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Archive for March, 2005


Nog meer vitamine A in nieuwe ‘gouden rijst’


Sceptici hebben jaren geprobeerd gouden rijst af te doen als een droom. Maar wetenschappers geloven er heilig in: genetisch gemanipuleerde rijst tegen blindheid. Nu hebben Britse wetenschappers gouden rijst zo aangepast dat er nog meer vitamine A in zit.

In de derde wereld raken jaarlijks ongeveer een half miljoen kinderen hun gezichtsvermogen kwijt door een gebrek aan vitamine A.

Gouden rijst
Een Zwitserse hoogleraar, Ingo Potrykus, kwam een aantal jaren geleden al met een oplossing: genetisch gemanipuleerde rijst waarin provitamine A zit. Mensen zetten die stof om in vitamine A.

Toch geloven sceptici, zoals Greenpeace (lees de argumenten van Greenpeace), niet in de rijst. Zo zouden mensen kilo’s rijst moeten eten om voldoende vitamine A binnen te krijgen.

Daar klopt niets van, stellen voorstanders. Maar nu gaat dat argument al helemaal niet meer op. Een Brits bedrijf heeft een nieuwe generatie gouden rijst ontwikkeld. Daarin zit ongeveer 23 keer meer provitamine A in dan in de oudere gouden rijst.

Wetenschappers van het biotechnologiebedrijf Syngenta hebben een gen van de gouden rijst (afkomstig uit een krokus) verwisseld met een ander gen (afkomstig uit een maisplant). De rijst levert nu in ieder geval de helft van de hoeveelheid vitamine A die kinderen nodig hebben. Waarschijnlijk zelfs voldoende.

De resultaten van de manipulatie zijn gepubliceerd in het wetenschappelijke tijdschrift Nature Biotechnology. Het bedrijf stelt de rijst gratis beschikbaar. Waarschijnlijk wordt de rijst binnenkort in India en op de Filipijnen geplant.

Nature Biotechnology

” Nature & Biotechnology ” schrijft hierover :

‘Golden Rice’ is a variety of rice engineered to produce -carotene (pro-vitamin A) to help combat vitamin A deficiency1, and it has been predicted that its contribution to alleviating vitamin A deficiency would be substantially improved through even higher -carotene content2.
We hypothesized that the daffodil gene encoding phytoene synthase (psy), one of the two genes used to develop Golden Rice, was the limiting step in -carotene accumulation.
Through systematic testing of other plant psys, we identified a psy from maize that substantially increased carotenoid accumulation in a model plant system. We went on to develop ‘Golden Rice 2’ introducing this psy in combination with the Erwinia uredovora carotene desaturase (crtI) used to generate the original Golden Rice1.
We observed an increase in total carotenoids of up to 23-fold (maximum 37 g/g) compared to the original Golden Rice and a preferential accumulation of -carotene.


Elephants Found Capable of Vocal Mimicry


Animals that live in complex social groups may employ vocal imitation to strengthen and maintain social bonds. Humans, bats, birds and marine mammals are well known to use this ability to advertise reproductive willingness or acknowledge acquaintances after a long absence, for instance. Now results published today in the journal Nature indicate that elephants are also capable of this vocal feat. Mlaika is a 10-year-old female African elephant living in semicaptivity with other orphaned pachyderms in Tsavo, Kenya. The stockade that she sleeps in is located three kilometers from a busy highway. Peter L. Tyack of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and his colleagues analyzed Mlaika’s calls and were surprised to discover that they were unlike any of the normal calls made by African elephants. Rather, they sounded like moving trucks. Mlaika did not directly copy the sounds she heard, however. The team reports that her trucklike calls shared characteristics both with the sounds she was exposed to and other truck sounds recorded at other times, which suggests “that Mlaika used the general features of truck sounds as a model.” The researchers also studied the vocalizations of Calimero, a 23-year-old male African elephant living for the past 18 years in a zoo in Switzerland. Calimero’s companions are two female Asian elephants. In the wild, Asian and African elephants use different calling systems, with Asian elephants relying mainly on chirping sounds. The researchers analyzed Calimero’s calls and found that they were significantly different from any standard calls used by African elephants. Instead they sound like the chirps of female Asian elephants. “To our knowledge,” the authors write, “this discovery in elephants is the first example of vocal imitation in a nonprimate terrestrial mammal.”

Book of the week; week 13, 2005

Moroccan / Arabic Phrasenbook (Lonely Planet ISBN 0-86442-586-4)


ssalamu’lekum is a greeting you’ll hear from dawn to dusk and on into the night. ‘Peace be upon you’ – if only you could return the wish! And how about the farewell: lla yhennik – ‘May God give you tranquility’. Must be one of the best ways to bid goodbye to someone about to travel further into the magic lands of Morocco.
When one speeks of Arabic on Morocco, there are two languages to be considered. On the one hand there is the modern standard Arabic. This is the direct descendant of the language of the Koran and is understood throughout the contemporary Arab world. In Morocco it is used in newepapers, correspondence, newsbroadcast and speeches but rarely in conversations.
Moroccan Arabic on the other hand, is the first language of the majority of Moroccans and the most usefull language to know when travelling in the country. It differs from the modern standard Arabic to the extent that non-Morrocan speakers of Arabic, find it difficult to understand. Moroccan Arabic is stricly a spoken language and not written down.

This Phrasebook has been written to provide you the language you’ll need to survive as an independant traveller in Morocco. It icludes also a basic introduction to French, another lanuage spoen in Morocco, and also Berber.

Mind Machine

Welcome, if you are interested in meditation, hypnosis, or deep relaxation as means for stress reduction and self improvement, you will love the mind machine experience. Mind machines are tools for gently inducing a calm, centered, and euphoric state. They produce psychedelic mandala like patterns on the back of your eyelids and soothe your senses with drum like sound pulses. Although immensely pleasurable and entertaining, they are not toys. Many helping professionals in the fields of medicine and psychology currently use mind machines as adjunct treatments for their patients and clients. They were designed with sound scientific principles and scholarly studies support their efficacy. Explore The Mind Machine Page for an informative and interactive voyage. Articles, sights, and sounds will inform and entertain you. Take a few moments to look around, your mind will thank you.

Mind Machine

What is a mind machine?
In the 1940’s a researcher by the name of Gray Walter discovered that when a person was subjected to a light flashing at a certain frequency, their brain wave activity would fall in sync with the flashing of the lights. Since then a small body of research has been conducted on the subject and many devices have been developed to entrain brain waves. Most of these devices include small lights mounted in a pair of eye glasses. These lights flash at given frequencies and are controlled by a small computer in the base unit. Today, most sound and light entrainment devices (SLEDs) also include a sound component. This sound pulses at a given frequency and is usually binaural. Binaural sound occurs when two distinct sine waves (pure tones) are played in each ear. For example, a person might hear a 440 hz tone in one ear and a 430 hz tone in the other ear; the ears will “hear” both tones but the brain (as shown by e.e.g.) will discern the difference between the tones, 10 hz (known as the binuaral beat effect). Ten hertz happens to be the alpha frequency for brain waves and is associated with relaxed states (light meditation, etc.) and imagery. SLEDs have also been used to entrain beta, theta and even delta states as well. The combined effects of having both the photic and the auditory portions of the brain stimulated in synchrony can be profound. SLEDs are currently being used by professional psychologists in their practices and by the general public for relaxation, stress management, Insomnia, mind expansion, accelerated learning and retention, breaking limiting beliefs, phobias, anxiety, sports training, promoting physical wellness, and most of all for fun. The possibilities are great and technology has been shown effective. However, the only way to truly appreciate the light sound experience is to try a mind machine for yourself.

Editorial: A tool for modern ritual? The first time I heard about sound and light machines (sound & light entrainment devices or SLEDs), I followed the topic with mere passive interest. In our consumer driven society, we are regularly assaulted with advertisements for products to make us look better, feel better, be smarter, and live happier more fulfilled lives. Indeed, our collective need for self-actualization has been neatly comodified. Being the skeptic that I am, I prefer to substantiate marketing claims such as these with research and documentation (and they’ll be lucky if I give it that much attention). Beyond that, and if possible, I rely on personal experience.

I don’t live in the world of academia anymore, but I still recognize the importance of good hypothesis testing and statistically significant results. Especially when ascertaining the legitimacy and efficacy of a product that acts on the human system. Also, I’m generally a skeptic when it comes to shortcuts. I believe in the basic axiom that long lasting gains most reliably come from personal discipline and hard work.

So when I learned that there was a device that could put me into a relaxed, near hypnotic state, with hardly any effort on my part, I wanted to see the research behind the claims. So, you can understand my skepticism when a pair of glasses with little flashing lights, headphones, and small black box was set in front of me. Before I had time to read up on the pros and cons, I tried the machine. My skepticism waned. The subjective experience was magnificent — far beyond what I had expected. During my light and sound experience, I saw vivid colors and three dimensional shapes. I was just as impressed with the sound, it also had a three dimensional quality. I was completely lost in the “trip”. I had to know more.

As a friend described the principles behind the machine to me, I recalled something I had learned about binaural sound in a biopsychology course. I began to wonder if there weren’t actually some credible principles behind the device.

I read some of the available literature. A lot of which was simply marketing in the guise of research. Now, to be fair, this doesn’t mean that this material wasn’t thought provoking, just not very scholarly. However today, if you dig enough, you’ll uncover a few nicely designed studies that show intriguing results. I’ve kept my eye on the literature and have tried several different types of light and sound machines since. My conclusion: research be damned, I like these things.

New studies need to be conducted and existing research replicated before such concepts as accelerated learning and enhanced memory can be substantiated. However for now, there’s not much contention in the lay or scientific community about the mind machines effectiveness for inducing relaxation (to say nothing for its pure entertainment value). This is why the vast majority of people use the machine anyway. If additional claims are later confirmed, so much the better.

I’ve used a light and sound machine for many years now. Sure, it can sit idle for weeks at time, but I always come back to it. Each time I do, I’m so thankful that a tool like this exists. It’s a wonderful aid in guiding me through a fulfilling 20 or 30-minute meditation. Rather than replacing my sitting meditation or yoga practice, the mind machine is an adjunct to it. The pulsing rhythm and lights draw my attention to a sharp focus, away from hectic overcrowded thoughts. Also, when I can’t get to sleep, I’ll slip on the goggles and headphones, call up a deep relaxation/sleep-inducing program, and I’m asleep in just a few minutes.

Like most healing tools, these devices are not a panacea (and can even be dangerous for those with epilepsy or seizures). Nor do they do the work for you. However, like the trance inducing flicker of fire and the rhythmic pounding of drums in tribal ritual, they draw us nearer to our core and essential selves. The mind machine is a tool, perhaps a tool for modern ritual. By stimulating both the auditory and visual areas of the brain, these devices play upon the best in our senses. They draw awareness to an inner place of quietude; a place much neglected by many in today’s society.


SATURN’S MOON ENCELADUS appears to have a significant atmosphere, scientists say. The Cassini spacecraft snapped this false-color image of the icy moon during a close encounter on March 9, when the craft approached to within 500 kilometers of the lunar surface. Because Enceladus is relatively small, it’s gravity is not sufficient to hold an atmosphere long term. Experts thus posit that eruptions from geysers or volcanoes may be maintaining the atmosphere.

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  • "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It's the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead."
    ~ Albert Einstein (1930)."
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