Things that are pretty cool

Things that are pretty cool September 20, 2011

My bookmarks folder is overflowing, so to clear out some of these aging links, here’s a collection of cool things.

How cool? How about a collection of photos from the Cash family vault? (via) That’s pretty cool indeed.

It was also cool to learn via Wikileaks that the Vatican lobbied against Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. Good for them.

A bunch of Christians in Tennessee had a pretty cool response to hearing that a Murfreesboro Mosque had once again received bomb threats around the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Those Christians joined with the mosque for a candlelight vigil and interfaith memorial service. Very cool.

Timothy Noah got laid off by Slate, which was really uncool, but he’s found a new home blogging for The New Republic, and that’s pretty cool. Noah’s long series for Slate on income inequality, “The Great Divergence,” was very cool, even if the topic itself wasn’t.

I thought his headline, from a while back on Paul Krugman’s blog, was kind of cool:

The elaborate hoax that forced the Southern Baptist Convention to clarify that it had not repented of its opposition to marriage equality was pretty cool.

Other pretty cool things:

A cure for viruses would be extremely cool. And researchers at MIT have made some promising progress toward exactly that: “MIT Lincoln Laboratory researchers develop a technique to cure a broad range of viruses“:

Researchers from MIT Lincoln Laboratory have developed and demonstrated a novel broad-spectrum antiviral approach, called DRACO (for Double-stranded RNA [dsRNA] Activated Caspase Oligomerizer). DRACO selectively induces apoptosis, or cell suicide, in cells containing any viral dsRNA, rapidly killing infected cells without harming uninfected cells. As a result, DRACO should be effective against virtually all viruses, rapidly terminating a viral infection while minimizing the impact on the patient. …

DRACO was shown to be effective against all 15 viruses that the team has so far tested in cells, including cold viruses (rhinoviruses), H1N1 influenza strains, adenoviruses, a stomach virus (reovirus), a polio virus, dengue fever virus, and several members of hemorrhagic fever arenavirus and bunyavirus families. DRACO was also demonstrated to be nontoxic in 11 different cell types representing various species (e.g., humans, monkeys, mice) and organ types (e.g., heart, lung, liver, kidney). In addition, experiments demonstrated that DRACO not only is nontoxic to mice but also can save mice infected with a lethal dose of H1N1 influenza. Currently, the team is testing additional viruses in mice and beginning to get promising results with those as well. …

[Dr. Todd Rider, senior staff scientist in MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s Chemical, Biological and Nanoscale Technologies Group] says that although more extensive testing is needed, “DRACO has the potential to revolutionize the treatment and prevention of virtually all viral diseases, including everything from the common cold to Ebola.” He adds, “Because the antiviral activity of DRACO is so broad spectrum, we hope that it may even be useful against outbreaks of new or mutated viruses, such as the 2003 SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] outbreak.”

That research, by the way, “is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the New England Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, with previous funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and Director of Defense Research & Engineering.”

Government funding for scientific research is very cool.

So is scientific research via video gaming: “Computer gamers solve problem in AIDS research that puzzled scientists for years

When scientists struggle with a problem for over a decade, few of them think, “I know! I’ll ask computer gamers to help.” That, however, is exactly what Firas Khatib from the University of Washington did. The result: he and his legion of gaming co-authors have cracked a longstanding problem in AIDS research that scientists have puzzled over for years. It took them three weeks.

Khatib’s recruits played Foldit, a program that reframes fiendish scientific challenges as a competitive multiplayer computer game. It taps into the collective problem-solving skills of tens of thousands of people, most of whom have little or no background in science.

And one last bit of very, very cool news, from today: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

Today, the discriminatory law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is finally and formally repealed.  As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love.  As of today, our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian service members. And today, as Commander in Chief, I want those who were discharged under this law to know that your country deeply values your service.

I was proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December because I knew that it would enhance our national security, increase our military readiness, and bring us closer to the principles of equality and fairness that define us as Americans.  Today’s achievement is a tribute to all the patriots who fought and marched for change; to Members of Congress, from both parties, who voted for repeal; to our civilian and military leaders who ensured a smooth transition; and to the professionalism of our men and women in uniform who showed that they were ready to move forward together, as one team, to meet the missions we ask of them.

For more than two centuries, we have worked to extend America’s promise to all our citizens.  Our armed forces have been both a mirror and a catalyst of that progress, and our troops, including gays and lesbians, have given their lives to defend the freedoms and liberties that we cherish as Americans.  Today, every American can be proud that we have taken another great step toward keeping our military the finest in the world and toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals.

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