Friday, October 3, 2014

Full text of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's UN speech

The following is the text of the speech that Prime Minister Netanyahu gave to the UN on September 29 2014.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a photo of an alleged Hamas rocket as he addresses the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly on Sep 29, 2014 in New York.

[Transcription] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at the United Nations General Assembly September 29, 2014 Thank you, Mr. President, Distinguished delegates, I come here from Jerusalem to speak on behalf of my people, the people of Israel. I've come here to speak about the dangers we face and about the opportunities we see. I've come here to expose the brazen lies spoken from this very podium against my country and against the brave soldiers who defend it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The people of Israel pray for peace.

But our hopes and the world's hope for peace are in danger. Because everywhere we look, militant Islam is on the march.

It's not militants. It's not Islam. It's militant Islam. Typically, its first victims are other Muslims, but it spares no one. Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Kurds – no creed, no faith, no ethnic group is beyond its sights. And it's rapidly spreading in every part of the world. You know the famous American saying: "All politics is local"? For the militant Islamists, "All politics is global." Because their ultimate goal is to dominate the world.

Now, that threat might seem exaggerated to some, since it starts out small, like a cancer that attacks a particular part of the body. But left unchecked, the cancer grows, metastasizing over wider and wider areas. To protect the peace and security of the world, we must remove this cancer before it's too late. Last week, many of the countries represented here rightly applauded President Obama for leading the effort to confront ISIS. And yet weeks before, some of these same countries, the same countries that now support confronting ISIS, opposed Israel for confronting Hamas. They evidently don’t understand that ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.

ISIS and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control.

Listen to ISIS’s self-declared caliph,Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. This is what he said two months ago: A day will soon come when the Muslim will walk everywhere as a master… The Muslims will cause the world to hear and understand the meaning of terrorism… and destroy the idol of democracy. Now listen to Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas. He proclaims a similar vision of the future: We say this to the West… By Allah you will be defeated. Tomorrow our nation will sit on the throne of the world.

As Hamas's charter makes clear, Hamas’s immediate goal is to destroy Israel. But Hamas has a broader objective. They also want a caliphate. Hamas shares the global ambitions of its fellow militant Islamists. That’s why its supporters wildly cheered in the streets of Gaza as thousands of Americans were murdered on 9/11. And that's why its leaders condemned the United States for killing Osama Bin Laden, whom they praised as a holy warrior.

So when it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas.

And what they share in common, all militant Islamists share in common: • Boko Haram in Nigeria; • Ash-Shabab in Somalia; • Hezbollah in Lebanon; • An-Nusrah in Syria; • The Mahdi Army in Iraq; • And the Al-Qaeda branches in Yemen, Libya, the Philippines, India and elsewhere.

Some are radical Sunnis, some are radical Shi'ites. Some want to restore a pre-medieval caliphate from the 7th century. Others want to trigger the apocalyptic return of an imam from the 9th century. They operate in different lands, they target different victims and they even kill each other in their quest for supremacy. But they all share a fanatic ideology. They all seek to create ever expanding enclaves of militant Islam where there is no freedom and no tolerance – Where women are treated as chattel, Christians are decimated, and minorities are subjugated, sometimes given the stark choice: convert or die. For them, anyone can be an infidel, including fellow Muslims.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Militant Islam's ambition to dominate the world seems mad. But so too did the global ambitions of another fanatic ideology that swept to power eight decades ago.

The Nazis believed in a master race. The militant Islamists believe in a master faith. They just disagree about who among them will be the master… of the master faith. That’s what they truly disagree about. Therefore, the question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize its unbridled ambitions.

There is one place where that could soon happen: The Islamic State of Iran. For 35 years, Iran has relentlessly pursued the global mission which was set forth by its founding ruler, Ayatollah Khomeini, in these words: We will export our revolution to the entire world.

Until the cry "There is no God but Allah" will echo throughout the world over… And ever since, the regime’s brutal enforcers, Iran's Revolutionary Guards, have done exactly that.

Listen to its current commander, General Muhammad Ali Ja'afari. And he clearly stated this goal. He said: Our Imam did not limit the Islamic Revolution to this country… Our duty is to prepare the way for an Islamic world government… Iran's President Rouhani stood here last week, and shed crocodile tears over what he called "the globalization of terrorism." Maybe he should spare us those phony tears and have a word instead with the commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. He could ask them to call off Iran's global terror campaign, which has included attacks in two dozen countries on five continents since 2011 alone. To say that Iran doesn't practice terrorism is like saying Derek Jeter never played shortstop for the New York Yankees.

This bemoaning of the Iranian president of the spread of terrorism has got to be one of history’s greatest displays of doubletalk.

Now, Some still argue that Iran's global terror campaign, its subversion of countries throughout the Middle East and well beyond the Middle East, some argue that this is the work of the extremists. They say things are changing. They point to last year's elections in Iran. They claim that Iran’s smooth talking President and Foreign Minister, they’ve changed not only the tone of Iran's foreign policy but also its substance. They believe Rouhani and Zarif genuinely want to reconcile with the West, that they’ve abandoned the global mission of the Islamic Revolution.

Really? So let's look at what Foreign Minister Zarif wrote in his book just a few years ago: We have a fundamental problem with the West, and especially with America. This is because we are heirs to a global mission, which is tied to our raison d'etre… A global mission which is tied to our very reason of being.

And then Zarif asks a question, I think an interesting one. He says: How come Malaysia [he’s referring to an overwhelmingly Muslim country] – how come Malaysia doesn't have similar problems? And he answers: Because Malaysia is not trying to change the international order.

That's your moderate. So don’t be fooled by Iran’s manipulative charm offensive. It’s designed for one purpose, and for one purpose only: To lift the sanctions and remove the obstacles to Iran's path to the bomb. The Islamic Republic is now trying to bamboozle its way to an agreement that will remove the sanctions it still faces, and leave it with the capacity of thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium. This would effectively cement Iran's place as a threshold military nuclear power. In the future, at a time of its choosing, Iran, the world’s most dangerous state in the world's most dangerous region, would obtain the world’s most dangerous weapons.

Allowing that to happen would pose the gravest threat to us all. It’s one thing to confront militant Islamists on pick-up trucks, armed with Kalashnikov rifles. It’s another thing to confront militant Islamists armed with weapons of mass destruction. I remember that last year, everyone here was rightly concerned about the chemical weapons in Syria, including the possibility that they would fall into the hands of terrorists. That didn't happen. And President Obama deserves great credit for leading the diplomatic effort to dismantle virtually all of Syria's chemical weapons capability. Imagine how much more dangerous the Islamic State, ISIS, would be if it possessed chemical weapons. Now imagine how much more dangerous the Islamic state of Iran would be if it possessed nuclear weapons. Ladies and Gentlemen, Would you let ISIS enrich uranium? Would you let ISIS build a heavy water reactor? Would you let ISIS develop intercontinental ballistic missiles? Of course you wouldn’t. Then you mustn't let the Islamic State of Iran do those things either.

Because here’s what will happen: Once Iran produces atomic bombs, all the charm and all the smiles will suddenly disappear. They’ll just vanish. It's then that the ayatollahs will show their true face and unleash their aggressive fanaticism on the entire world. There is only one responsible course of action to address this threat: Iran's nuclear military capabilities must be fully dismantled. Make no mistake – ISIS must be defeated. But to defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.

To defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The fight against militant Islam is indivisible. When militant Islam succeeds anywhere, it’s emboldened everywhere. When it suffers a blow in one place, it's set back in every place. That’s why Israel’s fight against Hamas is not just our fight. It’s your fight. Israel is fighting a fanaticism today that your countries may be forced to fight tomorrow.

For 50 days this past summer, Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel, many of them supplied by Iran. I want you to think about what your countries would do if thousands of rockets were fired at your cities. Imagine millions of your citizens having seconds at most to scramble to bomb shelters, day after day. You wouldn't let terrorists fire rockets at your cities with impunity. Nor would you let terrorists dig dozens of terror tunnels under your borders to infiltrate your towns in order to murder and kidnap your citizens. Israel justly defended itself against both rocket attacks and terror tunnels. Yet Israel also faced another challenge. We faced a propaganda war. Because, in an attempt to win the world’s sympathy, Hamas cynically used Palestinian civilians as human shields. It used schools, not just schools - UN schools, private homes, mosques, even hospitals to store and fire rockets at Israel.

As Israel surgically struck at the rocket launchers and at the tunnels, Palestinian civilians were tragically but unintentionally killed. There are heartrending images that resulted, and these fueled libelous charges that Israel was deliberately targeting civilians.

We were not. We deeply regret every single civilian casualty. And the truth is this: Israel was doing everything to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas was doing everything to maximize Israeli civilian casualties and Palestinian civilian casualties. Israel dropped flyers, made phone calls, sent text messages, broadcast warnings in Arabic on Palestinian television, always to enable Palestinian civilians to evacuate targeted areas.

No other country and no other army in history have gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemies. This concern for Palestinian life was all the more remarkable, given that Israeli civilians were being bombarded by rockets day after day, night after night. As their families were being rocketed by Hamas, Israel's citizen army – the brave soldiers of the IDF, our young boys and girls – they upheld the highest moral values of any army in the world. Israel's soldiers deserve not condemnation, but admiration. Admiration from decent people everywhere.

Now here’s what Hamas did: Hamas embedded its missile batteries in residential areas and told Palestinians to ignore Israel’s warnings to leave. And just in case people didn’t get the message, they executed Palestinian civilians in Gaza who dared to protest.

No less reprehensible, Hamas deliberately placed its rockets where Palestinian children live and play. Let me show you a photograph. It was taken by a France 24 crew during the recent conflict. It shows two Hamas rocket launchers, which were used to attack us. You see three children playing next to them. Hamas deliberately put its rockets in hundreds of residential areas like this. Hundreds of them.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a war crime. And I say to President Abbas, these are the war crimes committed by your Hamas partners in the national unity government which you head and you are responsible for. And these are the real war crimes you should have investigated, or spoken out against from this podium last week.

Ladies and Gentlemen, As Israeli children huddled in bomb shelters and Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system knocked Hamas rockets out of the sky, the profound moral difference between Israel and Hamas couldn’t have been clearer: Israel was using its missiles to protect its children. Hamas was using its children to protect its missiles.

By investigating Israel rather than Hamas for war crimes, the UN Human Rights Council has betrayed its noble mission to protect the innocent. In fact, what it’s doing is to turn the laws of war upside-down. Israel, which took unprecedented steps to minimize civilian casualties, Israel is condemned. Hamas, which both targeted and hid behind civilians – that a double war crime - Hamas is given a pass.

The Human Rights Council is thus sending a clear message to terrorists everywhere: Use civilians as human shields. Use them again and again and again. You know why? Because sadly, it works.

By granting international legitimacy to the use of human shields, the UN’s Human Rights Council has thus become a Terrorist Rights Council, and it will have repercussions. It probably already has, about the use of civilians as human shields.

It’s not just our interest. It’s not just our values that are under attack. It’s your interests and your values.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We live in a world steeped in tyranny and terror, where gays are hanged from cranes in Tehran, political prisoners are executed in Gaza, young girls are abducted en masse in Nigeria and hundreds of thousands are butchered in Syria, Libya and Iraq. Yet nearly half, nearly half of the UN Human Rights Council's resolutions focusing on a single country have been directed against Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East – Israel. where issues are openly debated in a boisterous parliament, where human rights are protected by independent courts and where women, gays and minorities live in a genuinely free society.

The Human Rights… (that’s an oxymoron, the UN Human Rights Council, but I’ll use it just the same), the Council’s biased treatment of Israel is only one manifestation of the return of the world’s oldest prejudices. We hear mobs today in Europe call for the gassing of Jews. We hear some national leaders compare Israel to the Nazis. This is not a function of Israel’s policies. It's a function of diseased minds. And that disease has a name. It’s called anti-Semitism.

It is now spreading in polite society, where it masquerades as legitimate criticism of Israel. For centuries the Jewish people have been demonized with blood libels and charges of deicide. Today, the Jewish state is demonized with the apartheid libel and charges of genocide. Genocide? In what moral universe does genocide include warning the enemy's civilian population to get out of harm's way? Or ensuring that they receive tons, tons of humanitarian aid each day, even as thousands of rockets are being fired at us? Or setting up a field hospital to aid for their wounded? Well, I suppose it's the same moral universe where a man who wrote a dissertation of lies about the Holocaust, and who insists on a Palestine free of Jews, Judenrein, can stand at this podium and shamelessly accuse Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

In the past, outrageous lies against the Jews were the precursors to the wholesale slaughter of our people.

But no more.

Today we, the Jewish people, have the power to defend ourselves. We will defend ourselves against our enemies on the battlefield. We will expose their lies against us in the court of public opinion. Israel will continue to stand proud and unbowed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Despite the enormous challenges facing Israel, I believe we have an historic opportunity.

After decades of seeing Israel as their enemy, leading states in the Arab world increasingly recognize that together we and they face many of the same dangers: principally this means a nuclear-armed Iran and militant Islamist movements gaining ground in the Sunni world.

Our challenge is to transform these common interests to create a productive partnership. One that would build a more secure, peaceful and prosperous Middle East.

Together we can strengthen regional security. We can advance projects in water, agriculture, in transportation, in health, in energy, in so many fields.

I believe the partnership between us can also help facilitate peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Many have long assumed that an Israeli-Palestinian peace can help facilitate a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab World. But these days I think it may work the other way around: Namely that a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world may help facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

And therefore, to achieve that peace, we must look not only to Jerusalem and Ramallah, but also to Cairo, to Amman, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and elsewhere. I believe peace can be realized with the active involvement of Arab countries, those that are willing to provide political, material and other indispensable support. I’m ready to make a historic compromise, not because Israel is occupying a foreign land. The people of Israel are not occupiers in the Land of Israel. History, archeology and common sense all make clear that we have had a singular attachment to this land for over 3,000 years.

I want peace because I want to create a better future for my people. But it must be a genuine peace, one that is anchored in mutual recognition and enduring security arrangements, rock solid security arrangements on the ground. Because you see, Israel's withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza created two militant Islamic enclaves on our borders from which tens of thousands of rockets have been fired at Israel.

These sobering experiences heighten Israel's security concerns regarding potential territorial concessions in the future. Those security concerns are even greater today. Just look around you.

The Middle East is in chaos. States are disintegrating. Militant Islamists are filling the void.

Israel cannot have territories from which it withdraws taken over by Islamic militants yet again, as happened in Gaza and Lebanon. That would place the likes of ISIS within mortar range – a few miles – of 80% of our population.

Think about that. The distance between the 1967 lines and the suburbs of Tel Aviv is like the distance between the UN building here and Times Square. Israel’s a tiny country. That’s why in any peace agreement, which will obviously necessitate a territorial compromise, I will always insist that Israel be able to defend itself by itself against any threat. Yet despite all that has happened, some still don't take Israel’s security concerns seriously. But I do, and I always will. Because, as Prime Minister of Israel, I am entrusted with the awesome responsibility of ensuring the future of the Jewish people and the future of the Jewish state.

And no matter what pressure is brought to bear, I will never waver in fulfilling that responsibility.

I believe that with a fresh approach from our neighbors, we can advance peace despite the difficulties we face.

In Israel, we have a record of making the impossible possible. We’ve made a desolate land flourish. And with very few natural resources, we have used the fertile minds of our people to turn Israel into a global center of technology and innovation.

Peace, of course, would enable Israel to realize its full potential and to bring a promising future not only for our people, not only for the Palestinian people, but for many, many others in our region.

But the old template for peace must be updated. It must take into account new realities and new roles and responsibilities for our Arab neighbors. Ladies and Gentlemen, There is a new Middle East. It presents new dangers, but also new opportunities. Israel is prepared to work with Arab partners and the international community to confront those dangers and to seize those opportunities. Together we must recognize the global threat of militant Islam, the primacy of dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons capability and the indispensable role of Arab states in advancing peace with the Palestinians.

All this may fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but it’s the truth. And the truth must always be spoken, especially here, in the United Nations.

Isaiah, our great prophet of peace, taught us nearly 3,000 years ago in Jerusalem to speak truth to power. לְמַעַן צִיּוֹן לֹא אֶחֱשֶׁה וּלְמַעַן יְרוּשָׁלִַם לֹא אֶשְׁקוֹט עַד-יֵצֵא כַּנֹּגַהּ צִדְקָהּ וִישׁוּעָתָהּ כְּלַפִּיד יִבְעָר.

For the sake of Zion, I will not be silent.

For the sake of Jerusalem, I will not be still.

Until her justice shines bright, And her salvation glows like a flaming torch.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Let's light a torch of truth and justice to safeguard our common future.

Thank you.

This post was shared from jpost

Sunday, January 5, 2014


Non-pneumatic tires (NPT), or Airless tires, are tires that are not supported by air pressure. They are used on some small vehicles such as riding lawn mowers and motorized golf carts. They are also used on heavy equipment such as backhoes, which are required to operate on sites such as building demolition, where tire punctures are likely. Tires composed of closed-cell polyurethane foam are also made for bicycles and wheelchairs. The main advantage of airless tires is that they cannot go flat, but they are far less common than air filled tires.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Secret Behind Iraq’s Scientific Resurgence

0Ten years ago, the Iraqi scientific establishment was in trouble. Political and military convulsions following the American invasion made it difficult to maintain routinized studies critical for robust research. Iraqi scientists were unable to engage with their peers, and the annual national output of peer-reviewed publications dipped into the double digits. Mesopotamia, a region so integral to the rise of human culture, was essentially sidelined from modern science.

Today, there is a sense of renewed progress. Systematic structural challenges remain, to be sure (unplanned power outages can interrupt code or ruin biological samples, for example), but the momentum is tangible – publications have more than tripled in the intervening decade, with no sign of letting up.

Several stabilizing factors have converged to account for this progress, not least of which is the decline in violent conflict and the semblance of political continuity. But another key factor – one that is easy to overlook – is the availability of scientific literature to local practitioners. Thanks to the Iraq Virtual Science Library (IVSL), academic research – those peer-reviewed reports generally encaged by steep paywalls – is now widely accessible.

The growing movement toward open access in the United States and other developed countries is predicated largely on issues of fairness, taxpayer return, and the productive synergies of shared information. But initiatives like the IVSL reveal another role for open access – as a tool for economic and technical development.

Access to information isn’t a silver bullet, but it is a foundational pre-requisite for scientists to join the global community of researchers and tap into a common marketplace of ideas that can be tailored to fit local needs.

The IVSL was developed in 2006 through an intricate collaboration between the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of State, and the National Academies of Science; the science diplomacy organization CRDF Global managed the effort, handling logistical and technical hurdles.

CRDF Global got its start in the 1990s, working to transition scientists and engineers who developed the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal toward less threatening activities. With more than 100,000 weapons experts suddenly out of work after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. government – through organizations like CRDF Global – sought ways to redirect the human capital into entrepreneurial initiatives or collaborations with American scientists.

Since then, CRDF Global has expanded its remit, and today, the organization works with countries across a wide range of technical heritage and diplomatic accessibility. The IVSL represents a particularly promising project from this new phase of engagement: Iraqi scientists may not have been quite as technically imposing as those from the former Soviet Union, but their isolation from the global scientific community was similarly stunting. “In places that emerged from the Soviet system,” recalls CRDF Global President and CEO Cathy Campbell, “there was an attitude that, they had great scientific journals and if they just published there, that was enough. Working with those countries to expand their access to the global literature really opens their eyes and stresses the fact that it’s not enough to just publish in your national journal.”

Another carryover from the organization’s original mission is the aim of preventing brain drain. In the mid-‘90s, Campbell says, “we wanted to make sure that the talented scientists and engineers remained in their countries and weren’t temped to sell their knowledge and expertise to the highest bidder. Today, in places like Iraq, we know that science and engineering are very important for economic growth, and we want to create the conditions that keep that knowledge there.”

It’s difficult to quantitatively assess that non-action – the decision of a talented scientist to not leave – but Campbell believes other metrics point to a successful program. More than 80,000 students and faculty have access to top journals, and downloads have reached 65,000 articles per month.

Perhaps most importantly, the program was fully transferred to Iraqi management in 2010, paving the way for the country’s scientists to recapture their rightful role in global science.

Method of recording brain activity could lead to mind-reading devices, Stanford scientists say

Using a novel method, the researchers collected the first solid evidence that the pattern of brain activity seen in someone performing a mathematical exercise under experimentally controlled conditions is very similar to that observed when the person engages in quantitative thought in the course of daily life.

“We’re now able to eavesdrop on the brain in real life,” said Josef Parvizi, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences and director of Stanford’s Human Intracranial Cognitive Electrophysiology Program. Parvizi is the senior author of the study, to be published Oct. 15 in Nature Communications. The study’s lead authors are postdoctoral scholar Mohammad Dastjerdi, MD, PhD, and graduate student Muge Ozker.

The finding could lead to “mind-reading” applications that, for example, would allow a patient who is rendered mute by a stroke to communicate via passive thinking. Conceivably, it could also lead to more dystopian outcomes: chip implants that spy on or even control people’s thoughts.

“This is exciting, and a little scary,” said Henry Greely, JD, the Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law and steering committee chair of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, who played no role in the study but is familiar with its contents and described himself as “very impressed” by the findings. “It demonstrates, first, that we can see when someone’s dealing with numbers and, second, that we may conceivably someday be able to manipulate the brain to affect how someone deals with numbers.”

The researchers monitored electrical activity in a region of the brain called the intraparietal sulcus, known to be important in attention and eye and hand motion. Previous studies have hinted that some nerve-cell clusters in this area are also involved in numerosity, the mathematical equivalent of literacy.

However, the techniques that previous studies have used, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, are limited in their ability to study brain activity in real-life settings and to pinpoint the precise timing of nerve cells’ firing patterns. These studies have focused on testing just one specific function in one specific brain region, and have tried to eliminate or otherwise account for every possible confounding factor. In addition, the experimental subjects would have to lie more or less motionless inside a dark, tubular chamber whose silence would be punctuated by constant, loud, mechanical, banging noises while images flashed on a computer screen.

“This is not real life,” said Parvizi. “You’re not in your room, having a cup of tea and experiencing life’s events spontaneously.” A profoundly important question, he said, is: “How does a population of nerve cells that has been shown experimentally to be important in a particular function work in real life?”

His team’s method, called intracranial recording, provided exquisite anatomical and temporal precision and allowed the scientists to monitor brain activity when people were immersed in real-life situations. Parvizi and his associates tapped into the brains of three volunteers who were being evaluated for possible surgical treatment of their recurring, drug-resistant epileptic seizures.

The procedure involves temporarily removing a portion of a patient’s skull and positioning packets of electrodes against the exposed brain surface. For up to a week, patients remain hooked up to the monitoring apparatus while the electrodes pick up electrical activity within the brain. This monitoring continues uninterrupted for patients’ entire hospital stay, capturing their inevitable repeated seizures and enabling neurologists to determine the exact spot in each patient’s brain where the seizures are originating.

During this whole time, patients remain tethered to the monitoring apparatus and mostly confined to their beds. But otherwise, except for the typical intrusions of a hospital setting, they are comfortable, free of pain and free to eat, drink, think, talk to friends and family in person or on the phone, or watch videos.

The electrodes implanted in patients’ heads are like wiretaps, each eavesdropping on a population of several hundred thousand nerve cells and reporting back to a computer.

In the study, participants’ actions were also monitored by video cameras throughout their stay. This allowed the researchers later to correlate patients’ voluntary activities in a real-life setting with nerve-cell behavior in the monitored brain region.

As part of the study, volunteers answered true/false questions that popped up on a laptop screen, one after another. Some questions required calculation — for instance, is it true or false that 2 + 4 = 5? — while others demanded what scientists call episodic memory — true or false: I had coffee at breakfast this morning. In other instances, patients were simply asked to stare at the crosshairs at the center of an otherwise blank screen to capture the brain’s so-called “resting state.”

Consistent with other studies, Parvizi’s team found that electrical activity in a particular group of nerve cells in the intraparietal sulcus spiked when, and only when, volunteers were performing calculations.

Afterward, Parvizi and his colleagues analyzed each volunteer’s daily electrode record, identified many spikes in intraparietal-sulcus activity that occurred outside experimental settings, and turned to the recorded video footage to see exactly what the volunteer had been doing when such spikes occurred.

They found that when a patient mentioned a number — or even a quantitative reference, such as “some more,” “many” or “bigger than the other one” — there was a spike of electrical activity in the same nerve-cell population of the intraparietal sulcus that was activated when the patient was doing calculations under experimental conditions.

That was an unexpected finding. “We found that this region is activated not only when reading numbers or thinking about them, but also when patients were referring more obliquely to quantities,” said Parvizi.

“These nerve cells are not firing chaotically,” he said. “They’re very specialized, active only when the subject starts thinking about numbers. When the subject is reminiscing, laughing or talking, they’re not activated.” Thus, it was possible to know, simply by consulting the electronic record of participants’ brain activity, whether they were engaged in quantitative thought during nonexperimental conditions.

Any fears of impending mind control are, at a minimum, premature, said Greely. “Practically speaking, it’s not the simplest thing in the world to go around implanting electrodes in people’s brains. It will not be done tomorrow, or easily, or surreptitiously.”

Parvizi agreed. “We’re still in early days with this,” he said. “If this is a baseball game, we’re not even in the first inning. We just got a ticket to enter the stadium.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Existence of new element, 115, confirmed

An international team of researchers, led by physicists from Lund University, have confirmed the existence of what is considered a new element with atomic number 115. The experiment was conducted at the GSI research facility in Germany. The results confirm earlier measurements performed by research groups in Russia.

“This was a very successful experiment and is one of the most important in the field in recent years”, said Dirk Rudolph, Professor at the Division of Atomic Physics at Lund University.

Besides the observations of the new chemical element, the researchers have also gained access to data that gives them a deeper insight into the structure and properties of super-heavy atomic nuclei.

By bombarding a thin film of americium with calcium ions, the research team was able to measure photons in connection with the new element’s alpha decay. Certain energies of the photons agreed with the expected energies for X-ray radiation, which is a ‘fingerprint’ of a given element.

The new super-heavy element has yet to be named. A committee comprising members of the international unions of pure and applied physics and chemistry will review the new findings to decide whether to recommend further experiments before the discovery of the new element is acknowledged.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Try clapping your wet hands; a physics lesson from engineers

Sunny Jung continues to redefine the views on the laws of physics, and in doing so, impacts the research on topics as varied as drug delivery methods to fuel efficiency.

In a paper appearing this month in Physical Review E, Young and five colleagues reported on the dynamics of squeezing fluids using a simple experiment of clapping with wet hands. As an engineer, Jung described “this outburst of fluid motion” as the unusual physical phenomena.

Earlier in his career, Jung, an assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics at Virginia Tech, made headlines in the New York Times for his study with peers from MIT and Princeton on how a cat exploits fluid inertia to defeat gravity and actually pulls liquid into the feline’s mouth. The implications of this research can be used in understanding more about the technology of microfluidics, the behavior of fluids at the microscale level, including pharmaceutical drug deliveries into the fluids in the human body.

In a different study involving liquids, Jung showed how certain identical flows of fluids, normally thought to coalesce to form a single mass of fluid, would not if the speed of the flow was increased beyond a certain threshold. Understanding this reaction of fluid flows has implications for the mixing of fuel fluids in order to maximize combustion to attain fuel efficiency.

Jung’s achievements in fluid flow won him the 2010 international Milton Van Dyke award from the American Physical Society. He had only received his doctorate in physics five years earlier from the University of Texas at Austin.

Now, Jung’s most recent paper on fluid flow speaks to the reaction of thin films of liquid when compressed vertically between two objects. The film is ejected radically and generates fluid treads and droplets at a high speed.

A simple example of this physics phenomenon is part of the title of his paper: Dynamics of squeezing fluids: Clapping wet hands.

“Everyone has experienced water drops hitting one’s face when wet hands are clapped,” Jung said. The scientific question is why does a thin film of liquid, in this case, water on the hands, break into small drops by the squeezing or clapping motion.

“To transit from a film to drops, fluids need to undergo instability, and in this case, it is the up and down crown splash due to surface tension,” Jung explained.

“Another example might be water splash when you step into a thin water puddle. This example is a little bit different from the current study in terms of plate geometry, but the underlying physics is shared,” Jung added.
Other comparable fluids such as gasoline and oil behave similarly but a very viscous fluid such as honey would not.

Oil companies are interested in this research because of the oil separation process. In this process, “such interfacial dynamics of multiphase fluids serve as one of the fundamental mechanisms,” Jung explained.

Monday, August 5, 2013

MIT releases report on its actions in the Aaron Swartz case

A much-anticipated report on MIT’s actions in relation to the case of Aaron Swartz, a young computer programmer and Internet activist who committed suicide in January, finds no wrongdoing on MIT’s part. But the report raises concerns about certain policies and procedures and whether MIT should have been more actively involved in the matter. The report offers a set of forward-looking questions for the Institute as a whole to address. Compilation of the report, “MIT and the Prosecution of Aaron Swartz,” was led by Hal Abelson, the Class of 1922 Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, at the request of MIT President L. Rafael Reif in January. In conducting his review, Abelson was joined by MIT economist and Institute Professor emeritus Peter Diamond; attorney Andrew Grosso, a former assistant U.S. attorney; and MIT assistant provost for administration Douglas Pfeiffer, who provided staff support for the review panel. Read the News Office FAQ on the report In preparing its report, this group talked with about 50 people, including MIT faculty, students, alumni and staff; lawyers, police officers and prosecutors; and friends and family of Swartz. It also reviewed about 10,000 pages of documents.
In a letter to the MIT community announcing the release of the report, Reif wrote, “The review panel’s careful account provides something we have not had until now: an independent description of the actual events at MIT and of MIT’s decisions in the context of what MIT knew as the events unfolded. The report also sets the record straight by dispelling widely circulated myths. For example, it makes clear that MIT did not ‘target’ Aaron Swartz, we did not seek federal prosecution, punishment or jail time, and we did not oppose a plea bargain. The report’s introduction summarizes some of its most significant findings, but I urge everyone in the MIT community to read the report in its entirety.” At the time of his death, Swartz, who had informal connections to the MIT community, faced 13 federal felony charges relating to his downloading of more than 4 million academic journal papers from the online archive JSTOR, or about 80 percent of the JSTOR library. The downloading was carried out surreptitiously using a laptop computer that was left in a basement wiring closet in an MIT building, physically connected to the MIT computer network. As described in the report, Swartz’s death “ignited a firestorm on the Internet.” Memorial services were held in several locations, including MIT; posthumous awards were given to Swartz; a proposed revision of the law under which he was prosecuted was introduced in Congress; a petition was filed with the White House demanding the firing of the federal prosecutor responsible for the case; and several anonymous cyberattacks were launched, some against MIT, in protest of the handling of the case. Position of neutrality The report says that throughout the two years from Swartz’s arrest in January 2011 through his suicide in January 2013, MIT maintained a position of neutrality. The Institute made no public statements regarding the merits of the case against Swartz or whether it should proceed, nor did it attempt to influence the prosecutor’s decisions on the case, other than to tell the prosecutor that the government should not proceed on the assumption that MIT wanted Aaron Swartz to go to jail. Individuals including Swartz’s father, Robert — who did undergraduate work at MIT and is a consultant to the MIT Media Lab — met with MIT officials during the course of the prosecution and asked MIT to support efforts to have the charges dropped or to secure a plea bargain that would not include jail time. Two MIT faculty members also urged the administration to make such an appeal to the prosecution. MIT considered these views as well as those of faculty who expressed opposing views in deciding neither to press for prosecution nor to advocate on Swartz’s behalf. “From studying this review of MIT’s role, I am confident that MIT’s decisions were reasonable, appropriate and made in good faith,” Reif wrote in his letter of this morning. “I have heard from many in our community who believe our actions were proper and justified. Others feel differently, and the review panel identifies alternate paths we could have followed, including becoming more actively involved in the case as it evolved. I am sure there will be further discussion and reflection now that we have the report in hand.” Key findings Among the report’s key findings are these: Beginning in September 2010, MIT and JSTOR observed massive downloading of JSTOR articles by a laptop connected to MIT’s network. The downloading recurred in October and December, and bypassed MIT’s attempts to stop it. The scale of the downloading was large enough that it threatened to shut down JSTOR’s overall service. MIT did not learn that the person responsible for the downloading was Aaron Swartz until after his arrest, on an initial charge of breaking and entering. MIT called in a Cambridge Police detective to help with its investigation.  The detective arrived on campus accompanied by a federal special agent of the Secret Service, but the report found that MIT did not intentionally “call in the feds” to take over the investigation. MIT did not request that federal charges be brought against Aaron Swartz. It was not consulted about its opinion about appropriate charges or punishment, and it did not offer any. MIT was not involved in any plea negotiations, and was never asked — by either the prosecution or the defense — to approve or disapprove of any plea agreement. From early on in the prosecution, MIT adopted a position of neutrality. It did not issue any public statements in support of Aaron Swartz, or against him. MIT privately communicated to the prosecutor’s office that it should not think that MIT wanted jail time for Swartz. MIT did not advocate, whether publicly or privately, either for or against jail time. Until Aaron Swartz’s suicide, few people urged MIT to take a position on the prosecution. The report notes that faculty were divided on the issue and that there was little student interest. However, the report says that MIT’s neutrality stance did not consider factors including “that the defendant was an accomplished and well-known contributor to Internet technology”; that the law under which he was charged “is a poorly drafted and questionable criminal law as applied to modern computing”; and that “the United States was pursuing an overtly aggressive prosecution.” While MIT’s position “may have been prudent,” the report says, “it did not duly take into account the wider background” of policy issues “in which MIT people have traditionally been passionate leaders.” Questions for the MIT community The report urges the MIT community to consider and discuss some questions raised by this case, “in the hopes that doing so will aid the process of learning from this heartbreaking history.” Eight questions are included in the report. First of these is whether MIT should develop in-house expertise for dealing with incidents involving possible computer crimes. Other questions concern MIT’s policies on data collection, retention and provision to outside bodies; whether MIT should explicitly address the legal and ethical questions associated with Internet activities as part of its curriculum; and whether the Institute should participate more actively in the study of the legal, policy and societal impacts of information technology. The report also asks whether MIT should become involved, as an institution, in national debates over reform of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, one of the criminal laws under which Swartz was charged. Another question the report asks is whether MIT should strengthen its policies on open access to scholarly publications. No ‘silver bullet’ “We recognize the desire for a simple take-away,” the report concludes, but adds: “We can’t offer that. We have not found a silver bullet with which MIT could have simply prevented the tragedy.” Nonetheless, the report says, “MIT missed an opportunity to demonstrate the leadership that we pride ourselves on.” That opportunity existed because “MIT is respected for world-class work in information technology, for promoting open access to online information, and for dealing wisely with the risks of computer abuse.” President Reif responds In his letter this morning, Reif said that he is “grateful to the review panel for framing these important questions — some specific to MIT, others focused on topics of national and global significance that mattered very much to Aaron Swartz himself.” “Because these questions bear so directly on the expertise, interests and values of the people of MIT,” Reif wrote, “I believe we should explore them, respectfully debate our differences and translate our learning into constructive action.” Reif also wrote that he has asked Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz “to organize a review of MIT policies on the collection, provision and retention of electronic records, so that Academic Council — MIT’s senior academic and administrative leaders — have the background they need to improve them.” To address other questions related to MIT policies and resources, Reif will ask Academic Council to propose to him any changes its members deem appropriate by the end of the fall semester. In response to the report’s larger questions, Reif announced that he has asked Provost Chris Kaiser to work with Faculty Chair Steven Hall, professor of aeronautics and astronautics, “to design a process of community engagement that will allow students, alumni, faculty, staff and MIT Corporation members to explore these subjects together this fall and shape the best course for MIT.” In his letter, Reif thanked the members of the MIT community who have been involved in the Swartz case. “The report confirms my trust in the members of the MIT community involved in the Swartz events,” he wrote. “Throughout, they have acted with integrity and heart, and served MIT with outstanding professionalism. I know the last seven months have been hard on them and their families, and they have my deepest respect and gratitude.” Reif also reflected on what the loss of Aaron Swartz has meant to Swartz’s family and friends, to the many at MIT who passionately support open access, and to the wider world: “Knowing the tragedy of Aaron Swartz’s death, I read the report with a tremendous sense of sorrow. His family and friends suffered a terrible personal loss, and the Internet community lost an exceptional leader. Even those of us who never knew him mourn the loss of someone so young and so brilliant.”