Tuesday, March 31, 2015


 Researchers in Britain and the U.S. have found that a medieval concoction meant to treat eye infections also has the ability to kill the MRSA superbug.

The Daily Telegraph reported that the recipe, which dates from the 10th century, calls for two species of Allium -- a scientific type that includes garlic, onion, and leek -- as well as wine and oxgall, or bile from the stomach of a cow.

The paper reports that the recipe specifically calls for the mixture to be brewed in a brass vessel, purified through a strainer, and left to sit for nine days before use...

The Telegraph reports that the mixture killed about 999 of 1,000 MRSA bacterial cells present in mice wounds. Dr. Kendra Rumbaugh of Texas Tech University, told the Telegraph that the 1,000-year-old remedy worked "as good, if not better than" traditional antibiotics.


Friday, March 20, 2015


ISIS attacks in Syria. ISIS attacks in Iraq. ISIS attacks in Yemen. Whom is ISIS attacking, and who do you suppose is next?

Can the next Great War happen without us? Life isn't always a movie. Or it is, but sometimes you're not in it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Perfect Flaws, Carbon is Life

Purposefully introducing flaws into graphene used in fuel cells can improve the cells and make them more efficient, researchers are reporting.

While the honeycomb structure found in pristine atom-thick graphene is beautiful, allowing it to have a number of tiny holes results in a proton-selective membrane paving the way for improved fuel cells, they say...

"We found if you just dial the graphene back a little on perfection, you will get the membrane you want," says Franz J. Geiger, a Northwestern chemistry professor. "Everyone always strives to make really pristine graphene, but our data show if you want to get protons through, you need less perfect graphene."

...Naturally occurring defects in the graphene - tiny pinholes where a single carbon atom is absent - triggers a chemical conveyor belt that shuttles protons from the water on one side of the membrane to the other in a few seconds, they found.

In conventional membranes, which can be hundreds of nanometers thick, the desired proton selection takes minutes, compared to the quick transfer in a one-atom-thick layer of graphene, they say.

"...Imagine an electric car that charges in the same time it takes to fill a car with gas," says Geiger.

In simple terms, graphene, is a thin layer of pure carbon; it is a single, tightly packed layer of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice...

It is the thinnest compound known to man at one atom thick,
the lightest material known (with 1 square meter coming in at around 0.77 milligrams),
the strongest compound discovered (between 100-300 times stronger than steel and with a tensile stiffness of 150,000,000 psi),
the best conductor of heat at room temperature (at (4.84±0.44) × 10^3 to (5.30±0.48) × 10^3 W·m−1·K−1) and also
the best conductor of electricity known (studies have shown electron mobility at values of more than 15,000 cm2·V−1·s−1).

...it was previously impossible to grow graphene layers on a large scale using crystalline epitaxy on anything other than a metallic substrate. This severely limited its use in electronics as it was difficult, at that time, to separate graphene layers from its metallic substrate without damaging the graphene.

However, studies in 2012 found that by analysing graphene’s interfacial adhesive energy, it is possible to effectually separate graphene from the metallic board on which it is grown, whilst also being able to reuse the board for future applications theoretically an infinite number of times, therefore reducing the toxic waste previously created by this process. Furthermore, the quality of the graphene that was separated by using this method was sufficiently high enough to create molecular electronic devices successfully.

While this research is very highly regarded, the quality of the graphene produced will still be the limiting factor in technological applications...

Being able to create supercapacitors out of graphene will possibly be the largest step in electronic engineering in a very long time.

Emphasis and light formatting mine.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bigger court, better outcome, Land of the Freest

 The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police must obtain warrants before snooping through people’s cellphones, delivering a unanimous decision that begins to update legal understanding of privacy rules to accommodate 21st-century technology.

Police agencies argued that searching through data on cellphones was no different from asking someone to turn out his pockets, but the justices rejected that, saying a cellphone holds the most personal and intimate details of someone’s life and falls squarely within the Fourth Amendment’s privacy protections.

“The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the unanimous opinion. “Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant.”

...Legal analysts said the ruling will change the way police operate but predicted investigators will adjust.

Privacy advocates, meanwhile, said the ruling should ignite a broader rethinking of protections at a time when Americans are putting more personal information online.

...Complicating matters further is the question of where the information is stored. The Obama administration and the state of California, both of which sought to justify cellphone searches, acknowledged that remotely stored data couldn’t be searched. Chief Justice Roberts said with cloud computing, it’s sometimes impossible to know the difference.

The court did carve out exceptions for “exigencies” such as major security threats.


On Monday night, Alain Philippon, a Canadian citizen, was passing through customs at a Nova Scotia airport when border patrol officers demanded that he provide the password to his smartphone. Philippon refused.

He was promptly charged with obstructing border security, a criminal charge under the Canadian Customs Act, which he plans to fight in court. Philippon’s legal battle against this absurd abuse of power is principled and important. It is also probably futile. Canada’s laws surrounding search and seizure are flimsy, malleable, and—by American standards—draconian.


With so much potentially incriminating evidence available to the police, you might think that there would be privacy protection in place to stop authorities probing your handset – but you’d be wrong.

According to legal experts, police have wide-ranging powers to search mobile phones providing they have a “reasonable suspicion” that a crime may have been committed. Once inside a handset, they could well stumble across other evidence, which could also be used in court.

“The baseline rule has to be that there is a reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed for a phone to be inspected and to do an on-the-spot search,” said Tracey Stretton, legal consultant for data-recovery specialist Kroll Ontrack. “If you see a man after a car accident, you wouldn’t need a warrant because you could have a reasonable suspicion that a traffic offence had been committed.

“If you’re looking into one crime and find something else on the phone, then I guess the police would follow that line of inquiry. They wouldn’t stop to get a warrant because they now have suspicion of a further offence.”


All emphasis mine.