Jan 312011

Scripps Research scientists convert skin cells to beating heart cells

 Scripps Research Institute scientists have converted adult skin cells directly into beating heart cells efficiently without having to first go through the laborious process of generating embryonic-like stem cells.

Note: if you need a new heart and you get one via this methodology, it’s *your* heart, and your body will recognize it as such. If you get a new heart (or liver, or patch of skin, or pancreas, or a set of nerve cells, whatever) that were created from someone else’s embryonic stem cells, then that is someone else’s tissue, and your body will spend the rest of its abreviated life trying to reject it, meaning you’ll be on immunosuppressants until you eventually keel over.

 Posted by at 9:23 am
Jan 302011

Or perhaps slightly more accurately, 

Man arrested with explosives at Michigan mosque

Short form: 

63-year-old Roger Stockham  “had a large but undisclosed quantity of class-C fireworks including M-80s” in the parking lot of the “Islamic Center of America.” The AP article makes a point of mentioning that Stockham has “a long history of anti-government activities.”

A couple things:

1) Modern M-80’s suck. They used to be the equivalent of quarter-sticks of dynamite, used by farmers to blow stumps out of the ground. Now, by law, they are gardenvariety firecrackers in a large package. Makes a loud noise, blow the occasional dumbass’ fingers off, that’s about it.

2) The implication is that Stockham is Yet Another Violent Tea Partier/Palin-American. However… he’s a signatory here: http://www.standwithbradley.org/ , in suppoort of the treasonous Bradley Manning

And has one post here: http://www.bradleymanning.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=98 , where he calls for the execution of the crew of an Apache attack helicopter involved in the mistaken shooting up of a Reuters news crew in Iraq.

His rather uninformative Myspace page gives these:

Happy with how much I’ve lived. Ready for it to be over, but have a policy I contend with often: So long as I am alive, I can’t play dead.

Flew helicopters in Vietnam and after in Indonesia. Four ex-wives. On meds and doing better than my history would predict.

And an interesting news article fromthe Merced Sun-Star of September 1, 1979, describes one Roger Stockham, Muslim Convert, as attempting to hijack an airliner from Los Angeles to Iran. Not sure it’s the same guy, but in 1979, the hijacker Stockham was 32 years old… making him 64-ish today, which lines up.

And in 1985, the LA Times reported that a Roger Dale Stockham, 38 (making him 64-ish today), who also went by “Roger Hemaredin,” was wanted for planting a pipe bomb at Nevada’s Reno-Cannon International Airport. 

From these meager details, Stockham’s “anti-government activities” are of the “I hate the Iraq war” variety, which puts him more on the Left than the Right. His Myspage page seems to indicate that he’s sick (either mentally or physically) and ready to die. So… what the hell was he doing? If his sickness was mental (which the 1979 article certainly suggests)… then, well, he’s just another nutjob, who could’ve been stopped if only we had Common Sense Firecracker Laws. His car was clearly a high-capacity storage system for firecrackers. Who needs more than ten firecrackers?

If on the other hand his sickness is physical (he is 63, he could well be suffering from any number of terminal or just plain unplesant ailments), then perhaps his goal was to go out stirring up trouble. If he has watched the news recently, he knows that any human-caused tragedy will be immediately siezed upon by the press in order to smear the right, and that would certainly be the case if he’d managed to carbomb a mosque. By the time the truth came out about him – whatever that truth might be – the story would already be set that here was a rightwinger taking out innocent Muslims.

His past activities seem to indicate he’s of the “mad bomber” variety, emphasis on the “mad.” He clearly demonstrated some serious psycholoopiness. Couple being a nutjob with being a Muslim convert (hell, a convert to *any* religion… people who convert in adulthood to very different religions have an increased tendency towards fanatacism, never mind *crazy* people who convert) and a history of tryign to blow stuff up, and you get one awesome soup of nuttery. Why would he go after a Mosque? Dunno. As a Muslim, maybe he saw them as being heretical (the whole “Sunni vs Shia” thing, maybe). Or maybe he’d converted back out of Islam, and now sees Islam as Satanic. Without more info, it’s hard to say.

Fortunately, he ain’t dead. And it’s just barely possible that the truth might come out in this case.

UPDATE: Check this out: http://ceinquiry.us/2011-01-30-roger-stockham

A collection of Stockhams run ins with the law. The guy was a real piece of work, and had serious psychiatric issues, which he was on meds for. In 2005 he was certified “recovered from his mental disease,” and safe to be let out into the public. Clearly, that wasn’t quite right.

 Posted by at 10:39 pm
Jan 302011

An interesting cable released on Wikileaks:


— XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that Cuban authorities have banned Michael Moore’s documentary, “Sicko,” as being subversive. Although the film’s intent is to discredit the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting the excellence of the Cuban system, he said the regime knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them. When the FSHP showed Sicko to a group of XXXXXXXXXXXX, some became so disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room.


Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital

— Address: San Lazaro #701 Esquina A Belascoain, Centro Habana, Havana

— Date of visit: October, 2007

— Built in 1982, this newly renovated 600 bed, 24 story hospital is depicted in Michael Moore’s film “Sicko,” where some 60 surgeries are performed daily including heart, kidney, and cornea transplants, mostly to patients who receive free treatment as part of Operation Milagro (mostly from Venezuela, but also from the rest of Latin America). The two top floors (shown in the movie) are the most modern and are reserved for medical tourists and foreign diplomats who pay in hard currency. The hospital has three intensive care units and all medical specialties except Pediatrics and Obstetrics/Gynecology and has no emergency room. The facility has a CT scanner (often said to be out-of-service), MRI and hyperbaric chamber capabilities.

— Upon entering the building the FSHP was struck by the grand and impressive lobby with a four-story ceiling, polished terrazzo floors and an elegant center reception booth. No one was in the reception booth, which displayed a digital streaming ticker-tape announcing an outdated hospital event; 30 or 40 people were sparsely scattered in the leather-like chairs throughout the lobby. There were no wheel chairs or other obvious signs this was a hospital.

— She was told the majority of patients came from Venezuela and each received weekly one bar of Palmolive bath soap, Palmolive shampoo, and a tube of Colgate toothpaste. She was also told the Venezuelan patients frequently take these items outside to the front parking lot and sell them to local Cubans. Cuban in-patients receive one tube of Colgate toothpaste and no other toiletries.

— Due to the high volume of foreigners receiving treatments and surgeries, most Cubans do not have access – the only chance might be a through a family member or connection working there and a gift or 20 CUCS (USD 21.60) to the Hospital Administrator. Cubans are reportedly very resentful
that the best hospital in Havana is “off-limits” to them.

The rest of the cable makes for good reading as well. Whenever someone ignorant wants to talk smack about the US healthcare system, reference is often made to the wonders of the socialist Cuban system. It’s bullcrap.

 Posted by at 6:45 pm
Jan 302011

One advantage that solid rockets have over liquid fuel rockets is that the solid propellant is typically very dense compared to liquid propellant. This means that even though solid rockets tend to have notably lower specific impulse than liquid rockets, the same level of total performance can be packed into a smaller volume. This is one important reason why space launch rockets are typically liquid propellant while ICBMs and especially SLBMs are solid propellant… the doesn’t matter much for space launchers, but space in a submarine is at a premium.

Even so, it’s always good to fine a way to reduce the volume consumed by a solid rocket even further. A proposal from JPL in 1972 produced concepts for staged solid rockets that would have made substantial reductions in vehicle size by effectively packing solid rockets into each other. The nozzle of Stage II would serve as part of the forward bulkhead for the motor of Stage I; the forward bulkhead of Stage II would serve as the nozzle of Stage III, and so on. Really quite clever. A downside is that the nozzles would be pretty heavy, but I suspect that with proper mechanical and propellant design, this could have produced substantial gains in terms of size and overall mass.

Evolution of the concept from a set of conventional s tages.

Detailed view of the concept. Note that the stages would be separated by the detonation of a ring of linear shaped charge. This is pretty standard in large-scale rocketry.

 Posted by at 4:16 pm
Jan 302011



… the BBC proudly showed us last week how its reporter Brian Milligan was able to drive an electric Mini from London to Edinburgh in a mere four days – with nine stops of up to 10 hours to recharge the batteries (with electricity from fossil fuels).

What the BBC omitted to tell us was that in the 1830s, a stagecoach was able to make the same journey in half the time, with two days and nights of continuous driving.

According to Google maps, London to Edinburgh is only 405 miles. My car could *almost* make it on one tank of gas, and at decent highway speeds would be able to accomplish the task (not counting breaks) in 5.4 hours. Google suggests the trip would take 7 hours 14 minutes, so I’m guessing that implies numerous roadblocks by zombies or something. But taking four *days* to travel a measely 400 miles? Ridiculous. Sure, electricity is virtually free compared to gasoline… but even at my current pathetic rate of income, an extra three days spent in transit would be a whole lot of time=money wasted.

If I must be forced to drive an electric car… gimme one of THESE:

 Posted by at 3:56 pm
Jan 302011

I just saw a bit on CNN that concerns me. A reporter in the street was mobbed by protestors, who just wanted to get their face and voice on camera. OK, so far nothing extraordinary. Several of the English-speaking protestors screamed that they wanted much the same laundry list of things:

1) To get rid of Mubarak. (OK, whatever.)

2) Freedom. (Good for you.)

3) To destroy Israel (Ahh…. shit.)

This could get bad, if these chuckleheads are a noticable fraction of the protestors, and gain political power.

Yes, it’s bad that the US has supported dictatorial strongmen from time to time. But sometimes the alternative is *worse.* Had Sadat and Mubarak not decided to make nice with Israel, there would have likely been thirty years of unceasing war in the region, with possibly millions dead. Instead, the Egyptians have had to put up with a second-rate dictator, but have done *reasonably* well for themselves. But if they go the way of Iran, they can look forward to one hell of a dark future.

As I wrote previously, I’m sure the Israelies are getting ready for the fit to hit the shan here shortly. According to Wiki, Egypt has over 1,000 M1 Abrmas tanks… they are downgraded versions with somewhat less impressive armor, but even so they’re not the crappy T-55’s and T-72’s the Israelies have faced in the past. Unlike the dishonest scumbags who claimed for years that the US armed Iraq (although our troops only ever seemed to encounter AK-47s, Mil choppers, MiG fighters and T-72 tanks), in the case of Egypt we really *have* actually armed them. An American-armed Islamist Egypt on a rampage could spell serious trouble for Israel, especially with A Certain Special Someone in the White House. One wonders if the Israelies have targetted the Aswan High Dam with nukes, Just In Case.

 Posted by at 3:41 pm
Jan 292011

A YouTube video with some New Jersey cops failing *twice.* First, they fail when they detained a guy and wrote him a ticket for having a shirt with a naughty word on it. Ooops! The US Supreme Court already ruled on this, way back in 1970. Cohen vs. California. Guess what: freedom of speech stomps your desire to not see naughty words. Suck it!

Second, they fail for threatening violence and legal action upon a guy just standing there filming the “police action.” One of the cops actually claims that they cameraman is actually interferring with him… when the cameraman is clearly standing off at a respectable difference and doing nothing.

[youtube Nn1mgZaQZPQ]

There has been a whole lot of this sort of thing in the last decade or two, as video cameras have become cheaper and easier to use… and are now built into cel phones. Soon enough, though, video cameras will be essentially invisible… every schmoe who wants to will have a twenty-dollar camera the size of a button or mounted to his bike helmet or sunglasses. Can’t stop the signal.

 Posted by at 9:34 pm
Jan 292011

When it gets cold, Buttons sometimes tries to bunk down with Raedthinn and Fingers. They aren’t overly thrilled with the idea, though.

Raedthinn and Fingers are generally quite satisfied sleeping together.

 Posted by at 9:05 pm
Jan 292011

Three concurrent efforts:

1) 1/40 scale X-15A-3 display model, based on detailed NAA diagrams, in the same scale and style as the Topping X-15 display model. Not shown: X-15A-2 and X-15A-2/SERJ in same scale and style. Being made for a private collector.

2) 1/48 scale OSC X-42 reusable launch vehicle demonstrator. Also being made for a private collector.

3) 1/72 XSL-01 master being made for production as a kit.

Additional copies of the X-15’s and X-42 may be made available to other interested parties. These are not “hand made by Asian slave labor using Phillipine mahogany,” but are in fact made by hand by *me* largely from urethane resin. Consequently, they are more accurate and more expensive than the cheap crap out of Asia. If you might be interested, let me know.

 Posted by at 9:03 pm