All posts by Jeremiah Tolbert

Synthetic Resveratrol Passes Early Tests in Humans

In other life extension news, resveratrol, a naturally occuring compound found in red wine, has been demonstrated to increase the lifespan of rats sharply. Sirtris Pharmaceuticals has been testing a synthetic version of the compound, said to be 1000 times stronger than the natural form, in medical trials for type 2 diabetics.  As writer David Ewing Duncan points out, the synthetic SRT501 still has years of testing to pass before it’s available, but there is a lot of hope in life extension circles that resveratrol is the wonder drug they have been seeking.  Expect SRT501 to replace cialis and viagra in your spam box soon.

Galactic Civilizations

Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist often interviewed on shows such as NOVA, has a good overview of the limitations on civilizations imposed by the basic laws of physics.  He discusses the classic three types of civilizations based on energy consumption and control, the potential use of Von Neumann machines, and he covers some of the reasons why SETI isn’t detecting anything beyond static.  I hope that the reason we don’t hear anything when we turn to the stars is simply that we’re not listening the right way, and not that nobody is out there.

Humans: Colonize Space or Go Extinct

No, it’s not another giant meteor scare.  Dr. Richard J. Gott, using a philosophical and scientific principle called the Copernican Principle, predicts how much longer things can last; presidents’ tenures, dogs lives, and the human species. Our future?  Anywhere from 5100 years to 7.8 million. And he makes this prediction with 95% accuracy.  To beat that range, he believes we will need to colonize another world (potentially Mars) in the next 46 years, and he uses the Fermi Paradox to back up this assertion.  I don’t know about you, but I think 7.8 million years would be woefully inadequate.

Researchers Identify Fear Enzyme

Researchers working out of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have identified an enzyme, Cdk5, that can inhibit in rats to prevent learned fear responses. The research has practical applications in the areas of phobia and post traumatic stress treatment. This is just the latest in a series of research in the neurosciences that are leading to a near-complete mastery of how we feel and even what we think. A future is possible in which our descendants will look back at us in amazement that we ever felt an emotion that we didn’t wish to feel.

Spammers Defeat CAPTCHA?

In the war between spammers and everyone else, the spammers may have captured new territory. A new trojan appears to be capable of bypassing the CAPTCHA systems on Yahoo and Hotmail, allowing spammers to create 500 bogus email addresses per hour. CAPTCHA tests are the distorted images of text that computers have previously been unable to read. They’re a kind of simple Turing Test meant to require a human behind a keyboard when creating a new email address.

I am suspicious of the claim that the trojan is actually somehow able to read these images, which have thus far been impossible to crack as a security measure. New Scientist Blog agrees. 500 an hour is not very fast. There is some trickery at work here, perhaps in the form of passing the CAPTCHAs from Hotmail to another website where humans are doing the solving work for the spammers.