News from a World gone mad

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February 9, 2016

Confessions Of A Chemist: I Make Molecules That Shouldn’t Exist

At drinks parties and dinners, if someone asks what I do for a living, I always say: “Synthetic chemist … I make new molecules … especially those that shouldn’t exist.” People typically respond that they were not very good at chemistry at school – or they enquire about explosions and smells. And there, usually, the conversation ends.

I worry that chemists are missing a self-promotion trick. While physicists can argue the need to understand the fundamental nature of the universe by studying subatomic particles at the Large Hadron Collider, we chemists beaver away using and developing fundamental knowledge of how to connect molecules together. We routinely have to overcome basicthermodynamics, which would stop any of us from existing if they controlled the universe – the building blocks of life would simply end up as carbon dioxide, water and ammonia.

I suspect chemistry’s problem is that much of it is just too useful and everyday – though not all of it, as we shall see. Chemistry tends to have recognisable applications such as making drugs, paints, plastic, synthetic fibres and electronics. The Hadron Collider, on the other hand, benefits from looking spectacular and performing abstract feats that’s appeal lies in their distance from the world that we know.

My Work

For the past 40 years, I have worked on the chemistry of the heavier group 16 elements, including sulphur, selenium and tellurium. These have always fascinated me – in part, because the reaction chemistry is quite unpredictable. My early work was on sulphur-nitrogen compounds. Sulphur and nitrogen are quite unusual in that they both exist in nature as their basic elements. With some ingenuity it is possible to form simple compounds containing only them – a classic case of overcoming the thermodynamics that are responsible for the elements being “stable”.

One example is tetrasulphur tetranitride (S4N4), an orange solid with an interesting cage structure which was first made 180 years ago. The compound is perfectly stable – at least unless there is a tiny bit of heat from friction. That makes it explode violently to give sulphur and nitrogen as thermodynamics takes over.

full article over at IFLScience









Bible And Quran Text Analysis Reveals ‘Violence’ More Common In Old And New Testament


An analysis of the Bible and the Quran has found that violence and destruction are discussed more frequently in Christian scripture than in the Islamic text.


In an effort to dispel the oft-mentioned argument that Islam is an “inherently violent religion”, an American software engineer processed the Holy books in order to find out how frequently savagery is mentioned.

Tom Anderson said: “The project was inspired by the ongoing public debate around whether or not terrorism connected with Islamic fundamentalism reflects something inherently and distinctly violent about Islam compared to other major religions.”

britain first protest

Far-right groups such as Britain First often advocate the idea Islam is “inherently violent”

Anderson used software he developed, Odin Text, to analyse both the Old and New Testaments as well as an English-language version of the Quran dated from 1917.

It took just two minutes to complete the analysis and produce a series of data analysing the sentiment of words included in the scriptures.

Of eight emotions – joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger and anticipation – the Bible scored higher for anger and much lower for joy and trust than the Quran.

eight emotions bible

The analysis plotted the occurrence of eight major emotions


full story at The Huffington Post






links for all the other X Files fans out there

MSF-Supported Hospital Hit by Airstrikes in Southern Syria

Airstrikes hit a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-supported hospital in Dara’a Governorate in southern Syria, killing three people and wounding at least six, including a nurse, says MSF.

The strike on Tafas field hospital, some 12 kilometers [7.5 miles] from the Jordanian border, took place on the night of February 5, 2016. It damaged part of the hospital building itself and incapacitated its heavily used ambulance service. In fear for their lives, more than 20,000 people from the town of Tafas fled to the surrounding countryside.

The hospital is the latest medical facility to be hit in an escalating series of airstrikes in southern Syria over the past two months.

“I was on my way to the hospital to help admit people who had been injured by the airstrikes,” says one staff member. “But as soon as I reached the hospital, I myself got injured. It all happened very quickly. I saw what looked like an explosion and then a flash of light, and then I lost consciousness for five minutes. My colleagues saw me lying on the ground, bleeding, and rushed me inside. I was injured in both my arm and leg by shrapnel.”

This latest incident further weakens Syria’s already exhausted health care system, and prevents more people from accessing desperately needed medical care.

With the Syrian conflict entering its sixth year, aerial bombardments in southern Syria are on the rise, and so are human casualties. The use of indiscriminate bombing has a severe impact on both civilians and medical facilities. Despite tireless calls by international organizations for an end to indiscriminate bombing, it appears to have become the new norm. Since the start of this year alone, 13 health facilities in Syria have been hit, confirming that hospitals and clinics are no longer places where patients can recover in safety.

In the light of this incident, MSF renews its calls for the protection of civilian life and the respect of health facilities by all parties to the conflict. MSF reiterates that the repeated attacks on medical facilities in the ongoing conflict constitute a flagrant violation of international laws.

Op-Ed: Bombing Hospitals and Schools Cannot Become the New Normal

SOURCE Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)








Osborne’s economic plan flawed, Britain may need more austerity – IFS

British Finance Minister George Osborne. © Alessandro Bianchi

Chancellor George Osborne’s new fiscal regime is deeply flawed and will either have to be suspended or will involve more punitive austerity, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned.

The think tank made the assessment during its annual “Green Budget” event held in central London on Monday.

The event, which was organized in association with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, involved discussions on the government’s austerity agenda, related risks to public finances, the state’s corporate taxation policy and welfare reforms.

The new fiscal regime, which has been sharply criticized by economists, is called the Charter for Budget Responsibility. It requires the government to run a budget surplus by 2020 and works to maintain a surplus in “normal” economic times – or when GDP growth is higher than 1 percent.

Full article at RT










Parliamentary committee criticises surveillance bill over privacy concerns

Home Secretary Theresa May speaks on the third day of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester northern Britain, October 6 , 2015.  REUTERS/Phil Noble

A planned British law to give spies and the police wide-ranging new surveillance powers is rushed, does not do enough to protect people’s privacy and requires major change, a powerful committee of lawmakers said on Tuesday.

The bill was unveiled in November after police and intelligence agencies warned they had fallen behind those they were trying to track, as advances in technology and the growth of services like Skype and Facebook increasingly put criminals beyond their reach.

Critics say the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill would be the West’s furthest-reaching surveillance law, while tech companies have warned it would damage their own security systems.

It would force communications firms to collect and store vast reams of data about almost every click of British online activity. The bill would also oblige service providers to help intercept data and hack suspects’ devices.

“Overall, the privacy protections are inconsistent and in our view need strengthening,” parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) said in a report.

“The draft bill appears to have suffered from a lack of sufficient time and preparation,” it added, saying the bill adopted a “rather piecemeal approach” to privacy protection which it said should have formed the backbone to the measure.










Syria conflict: UN fears Aleppo assault could cut off 300,000 civilians

A girl mourns the loss of her relatives after air strikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel-held Saliheen district of Aleppo (8 February 2016)

Up to 300,000 people could be cut off from food supplies if Syrian government forces encircle rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo, the UN says.

A road from Turkey used by the World Food Programme to reach eastern Aleppo was blocked last week after the government launched a major offensive.

The agency currently has an alternative route, but it may soon be severed too.

The UN is also calling on Turkey to let in some 30,000 people stranded on its border who have fled the fighting.

Aid workers say facilities at the border have been overwhelmed, with people forced to sleep outside in the bitter winter weather.

full article and video at BBC NEWS










London man sets himself on fire outside Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace. © Olivia Harris

A man has died after setting himself on fire outside one of London’s Royal Palaces early on Tuesday morning, police have said.

The man, believed to have been in his 40s, was found alight next to the walls of Kensington Palace, situated in the center of the capital. It is home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Paramedics and firefighters were called to the palace at around 03:00 GMT. They attempted to extinguish the flames and give the man first aid. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police have not identified the man, but revealed that hours before self-immolating he had left a hospital in London. He had been admitted over concerns about his mental health.

Tourists and walkers in the park were met with the scene on Tuesday morning, where a tent had been erected and a police cordon sealed off the area by the palace orangerie.

It’s such a perfect park and to think that this has happened outside the palace is horrible. I love the royals and I am so sorry this has happened on their doorstep,” Australian tourist Naomi Bridges, 30, said.

A police spokesperson said they intended to tell the man’s family on Tuesday.

Officers in Westminster were called by a central London hospital at 12:06am today after a man in their care had failed to return,” the spokesperson said.

“Police carried out inquiries to trace this missing man at his home address and two associated addresses but the man, aged in his forties, was not present.

“Subsequently, police in Kensington and Chelsea were called to an area near the locked parks of Kensington Palace, W8 at 3:06am following reports of a man behaving suspiciously. Officers attended and found a man ablaze.

“At this early stage, no other persons are believed to be involved. This incident is not being treated as suspicious,” the spokesperson added.

Police will also examine whether enough was done to trace the man after he left the hospital on Monday evening.

source RT









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