OOL Study Substitutes Computer for Chemistry

first_imgUpon reading a recent origin-of-life paper in PNAS,1 you might think the authors ran experiments with real chemicals and real deep-sea rocks.  A more careful look, however, reveals that their model only worked in cyberspace.  This raises interesting questions about the ability of simulations to substitute for empirical evidence.    Their claims were dramatic – accumulation of the building blocks of life by factors of 100 million and more.  The paper makes optimistic, if not enthusiastic, claims that “nucleotides” and other important biochemicals can be highly concentrated in micropores in deep-sea geological formations: “We find that interlinked mineral pores in a thermal gradient provide a compelling high-concentration starting point for the molecular evolution of life.”  This, they advertised, can overcome the “concentration problem” that has plagued other models: how does one get a significant number of prebiotic chemicals close enough together to interact?    From the first-sentence reference to Miller and Urey, who used real lab apparatus and real chemicals, the paper appeared to follow the experimental tradition.  It focused on the problem of concentrating chemicals in a plausible environment.  By positing convection currents inside microscopic pores of rocks around deep-sea vents, the model overcame – by at least two orders of magnitude – a minimum set by the Second Law of Thermodynamics on how many molecules are needed for interaction to be considered probable.    True, the authors used the word “simulated” in the title and 14 times in the paper.  Their references to nucleotides and other “real” chemicals were qualified with indirect references.  Nevertheless, until the “Materials and Methods” section at the end of the paper, it seemed they were talking about real chemicals and physical pores in real rocks.  One of the figures showed photographs from real hydrothermal vents.  They mentioned nucleotides 37 times – including the title.  The body of the paper was filled with references to temperatures, pressures, volumes, and concentrations that looked real.  Actually, the entire model was done within two software programs, Comsol and Femlab.  The nucleotides, pores, and thermometers were virtual, not physical.    They tried to plug in real-world values into the programs and use realistic boundary conditions.  They input known properties of real molecules.  Putative pore sizes were based on photographs of real hydrothermal vents.  The bottom line, though, is that none of the concentration results were observed or measured in the wild.2  The model revolved around simplified geometries of pores as programmed into a computer – and that, of pores in only two dimensions.    Here was their concluding paragraph.  Note the lack of reference to a computer simulation.  Is it real, or is it memo tricks?In conclusion, we propose a type of mechanism, driven solely by a temperature gradient, which strongly accumulates even small protobiological molecules in semiclosed hydrothermal pore systems.  This setting provides a compelling, dissipative microenvironment to promote the first steps in the molecular evolution of life.The line between real and virtual was blurred in another passing thought near the end of the paper:Equally, freshly precipitated mesoscopic mineral grains are subjected to thermal cycling by the convection.  Their catalytic surfaces might generate nucleic acid multimers by thermally triggered periodic condensation and unbinding reactions.  In this context, we note that, in a comparable thermal convection setting, DNA was shown to replicate exponentially by using the, albeit protein-catalyzed, PCR.Critics of origin-of-life studies might be stunned at this line.  PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, is an intelligently-guided reaction, performed by machines in laboratories by scientists with PhDs.  PCR depends on protein catalysts – highly complex molecules from living systems, whose specificity enables them to react with DNA.  By associating a guided process that uses complex biological parts with a theoretical process that is unguided and uses simple abiological parts, can the one be properly compared to the other without assuming what needs to be proved – the origin of complex biological processes?    This paper was presented as part of a colloquium by the National Academy of Sciences last December on “In the Light of Evolution I: Adaptation and Complex Design” (see 05/10/2007 entry), published May 9 on the Proceedings website.1Baaske, Weinert, Duhr, Lemke, Russell and Braun, “Extreme accumulation of nucleotides in simulated hydrothermal pore systems,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0609592104, published online before print May 9, 2007.2In addition, they did not test complications, such as whether pores might become clogged with tar and sediments – they just speculated and dismissed the possibilities, viz: “One may ask whether the strong accumulation of solvated organic molecules would lead to the tarring of the pore.  This is not expected because thermophoretic coefficients become small for concentrations in the molar range.”Models are OK, and have a long history in science, but the bluffing-to-proof ratio in this paper was beyond the pale.  These authors might be able to defend it by claiming they “said” it was just a simulation in a computer, but nobody scanning the contents would think so.  Few readers are going to look at the Materials and Methods section (usually boring, unless you’re trying to replicate the results).  This paper gave every appearance of being an empirical, laboratory experiment in the real world.  It was all done with software smoke and model mirrors.    As we saw 12/03/2004, one of the conspirators (Russell) is a master bluffer.  He has a propensity to gloss over major problems and swap out experimental facts for cartoon pictures on a screen.  In his 2004 lecture, he made everything look so simple, so problem-free, life should just pop out of the pore.  If life by the yard is hard, and life by the inch is a cinch, wouldn’t life by the micron be right on?  It’s a foregone conclusion.  The hard part over, little Poregum would just gloriously evolve into us.  Some unbiased, objective scientist he is.  He should read Shapiro’s devastating critique (02/15/2007) of such notions.    Observational facts have a way of tarring up computer models.  Let us ask a simple question: where are these nucleotides supposed to get their ribose?  Doesn’t Russell and gang know that deep-sea vents are the last place one would expect to find ribose?  It is so difficult to imagine it forming by chance, in fact, that Steven Benner (11/05/2004) had to envision it forming in a desert in the presence of borate.  (Not Borat, mind you – no humans allowed, no matter how perverse.  It’s borate.)  Now, since Benner’s surface model falsifies Russell’s deep-sea model, and vice versa (Russell thinks the surface environment is “disastrous” for life), this one little “problem” we raised is enough to gum up the software and send their little computer instantly into BSOD (blue screen of death, pun intended).  We would continue with more real-world pressure, but as Windows users know, one BSOD is enough to ruin your whole day.(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

SriLankan inaugurates flights from Colombo to Australia

first_imgOneworld member SriLankan Airlines will become the only airline offering direct flights from Colombo to Australia when it starts a daily service to Melbourne from October 29 using Airbus A330s.The airline said airline it was attracted by the fact Australia was home to one of Sri Lanka’s biggest expat communities, with about 50 per cent living in and around Victoria.It also saw a “tremendous potential’’ for business travel and as well as opportunities involving Victoria’s growing student population.“We recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our nations, and the addition of Melbourne signifies our strategy of optimizing the Airline’s network in line with our restructuring,’’ SriLankan chief executive Suren Ratwatte said in a statement. “ This also means that we have connected another continent to our global route map. On the other hand, given the number of Sri Lankans residing in and around Victoria, we fulfill a long felt need for a direct service. ‘’SriLankan will offer connections to Australia from the Middle East and South Asia.Chief commercial officer Siva Ramachandran saying there had been a steady increase in passengers travelling between Colombo and Australia via Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, where Srilankan offers double daily services in conjunction with codeshare partners Qantas and Malaysia Airlines.“’ Our direct services will give us a definite advantage as SriLankan is the only carrier that is able to offer connectivity of this nature at this time,’’ he said. “We also offer seamless onward connections beyond Colombo to a range of destinations in the Indian Sub-Continent.’’As of the end of its 2016-17 financial year, Sri Lankan was serving 36 international destinations from its hub in Colombo, with an operating fleet of 24 aircraft.The airline’s Colombo hub offers 10 Indian destinations with more than 100 flights a week. It will be expanding its presence in India in July by adding Visakhapatnam, Coimbatore and Hyderabad to its route network.It offers 50 weekly flights to and from nine   Middle Eastern destinations  —  including daily services from of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and  Doha, Riyadh — as well as to holiday destinations such as the Seychelles and Maldives.The Sri Lankan government is searching for a private partner to help run the airline, which has been losing money since 2009.  It made an unaudited loss before finance and one-off charges of $US15.12m in 2016-17, up from $US3.15 million the previous year, despite a record year for passenger numbers and an increase in revenue.The airline said the depreciation of the Sri Lanka rupee against the US dollar had a significant negative impact on the airline along with the relatively high cost of jet fuel in Colombo and the cancellation of more than 600 flights due to runway repairs at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport.last_img read more

COP 17 a defining moment: Zuma

first_img28 November 2011South African President Jacob Zuma welcomed more than 15 000 delegates from 190 countries to Durban at the start of the UN Climate Change Conference on Monday with the message that the future of the world was in their hands.Speaking at the opening of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Zuma told the delegates that they had no choice but to find a lasting solution to the climate problem.“Climate change can no longer be treated as just an environmental problem … It is a matter of life and death,” he said.Calls for compromise, commitmentThe much-anticipated conference kicked off at Durban’s International Convention Centre with calls for compromise and commitment to curbing global carbon emissions.African leaders also urged rich nations to take responsibility for polluting the atmosphere by channelling funds to developing countries as part of a long-term solution to the problem of global warming.Over the course of the next two weeks, the world’s representatives will need to establish some kind of basis for long-term climate cooperation, and in particular will have to negotiate a second, post-2012 commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol.With relative progress made during COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico last year, the South African talks are being touted as a turning point for implementing most of the crucial decisions made last December.Cancun Agreements ‘must be implemented’Zuma said it was crucial for COP17 to ensure that the Cancun Agreements, which included the establishment of a Green Climate Fund, were implemented.Africa’s vulnerability to climate change potentially meant not only droughts and severe weather patterns but poverty and serious food shortages for the continent.“Severe drought in Somalia is causing serious problems and has displaced many. In the Americas, they are still battling to overcome the impacts five years after Hurricane Katrina,” Zuma said.“Given the urgency, parties should find solutions here in Durban. The expectation is that you must be able to work towards the outcome that is fair, balanced and credible.”While expectations are low for a comprehensive and legally binding agreement, there is hope for practical progress on specific packages concerning mitigation, the Kyoto-Protocol, finance and adaptation.Zuma said developing countries required a quick start through early initial capitalisation and activation of the Green Climate Fund.As it was held in Africa, the conference also needed to prioritise adaptation to save lives in many Island nations.‘Part of the fight against poverty’“We also feel strongly that as an African conference, the COP 17 outcome must recognise that solving the climate problem cannot be separated from fighting poverty,” Zuma said.He added that Africa had committed to reduce carbon emissions by 34 percent by 2020 and by 42 percent by 2025.South Africa had gone a long way to make sure this commitment was met, Zuma said, citing the country’s New Growth Path and the climate accord signed recently by the country’s government, business and labour sectors.Earlier, delegates elected Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s minister of international relations, as the new COP president for the 2011/12, taking over from Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Castellano.Nkoana-Mashabane urged the delegates to use their “boldness and courage” to make Durban a decisive moment to address global warming, adding that the world demanded action and a common solution for generations to come.‘There is a crucial need to build trust’UN Climate Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said that unresolved political issues needed to be advanced in Durban if the world was to achieve its goals on climate change.“It is my hope that through constructive negotiations we will address these issues … this may only be possible if the results are both fair and workable for all of us,” Figueres said. “There is a crucial need to build trust as part of the outcome of this conference.”Global warming has far-reaching consequences for the world with changes in weather patterns threatening millions of lives and expected to affect food security in developing countries.As with previous Conferences of the Parties, the road to COP 17 has not been easy. Negotiators hope to build upon progress made during the pre-conference period to push for a more inclusive deal that will take into consideration the interests of developing nations.The G77 countries, which include South Africa, remain committed to their long-standing position of achieving a legally binding agreement.But given the ongoing rivalry between developed and developing countries, many analysts say they are unlikely to achieve this any time soon.Developed countries such as the United States and Japan, however, remain entrenched in the long-standing position of refusing to accept their own legally binding targets without also including binding commitments from major emerging economies such as China and India.Source: BuaNewslast_img read more

Maths Centre wins global Schwab Foundation award

first_imgMaths Centre targets its programmes at teachers and students in some of the most poorly resourced primary and high schools in the country.(Image: Maths Centre)Sharanjeet Shan of Maths Centre, a South African NPO, has been named 2015 Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the Schwab Foundation.Shan is one of 33 social entrepreneurs around the world who have been recognised by the foundation for designing and applying practical solutions to social challenges.Maths Centre targets its programmes at teachers and students in some of the most poorly resourced primary and high schools in the country. The Schwab Foundation, an NPO, was founded in 1998 to foster social entrepreneurs who find innovative solutions that are able to help society progress.Indian by birth, Shan was educated in India and England, although she has lived in South Africa for over 20 years and considers herself a citizen of the world.An educationist at heart, she said: “Once you get to know who you really are and why you wake up every morning, then that’s the path you want to follow. For me that path was as a teacher and ultimately as a director at Maths Centre.”Under Shan’s leadership, Maths Centre develops programmes to enhance teacher qualifications and professionalism in teaching mathematics, science, and technology subjects, while systematically monitoring learners’ progress.As part of the award, Shan will represent Maths Centre at World Economic Forum (WEF) meetings in Shanghai, Cape Town and Davos.“Social entrepreneurs are visionaries but are also realists, and are ultimately concerned with the practical implementation of scalable solutions,” explained Hilde Schwab, the co-founder and chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. “The 33 outstanding social entrepreneurs we have selected into the Schwab Foundation community this year are designing transformative models in collaboration with government and business partners to generate truly inclusive growth. As such, social entrepreneurs represent an integral and dynamic community of the WEF.”David Aikman, the managing director of the WEF, said: “We are seeing greater appetite among other stakeholder groups of the Forum to learn from social innovation models and collaborate with social entrepreneurs in innovative ways.”He was confident this trend would continue to grow in the future. The WEF was proud to be among the stakeholder groups for social and environmental change.The 33 will join the broader Schwab Foundation community of social entrepreneurs, which includes more than 300 outstanding people from 60 countries. The foundation says they are fully integrated into the events and initiatives of the WEF. They contribute actively to and benefit from peer-to-peer exchanges with other social entrepreneurs, as well as interactions with top leaders in business, the government, civil society and the media.MATHS CENTREMaths Centre’s 2014 projects supported 520 schools, reaching 174 695 learners and 4 268 teachers in maths and science. Children affected by Maths Centre programmes achieved pass rates of 81.3% in mathematics and 85.5% in physical science. In addition, 146 pupils got bursaries to further their studies in industries that are dependent on maths and science competency, such as engineering and financial services.According to the centre, a recent project rolled out in Eastern Cape resulted in an increase of 86% in pupils’ average maths marks. A similar project in Limpopo led to an increase of 53% in average pupil maths marks. As a result of this strong track record, Maths Centre has received support from leading local and international funders including Shell, Absa and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. It has also partnered with provincial departments of basic education in all nine provinces.The contribution from a variety of funders and volunteers is indicative of Maths Centre’s aim to include all role players in ensuring a successful education for South African children. Shan said: “For true transformation to occur, we need to tackle all facets that are hindering disadvantaged schools from catching up to higher standards of education.”All doesn’t end in the classroom for the centre. Its programmes go beyond the school and include parents and communities in its solution to the education crisis. “Let every teacher champion their classroom, every parent their children, every grandparent their grandchildren with love, strong discipline and care, no matter what it takes,” she added.last_img read more

Social Revolution: Crowdsourcing For Change

first_imgRelated Posts Tags:#Government#People in Tech#web Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market michael tchong A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting How often have you thought our country needs to change? That something is fundamentally and systemically wrong that needs fixing? And that things could be fixed if we leveraged social media to find the best ideas to agree on?In the world of technology, we’re used to upheaval. In fact, we rely on it to drive innovation and improvements. So why can’t we use technology to solve some of the underlying problems we all agree need to change?Technology innovations have often been able to fill gaps – even leapfrog them in many cases – between our “old world” habits and the demands of the “new world.”How Technology Plugs GapsApple is a classic example of what I’m talking about. We used to live in a world where music lived on compact discs. Then came MP3 files, which made music infinitely more accessible – too accessible some might say. But it took Apple to make buying music and transferring it to a portable player easy, putting your entertainment microcosm in the palm of your hand. Today, the iTunes Store is the world’s largest music retailer.Another revolution is taking place in retailing, where the use of “big data” – the technology of parsing huge amounts of customer information to help companies like Target, for example, identify whether a female shopper is pregnant and offer her appropriate products – is significantly reshaping marketing.This type of insight has privacy advocates up in arms. Technology’s benefits often cut both ways, yet it’s evident that this type of arrangement holds the potential to benefit both marketers and consumers – letting Target offer shoppers useful and timely promotions without consumers having to lift a finger.In our high-speed world ruled by Time Compression, nothing has roiled financial markets more than the art of high-frequency trading, which combines sophisticated algorithms with millisecond performance to give equity traders a distinct advantage.And in education, perhaps the thorniest challenge of all, Khan Academy has made giant strides using a primitive set of YouTube videos that can be watched for free. This is a remarkable achievement considering U.S. spending on education has jumped 17-fold since 1970 without a lot to show for it. Change Everyone Can Believe InThese examples vividly illustrate how technology has brought beneficial change to entertainment, retailing and education, so the question is why can’t we use technology to change the body politic?As the founder of Social Revolution, I am trying to do just that. Social Revolution aims to harness innovative ideas through crowdsourcing, and distill them into a “Business Plan for U.S.A.” to help propel the country forward.We’re going to crowdsource ideas in five key areas – education, healthcare, business, finance and government. All these sectors are clearly ripe for a major disruption.To manage the idea stream, we’re relying on an innovative crowdsourcing platform from Pleasanton, Calif.-based Spigit. If you’re a company or individual that wants real change, and have a cogent idea about how to implement it, we want to hear from you. If you’re using technology to make things better, we need to hear from you.At Social Revolution, we believe that applying the new technologies offered by social media will unleash the power of ideas and turn the status quo on its head. Crowdsourcing has already shown its disruptive power in a number of fields.Wikipedia is perhaps the best-known example of a crowdsourcing success story, leading Encyclopedia Britannica to give up on its print edition earlier this year.Yelp has similarly reinvented the restaurant review business, while TripAdvisor has upended the travel industry with its incisive crowdsourced reviews.The time is certainly right. A surging interest in “clicktivism” has enabled Change.org to sign up 13 million clicktivists, proving that our population wants to get more engaged and involved.As President John F. Kennedy once said, “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” To put a sharper point on it, allow me to paraphrase Steve Jobs’ pitch to hire Pepsi’s John Sculley, “Do you want to read sugar water the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” last_img read more

Gautam Navlakha moves Bombay HC for anticipatory bail

first_imgA day after the Pune sessions court rejected his anticipatory bail plea for alleged role in the Elgaar Parishad case, activist Gautam Navlakha moved the Bombay High Court on Wednesday.The matter will be heard by Justice P.D. Naik on Thursday. On November 4, advocate Yug Chaudhry appearing for Mr Navlakha had moved the same HC Bench seeking relief, however Justice Naik had refused to hear the matter urging him to first go to sessions court.While rejecting his plea the Pune court had said, prima facie there is enough material to show Mr. Navlakha is not only a member of a banned organisation (Communist Party of India-Maoist) but also ‘an active leader’ of the party.Mr. Navlakha’s protection from arrest granted by the Supreme Court expired on November 12. He has been charged with sections from the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.last_img read more

ISRO to test cryogenic stage onboard GSLV-D5

first_imgIndia will undertake the flight test of its indigenous cryogenic stage onboard homegrown rocket GSLV-D5 which will launch GSAT-14 by the middle of 2012, a top ISRO official has said.A facility for static testing of the cryogenic engine would be ready in another two months at ISRO’s Liquid Propulsions Systems centre (LPSC) at Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli district, Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman K Radhakrishnan said.The new thrust chamber facility for static testing would be a big boon for the LPSC, Radhakrishnan told reporters at the LPSC on Friday after inagurating a two-day National Conference on “Expanding Frontiers in Propulsion Technology”.The maiden flight test of the indigenous cryogenic stage by ISRO onboard Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV-D3 ended in a failure in May, 2010 after the stage developed some snag and the rocket plunged into sea minutes after liftoff.Radhakrishnan said India’s advanced communication satellite GSAT-8, launched from Kourou in French Guiana on May 21, would become operational by June end.He also said ISRO would launch another communication satellite GSAT-12, equipped with 12 c-band transponders, onboard Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSVL-C17 on July 2.PSLV- C18 would be launched in September from Sriharikota carrying Mega Tropiques satellite, an Indo-French joint venture.On December 11, microwave remote sensing satellite Risat 1 would be launched. It would be able to take clear pictures of sky even if they were covered by clouds.- With PTI inputsFor more news on India, click here.For more news on Business, click here.For more news on Movies, click here.For more news on Sports, click here.advertisementlast_img read more

Cabinet approves Budget changes and nearly 1m for hurricane rebuilding money

first_imgFacebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsApp Related Items: Facebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsApp#TurksandCaicos, December 20, 2017 – Providenciales – Cabinet yesterday approved, among other things nearly $1m for hurricane reconstruction work in the country by TCIG.   The supplementary appropriation bill was also accepted by Cabinet leader, the Governor during meeting this week and will now head to the Secretary of State in the UK and then to the House of Assembly in the Turks and Caicos for approvals.Media was on Tuesday evening told by the PNP House of Assembly Members that the Budget Supplementary, which frees up monies for the rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, will not be tabled now until the New Year.#MagneticMediaNews#BudgetchangesapprovedbyCabinetlast_img read more

SDSU receives 1 million donation for Pride Center and LGBT Studies Program

first_img SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Robert DeKoven, who was an Associated Students president at San Diego State University in the late 1970s, announced Wednesday he will donate $1 million toward his alma mater’s Pride Center and LGBT Studies Program.The gift was announced at SDSU’s annual Pride flag-raising ceremony. It’ll support curricular and co-curricular activities at the university.“I can never repay SDSU for the educational experience I received here,” said DeKoven, a legal writing professor at California Western School of Law and affiliated faculty member in SDSU’s LGBT Studies Program. “Now I have the ability to give students the kind of support I needed. Today we are planting a seed that will grow and grow.”DeKoven is a longtime supporter of SDSU’s Lavender Graduation, which celebrates the achievements of graduating LGBTQ students. He co-authored the Human Dignity Ordinance passed by the San Diego City Council in 1990 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.SDSU is the second university in the U.S. and the first in California to offer a major in LGBT studies, according to the school.The Campus Pride Index recently ranked SDSU in its 2017 Best of the Best Top 25 list of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. SDSU has been included in the ranking for the past eight years.“Rob’s generous gift is a testament to the persistence of our students, alumni and campus partners who are committed to inclusivity on campus,” said Eric Rivera, vice president of SDSU Student Affairs. “Our Pride Center and our university LGBTQ+ initiatives provide opportunities that challenge and support our students’ personal growth and development while allowing them to connect with other students and celebrate our differences, making the SDSU experience unique and powerful.” July 11, 2018 Posted: July 11, 2018 KUSI Newsroom KUSI Newsroom, SDSU receives $1 million donation for Pride Center and LGBT Studies Program Categories: Local San Diego News FacebookTwitterlast_img read more