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I my wanderings around the net I found a neat project that represents the kind of imaginative, but practical, idea of how to deal with rising sea levels.  It’s basically a barge built with recycled material, designed to be self-sufficient. 

Seafaring people have lived on the water for long periods, in rafts and boats, almost since the dawn a man.  Thousands of people live on the water in many parts of the world.  The most important part of this project is the idea of living on the water and being self-sufficient. 

I don’t think the people of New York need to worry about the city sinking below the waves just yet, but it is great to see people with the vision to try and build something that is as adoptable as the Waterpod.

How difficult would it be for you to adopt to a completely self-sufficient lifestyle.

I am sure we all can do it.  I live a pretty simple life, at least compared to my neighbors, so I will guess I could adjust to the living as the people on the Waterpod hope to fairly easily.  It would not be by choice however.

http://www.thewaterpod.org/about.html

8WpodMap

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Treating disease at the genetic, DNA, level is I believe the future of medicine.  Current treatments for diseases now takes a shotgun approach.  We kill off the dad virus, and bacteria, but also destroys healthy cells, and many of the bacteria that help us live.  In some case the cure is worse than the illness.

Someday, hopefully in the not to distance future, we will be able to target only the harmful virus, or the defective sections in our DNA.  There will do little, or now side effects.

Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University are working on a treatment for disease for which there is a genetic pre-dispositon.  “Healthy” mitochondria from an unfertilized egg is transplanted to a fertilized egg, which carries a genetic pre-dispostition for a specific disease, such as breast cancer.  There are currently 150  known diseases caused by a defect in the mitochondrial DNA.

Since the fertilized egg (embryo) is not destroyed (killed) I would think this would remove the issue that current techniques for pre-screening embryos now carry.  What is being destroyed is an unfertilized egg, and millions(?) of these are destroyed during a women’s lifetime.

Do you have any issues with this procedure?

The article on the Oregon Health & Science site:

http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/about/news_events/news/gene-therapy-prevent-disease.cfm

The nuclear DNA from a patient’s egg carrying mitochondrial DNA mutations is removed and transplanted into an egg donated by a healthy donor which has also had its nuclear DNA removed. The reconstructed egg cell (oocyte) is then fertilized with the partner’s sperm and an embryo is transferred to a patient. The baby will be free of risk from maternal mitochondrial mutations, but yet the biological child of the parents.

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Breakthrough could help break the chain of several maternally-based diseases passed from generation to generation; Results in the birth of twin monkeys named “Mito” and “Tracker,” the world’s first animals derived by a fertility method called spindle transfer.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University’s Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) believe they have developed one of the first forms of genetic therapy – a therapy aimed at preventing serious diseases in unborn children. Specifically, the therapy would combat inherited diseases passed on from mothers to their children through mutated DNA in cell mitochondria. The research is published in the Aug. 26 advance online edition of the journal Nature and will appear in a print edition of the journal at a later date.  

“We believe this discovery in nonhuman primates can rapidly be translated into human therapies aimed at preventing inherited disorders passed from mothers to their children through the mitochondrial DNA, such as certain forms of cancer, diabetes, infertility, myopathies and neurodegenerative diseases,” explained Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D., an associate scientist in the Division of Reproductive Sciences at ONPRC, the Oregon Stem Cell Center and the departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Molecular & Medical Genetics of Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). “Currently there are 150 known diseases caused by mutations of the mitochondrial DNA, and approximately 1 out of every 200 children is born with mitochondrial mutations.”

Mitochondria are structures that are found in all cells that provide energy for cell growth and metabolism, which is why they are often called the cell’s “power plant.” The structures produce energy to power each individual cell. Mitochondria also carry their own genetic material.

When an egg cell is fertilized by a sperm cell during reproduction, the embryo almost exclusively inherits the maternal mitochondria present in the egg. This means that any disease-causing genetic mutations that a mother carries in her mitochondrial DNA can be passed on to her offspring. The method developed by OHSU researchers transfers the mother’s chromosomes to a donated egg that has had its chromosomes removed, but which has healthy mitochondria, thereby preventing the disease from being passed on to one’s offspring.

Here is how the OHSU researchers’ method works: Scientists collected groups of unfertilized eggs from two female rhesus macaque monkeys (monkeys A and B). They then removed the chromosomes, which contain the genes found in the cell nucleus, from the eggs of monkey B, and then transplanted the nuclear genes from the eggs of monkey A into the eggs of monkey B. Then the eggs from monkey B, which now contained their own mitochondria but monkey A’s nuclear genes, were fertilized. The fertilized eggs developed into embryos that were implanted in surrogate monkeys.

The initial implantation of two embryos resulted in the birth of healthy twin monkeys, nicknamed “Mito” and “Tracker” (in reference to the procedure used for imaging of mitochondria). These monkeys are the world’s first animals derived by spindle transfer.

Follow-up testing showed that there was little to no trace of cross-animal mitochondrial transfer using this procedure. This demonstrates that the researchers were successful in isolating nuclear genetic material from mitochondrial genetic material during the transfer process.

“In theory, this research has demonstrated that it is possible to use this therapy in mothers carrying mitochondrial DNA diseases so that we can prevent those diseases from being passed on to their offspring,” added Mitalipov. “We believe that with the proper governmental approvals, our work can rapidly be translated into clinical trials for humans, and, eventually, approved therapies.”

“This breakthrough is an excellent example of how OHSU’s research findings can often be rapidly translated into health therapies that benefit residents of our state and the country as a whole,” said Dr. Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., president of OHSU.

The research was funded by the Oregon National Primate Research Center, the Oregon Stem Cell Center; and the National Center for Research Resources and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, both components of the National Institutes of Health.

I wanted to discuss another Pslam.  I did a google search under “most popular Psalms” and found Pslam 19:

Psalm 19 (King James Version)

 1The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

 2Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

 3There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

 4Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

 5Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

 6His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

 7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

 8The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

 9The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

 10More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

 11Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

 12Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

 13Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

 14Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

I found a quote by C.S. Lewis, “I take this [Psalm 19] to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”

This psalm clearly inspires many.  Right from the first verse it sings to the glory, and perfection of God, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Verses 3 & 4 “There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun”  God is at the center of everything.

Verses 7 and 8 declare that God’s law is perfect. “the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” 

Verse 9 starts “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever.”  I take the word clean to mean constant and unchanging.  Christ Followers should never lose their fear “the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether” In verse 10 we are told these judgements are “More to be desired are they than gold”

Once again in verse 11 the Christ Follower is told that God’s judgement should serve as a warning, and in keeping them there is great reward.

I need some help with verses 12 and 13.  What is meant by “cleanse thou me from secret faults”?  What kind sin does the word “presumptuous” refer to?

The psalm ends with hope that “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight. God is “my strength, and my redeemer.”

This is a beautiful song in praise of God’s perfection.

I also found a sermon by by Rev D. Graham Leitch, he talks about  the “danger of science”.  I can understand that it is dangerous for a Christ Follower to come to rely too much on “science” and risk losing sight of God as the creator.

To what degree do you see science as a danger to the word of God?

http://www.barclaychurch.org.uk/SERMONS/TEXT/SER.2002.08.18.html 

THE DANGER OF SCIENCE

Science is a great boon but wrongly approached contains a great danger. Its investigative potential is its great strength – the mysteries of nature and the macrocosmic and microcosmic wonders of creation, properly regarded, testify to their Creator. But when science reduces nature to mathematical formulae, laws of physics, and reduces every unfolding flower and glorious sunrise to a nothing more than a natural process, instead of enriching the world it impoverishes it, by stifling creation’s song.

It is partly the result of the growing confidence of science and its preoccupation with creation, without due regard to its Creator, that still today, to quote John Calvin, writing in his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion:

“the greater part of mankind walk blindfold in this glorious theatre.”
Are you blind to nature’s art and deaf to creation’s song? Have you been failing to hear God’s “Hello!” in both?

For the last few weeks the 1969 concert at Woodstock has been in the news.  I read about the celebration of peace and love, which it did symbolize.  What I don’t hear anyone taking about is the drug culture the Age of Aquarius help spawn.

I was at Woodstock.  I had no desire to go but some friends talked me into it.  I did have some good times, but many of my memories are a bit fuzzy because I spent much of the time in a drug induced haze.

It was amazing that 500,000 young people could spend three days together in peace and love, with no fighting.  We also should not ignore the massive abuse of drugs that took place.

Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit

Along with the romantic ideas of love and peace, we also now have the opportunity to talk about the dark side of the drug culture.  At Woodstock all 500,000 of us were drug pushers.

I came across two stores that deal with how we are using the resources of this world we all share.  One shows some are starting to get it right.  The other is the story of the many who are still getting it wrong.

1) ScottishPower is planning a tidal energy project that will supply all the electricity for one of Scotland’s most famous islands.

From a story in the Guardian by Tim Webb.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/aug/25/scottish-power-islay-tidal

“ScottishPower is planning a tidal energy  project that will supply all the electricity for one of Scotland’s most famous islands, the Guardian can reveal.

The company is close to signing a supply contract with Diageo, the drinks group, to provide electricity from the project to eight distilleries and maltings on Islay – including the makers of the renowned Laphroaig and Lagavulin whiskies.

The 10MW tidal project, one of the world’s largest, will provide enough electricity for Islay’s 3,500 inhabitants for 23 hours a day.

ScottishPower will submit a planning application in the next couple of months and expects the ten 30-metre underwater turbines to be operational in 2011. The turbines will cost about £50m to install.

The tidal waters in the Sound of Islay, the channel dividing Islay from the Jura, move at up to three metres a second.

Energy companies and representatives from the Scottish government will publish on Wednesday a “marine energy roadmap” outlining how to reach the target of generating up to 2GW (2,000MW) of electricity from tidal and wave power by 2020. It will call for more grants and revenue support to enable developers to build commercial scale demonstration projects, such as the Islay installation, over the next two years.

2) Artist Chris Jordan, manipulates digital images of thousands — sometimes millions — of cigarette packs, pencils, drink containers and other artifacts of modern living to convey the massive scale of our impact on the environment.

From TED Talks:

(Edit – Good grief! My dyslexia showed up and I got the name of my favorite writer backwards.  Oh well, I have been accused of getting things backward all my life.  🙂 )

I have posted before about how one verse in Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” changed my life.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drum.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away”

Some interesting facts that speak to Thoreau moral sense:

After he graduated from Havard in 1837, he joined the faculty of Concord Academy, but he refused to administer corporal punishment and the school board soon dismissed him.

On July of 1846, Thoreau ran into the local tax collector, Sam Staples, who asked him to pay six years of delinquent poll taxes. Thoreau refused because of his opposition to the Mexican-American War. He spent a night in jail because of this refusal. (The next day Thoreau was freed, against his wishes, when his aunt paid his taxes.)

Here are some quotes for Thoreau.  Comment on any that you like.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

“What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”

“There is no remedy for love but to love more.”

“Truths and roses have thorns about them.”

“The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.”

“Money is not required to buy one necessity of the soul.”

“If… the machine of government… is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law.”

“There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly”

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

“If you have built castles in the air. your work need not be lost.  There is where they should be.  Now put foundations under them.

“The true harvest of my life is intangible – a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched.”

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way”

“We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.”

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”

“For an impenetrable shield, stand inside yourself”

 

Papa, suggested Mark 10:35-45 for our Bible discussion:

Mark 10:35-45 (King James Version)

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”
36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”
38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
39 They said to Him, “We are able.”
So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”
41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

The first thing that jumps out at me is where in verse 35 James and John ask Jesus “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”  I have a pretty big ego, but I would never ask a teacher, mentor or anyone else to do whatever I ask them to.

In 37 they ask that they may sit, one on each side of Jesus.  To me they are requesting special status among all of Jesus followers.

In 38 Jesus rebukes them, “You do not know what you ask.”  When Jesus asked if they are able to “drink the cup I drink” and be baptized as Jesus has been baptized.  In 39 they reply, “We are able.”  This sounds pretty egotistical to me, or at the least a little naive.  I suspect I may be mis-interprating the meaning of verses 38 and 39.

With 40 Jesus replies “but sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”  I am not clear what this means other then that perhaps Jesus is saying that only God make that decision.

In 41 the other apostles(?) become upset with James and John for requesting special status.  In 42 and 43 Jesus tells them that while among Gentiles rulers lord over their subjects “Yet it shall not be so among you.”  Further in 43 “whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant” and in 44 “Whoever of you desires to be first shall be a slave of all”.  This is clear guidance as to how church leaders should act.  They should act humble and recognize they are servants to those they guide.  I am going to guess that here Jesus is not referring to the church leaders who drive around in limos, and live in mansions. 🙂

This is brought home when in 45 Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

The overriding theme is that Christ Followers, even their leaders, especially their leaders, need to act as humble servants, and not as lords over those they guide.

 

I’ll start with a question.  Which woman, outside your family, has had the most influence on your life?

I am also looking for suggestions for a verse from the Bible to discuss.

Women are slowly making progress in countries like Afghanistan, where traditionally they are treated as their husbands property.

Two women, Forzan Fans and Shahla Ata, are running for President, out of 41 candidates for that office.  Also 8 of 82 Vice President candidates are women.  Overall 328 out of 3,196 candidates for provincial office are women.  Four percent of the judges in Afghanistan are women.

There is still abuse of women, and young girls, especially in rural villages.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor, by Ben Arnoldy, about “Afghan Women On The Campaign Trail”.

Lailuma Naimzai stands next to a photo of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in a Kabul precinct office of his campaign on Sunday. Dr. Naimzai heads up a local campaign office, overseeing a staff of 50.

Lailuma Naimzai stands next to a photo of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in a Kabul precinct office of his campaign on Sunday. Dr. Naimzai heads up a local campaign office, overseeing a staff of 50.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0819/p06s01-wosc.html

Kabul, Afghanistan – When Farzana Barekzai and her small band of female campaigners knock at the home of Ahmadin Pahlawan, he greets them and points to a poster of President Hamid Karzai above the door to assure them: His vote isn’t changing.

Mr. Pahlawan didn’t need convincing from the Karzai canvassers on a previous visit either, recalls Ms. Barekzai. Instead, the man with orange-dyed hair called the women of the house together and said, “You are going to vote for Karzai and these women will tell you why.”

It’s not uncommon for the male head of household to dictate a woman’s vote – but neither is it universal.

“Not all families were like this. There were some families where women influenced husbands,” says Barekzai. Besides, once in the voting booth, “it’s only herself and her God.”

Women’s roles in the upcoming national elections highlight some of the gains – and many of the remaining challenges – facing Afghan women as the country has moved toward democracy.

“We have seen advancements in women’s rights … but what was agreed to and committed to has not been done,” says Massouda Jalal, a former Minister of Women’s Affairs. “A fundamental change has not happened in the national lives of women.”

Considering that eight years ago Afghan women were not allowed to venture out alone, just participating at all in the elections process marks progress.

Now, two women candidates are among the 41 running for president in Thursday’s vote. Neither has gained any traction, but the issue of women’s participation came up as one of the questions during a TV debate Sunday night.

“Women should not be considered the second sex,” said candidate Ramzan Bashardost. One local Kabul man, Bismallah Ahmadi, said after watching the debate at a restaurant that it was his favorite line of the evening.

On the campaign trail, both Karzai and candidate Ashraf Ghani have reached out to women voters with special women’s rallies. Thousands attended Karzai’s rally in Kabul Thursday in which he claimed credit for opening girls’ schools. Karzai also appointed the country’s first female governor as well as female ministers.

Several women after the rally said they appreciated the focus on education, but complained that the salaries for teachers – many of whom are women – aren’t enough to put food on the table.

“If Karzai were not here, we would not have the freedom to say all these things, but if Karzai is reelected, we want to have him work on these things,” says Shakila Mohammad.

Representative politics here hasn’t always represented female freedoms.

In March, Karzai signed a marriage law bill for Afghanistan’s Shiite minority that critics said essentially legalized marital rape. The pushback, both from the international community and Afghan women, forced Karzai to suspend enforcement.

But a revised version released last month appears little better, giving a husband the right to withhold food to a wife who refuses to have sex with him. Karzai then used a legislative loophole to pass the revision by decree.

For Ms. Jalal, the whole affair explains how the government is not “gender sensitive.”

She had fought for years trying to pass a bill to protect women against domestic violence. Meanwhile, the Shiite marriage law sailed through parliament.

Most of the gains for women came early in the transition from Taliban rule, she says, and promises made internationally have since remained unfulfilled.

“This lack of political willingness can be solved if we have more women in the next government of Afghanistan,” says Jalal, who argues that 50 percent of the positions should go to women.

The women who go door-to-door for Karzai seem to talk less about what Karzai will do and instead tell personal anecdotes about how their lives are better than they were seven years ago under the Taliban.

One canvasser, Leeda Sadaat, convinced the manager of a Kabul hotel to switch allegiance from Mr. Ghani. Her list was practical – the drive from Kabul to the city of Shiberghan used to take 48 hours; now it’s only nine. And when she was a refugee in Pakistan she had to pay for education, but when she came back to Afghanistan, it was free.

“I have influenced my husband and he will vote for Karzai, too,” says Mrs. Sadaat, a computer operator.

Mostly, the women volunteers are not dispatched to talk to male voters. The precinct campaign directs male volunteers to reach out to influential people in the public square – in other words, men – while the women go out to the houses to influence those with private sway – the women.

Ten women volunteers work in Karzai’s Precinct 8 office in Kabul. Each is assigned 50 homes to look after, paying multiple visits to each family. They especially pay a visit if they learn another candidate’s workers have been courting one of the families on their list.

Gender separation seen in the campaign roles also plays out on the campaign trail. At a rally in Daikundi for Abdullah Abdullah, the men filled the bazaar, while women listened from a private square, hidden from view by sheets. A Karzai rally in a hotel ballroom kept the women sitting on the left and the men on the right.

But Karzai’s Precinct 8 office happens to be headed up by a woman. Lailuma Naimzai, an obstetrician/gynecologist on leave to work for Karzai, manages a campaign team with male doctors, engineers, and businessmen working under her.

In the end, Dr. Naimzai wants what most Afghans – men and women – want.

“I want to bring some peace to the country,” says Naimzai, explaining why she got into politics. “Karzai is a good person in that he brings peace, and brings a lot of clinics in the villages and hospitals to the city.”

 

First does anyone have a favorite Bible verse that would like to discuss in our Bible study?

 What is your favorite science topic, biology? astronomy? physics?  etc.

 Some neat science research, at least to me, the 66 year old science geek.  🙂

1) Parasite Causes Zombie Ants To Die In An Ideal Spot. Who could not love a story about Zombie ants.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090811161345.htm

ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2009) — A study in the September issue of The American Naturalist describes new details about a fungal parasite that coerces ants into dying in just the right spot—one that is ideal for the fungus to grow and reproduce. The study, led David P. Hughes of Harvard University, shows just how precisely the fungus manipulates the behavior of its hapless hosts.

When a carpenter ant is infected by a fungus known as Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the victim remains alive for a short time. The fungus, however, is firmly in the driver’s seat. It compels the ant to climb from its nest high in the forest canopy down into small plants and saplings in the understory vegetation. The ant then climbs out onto the underside of a low-hanging leaf where it clamps down with its mandibles just before it dies. There it remains, stuck fast for weeks.

After the ant dies, the fungus continues to grow inside the body. After a few days, a stroma—the fungus’s fruiting body—sprouts from the back of the ant’s head. After a week or two, the stroma starts raining down spores to the forest floor below. Each spore has the potential to infect another unfortunate passerby.

Scientists have known for over one hundred years about this parasite’s ghastly ability to turn unsuspecting ants into zombies. But Hughes and his colleagues chronicle the amazingly precise control the fungus has over its victim.

At a field site in a Thai forest, Hughes’s team found that the infected carpenter ants are almost invariably found clamped onto the undersides of leaves that are 25 centimeters (about 10 inches) from the ground below. What’s more, most of the dead ants were found on leaves sprouting from the northwest side of the plant. Interestingly, the researchers found that temperature, humidity and sunlight in these spots are apparently optimal for the fungus to grow and reproduce. When the researchers placed leaves with infected ants at higher locations, or on the forest floor, the parasite failed to develop properly.

“The fungus accurately manipulates the infected ants into dying where the parasite prefers to be, by making the ants travel a long way during the last hours of their lives,” Hughes said.

But getting the ant to die in the right spot is only half the battle, as the researchers found when they dissected a few victims.

“The fungus has evolved a suite of novel strategies to retain possession of its precious resource,” said Hughes.

As the fungus spreads within a dead ant’s body, it converts the ant’s innards into sugars which are used to help the fungus grow. But it leaves the muscles controlling the mandibles intact to make sure the ant keeps its death grip on the leaf. The fungus also preserves the ant’s outer shell, growing into cracks and crevices to reinforce weak spots. In doing this, the fungus fashions a protective coating that keeps microbes and other fungi out. At that point, it can safely get down to the business of claiming new victims.

Carpenter ants apparently have few defenses against the fungus. The most important way they avoid infection seems to be staying as far away from victims as possible. That may be part of the reason why these ants make their nests in the forest canopy, high above fungal breeding zones. Carpenter ants also seem to avoid blazing their foraging trails under infected areas. This too might be an adaptive strategy to avoid infection, but more study is needed to confirm it, Hughes says.

The mechanisms and cues the fungus uses to control an ant’s behavior remain unknown. “That is another research area we are actively pursuing right now,” Hughes says. Whatever the mechanisms, this much is clear: O. unilateralis has evolved highly specialized abilities to get unsuspecting ants to do its bidding.

2)  A planet that orbits backwards.

 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8197683.stm

Astronomers have discovered the first planet that orbits in the opposite direction to the spin of its star.

Planets form out of the same swirling gas cloud that creates a star, so they are expected to orbit in the same direction that the star rotates.

The new planet is thought to have been flung into its “retrograde” orbit by a close encounter with either another planet or with a passing star.

The work has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal for publication.

Co-author Coel Hellier, from Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, said planets with retrograde orbits were thought to be rare.

“With everything [in the star system] swirling around the same way and the star spinning the same way, you have to do quite a lot to it to make it go in the opposite direction,” he told BBC News.

The direction of orbit is known for roughly a dozen exoplanets (planets outside our solar system). This is the only example with a retrograde orbit. All others are prograde; they orbit in the same direction as the spin of their star.

Close encounters

Professor Hellier said a near-collision was probably responsible for this planet’s unusual orbit.

“If you have a near-collision, then you’ll have a large gravitational slingshot from that interaction,” he explained.

“This is the likeliest explanation. But it might be possible you can do it by gradually perturbing the orbit through the influence of a second planet. So far, we haven’t found any evidence of a second planet there.”

The new object has been named WASP-17b. It is the 17th exoplanet to have been discovered by the Wide Area Search for Planets (WASP) consortium of UK universities.

The gas giant is about twice the size of Jupiter, but has about half the mass. This bloatedness might also be rooted in the close encounter that changed the planet’s direction.

WASP-17b was detected using an array of cameras set up to monitor hundreds of thousands of stars.

Astronomers were searching for small dips in light from these stars that occur when a planet passes in front of them. When this happens, the planets are said to transit their parent star.

A team from Geneva Observatory in Switzerland then looked for spectral signs that the star was wobbling due to gravitational tugs from an orbiting planet.

“If you look at how the spectrum of the star changes when the planet transits across it, you can work out which way the planet is travelling,” Professor Hellier added.

“That allows you to prove that it’s in a retrograde orbit.”

The size of the dip in light from the star during the transit allowed astronomers to work out the planet’s radius.

To work out how massive it was, they recorded the motion of the star as it was tugged on by the orbiting planet.

It amazes me, not in a good way, that in one of the riches countries in the world we have “Food Deserts”.  Places were fresh fruits and vegetables are not easily available.  Given the importance of children having a healthy diet programs like the Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corp. “Peaches & Greens” are providing a vital resource for their community.

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A article in the Christian Science Monitor, by Judy Lowe:

http://features.csmonitor.com/environment/2009/08/17/taking-fresh-fruits-and-veggies-to-food-deserts/

The environmental community often speaks of “food security,” but a couple of recent news items drive home the point that this isn’t just a problem in developing countries.

Here in the US, where suburbanites generally have a choice of grocery stores vying for their produce dollars, some inner-city areas have access to few if any full-service supermarkets. And that makes it hard for residents to eat fresh foods such as apples and lettuce instead of junk food from the closest convenience store.

Detroit, for instance, has beeen called a “food desert” for its lack of  chain stores that carry fresh fruits and vegetables. (An oft-quoted statistic for one neighborhood is 26 liquor stores but only one grocery.) And public transportation options are few for anyone who wants to travel to a neighborhood with more food choices.

One group decided to do something about it this summer.  The nonprofit Central Detroit Christian Community Development Corp., which runs its own produce market, Peaches & Greens. It also stocks a truck with edibles ranging from cabbage to corn grown in community gardens and takes them to inner-city residents.

Sorta like a Good Humor truck stocked with tomatoes instead of ice cream bars.

So far, says Lisa Johanon, CDCCDC executive director, the project is working well. “We’ve seen the stereotype that urban communities won’t eat healthy, and we’re seeing that isn’t true.” A steady stream of customers is flagging down the truck, which is equipped to accept payment through food assistance cards.

But a group in Washington State has found it more difficult to provide fresh produce to residents without access to any.

According to The Seattle Times:

There may be only one thing harder to do along Delridge Way Southwest than finding fresh produce for sale: giving it away for free.

Such was the case Sunday at a temporary produce stand on the main drag of a Southwest Seattle neighborhood so bereft of grocers that one local resident calls it a “health-food desert.” Passers-by waved off offers of peaches, apples and homegrown squash with the quizzical air of people surprised to have free organic bounty thrust upon them.

In a way, it’s easy to see why. Two teens hired to man the produce booth for the Delridge Produce Cooperative,  which wants to help residents add fresh foods to their diets, didn’t recognize zucchini.

What is your favorite summer salad.  I found a great new receipe in the New York Times. Pan-Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad, with bacon of course.  🙂

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/dining/191mrex.html?ref=dining

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1/4 pound bacon, chopped

1 small red onion, chopped

4 to 6 ears corn, stripped of their kernels (2 to 3 cups)

Juice of 1 lime, or more to taste

2 cups cored and chopped tomatoes

1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped

2 fresh small chilies, like Thai, seeded and minced

Salt and black pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, more or less.

1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to render fat; add onion and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes, then add corn. Continue cooking, stirring or shaking pan occasionally, until corn begins to brown a bit, about 5 more minutes; remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Drain fat if you wish.

2. Put lime juice in a large bowl and add bacon-corn mixture; then toss with remaining ingredients. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 4 servings.

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