Nick and I did a quiet round or two last week, but frankly I dont have the energy or inclination to do a proper job. Nick's basic premise was "assume there is a god. based on that assumption, faith is logical", mine was "why would you assume there is a god? There is no evidence", it very quickly degenerates into which is the more reasonable set of assumptions. Personally, I've also thought the assumption of god without evidence is specious logic. I could use the same one to assume the existence of the Devil, or of just about any other mythological figure and would be unable to prove they dont exist (the debate usually ends when one shows that one is unable to disprove the existence of Santa Claus. Ends in a huff with a sentence along the lines of "you're not taking this seriously"). Just because you cant prove something doesn’t exist, doesn’t justify the assumption that it must.

In this dispatch Sam makes the argument that religious moderates are the codependant enablers of religious extremists, i.e. if you pick and chose which parts of religion to believe, choosing some and ignoring others, you enable extremists to do the same and have access to the same arguments, just with a different spin. If you're a moderate, it's difficult to say exactly what you have faith in, and back it up with any kind of coherent religious argument. Sam says, basically, if you throw out parts of your religion, why not toss out the whole thing as a bad investment, shudder the doors to the churches and spend the resources on more useful capitalist endeavors?

I eagerly await Sully's reply. He may come up with an argument I haven't seen before.

Edit: Having read Sam's note twice now, I think Sully has to change the subject in his reply. Sam is just too spot on.
BTW, in case you were wondering, I don't think we will ever live in a world free of religion. The human brain is just built too well as a belief engine. There will always be mystics, faith and foolishness in human history. I have not dispared though that religion will take on a less violent and noxious form in the future.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007