How Cells Build Hard Parts

first_imgYou have rocks in your head, and it’s a good thing, or you would die of starvation and imbalance.  Living things have need of inorganic structures for various functions.  Can you name the mineral structures in your body?  The answer is: bone, dentin, enamel and otoliths.  The last three are specific to your head.  Dentin and enamel help us chew our food, and otoliths help us know which way is up (see 10/10/2003 headline).  Vertebrates have bones and teeth, birds lay eggshells of calcium carbonate, and many marine and terrestrial animals build mineral shells.  Scientists and engineers are drawn to the skill organisms exhibit in the construction of hard parts (called biomineralization), and they want to imitate it.  We’ve drawn attention to the amazing capabilities of the conch shell (see 06/26/2003 headline) and diatoms (see 07/21/2004 headline).  Two recent articles in science journals discuss the human fascination with biomineralization.    A book review in Science last week1 opens with praise for the lowly diatom:The abilities to design and construct inorganic materials with specified atomic structure, size, shape, orientation, and number of defects and to integrate these architectures into functioning devices form the foundation for advances in technologies that rely on the devices’ electrical, optical, magnetic, and chemical outputs.  However, assembly methods that allow simultaneous control of these features at lengths from the nanometer scale to the macroscale continue to elude scientists and engineers….    What if there were constructors that could sequester inorganic ions from water, accumulate and concentrate them to produce architectures controlled over length scales from nanometers to tens of centimeters, and do all of this in a matter of hours at ambient temperatures?  Such constructors are not inventions of science fiction novels but rather single-cell plants called diatoms…. Biomineralization processes can form structures that are the envy of all of us who strive to understand molecular mechanisms of the assembly of inorganic materials.The book Mark E. Davis is reviewing is Biomineralization by the Mineralogical Society of America and Geochemical Society, 2003.  He was especially impressed by the complexity of the molecular mechanisms organisms use to build their hard parts, mechanisms that show mastery of molecular biology, protein chemistry, nucleation thermodynamics, and crystal growth.  Some organisms build minerals inside cells, outside cells, or between cells.  Davis found one example particularly attractive to the materials scientist:Nacre, the mother-of-pearl layer found on the inner surface of shells, has a fracture toughness approximately 3000 times that of the synthetic analogue aragonite (calcium carbonate).  Nacre is composed of thin (circa 30 nm) layers of a protein-polysaccharide intercalated between 0.5 micrometer-thick layers of aragonite tablets.  The weak interface between the organic and inorganic layers is thought to dissipate the energy of crack propagation and thus strengthen the composite structure. This sophisticated architecture provides clues as to how man-made structures could be improved.How could such capabilities evolve?  “The evolution of mineralized tissues has been enigmatic for more than a century,” says a team of three Penn State scientists writing in PNAS2 on the subject.  Feeling that comparative genetics could help solve the enigma, they undertook a search for homologous genes and proteins between disparate groups.  “Mineralized tissue is a critical innovation in vertebrate evolution,” they begin, “offering the basis for various adaptive phenotypes: body armor for protection, teeth for predation, and endoskeleton for locomotion.”  Certain “primitive” fish have dentin-like body armor covered with an enameloid substance that the team believes evolved into fish scales.  Their previous work suggested that mammalian teeth and agnathan body armor are homologous.  This time, they examined the genome of a teleost fish and failed to find any homologous proteins for mammalian tooth enamel.  Though dentin in teeth seems homologous with body armor that formed on skin collagen of fish, their analyses “suggest that mammalian enamel is distinct from fish enameloid.”  Instead, they believe “Their similar nature as a hard structural overlay on exoskeleton and teeth is because of convergent evolution.”1Mark E. Davis, “How Life Makes Hard Stuff,” Science, Vol 305, Issue 5683, 480, 23 July 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1099773].2Kawasaki, Suzuki and Weiss, “Genetic basis for the evolution of vertebrate mineralized tissue,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0404279101, published online July 22, 2004.These two articles illustrate the disparity between hard science and soft, mushy, slippery Darwinian scientism.  It goes like this: (1) The organism excels at an engineering feat.  (2) It must have evolved, but we don’t know how.  To the extent the organism elicits admiration, the Darwinian explanation elicits disgust.   The PNAS article is a useless hodgepodge of storytelling, attempting to force uncooperative facts into a predetermined plot.  In one place, they “calibrate” their Darwinian tree based on Darwinian assumptions.  When that produces anomalous results in another part of the tree, they simply adjust the rate of evolution on that branch.  When another branch has trouble, they rearrange the branches and invoke the magic trick of “convergent evolution” to explain similarities that did not appear to have a common ancestor.  All through, there are wiggle words like must have, might have, quite possible, suggests, possible, co-opted, although there is no direct fossil evidence to date… may not have, probably, assumed to etc.  The data are only secondary props in this tweakfest to keep Charlie as the national idol.  Do they ever explain how multiple genes produced multiple proteins by accident that work biomineralization wonders?  No; it is all an exercise in reassuring the reader that the Darwin Party is not really lost.  For baloney detectors who are not intimidated by the bluffing of technical jargon or prestigious journals, it makes no sense.  Try this howler for fun:Together these facts make it likely that the developmental mechanism of mammalian tissue mineralization was elaborated during bony fish evolution in actinopterygians or sarcopterygians.  Although the genetic tools of tissue mineralization are totally unknown for chondrichthyans, it is quite possible that they have developed their own tools through independent gene duplications and functional selection histories.What a total whitewash; do you see what they did?  They just swept a huge problem under the rug.  When the data were missing or contrary, they ascribed it to evolution anyway.  They personified fish, turning them into materials engineers and tool inventors.  And that ending phrase, “independent … functional selection histories,” should be framed as a classic euphemism for Darwinian dogma. (Visited 7 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

PayPal’s French McDonald’s Experiment Could Have Big U.S. Implications

first_imgRelated Posts brian proffitt PayPal is confirming reports that it is test-running a new app-based checkout system in McDonald’s restaurants, a pilot program that could push the online payment broker – and the notion of phone-based payments  – much further into the consumer shopping experience. It could also add confusing choices and tools to manage in an increasinly fragmented payment landscape.The trial is actually taking place as far away from the general US population as possible: it’s being conducted in 30 McDonald’s outlets in France. This is a different system than PayPal’s two existing in-store payment systems. The French trial features a smartphone app or a website from which customers can order and pay for the food with their PayPal account. The customer can then pick up the food in a separate line, bypassing the normal ordering process.You might think there’s some delicious irony in testing this new payment method in McDonald’s located in a nation where good food is nearly the state religion – but it turns out that McDonald’s is very popular in France. And there is nothing funny about the payoff for PayPal if the McDonald’s trial works out: a cut of the transactions at some 30,000 McDonald’s restaurants around the world.That’s a lot of special sauce.PayPal’s Third TryPayPal’s already has two existing in-store systems, including a point-of-sale system at the cash register and a credit-card swipe system for smartphones. The still-unnamed payment system on trial in France will be a third in-store system, when it’s eventually launched.The existing point-of-sale system enables PayPal users who have activated the in-store payment system on their PayPal accounts to enter their mobile phone number and a special PIN at the register. All of the information about the transaction is sent as a receipt to the PayPal account and the phone itself. Consumers can also use a PayPal card that will directly debit funds from their PayPal account at participating merchants.Home Depot is one of the larger participants in this system, connecting its nearly 2,000 US stores on the system this Spring. Other merchants include Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch.The card-swiping PayPal Here system is more or less a clone of the rapidly growing Square payment system. Square and PayPal Here use a small card reader that plugs into the headphone jack of a compatible smart phone. Credit and debit cards can be entered through a swipe on the reader, or keyed in directly for an extra fee to the merchant.PayPal is feeling the pressure from Square in the small business space, which is also where PayPal Here is aimed. And last week Square and Starbucks partnered on Square’s Pay with Square app that enables Starbucks users to pay for their java with any debit or credit card in 7,000 Starbucks stores.Competing With Square and OthersPayPal’s pay-with-an-app payment system trial in France will directly complete with the Pay with Square system. Little wonder, then, why PayPal – a company that tends to hold its plans very close to the vest – let news about the small trial in France leak to the press; PayPal wants the marketplace to be aware that it is working in this area, too.Square, PayPal, Google Wallet, and Isis – a joint mobile payment venture from AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless – are all fighting to insert themselves between the customer and the merchant. The big selling point? Lower transaction fees for the merchant, who are naturally keen to avoid paying the big-bank credit-card transaction fees that can take anywhere from 1% to 12% of a customer sale, depending on the bank.PayPal Here and Square’s card-swipe service, in comparison, take a flat 2.7% and 2.75% percent off a transaction, respectively. Transactions made with PayPal credit cards only cost merchants 1.7%, which gives merchants a nice incentive to push the PayPal connection.Will Merchants Play Along?But merchants are now looking at all of this positioning and wondering why should they be giving up any of this potential revenue to these new payment middlemen. The Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) was launched last week, which will enable participating businesses like 7-Eleven, Best Buy, Target and Wal-mart to use a mobile payment system that goes straight to participating retailers.MCX doesn’t have anything in place yet, but it’s presence may force PayPal and Square to adjust their strategies. The big-whale businesses like Starbucks and McDonald’s may be harder to get if consortiums like MCX start forming around the giant retailers. Instead, they may have to concentrate on gathering lots of smaller fish.For consumers, it will be a lot easier to make payments with mobile devices, but the landscape is becoming increasingly fragmented. If every other store uses a different payment system, customers will switch between payment apps – multiplying the security risks of linked accounts.Merchants may get a lot of choices for online payment systems, but customers could get the raw end of the deal.NOTE: The author wrote a book on social media for Peachpit Press in 2011. Peachpit is the publisher of PayPal’s official imprint.McDonald’s image courtesy of Shutterstock. Massive Non-Desk Workforce is an Opportunity fo… Cognitive Automation is the Immediate Future of…center_img IT + Project Management: A Love Affair Tags:#e-commerce#enterprise 3 Areas of Your Business that Need Tech Nowlast_img read more

In west U.P., local candidate did not matter

first_imgThe Lok Sabha results show that in western Uttar Pradesh anti-incumbency against the local candidates didn’t matter as people voted for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. More than that, the caste arithmetic of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance didn’t work on the ground.Initial assessments show that the farmers were won over by the Balakot strike, the businessmen were wooed by the fear of the minority, the poor felt that the rich suffered more during demonetisation and the rest voted because they could not find an alternative at the Centre. “Narendra Modi succeeded in selling his narrative of nationalism which had no place for Muslims. He managed to equate secularism with appeasement. In electoral democracy, it is the MPs who choose a PM, here it turned out to be the other way round,” said Asmer Baig, professor of Political Science at Aligarh Muslim University.During canvassing, it appeared that it was only the BSP cadre that could stand up to the BJP’s well-oiled poll machinery on the ground. However, in the Yadav belt, the BSP’s grassroots worker had a sense of fear about the after-effect of transfer of vote. This was clearly underlined by a member of Bahujan Voluntary Force in Budaun. The result in the constituency shows that he carried his fear to the polling booth.The alliance benefited the BSP and left the SP and the RLD in the lurch. Mayawati’s party has won as many as five seats in the region and came a close second in Meerut. However, her promise to SP didn’t seem to have percolated down to the bottom. “The BSP votes didn’t seem to have transferred to the SP. It could be because of the grassroots realities where Dalits fear the OBCs more than the higher castes,” said Dr. Baig. He added that it would be “immature” to say that this election has put a full stop on identity or caste politics. “It is just that the BJP came up with its own ‘mandalisation’ of politics, winning over caste groups which were not nurtured well by SP and BSP.” Second chance Looking back, it appeared that people were eager to give Mr. Modi a second chance. In Meerut, shopkeepers would come up with excuses for him like “mistakes are made by only those who work”. In Bulandshahr, which appeared completely polarised, farmers admitted that not much had been done for them but they would still vote for Mr. Modi because he “taught Pakistan a lesson”. They hated their MP, in fact brought him down from stage during a Yogi Adityanath rally, but still voted for him. “Nobody has given us anything, but at least when he [Modi] speaks, he connects with our thoughts,” was the common refrain. And that ‘thought’ was invariably the fear of the ‘other’. “Modi and Yogi have taught Muslims to keep their head down,” said a medical store owner who runs a shop in Aligarh that connects the Muslim-dominated area with the Hindu one. Results show that these were not statements made up to mislead the media.Yogendra Solanki, manager of Janta VedicInter College in Baghpat, said were the elections held before the Balakot strike, the result would have been different in Baghpat, Muzaffarnagar and Meerut. “In this election, they decided to put everything behind for nationalism. If things didn’t change, you would see a different result in the Assembly polls.” He said it was not the end of the road for RLD and Jat politics. “Both Ajit Singh and Jayant Chaudhary have lost by a very small margin,” he pointed out.Many observers thought that the Balakot strike would have the maximum impact on the first phase but the results show that it took time to sink in. Agreed Dr. P.N. Varshney, professor of Political Science at JV Jain College, Saharanpur. “The first phase has seen a close fight but as you move east, the margin of BJP victory increased.” Muslim voteFor a second election in a row, the BJP has proved that the Muslim vote has become redundant for it. “Even SP and BSP appealed for the Muslim vote in a roundabout way this time. The silver lining is that U.P. is sending as many as six Muslim MPs to Lok Sabha out of 10 fielded by SP and BSP. So there is no question mark on their winnability,” said Dr. Baig. The Congress was decimated in the region and its role as a vote cutter turned out to be overstated. It was only in Budaun that Congress’s Salim Shervani ensured the defeat of a prospective alliance partner. Mr. Shervani got over 50,000 votes when SP’s Dharmendra Yadav lost the seat by 18,454 votes to the BJP.last_img read more

Doorknocking with Naqvi once a safe Liberal seat now rife with uncertainty

first_imgOTTAWA – Yasir Naqvi is running for re-election in what’s widely considered a Liberal safe seat, but he says he’s never seen so much uncertainty among voters at the door who tell him they’re still weighing their options.Ottawa Centre is a prominent riding that encompasses most of the downtown core, with voters who tend to be progressive and politically astute. It’s a mix of high-rises, lower-income neighbourhoods and some tony districts. Over the last 40 years it has flipped between the Liberals and New Democrats.It could be a bellwether and flip again as the campaign for the June 7 provincial election appears more and more to be a duel between the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP after 15 years of Liberal governments.Naqvi, the province’s attorney general, seems well liked and has held the riding since 2007, winning each time with a bigger margin over his NDP opponent. But he sees a lot of hesitation this time.Many residents say they have already made up their minds and will vote NDP because they refuse to support either Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford or Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne.Usually in Ottawa Centre when people vote strategically “it tends to be to stop the Conservatives — there’s always a group of people,” said Naqvi during an interview at his campaign office.That may have helped the Liberals in the past. It may hurt them now.With just over a week left until the election, polls suggest the NDP is gaining momentum and could form government. Encouraged by her strong performance in the final televised debate Sunday night, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath started the week Monday morning with a campaign event in Etobicoke North — Ford’s own riding, while Wynne stayed in Toronto — a Liberal support base.Despite the uncertainty, Naqvi is a strong campaigner. On a sunny weekday afternoon, he and his team flew through a large apartment building, mainly filled with seniors, in about an hour. His people speak multiple languages and move fast, with Naqvi running from one door to the next to greet voters who, for the most part, know him.Some said he had their support immediately, others were wary and waffling. One voter told him, “I know you—you’re the minister of justice. Kind of a star.” But he wouldn’t commit to vote Liberal.Naqvi is also getting help from federal Liberal heavyweights. Last week, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who represents the riding federally, and Marco Mendicino, parliamentary secretary to the federal justice minister, canvassed with him.Many voters in the riding say they are voting NDP to stop Ford — but there’s also a sentiment against Wynne.“Generally, I have voted Liberal throughout my entire voting,” said Colin Francey, 25, who stopped to offer up his opinion of Ford and Wynne. “I’m a pretty staunch anti-conservative, especially now that Doug Ford’s running. It’s just not my cup of tea.”Francey said he will vote for NDP candidate Joel Harden, primarily to ensure that Ford is not elected; but also because he’s tired of Wynne.Christian Martinez, 33, is voting for Harden for similar reasons.“The core of my reason is to ensure that the Liberal party is not in power anymore and I merely have more trust in—I can’t believe I’m saying this—in the NDP than the Conservatives at this point,” he said.Next to him on the park bench, Martinez’s friend Luke Ciesielski explained that Ford is just not an alternative to Wynne because he’s a demagogue and fear mongers. He said Ford could divide Ontario “even further.” He’s casting about for solutions, looking for something positive on education and health care.Kevin Nierenhausen, 52, will also vote NDP.“It can’t be Wynne, there’s no way,” he said.As for Harden, an academic and social justice advocate, he can feel a profound change coming as Liberal voters move to his party.“We’ve told them we’re really proud to earn their respect in this moment and as much as they don’t think of themselves as NDPers, they certainly don’t want Doug Ford as premier.”“The strategic vote is for us,” he said, saying even Liberal voters have legitimate criticisms of Wynne.Despite his ability to attract Liberal votes, Harden’s political views contrast on many fronts to Naqvi’s. Harden, a self-identified socialist, wrote a book on grassroots movements and recently campaigned against the Energy East pipeline.Harden’s approach to the campaign is also markedly different from Naqvi’s — the signs that plaster his office are hand-drawn and he canvasses at a glacial pace.Both offices had a lot more hustle and bustle than Progressive Conservative candidate Colleen McCleery. The Tories have never won the riding since it was created 50 years ago.The lone volunteer in her office, Marilyn Syversen, said she’s volunteered for several Tory candidates in Ottawa Centre.“I think Yasir has his hands full with both Colleen and the NDP candidate … I feel he’s in trouble, and he should be,” said Syversen.last_img read more

Close of Nassau Grouper Season 30 November 2016

first_imgFacebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsAppProvidenciales, TCI, November 8, 2016 – The Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) is reminding the public that the 2016 Grouper Season will be close on Wednesday, November 30, 2016.The Fisheries Protection Ordinance (Amendment) Regulation 12(1A) states: “The close season in relation to Nassau grouper shall be from the first day of December to the twenty-eight day of February (inclusive) in each year or such other dates as may, from time to time, be appointed by the Governor in the Gazette”.During the closed season, any person who fishes for, purchases or is in possession of a Nassau grouper will be committing an offence that is punishable by a fine of $5,000 or six months imprisonment or both.The DECR is urging all fishers, restaurant owners, private residents and plant owners to ensure that no Nassau grouper remains in their possession as of Wednesday, November 30, 2016.  Please report any contravention of the Fisheries Protection Ordinance Regulations to the DECR at 338.4170 or emailed to [email protected] DECR is seeking the cooperation of the public in the above matter. Related Items: Facebook Twitter Google+LinkedInPinterestWhatsApplast_img read more