Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Can a Warp Drive really "fly"?

Some people say definitely "yes":

Why Warp Drives Aren't Just Science Fiction
[...] According to Einstein's theory of special relativity, an object with mass cannot go as fast or faster than the speed of light. However, some scientists believe that a loophole in this theory will someday allow humans to travel light-years in a matter of days.

In current FTL theories, it's not the ship that's moving — space itself moves. It's established that space is flexible; in fact, space has been steadily expanding since the Big Bang.

By distorting the space around the ship instead of accelerating the ship itself, these theoretical warp drives would never break Einstein's special relativity rules. The ship itself is never going faster than light with respect to the space immediately around it.

Davis's paper examines the two principle theories for how to achieve faster-than-light travel: warp drives and wormholes.

The difference between the two is the way in which space is manipulated. With a warp drive, space in front of the vessel is contracted while space behind it is expanded, creating a sort of wave that brings the vessel to its destination.

With a wormhole, the ship (or perhaps an exterior mechanism) would create a tunnel through spacetime, with a targeted entrance and exit. The ship would enter the wormhole at sublight speeds and reappear in a different location many light-years away.

In his paper, Davis describes a wormhole entrance as "a sphere that contained the mirror image of a whole other universe or remote region within our universe, incredibly shrunken and distorted." [...]
It goes on to describe a theoretical device called a "Ford-Svaiter mirror", and how it would work to create this "wave". Fascinating stuff.


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Nattokinase: a replacement for Warfrin?

I've been looking at Nattokinase as a supplement for my mother, who is suffering from a calcified heart valve, due to (I believe) her long term use of Warfrin. Warfrin is known to be a vitamin k antagonist. But without vitamin k (vitamin k2 specifically), the body can't regulate calcium properly, and it goes into the arteries instead of into the bones.

Nattokinase is known to prevent and even reverse atherosclerosis. Pure Natto is a source of vitamin k2. But even though the product description says that it contains pure nattokinase enzyme with all vitamin k removed, there are warnings to not take it if you are taking Warfarin (Coumadin), or to consult your doctor first if you are taking Warfarin. And from what I've read on the customer comments on Amazon, it seems that people use it to replace Warfarin:

Great results so far!
My husband has a blood clotting disorder and was placed on Coumadin for life. He wasn't doing well on Coumadin. There was so many nasty side effects so we looked for an alternative to Coumadin. This supplement was recommended to us 10 months ago. He is doing so much better since taking Nattokinase. He is off of Coumadin (without his Dr's blessing), it has brought his cholesterol down, brought his blood pressure down (along with vitamin C), and improved his cataracts. He just had an eye exam and his eye glasses prescription was the same as two and a half years ago. That has NEVER happened. His eyes have always gotten worse for every exam. His Dr wasn't happy with him when he got off of Coumadin, but he is happy with the results and can't believe hubby is off of cholesterol and high blood pressure meds. He has never see that happen in his patients. We are excited to see other benefits pop up in the future.
In the threads attached to that post, people ask for an update, and the author, Jennifer, replies one year later:
Hubby is still doing well on Natto. He also takes Vitamin E, Cod Liver Oil, and Ginko Biloba in order to get the thinnest blood that he can. His blood clotting disorder is serious, though.
Another person, Mary Turner, posts this under Jennifer's original post:
The first time I took Cumadin, my legs felt like they were on fire. I had to go every thursday to the clinic as you have to be monitored when taking cumadin which is really a low dose of rat poison (for real). They can never get it right. It's take one pill, take one and a half, go back to one pill and so on. I told my doctor, "I cannot keep taking this stuff. " He replied, "I don't know what else to tell you to take." I said, "yes you do but your hands are tied by the FDA."

I had already read about Natto and had been reading about natural cures for over 12 years. So I ordered Natto and stopped taking Cumadin. The Natto arrived the same day my brother passed away. I was off work for a week taking care of funeral arrangements but took the Natto everyday. The following Thursday, I went back to the clinic to give them a blood sample and went to work. They called my job to give me the results as usual.

The nurse was so excited and said to me, "your blood plattelets are perfect; how much Cumadin shall I tell the doctor you took?" I said, "tell the doctor I did not take any of that rat poison." She even got more excited and wanted me to tell her what I took to get these results. She looked it up on line as I spelled it out for her and gave me a big thank you as she wanted it for herself.

Now I had not spoke to anyone about what I had taken but they thought it was Cumidin that did the trick. So what does that tell you. [...]

Jennifer also said in the thread that her husband didn't just stop taking Warfarin/Coumadin, that there was an overlap for about a month, where he took both but transitioned to just Nattokinase.

Many other reviewers reported that it lowered their blood pressure, and improved their overall blood circulation. A handful of people said it did nothing for them (I've found that is usually the case with supplement reviews; there are always some who say that). It does seem that it's used in place of Warfarin/Coumadin, rather than with it.

My sister says that my mother's doctor says, he would not object to any supplements as long as they don't interfere with what he has prescribed for her. It seems to me that the Nattokinase would interfere with the Warfarin.

I thought that I might try her on Vitamin K2 (Jarrow Formulas MK-7), because I read that vitamin k1 interferes with Warfarin's blood thinning, but vitamin K2 does not. Yet the K2 supplements also warn against taking them with Warfarin, or at least with consulting a doctor first before taking them.

So, is the only answer to stop taking Warfarin/Coumadin? That would be a tough sell for my mom. She's afraid to go against what the doctors tell her.

Here are a list of links about vitamin K2, and how it's been used to reverse calcification in arteries and heart valves. There have been studies that show reversal of arterial calcification in rats:

I've looked for information about reversing calcification of heart valves in humans. I could not find a lot of information, and what I did find was anecdotal:

But even mainstream medicine doesn't rule it out completely, they just say there are insufficient studies to prove it yet:

There seems to be no end to articles on the subject:

There was even a book published in 2011, called "Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life":

But it's gone out of print, despite getting high ratings from readers. Only the Kindle edition is still available at a reasonable price. Used copies are very expensive. I hope they print more copies soon.

Update 07-12-13:

Our local health food store gave me a report about Nattokinase. It's quite informative, and I found it online in PDF format:

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The End of Work?

Uh... what exactly does that mean? Depends who you talk to:

Should We Fear "the End of Work"?
[...]  Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations recently brought together 40 leading economists, policy makers, engineers, bankers, corporate executives, social scientists, philanthropists, journalists and statisticians for a day-long exploration of how technology is shaping -- or misshaping -- the American workplace.
Coming up with answers was not the goal: Cornell's belief was that searching for consensus in a one-day meeting would be futile. Initially, I wondered about the utility of that, given the gravity of the economic challenge facing the country. But it was a good decision. The range of views on what's happening was so wide -- and surprising -- that reaching realistic solutions would have been, well, unrealistic. Precisely because this kind of a meeting has been so rare, the meeting imposed the Chatham House Rule on attendees: we could talk afterwards about what was said, but not about who said it. (I later asked some of those who attended if I could quote them directly; almost all said yes.) If I had to sum up a fascinating day -- well, let's save that for the end, after you've seen the amazing diversity of views on the future of work.
Here's perhaps the fundamental question about what's going on in the American economy as it struggles to recover from the Great Recession: "How is this recovery different from other recoveries?" Or is it?
To put it in economese, is the persistently high level of unemployment a result of cyclical factors (the traditional ups and downs of economic growth) or structural factors (new game-changing technologies, dramatic shifts in the global economy)? The NewsHour has covered this debate several times, including economists duking it out in one recent instance.
From one decades-long leading student of the American economy came a succinct one-liner in favor of cyclicality: "This isn't a jobless economic recovery as everyone insists on calling it; it's simply just not yet a recovery."
In other words, as painful as the waiting certainly is, the economy will heal -- and once again, create jobs -- in time.
"Brace yourselves," countered Eric Brynjolfsson, from MIT's Sloan School, co-author of "Race Against the Machine," a much-talked-about recent book which argues that the introduction of new transformative technologies has only just begun, and that we're dangerously unable to perceive what's actually going to happen. (Brynjolffson was featured in a Making Sen$e broadcast story in 2011.) He added:
"Many of our intuitions about what's coming next are going to fail us. All the disruptions we've been talking about today about the past 10 years, the past 20 years -- as important as they've been and as hard-hitting as they've been for so many people -- are just a small glimmer of the much bigger disruptions that we think are in store for us in the next 10 and 20 years, at least the ones that are related to technology."
Princeton University economist Alan Blinder, who served in the 1990s as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, took a more measured view. He believes that both cyclical problems and disruptive technological change are at play, along with the changing face of the global economy:
"In terms of the number of jobs, it looks like an awful lot of the problem is cyclical. That's the first problem.
"The second problem is the lagging average wage. Until a few decades ago, India, China, and the former Soviet Union were isolated and not really participating in the world economy. But now they have roughly doubled the world's labor force, in a couple of decades.
"What did they bring to the table? Capital? No. They had almost none. But they had a lot of labor. So, if you double the amount of world labor and you don't change the amount of world capital much, then loosely speaking, the returns to labor are going to go down while the returns to capital go up. And this is about to end. And it's not mainly about technology.
"But then there is the third problem: what's behind the trend toward greater wage inequality? The non-economist in me wants to think about institutions and social norms. Some of the increase in inequality has to stem from changing attitudes in our society. I just don't believe that it's only technology."
The Promise and Perils of a Machine that Can Make Anything
The role of automation in the decline of manufacturing jobs has been front-and-center since the end of the recession. (Well, since the Luddites in the 19th century, but let's move on.) Cornell University's Hod Lipson is one of the country's most prominent experts on the interplay of robotics, IT and manufacturing. Lipson's next book is titled, ominously, "The Promise and Perils of a Machine that Can Make Anything." I found his presentation both powerful and unsettling:
"Machines are better at learning than humans in many different areas. So now the question is, what will they learn and what's the end game?
"Are we talking about the future of jobs in the next five years, 10 years, 50 years or 100 years?
"If you're talking 100 years, there's no doubt in my mind that all jobs will be gone, including creative ones. And 100 years is not far in the future -- some of our children will be alive in 100 years."
Trained years ago as an engineer myself, I get the enthusiasm for technological solutions to manufacturing problems. But given the persistent levels of unemployment, I asked Lipson if the engineering profession didn't have to take a broader view. His answer was blunt -- but also open to the possibility of change:
"In a way, we cannot help ourselves. We try to automate every difficult task that we see. It is rooted in the fact that the mantra of engineering has always been to try to alleviate drudgery and increase productivity -- that was the good thing to do. That's what we still train our students to do.
"But what I'm hearing here is that maybe we should redirect our efforts, and try to solve a new kind of problem. I'm not sure what that problem is. But I'm sure that if you can define what the problem is that we need to solve, then we can start thinking about how to solve it, using the same engineering tools."
Thomas Kochan, the co-director of MIT's Institute for Work and Employment Research, jumped in on that point. Decades ago, MIT was one of the first engineering schools in the country to focus on the public policy implications of engineering innovations. (Full disclosure: I'm an MIT grad). Here's what he had to say:
"Instead of focusing on how do we drive labor out and how do we eliminate variability by standardizing everything, we need the engineering profession to think about the world's big problems, and then to understand that it's the interaction between skills, the way in which we organize our work, and the technology that really drives productivity.
"The engineering profession needs to catch up with the understanding of how technology can be enhancing to society, without just thinking about how it drives out labor, through innovations. I think if we focus more on enhancing human skills, we'd get a lot more societal benefit out of the next generation of technology."
Lipson and the other tech experts took some pointed, albeit well-mannered, heat from people worried that more efficient production is nearly always equated with eliminating human workers. As one participant put it: "optimistically inventing stuff" with too little thought for the social consequences. [...]
There is a lot more, but I can't excerpt the whole article. I can't say what is going to happen, but there is plenty food for thought here.

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Taxes on Credit Unions?

It's a possibility, as government looks for more tax revenues:
Credit unions promote the economic well being of their members, especially those of modest means, through a system that is member-owned, volunteer-directed and not-for-profit.

The credit union mission has always been to ensure secure financial choices at lower costs for their members. That’s why credit unions offer financial products that provide better returns on savings, reduced rates on loans and lower or no fees on services.

While credit unions are regulated by the federal and state governments, they are also governed by volunteer boards elected by their membership. Credit unions don’t answer to stockholders, but to each of their 96 million members.

Credit unions invest in people by helping those who have been traditionally underserved by banks. Groups like seniors on fixed incomes, single working moms, minority communities needing greater community investment, and small business owners struggling to raise capital all rely on credit unions for important financial services at reasonable costs.

While the big banks have abandoned small businesses in droves because they just can’t make enough money, credit unions promote their small business members in a struggling economy by providing low cost credit alternatives. This credit union investment means millions of jobs across America.

Unfortunately, the big banks and some in Congress want to raise taxes and impose new fees on 96 million credit union members who represent 40% of all Americans, yet represent only 6% of the assets in financial institutions. And, they want to do this despite the fact that credit unions are not-for-profit and meeting their core mission every day.

That’s wrong and will imperil the credit union movement that so many have come to depend on for real financial choice.

Don’t let Congress raise taxes on 96 million credit union members. Don’t let Congress eliminate real financial choice. Don’t let Congress destroy our credit unions.

To learn even more about credit unions in your community, or join a credit union please visit

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WHO gets ready for MERS

WHO Sets Up Emergency Committee on MERS Virus
GENEVA — The World Health Organization is forming an emergency committee of international experts to prepare for a possible worsening of the Middle East coronavirus, also known as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has killed 40 people, WHO flu expert Keiji Fukuda said on Friday.

Fukuda said there was currently no emergency or pandemic but the experts would advise on how to tackle the disease if the number of cases suddenly grows. Most of the cases of MERS so far have been in Saudi Arabia, which hosts millions of Muslim visitors every year for the annual haj pilgrimage.

"We want to make sure we can move as quickly as possible if we need to," Fukuda told a news conference.

"If in the future we do see some kind of explosion or if there is some big outbreak or we think the situation has really changed, we will already have a group of emergency committee experts who are already up to speed so we don't have to go through a steep learning curve." [...]
I did a blog post previously about MERS.

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