Hard News by Russell Brown


Signs and ensigns

Public Address reader Alst has spotted yet more proof of the impending launch of a New Zealand iTunes Music Store: It's the stars on the flag, see … Fascinating. I guess we'll find out soon enough if Bono's going to lend his face to the launch while he's in town. This just in: launch date pushed back from Nov 28 to Dec 7. Looks like Bono will be freed of iTunes duty ...

Now here's one to make you stop and think: a group of researchers has induced an embryonic chicken to regenerate a part of a wing they had removed, by activating a genetic signalling system that lies dormant in higher animals. The work suggests that the potential for such regeneration exists innately in all vertebrates, including humans.

The same method could potentially be used to "dedifferentiate" existing cells, so they turn back into "stem-like" cells and regenerate into muscles, blood vessels and bones. But wait: there's a catch. The Wnt system is associated with cell proliferation in general, and if it is left "switched on" for too long, the animals develop cancer. Now there's a tricky little technology.

More problems at Ihug: an apparently compromised SMTP relay on its network is causing email rejections from organisations using the Senderbase blacklist.

Meanwhile, a bold attempt to extend the boundaries of human experience by rolling and smoking the world's biggest joint - weighing half a kilo and measuring 1.5 metres - has had to be cancelled on advice of the police in Amsterdam. Organisers had figured that if 100 people each brought along five grams (the quantity tolerated for personal possession) and chucked it into the, er, pot, that would be alright. Not so, advised the friendly local Plod.

Meanwhile, a clue to the effect of marijuana on short-term memory: it appears to desynchronise the firing of nerve impulses in the hippocampus; a phenomenon also seen in seizures. The hippocampus is also associated with hallucinations and religious experiences.

This is funny: Jon Safran on Mormons. It's not the belief system, it's the knocking on the fscking door on a Saturday morning. Old eps of Safran's Speaking in Tongues are still available, as both Real streams and podcasts.

Warning: Stadium commentary ahead:

Well, if the waterfront stadium gets nixed and Eden Park is anointed as the World Cup final venue, it'll be situation normal: the cost of a regional asset will fall on Auckland City ratepayers, because no other bugger's going to pay. And right now, there's a $175 million shortfall, on top of the $50 million Auckland City has already committed. Brilliant. I'm not entirely sure that the Auckland City ratepayers polled grasped that part.

If the waterfront proposal fails either at council or in the courts, I am very strongly opposed to so much money going into such a dead venue; and one in private ownership. If it has to be Eden Park, my preference would be for the cheapest possible options for temporary seating there, even if it looks shabby, which it will. That would still be an unfortunate waste of an opportunity; and probably the only opportunity to make public space in that part of Auckland's waterfront for the next 30 or 40 years.

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