Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition!
I already did. It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

I discovered this amazing video a month ago. At first, I didn't believe it, but then I checked in Wikipedia and it looks like it's for real. In any case, I can't even comment, because it's so breathtaking. Sure, it's not a sport that everybody could practice, but the very fact that somebody does it, makes me extremely happy. I wonder how this would work in low-gravity.
Anyway, it's cool and I hope you like it.


wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

I sometimes tease my republican friends with such posts. But in the case, it's not a tease anymore, it is a fact. I'm not going to extensively discuss the issue, it's pretty obvious to me. I think it became obvious even to Obama since today I read that he offered $1.2 billions for Research and Development. Of course, he directed them to the Department of Energy, but that's fine with me. I get scared enough when I hear it starts with "Department". Like the robots that the Department of Defence develop. Spooky!

But back to the subject, China becomes stronger and stronger. Do you know that China holds the biggest share of the american debt obligations /if they are called like this/? I think considering this, it's no longer that surprising how China got away with the major accidents in its drug production and milk production. I don't really care about that. The point is that today we see that China intends to launch a whole space station in 2010. That is only 1 year ahead of today. I have no idea whawt kind of manufacturing abilities you can have in order to achieve that, but even if it's somewhat ambitious, it's still way too much.

But I love the idea. Now the cosmonauts from the International Space Station are somewhat lonely. If something happen, they are in very bad position to react. However, if there are 2 stations, they can even exchange people for nude parties :) Ok, probably not, but then, who knows. And I'm happy that someone is investing into the space industry. And this is definitely a healthy competition. Yay!
P.S. You can spy the astronauts in ISS from here.

China plans space station with module launch in 2010

March 1st, 2009

China will launch a space module next year and carry out the nation's first space docking in 2011 as a step towards its goal of building a space station, state media said Sunday.

The Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace-1" is scheduled for launch in late 2010 and will dock with a Shenzhou-8 spacecraft early the following year, Xinhua news agency said, citing officials with China's space programme.

"The module, named Tiangong-1, is designed to provide a 'safe room' for Chinese astronauts to live and conduct scientific research in zero gravity," the report said.

"Weighing about 8.5 tonnes, Tiangong-1 is able to perform long-term unattended operation, which will be an essential step toward building a space station."

Space programme officials have previously said China is expected to place in orbit several modules like the Tiangong and link them up to form a semi-permanent space platform.

It was not immediately clear if the Tiangong-1 would eventually serve as China's first manned space station, or whether it would be a base to test docking and space station technology.

The planned 2011 docking would be remotely carried out by scientists on the ground and would not involve astronauts, the report said.

The announcement of the Tiangong mission came as China's first lunar probe, the Chang'e-1 impacted the moon's surface Sunday afternoon, after a nearly 16 month mission photographing and mapping the lunar surface, Xinhua said in a separate report.

The Chang'e-1 was launched on October 24, 2007, signalling China's rising space ambitions and Beijing's participation in a renewed race against Asian rivals Japan and India to explore the moon.

The probe, named after a legendary Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, is the first stage of China's lunar programme, which includes landing an unmanned rover on the surface by 2012 and a manned mission by around 2020.

China became the third nation to put a man in space when Yang Liwei piloted the one-man Shenzhou-5 space mission in 2003.

Last September, the Shenzhou-7, piloted by three "taikonauts" or astronauts, carried out China's first space walk.(c) 2009 AFP source

Ice man's secrets

A very cool article that certainly makes you think a little bit more about human physiology and psychology. I edited it somewhat, so please check the NewScientist site for the complete version.

However, you have to notice the most important part of the preparation for the cold swims-mental training. Mr. Pugh visualise the whole experience of the cold swim and thus, he prepares his body for the actual thing. He imagines each and every part of the swim in full mentality-he sees it, feels it, tastes it and still, manages to convince himself that he will succeed. I think reading trough the article will convince you more than everything about the power of visualisation.

Also, he manages to mentally heat himself, something that is very similar to the accumulation of heat element that Hermetists (and all kind of magicians) practise. And note, the 2oC difference is scientifically measured, it's not fake. It's completely real. And if he can raise his temperature with 2 degrees, why not with 5 or 10 or even to light the candle!

Unfortunately, I don't have the time to discuss the article to the fullest, but I hope I pointed you in the right direction. I often paste articles on "mind over body", but I find this one extremely inspirational because of it's so clean of metaphysics. Cold-swimming isn't a phenomen-many people practise it to some extent. But this person has trained himself not only to go in and out of the freezing water, he actually stays in it and armed only with his intention (and training!), he swim extremely long distances. That's very important. If he can overcome so many instincts and do it in a safe way, then imagine what we can do in not-so-hostile environment.

Be well and be free!

Superhuman: The secrets of the ice man

PERCHED on the edge of an Antarctic ice sheet, Lewis Gordon Pugh surveys the waves. At 0 °C, water does not get much colder than the sea beneath him. Undeterred, Pugh unzips his jacket, strips down to his swimming trunks and dives in.

Most of us would start to hyperventilate uncontrollably if we dived into such cold water. Pugh doesn't even gasp in pain but instead starts swimming. In December 2005, when Pugh took this plunge, he went on to swim a kilometre in just over 18 minutes. Many ordinary people would drown after just a few minutes in such cold water. Pugh, however, not only survived but went on to make several more long-distance swims in extremely cold water . So what makes him able to keep swimming in such extreme cold?

A study of Pugh published last month has confirmed that his response to cold water is anything but normal. Remarkably, though, while Pugh may have some innate advantages, it seems his near-superhuman ability is largely down to training - so perhaps it could be something we are all able to learn.

Pugh is far from the first to swim in icy water. There is a long tradition in Russia, China and many northern European countries of carving holes in frozen lakes, rivers or sea ice and diving in, often as part of a cultural or religious ritual. These are normally just quick dips, though: rarely do they involve distance swimming. Japanese and Korean pearl divers used to swim without wetsuits in temperatures of around 10 °C for up to 30 minutes. Part of their secret is their metabolism: the colder the water that Japanese Ama divers swim in during winter months, the higher their resting metabolic rate.

Even so, studies of Japanese Ama divers who have been diving for many years show that their response is not that different from the rest of us. Their core body temperature drops to 35 °C after 30 minutes in cold water - just above hypothermia, the point beyond which the body cannot warm up again without help. In contrast, Pugh can keep his core temperature as high as 36 °C even after swimming for 30 minutes in much colder water. How does he do it?

His background seems ordinary enough.

Over the past 20 years he has taken part in 17 long-distance swims, including across the English Channel, along the whole of the river Thames from Kemble to London, and a 204-kilometre, 21-day swim along Sognefjord in Norway.

Pugh attributes his success to intense mental preparation. In the weeks building up to a swim he will spend up to 4 hours a day with a coach, going through mental exercises to calm him and focus his mind on the task. These include concentrating on emotionally challenging periods of his life to build up a sense of determination that will help him succeed. "I think about every part of the swim, how it will occur from beginning to end. I hear the sound of my stroke in the water and I feel ice on my skin," he adds.

As the swim gets closer, he psychs himself up by listening to music. In the minutes before entering the water, Pugh recalls these emotions and is able to raise his core temperature, without doing any physical exercise, to 38.4 °C. That's an extraordinary 1.4 °C above his normal body temperature. Such "anticipatory thermogenesis" has been observed before, but not to such a high degree, says Timothy Noakes, a sports scientist at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, who has been studying Pugh as he swims.

Other experiments found that injections of adrenalin (epinephrine) can induce this effect in Russian cold-water swimmers. Noakes speculates that Pugh may somehow be tapping into this mechanism during his pre-swim preparations.

It is possible to become habituated to the cold so the initial cold shock response doesn't kick in quite so dramatically. But Pugh seems remarkably resistant, although even he does find breathing difficult for the first few minutes. "I certainly feel the cold," he says, "It's excruciatingly painful."

People who survive the initial shock of entering very cold water face another problem: as your limbs and muscles cool, the nerves are affected, which makes coordinated movements such as swimming harder and harder. Pugh, however, seems able to cut the supply of blood to superficial muscles while keeping the deeper ones warm, an ability also seen in the Ama divers.

Pugh does have one skill that has so far defied scientific explanation: when swimming he can stop himself shivering. Normally, shivering is an involuntary response to cold that kicks in once core body temperature drops below 36.6 °C or when skin temperature falls below 28 °C. This is ususally beneficial, as the muscle contractions generate heat, but in cold water it only serves to increase the rate at which the body cools, Noakes says. That's because the increased blood flow transfers more heat from the core to the body's extremities. Somehow Pugh manages to avoid shivering even when his core temperature is below 36.6 °C and his skin temperature is around 5 °C.

Even Pugh has his limits, though. He came close to disaster during a swim across Whaler's Bay off Deception Island in Antarctica. Thirty minutes into the swim, his core temperature started to drop rapidly. By the time he left the water a few minutes later it had plunged to a dangerous 33.6 °C. "If he swam for another 2 or 3 minutes his temperature would have dropped much further and he would have probably lost consciousness," Noakes says.. source

Should we clone a Neanderthal?

Here's an article from NY Times blog and my answer to it. Enjoy! And if you want, tell me what you think.

Why Not Bring a Neanderthal to Life?

By John Tierney

Now that the Neanderthal genome has been reconstructed, my colleague Nicholas Wade reports, a leading genome researcher at Harvard says that a Neanderthal could be brought to life with present technology for about $30 million.

So why not do it?

I’m bracing for a long list of objections from the world’s self-appointed keepers of bioethics, who must see this new Neanderthal issue as a research bonanza. I can imagine an anti-Neanderthal alliance between the religious right and the religious left.

But I’m afraid I can’t see the problem. If we discovered a small band of Neanderthals hidden somewhere, we’d do everything to keep them alive, just as we try to keep alive so many other endangered populations of humans and animals — including man-biting mosquitoes and man-eating polar bears. We’ve also spent lots of money reintroducing animals into ecosystems from which they had vanished. Shouldn’t be at least as solicitous to our fellow hominids?

What do you think? Should we try to resurrect a Neanderthal? And if so, what kind of precautions should we take, and what kind of lives should we help them lead? Let’s assume we’d do our best to treat them well. How much would they enjoy living today? How much would we learn from one another? source

I agree Neanderthals must be resurrected. But before that, we must decide what we want to do with them. Imagine everything works out and we have alive and healthy baby. How would you raise him/her? Merely watching the thing grows? That would be cruel and absolutely uninformative. Why? Because Homo Sapiens are a product of their society. We learn so much from our parents and our school and our friends and so on. Would you raise a human baby without contact with the outside world? Without information for its brain? I doubt so. And even if you do it, that won’t tell you ANYTHING about its potential and true capabilities-they will manifest only if information is provided in appropriate for its age way.

That’s why I think we first should decide what do we want from that baby. Do we want to see how it grows in its natural environment- that could be hard-we don’t know precisely what its environment was and we cannot simulate its family.

The other way is simple-raise it as you would raise a human baby in controlled environment. Let it have tutors, teachers, even parents, if possible. Make it a person and then compare with a modern person. That’s the correct experiment for me. Since we cannot recreate the past (because we don’t know it very well), it’s best to recreate the present and see what will happen. The creature would either have difficulties understanding and would act as either a monkey or retarded (nothing unexpected and clearly we wouldn’t then rob it from its life) or the creature will become a walking talking person. In which case, we must be prepared to accept him/her as a person and admit all the human rights s/he deserves.

And I think that would make a lovely experiment!

After the good news on Iran women (although strictly speaking today Obama proved to be bad news for Iran), let's proceed with some Arab nonsense-something sent to me by Vassil:

"A Saudi Arabian Court Has Sentenced a 75-Year-Old Syrian Woman to 40 Lashes, Four Months Imprisonment and Deportation ... for Having Two Unrelated Men in Her House, according to local media reports," reports CNN.

One of the men (age 24) stated that "he had the right to be there, because Sawadi had breast-fed him as a baby and was therefore considered to be a son to her in Islam, according to Al-Watan," and "that his friend [also age 24] was escorting him as he delivered bread for the elderly woman." One man "was sentenced to four months in prison and 40 lashes" and the other "to six months in prison and 60 lashes." The Telegraph (UK) reports that one of the men, the one who had been breastfed, "was Mrs Sawadi's late husband's nephew." source

So, maybe this is old news, but as I was quite busy recently, it's fresh for me and I simply couldn't not comment it. Especially after reading the comments in Volokh (the source site). And I won't even talk about the idiotic religious laws, that's obvious and it will eventually pass. But Saudis are the biggest allies of USA in the region. Sometimes, they act almost like a family of USA and mr. Bush even danced with the princes! Well, is it just me that sees something extremely wrong that the "biggest democracy on world" is best buddies with a country which considers normal to sentence a 75 years old woman to 40 lashes?! And not only this-one lady in Volokh had the face to say that the old woman was to blame, because this isn't her first crime and she knew what to expect. Isn't this the most disgusting statment ever? Coming from a woman, in a warm US house, hiding behind all the laws against sexual harssment, to say that THE OLD LADY WAS TO BLAME?! Well, for me, this is utterly wrong. As someone pointed out, even if she knew what she's bringing on her and even if she did it on purpose, that cannot prevent us from being sympatethic with her. In the least.

Of course I don't think USA could do anything about that woman in reality. But at least some diplomatic actions should have taken place. At least some humanitary organisations should have organised protests. But no. It's all ok, because it's so far, they have another culture, they are different people, they can put under the leash everyone they feel like. Well, sorry, I disagree. Yes, we have to respect other people traditions, but only to the point they are not violent! But then, it's easier to fight on human freedoms our enemies and not our allies, right?

And to be precise, I hate what arab women have to endure. It's horrible and I don't think it's their choice, but then, they have to make that change alone. We can help, but we cannot force them into something they are not ready for. But still, to sentence a 75 years old woman, because the neighbours called to the police-this is simply not right. And I don't think we should wait 200 years for Islam to catch up with Christianity in order to see that change happen.

Emancipation in Iran

It's fun to write for Iran just after I wrote for Bulgaria, but I never hid my feelings for Iran. And especially for women in Iran. Read this article and well, cry with me. I'm so proud of them. Because they deserve it! Iran was never a 3d world country and should never be such. And the only way to change that stupid theocracy is to to have enough educated people to do it. And note the 60% women in universities. Just like home. Isn't it nice!

I can't wait to start reading the book on Iran I bought.

Starting at Home, Iran’s Women Fight for Rights

February 12, 2009

TEHRAN — In a year of marriage, Razieh Qassemi, 19, says she was beaten repeatedly by her husband and his father. Her husband, she says, is addicted to methamphetamine and has threatened to marry another woman to “torture” her.

Rather than endure the abuse, Ms. Qassemi took a step that might never have occurred to an earlier generation of Iranian women: she filed for divorce.

Women’s rights advocates say Iranian women are displaying a growing determination to achieve equal status in this conservative Muslim theocracy, where male supremacy is still enscribed in the legal code. One in five marriages now end in divorce, according to government data, a fourfold increase in the past 15 years.

And it is not just women from the wealthy, Westernized elites. The family court building in Vanak Square here is filled with women, like Ms. Qassemi, who are not privileged. Women from lower classes and even the religious are among those marching up and down the stairs to fight for divorces and custody of their children.

Increasing educational levels and the information revolution have contributed to creating a generation of women determined to gain more control over their lives, rights advocates say.

Confronted with new cultural and legal restrictions after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, some young women turned to higher education as a way to get away from home, postpone marriage and earn social respect, advocates say. Religious women, who had refused to sit in classes with men, returned to universities after they were resegregated.

Today, more than 60 percent of university students are women, compared with just over 30 percent in 1982, even though classes are no longer segregated.

Even for those women for whom college is not an option, the Internet and satellite television have opened windows into the lives of women in the West. “Satellite has shown an alternative way of being,” said Syma Sayah, a feminist involved in social work in Tehran. “Women see that it is possible to be treated equally with men.”

Another sign of changing attitudes is the increasing popularity of books, movies and documentaries that explore sex discrimination, rights advocates say.

Even men are taking up women’s issues and are critical of traditional marriage arrangements. Mehrdad Oskouei, another filmmaker, has won more than a dozen international awards for “The Other Side of Burka,” a documentary about women on the impoverished and traditional southern island of Qeshm who are committing suicide in increasing numbers because they have no other way out of their marriages.

Janet Afary, a professor of Middle East and women’s studies at Purdue University and the author of “Sexual Politics in Modern Iran,” says the country is moving inexorably toward a “sexual revolution.”

“The laws have denied women many basic rights in marriage and divorce,” she wrote in the book. “But they have also contributed to numerous state initiatives promoting literacy, health and infrastructural improvements that benefited the urban and rural poor.”

To separate the sexes, the state built schools and universities expressly for women, and improved basic transportation, enabling poor women to travel more easily to big cities, where they were exposed to more modern ideas.

Ms. Afary says that mandatory premarital programs to teach about sex and birth control, instituted in 1993 to control population growth, helped women delay pregnancy and changed their views toward marriage. By the late 1990s, she says, young people were looking for psychological and social compatibility and mutual intimacy in marriage.

Despite the gains they have made, women still face extraordinary obstacles. Girls can legally be forced into marriage at the age of 13. Men have the right to divorce their wives whenever they wish, and are granted custody of any children over the age of 7. Men can ban their wives from working outside the home, and can engage in polygamy.

By law, women may inherit from their parents only half the shares of their brothers. Their court testimony is worth half that of a man. Although the state has taken steps to discourage stoning, it remains in the penal code as the punishment for women who commit adultery. A woman who refuses to cover her hair faces jail and up to 80 lashes.

Women also face fierce resistance when they organize to change the law. The Campaign for One Million Signatures was founded in 2005, inspired by a movement in Morocco that led to a loosening of misogynist laws. The idea was to collect one million signatures for a petition calling on authorities to give women more equal footing in the laws on marriage, divorce, adultery and polygamy.

But Iran’s government has come down hard on the group, charging many of its founders with trying to overthrow it; 47 members have been jailed so far, including 3 who were arrested late last month. Many still face charges, and six members are forbidden to leave the country. One member, Alieh Eghdamdoust, began a three-year jail sentence last month for participating in a women’s demonstration in 2006. The group’s Web site, www.we-change.org, has been blocked by the authorities 18 times.

Women’s advocates say that the differences between religious and secular women have narrowed and that both now chafe at the legal discrimination against women. Zahra Eshraghi, for example, the granddaughter of the revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, signed the One Million Signatures petition.

“Many of these religious women changed throughout the years,” said Ms. Sayah, the feminist in Tehran. “They became educated, they traveled abroad and attended conferences on women’s rights, and they learned.”

Because of the government’s campaign of suppression, the process of collecting signatures has slowed recently, and many women do not want to be seen in the presence of a campaigner, let alone sign a petition. Most feminist groups limit their canvassing now to the Internet.

But while the million signatures campaign may have stalled, women have scored some notable successes. A group that calls itself Meydaan has earned international recognition for pressing the government to stop stonings.

The group’s reporting on executions by stoning in 2002 on its Web site, www.meydaan.net — including a video of the execution of a prostitute — embarrassed the government and led the head of the judiciary to issue a motion urging judges to refrain from ordering stonings. (The stonings have continued anyway, but at a lower rate, because only Parliament has the power to ban them.) source

Happy National Holiday!

A little belated post, but I was quite busy lately.

So, 03.03 is the National Holiday of Bulgaria, the Day of Freedom, and I want to celebrate it here, as well as live. I guess this holiday means little for non-Bulgarian readers, but it's not precisely so. On this day we celebrate the victory of Bulgaria and Russia over the Ottoman Empire. This was the final blow to the Ottoman Empire and although it transformed in today's Turkey, it was never back to the old glory. This marked the end of the Ottoman Threat to Europe. And even though Britain fought on the side of the Ottomans, that threat was very real and can be found in history textbook all over Europe. Did you know that Finish warriors fought on our side in this war? I didn't know until few days ago. That is so unbelievable! That a country so distant from our own would come to help us in this significant moment. Finland, as well as many other countries. Even Bulgarians in today's Tatarstan gathered money to help us. Not to mention the uncountable Russian soldiers who fought and died for our freedom. No matter of the big picture political goal, they did it for their brothers and sisters Bulgarian. And although we don't share too much genetics with them, even only this act connects our two people.

On this day, the glorious contract of San Stefano was signed, marking the end of the war and the emerging of Bulgaria, after 500 years of slavery.

Now, I know that people don't like the term "slavery", but if a person doesn't have any right over his/her life, that's what s/he is- a slave. Sure, some people lived quite well under the Ottomans, but there are always people who benefit from certain regime. That doesn't make the regime good. Ottomans did so many atrocities in Bulgaria, they turned back our country from the Early Renaissance we were in, when they conquered us, to the Middle Ages. They kept our people in constant fear and made many people to abandon their faith in a desperate attempt to make them abandon their nationality. The biggest irony is that they didn't succeed back them, because even the muslim Bulgarians still felt Bulgarian. Not the case any more.

Anyway, I don't want to get political. I'm just grateful that this day ever came. That Bulgaria was re-born once more. Sure, we have this ability to attract oppressive regimes, but Bulgarian means survivor and we always survive. That's the most important.

Happy Holiday, everyone!

Chestita Baba Marta!

Happy Baba Marta!
A wonderful Bulgarian holiday, symbol of the new beginning and the hope of a better life. I wish to all of you to be alive, healthy, happy and in love. This martenica is for you!
http://martinez.ru/file/ccda2e3b/mart1_2.jpg

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