Wired Organics
Promise Soft Electronics

A team of chemists at The Johns Hopkins University has created water-soluble electronic materials that spontaneously assemble themselves into "wires" much narrower than a human hair.

Derived from carbon-based compounds (hence the term "organic"), these "soft" electronic materials are valued as lightweight, flexible, easily processed alternatives to "hard" electronics components such as metal wires or silicon semiconductors. And just as the semiconductor industry is actively developing smaller and smaller transistors, so, too, are those involved with organic electronics devising ways to shrink the features of their materials, so they can be better utilized in bioelectronic applications.

The possibilities presented by organic electronics include
pacemakers that so closely mimic human tissues that a patient's body can't discern the difference and devices that bypass injured spinal cords to restore movement to paralyzed limbs.

"What's exciting about our materials is that they are of size and scale that cells can intimately associate with, meaning that they may have built-in potential for biomedical applications," said chemistry professor John D. Tovar. "Can we use these materials to guide electrical current at the nanoscale? Can we use them to regulate cell-to-cell communication as a prelude to re-engineering neural networks or damaged spinal cords? These are the kinds of questions we are looking forward to being able to address and answer in the coming years."

The team used the self-assembly principles that underlie the formation of beta-amyloid plaques, which are the protein deposits often associated with Alzheimer's disease, as a model for their new material. This raises another possibility: that these new electronic materials may eventually prove useful for imaging the formation of these plaques.

"Of course, much research has been done and is still being done to understand how amyloids form and to prevent or reverse their formation," Tovar said. "But the process also represents a powerful new pathway to fabricate nanoscale materials."

Source: The Johns Hopkins University

Evil Genes
Evil Genes
Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend
by Barbara Oakley

The product of the author's quest to understand the nature of evil people, both the Machiavellian despots on the world stage and the tyrants in her own family, this book probes the pscyhological, sociological and genetic roots of chronically malevolent behavior.

A popular science text that melds scientific research with family history, 
Evil Genes probes scientific literature for evidence supporting her theory that evil in some people results from an inherent dysfunction.

Where do the roots of evil lie? In what genes is it manifest? Like autism, there is some evidence that a genetically based brain development disorder can lead to self-righteous behaviors in utter disregard for the welfare of others. But the genetics are far too complex and the influence of social, developmental and environmental factors too varied , to predict where or when evil or psychopathic beavior will occur.

Alternating between the story of her dysfunctional family and a wide-ranging look at evil characters -- Hitler, Stalin, Chairman Mao, Slobodan Milosevic, among others -- the author weaves her way through psychopathy, genetics, medical imaging, narcissism, evolution and genius in a quixotic pursuit of certainty and definition.

How can you tell if a public figure is potentially evil?

"The best an ordinary person can do is to try to lay aside his or her own ideological blinkers and look honestly at public figures. If a given individual seems most interested in villifying others, proceeds to characterize his own in-group as having been unduly victimized, is ruthlessly vindictive, and finally, is discovered to have cozy, self-serving financial deals, there are reasonable grounds to assume that a person is more than a little Machiavellian and that his or her leadership may be aimed more toward self than public service. Unfortunately, our own tendency, at least regarding leaders who purport to share our ideology, is to avoid looking too closely."

Evil Genes concludes with textbook-style discussion questions ("For Pondering") that recap the issues:

Do you think that you interact with people differently because of your own past experiences with the "successfully sinister?

Do you see Machiavellian traits in yourself? Are they healthy? How would you know?

Someday dictators will have access to technology to have themselves cloned, allowing for an endless procession of "mini-me's." What effect might this have on evil dictatorships of the future?

back out there