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Acid Jazz, Acid Rock, Acid Stem Cells

Organic health afficionados and alternative healing proponents of all "schools" have one thing they can all agree: an acidic body status is evil, and we should regularily neutralize our organism to gain eternal health, beauty, happiness and prosperity. Unfortunately, this might suddenly all require a complete reconsideration, now that Japanese stem-cell researchers from the highly reputated RIKEN center found out that an acidic treatment can rejuvenate aging cells into pluripotent stem cells. If this can be reproduced in independent studies and in human tissue, it will revolutionarize cell-based therapy for virtually everybody. The dream to replace aging or degenerated organs and tissues with individually designed spare-parts (made out of patients own stem-cells) could soon become reality. In their original paper in NATURE the RIKEN group concluded that "This study has revealed that somatic cells latently possess a surprising plasticity. This dynamic plasticity—the ability to become pluripotent cells—emerges when cells are transiently exposed to strong stimuli that they would not normally experience in their living environments." In an OpEd for the BBC, Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at UCL london said "If this works in people as well as it does in mice, it looks faster, cheaper and possibly safer than other cell reprogramming technologies - personalised reprogrammed cell therapies may now be viable."

I am now asking myself if I should try right away a whole body shower in vinegar or ascorbic acid, to induce as many as possible stem cells in my body right away, or better wait for the first animal experiments which show acid related rejunevation ?  At a first step, at least I will stop following this anti-acidity diet recommendations by the organic food and alternative medicine groups. And I will drink a sour Martini and listen to some Acid Jazz tonight. 


Morning Triatlon

This morning I did an unplaned triatlon to come to work. The first ten kilometers I used my bike as every morning. And then the tyre went flat, so I had to leave it next to a bakery shop at English garden, from where I took a bus. After 10 min drive the bus had a collision with a car on a slippery road , so I had to leave and do the remaining 6 kilometers to my institute walking. I arrived a bit late, but as we say "fresh as a cucumber". Maybe I'll do this more regular in the future.


Leaving the Planet

Dear Michael,
This week the organisation "Mars One" announced that their call for applications to join the first manned mission to Mars was very succesful: Out of about 200.000 participants 1058 were shortlisted, for a final crew of 24 earthlings to build a new home for mankind on the red planet. The planed day 0 of this new civilisation on Mars should be in 2025 (1st of January, I guess for the Westerns, or March 21 for us Zoroastrians). 
So the few seats on the spaceship are 8000 fold overbooked, what is amazing, I think, considering all the risks associated with such a cruise. In fact, I think the mission is more a crusade (with little chance to return home) than a cruise, were a traveller would make a lot of photographs to show them latter to the people at home. Most likely, they will never ever meet their friends and relatives back on earth any more, since the Mars One mission has no planned return function. 
When you investigated the different options for an extra-terrestrial habitable planet, there were talks about water and a breezable atmosphere, green grass for the horses, but as you can see on the above picture of the mars, our nearest neighbor planet looks more like a desert. When you asked me to join you to Gliese 581g, I had in mind the pictures of Eleanor Arroway from the movie Contact, seeing her walk along the most beautiful ocean beach after being send to Vega using a relativistic space-time capsula.
I also like calm places to relax, like the heritable planet you were considering recently, or the planet in the system Vega where Elly Arroway went to. But a three years journey with 24 other space tourists, slandering day-in day-out, some of them already anouncing they want to travel naked, and or giggling teenagers - I can not imagine that this will be a joyful ride. I also checked the list of items which are permitted to take on this three yeras mission, and the items which are forbidden, and here it becomes really awful: You can take with you toothbrush, some chocolate bars (most likely Mars, but not Hanuta which I like so much), 5 containers sun-blocker cream (protection factor 200), 2 T-shirts, one pair of addidas shoes, and a WiFi-capable smart-phone. In total, personal luggage should not exceed 12 kg, i.e. you can not take a piano with you (maybe an accustic guitar), the horses also have to stay at home. The Mars One travelers have to leave behind their terrestrial existence like pilgrims do, and take on this journey not more than what fits into a city-bag. You perhaps remember the red suitcase (19.5kg they weighted it at airport check-in) I had with me when I arrived in Munich for the master project, and then I already had the feeling of missing too much of my stuff, even though it was only for a 4 month period. %nbsp;
Even if I would got used to all these limitations and inconveniences of the Mars One mission, there are also uncertainties about real health hazards. Recently you raised the issue of a potential plutonium-contamination of the Mars surface by the discovery vehicle, but what might be more serious is the unavoidable exposure of all space-passengers to the high-energy cosmic radiation, which during a 3 years journey would accumulate to several Gy whole-body radiation. Isn't that a life-threatening dose ? Even if the 24 passengers can avoid or cure any detrimental health effects to themself (by eating anti-oxidant containing functional food), the idea that they could ever ghive birth to normal children to buildt up an entire, healthy civilization is out of sight.
I never planed to become a funder of an entire new civilization, but I want to have at least one or two healthy kids. And I also want to have a lavish life with many shoes and clothes and a piano and horses and more cosmetics than only factor 100 sun blocker cream. I am therefore happy to stay on earth. It does not has to be Sweden, but there are quite many place on our planet which resemble Eleanor Arroways Vega beach.
best regards


Full Moon in White Satin

Tonight the full moon was illuminating our garden with its white satin light. In my phantasies, I told Ahlam that her face is like moon light, but I only wrote her greetings to Oslo and best wishes for the recovery of her lost suit-case.


70 years on a Stairway to Heaven: Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page, a living legend of rock guitar style and founder of Led Zeppelin celebrates his 70th birthday today. Wondering how it all began, with a young, shy school boy in a south London suburb, and his dream to play skiffle against his mothers advice, and to start a career in biomedical research to help fighting cancer ? Well, below there are some of his early musical performances at a BBC show that looks like the predecessor of Britain has got talent.

Jimmy Page (left side, on the guitar) playing in a skiffle band and talking to a BBC show master.

I am wondering if the polite interviewer from the BBC, who at this occasion was perhaps convinced that his didactic questions would bring young Jimmys on a right path of middle class academic career, ever remembered this day when in 1973 Jimmy did this:

Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin playing Stairway to Haven 25 years later.

Google in Style

Good literature is not just about great ideas, good stories, dramatic situations interlaced with well developed thoughts and reflections. Literature is also about a writer-specific form, the specific style of how to say things. And this is what makes writers so unique and recognizable. You quickly can tell if a text which deals with a train ride through south-eastern Europe is by Thomas Pynchon, or Agatha Christie or Joseph Roth. Similarily, despite many novels and short stories are located in San Francisco, you will quickly recognise which one is a Raymond Chandler, because of his special style of writing: sober, precise, and very illustrative, with a certain distance to his characters, and by leaving any judgement to the reader.
Bad literature can be easily identified by the absence of style, or by the adoption of a very uniform style. A bad example are the Scandinavian crime stories which saw an inflation on the book discounts and the best seller lists. I guess they all follow the blood trace of the ordinary readers appetite for explicit described cruelity, for their suspicion that behind a seemingly harmonic society must be the worst degree of murder and slaughter-house sensation, and that after 5 p.m. every office clerk turns into a zombie or a werwolf, hunting for young flesh. Most of these crime novels also fuel the stereotype that moral values in the society are maintained only by a small, usually female minority.
If I open a book of this genre, I don’t recognise a style difference, whether its is by Adler Olsen, Stig Larsson, Henning Mankell or others of this school. Their style is simply indistinguishable, and therefore no style at all. The form is like Ikea, for a quick and cheap consumption to fill some empty time with some easy to get sensation.
There is, thanks god, much better literature coming from Ikea land, and one of the finest examples is Lars Gustafsson. He is not only a brilliant narrator, a great magician of merging reality, utopia, and philosophic reflections, but in addition he is a great stylist. After reading one of his novels, whether the plot is situated in Swedens Västmanland county, or in an Italian castle, or in a Berlin villa or a students dorm in Austin/Texas, you have the good chance to recognise any other of Gustafssons euvre. And this not because any names of the acting characters re-appear in the next book, a cheap trick used by the notorius Swedish crime writers in a helpless attempt to make their mass-production sequel books recognisable, by telling us again and again about the adventures of Wallander or Lisbeth Salander.
Lars Gustafsson does not need such a cheap trick to make his literature unique and recognisable. And how resilient Gustafssons style is I recognised only recently, when in complete ignorance of his Swedish mother tongue dared to translate two unpublished texts, assuming they were of his authorship, by using Googles translate function. The first text I received by e-mail, signed by Mr. Gustafsson personaly and carrying his e-mail address, one that my mail program properperly recognised because we had exchanged some correspondence before. What surprised me was that suddenly Gustafsson wrote to me in Swedish, maybe he wanted to challenge my promise from some years ago to learn the language in order to read his next books before they are translated by the publisher. But of course, I did not made much progress, and instead I quickly copy/pasted the whole message into Google Translate, and within a second or two, I could read a cry for help, explaining that Lars Gustafsson got pickpocket in London and without any cash or credit card left, has to sleep rough for the next night unless he can buy a ticket home, for which he asks me for some financial support. At this moment, I did not paid too much attention to the writing style of the message, first assuming that even a great literature stylist as Lars Gustafsson might not use his full talent at each and every short communication, and secondly, at least at this stage, I did not trusted a computer generated text translation to preserve a writing style. But this notion I had to revise short after. But what confused me a bit was that I received this emergency e-mail, supposedly from Lars Gustafsson, right at a weekend when Munich was hosting a three-days series of Skandinavian literature and poetry, with Mr. Gustafsson beeing scheduled to read from his books and poems on the first and the last day. When I called the organizers to investigate how Mr. Gustafsson could quickly be brought to Munich, to my surpise they could ensure me that he has already arrived in town some days ago, on a regular flight from Stockholm. So apparently, he never had been pick-pocketed in London, and the emergency mail was a fake one produced by some internet criminals to raise money from people they identified after hacking Mr. Gustafssons address list.
The week after hearing him reading some of his poems and essays in Munich, I had a look at his internet blog, curious to see if he already wrote something about his visit to Munich and this fictious London crime with him as the robbed victim. Everything new I found there was a text by Mr. Gustafsson recalling a former visit to Portugal. The few words I could decipher from the Swedish text were “globalisation”, “tourism”, “Fernando Pessoa” and “Baixa Alta”. To get at least some ideas what Lars Gustafssons relation to Portugal are, I again used Google to translate his blog post from Swedish to German. And within some milliseconds, I was reading a typical Gustafsson essay, in this incoparable style of linking some marginal observations of a daily life with deep philosophical reflections, sentences void of any didactic selfsufficiency, but entertaining and inspiring for the reader.  And this very unique, recognisable style made it almost undamaged through a computerized transformation, so that the text finally was not much worse than one translated by a professional translator of the publisher.
It is hard to tell, of course, if Google is realy so sophisticated that it can adequately translate any personal text to other languages and maintain the personal flavor, or if it is mainly the powerful style of Mr. Gustafssons language that makes his text so resilient to a computerized conversion. In this case, for sure, I could clearly tell which text was a real Gustafsson, and which one was a fake using his stolen e-mail address.
In maybe not too far a future there will be a new Google program, not to translate texts from one language to another, but from one style to another. So one could than take a text from an instruction manual and convert it into a Lars Gustafsson style instruction manual. Would this be an adequate essay, fiction or non-fiction ? For sure not, because style without ideas is still no literature, not a penny better than all the cheap best seller with their action-plots so hastily cobbled together.  Good literature needs both, clear, crisp ideas to develop, wrapped into a great style. And Lars Gustafsson is one of the few modern authors who is a master of this skill, and there is no Google program in sight to replace this talent.


Each light bulb wants its own MAC address

Recently, Phillips announced that it will produce light bulbs with its individual MAC address. The purpose of this idea is to permit switching on and off every lamp at home (or anywhere else) by using your local WiFi net and a smartphone. I got a little bit worried, in the time of sustainable usage of natural ressources, because MAC addresses are definitely not sustainable. They are unique and bound to a single device, and ones this device is discarded (like a light bulb), its MAC address ends on the scrap yard just like the device itself.
One can do some estimations of how long will the limitted set of available MAC addresses last, until the very last one is awarded to the last Philips light bulb, of course in a big ceremony. MAC addresses are unique identifiers for devices that enable global network access. They are crucial for the increases attempts of big data collectors to unambigiously identify which computer, smartphone, tablet, or digital camera exchange information via the internet.
Each MAC address consists of 6 pairs of two hexadecimal numbers (0-9;A-F). In other words it consists of 6 byte, or 6 x 256 different strings, equally 281,474,976,710,656 possible words. This looks really like a huge number, and one might wonder if it could ever be a limitation for further growth of web. But lets just summarize how many different MAC addresses I already "consumed" since the beginning of the internet age.
At work:    5 PCs (with Ethernet cards)
                4 Laptops (with Ethernet + WiFi cards)
                3 ethernet/WiFi router
At home:   2 PCs (with WiFi cards)
                2 Laptops with on-board WiFi + bluetooth device
                1 mobile phone with bluetooth (Sony-Ericsson)
                2 smarth phones with WiFi + bluetooth (HP iPaq and Samsung Galaxy)
                2 handheld organizer with bluetooth (Sony Clie)
                2 tablet with bluetooth and WiFi (HP Slate and Galaxy Tablet)
                2 ethernet/WiFi router
                3 old plug-in USB or PCMCIA WiFi sticks.
 = 40 MAC addresses in total
Some of these 40 MAC addresses are already terminally out of use, together with the devices they found their way into the IT nirvana of a scrap-yard. But 24 are still in use. As compared to the > 280 trillion possible MAC addresses, this sounds msrginally. And if any other of the 11 billion people on earth would consume on average the same number of MAC addresses, 440 billions of the 281 trillions would be gone. This suggests that there is still an 500 fold excess of free MAC address available for all the future web enabled devices available, including for light bulbs, web connected fridges, kitchen ovens or electric tooth-brushes.