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Thursday, September 17, 2009

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Chronic City: The Results Are In -- Medical Marijuana Works

You can't argue with results.
"There's no proof that medical marijuana works. It needs more study. There's only anecdotal evidence. It doesn't treat specific conditions. People just want to get high." Every cannabis advocate and medical marijuana patient has run into these arguments, threadbare as they are in 2009. Even from professionals who should know better -- such as many medical doctors -- the same tired arguments come up again and again.

As baffling as it may be, just listening to the patients (what a concept!) isn't considered "proof" by the medical establishment, which considers such evidence interesting, but "merely" anecdotal.

But after a new groundbreaking round-up clinical evidence for the efficacy of medical pot, however, such misconceptions are going to be a lot easier to shoot down.

In the landmark article, published in the Journal of Opioid Management, University of Washington researcher Sunil Aggarwal and colleagues document no fewer than 33 controlled clinical trials -- published over a 38-year period from 1971 to 2009 -- confirming that marijuana is a safe, effective medicine for specific medical conditions.

"The most common misconception among doctors and the general public regarding medical marijuana is that its effectiveness claims are substantiated only by compelling anecdotes from patients," Aggarwal told SF Weekly. "What is not acknowledged is that 33 separate controlled clinical trials with patients -- at least a third of which are of gold standard design -- have been conducted and published in the United States by investigators at major research centers using the same federal cannabis supply and mode of delivery.

"In fact," Aggarwal and colleagues write, "nearly all of the 33 published controlled clinical trials conducted in the United States have shown significant and measurable benefits in subjects receiving the treatment."

Photo by Joe Mabel
Dr. Sunil Aggarwal: The results are in.
Additionally, the article documents the growing acceptance of the therapeutic use of marijuana among organized medicine groups. More than 7,000 American physicians (in the 13 states where medical marijuana is legal) have signed medical marijuana authorizations for a total of 400,000 patients, according to Aggarwal and colleagues.

Notably absent from medical marijuana patients in the published trials -- and in glaring contrast to opiate drugs -- are withdrawal symptoms and other signs of drug dependence. Adverse effects were relatively rare, and "the vast majority of reported adverse effects were not serious... It is clear that as an analgesic, cannabis is extremely safe with minimal toxicity."

Unfortunately, ignorance regarding marijuana still remains widespread, even in the medical community, according to the article. "There remains a near complete absence of education about cannabinoid medicine in any level of medical training," Aggarwal writes.

"This is arguably the most thorough review of the literature on medical marijuana since the Institute of Medicine report over a decade ago, with a trove of data that wasn't available to the IOM," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which works for legalization. "It is simply incomprehensible that a medicine that is so clearly safe and effective remains banned from medical use by federal law and the laws of 37 states."

Under current federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, defining it as having high potential for abuse, unsafe for use even under medical supervision, and lacking currently accepted uses in the U.S.

The article, "Medicinal Use of Cannabis in the United States: Historical Perspectives, Current Trends, and Future Directions," is available here (PDF).

Aggarwal offers a complete list of the 33 U.S. clinical trials; contact him here.

8 Mind-Boggling Optical Illusions

Test your perception with these wild designs

By Olivia Putnal


If you’ve ever felt like you go a little cross-eyed after taking a peek at an optical illusion, then you know they can be a pretty intense phenomenon. What your eyes perceive when looking at one of these images is actually a visual illusion; you see the image as something different than what it is because the different cells and receptors in your eyes distinguish images and colors at dissimilar speeds. The eye can only receive a limited amount of visual stimuli, but as your brain constantly processes the visual information, it gives you the illusion of continuous sight. Whether it’s an optical, physiological or cognitive illusion, the design plays a trick on your eyes (and mind). Check out some of interesting illusions below—but beware, you may not be able to absorb them all in one sitting.

Flowing Leaves

The brown leaf shapes against a green background make this look as if the entire group is flowing—making waves if you focus on the picture as a whole. Photo from Flickr

Pulsing Vortex

If you stare at this one long enough you’ll notice a fast and pulsing multicolored vortex. Photo from Flickr


The blue almond-shaped objects look as if they’re all passing over three separate columns. Photo from Flickr


Although this image is comprised of simple purple and green squares outlined in black, it looks like it is bulging out in the center. Photo from Flickr


A collection of black, blue, green and white shapes appears to be five different kaleidoscope-type figures—each swirling toward their centers. Photo from Flickr


The black and white circular lines make this illusion seem as if there are various depths in the image, creating different entryways and tunnels. Photo courtesy of Paco Calvino


If you stare at the center of the image, it looks as if the outer rings are rotating in alternating directions—an effect meant to mesmerize the viewer. Photo courtesy of Todd A. Carpenter


These bright purple and green star-like shapes appear to be moving, which can be a little nauseating if you stare at it for too long. Photo courtesy of Angie Armstrong

You think Heathrow is bad? A million snow geese stop over at wildlife refuge en route to wintering grounds

By Claire Bates

Like a blizzard filling the sky, these pictures show one of nature's most amazing displays as more than a million snow geese stop for a rest during their annual migration.

The spectacular shots were taken by Mike Hollingshead in Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City, Missouri. The geese must travel 2,500miles twice a year.

Every autumn the snow geese head from their main breeding grounds in central Canada to their wintering grounds in the Gulf of Mexico. The noisy birds migrate in unusually large flocks of 100 to 1,000 that are made up of many family groups. Biologists still do not understand how the birds decide when to migrate.

Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge

A million snow geese crowded into Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge this autumn on their way to their wintering grounds in Mexico

snow geese

The birds manage to stay together in family groups numbering from 100 to 1,000 on their journey south from Canada

Male and female geese look very similar although the males are slightly bigger. Although a swirling flock of snow geese looks like falling snow, there are darker birds among the group. These blue geese, long thought to be a separate species, are simply a dark version of the same bird.

More than a million converge on the national park, which acts as an important stopover on the Central Flyway migration route. It is on one of the narrowest points of the migration route.

This year managers estimate 1.2million snow geese rested at the 11.5 square mile refuge. It used to be a private hunting area but now its wildlife is protected.

Some birds however have been recorded to make the entire journey without stopping for a rest - a flight of 70 hours. All the geese are less inclined to stop on their return north as they are eager to breed.


Snow geese breed during the Arctic summer (same as the UK) and migrate during autumn months. They spend winter in Mexico and travel back to Canada in late spring

Routes used by birds are established because there is plenty of food and water along its length and few mountains or large hills to block the flyway.

During the flight south the birds fly between 40 and 50 miles an hour at around 3,000ft. However, some have been recorded as high as 20,000ft on radar.

They fly in an unusual undulating fashion often known as a 'wavie'. The birds fly at different heights and rise and descend slightly on the journey. They also form imperfect Vs and while there is usually a leader at the head, this position changes among the flock.

Flight of fancy: Snow Geese spend the winter in Mexico before flying north to their breeding grounds in Canada during the summer

Snow geese arrive at their cold nesting grounds before the snow has melted and breed over the arctic summer. As the young grow the adult geese go through an annual moult and are rendered flightless for about a month.

They then make the long journey back to Mexico with their young between August and October and stay with them for their first winter. They have strong family bonds and usually mate for life.

A hundred years ago the snow goose was in decline and hunting them was stopped in the United States in 1916. Hunting was allowed again in 1975, but the population has still trebled in the last 30 years and continues to grow at more than five per cent a year.

They have increased to the point that both their tundra breeding areas and the saltmarsh wintering grounds are becoming severely degraded, and this is affecting other species using the same habitat.

Snow Geese are rare visitors to the British Isles but they can be spotted at times among flocks of Barnacle, Brent and Greenland White-fronted geese.

Install Snow Leopard on Your Hackintosh PC, No Hacking Required

Two weeks ago I detailed how to build a Hackintosh with Snow Leopard, start to finish, with a little Terminal work. If you're not comfortable with command-line hacking, you can now install Snow Leopard on your Hackintosh with just a few point-and-clicks.

So what's changed between my last guide and this one? In short, one of the incredibly helpful and generous people who helped walk me through the installation process last time was kind enough to wrap all the tedious Terminal work into one dead simple installer. Where two weeks ago I showed you how to prepare your thumb drive (and after that, hard drive) with a custom bootloader that allows you to boot into OS X on regular old PC hardware, now all you have to do is run a package, point it at the drive you want to prepare, and then let it take care of all the nitty gritty. It could not be more simple.

Now onto the revised process!

NOTE: Just like the last post, this guide is focused specifically on the hardware I suggested in the previous guide—specifically the motherboard. If you try following this guide on other hardware, there's a very good chance it won't work as advertised.

What You'll Need

  • Supported hardware. I laid out my list of supported hardware in my previous post here. It's not the only hardware that will work with OS X, but it's the only hardware that's guaranteed to work with this guide.
  • A USB thumb drive that's at least 8GB in size (I'm using this 16GB Corsair drive, but obviously any sufficiently sized thumb drive should do just fine.)
  • A copy of the Snow Leopard Install DVD. You can use the $29 "Upgrade" disc to install, even though this is a fresh installation. Note: If you feel like being completely honest, go ahead and buy the Mac Box Set-though, honestly, Apple's practically made it hard *not* to buy the fully functional install disc.
  • Another Mac to prepare your thumb drive. (You'll only need this other Mac for a few steps. I used my MacBook Pro, but you could also borrow a friend's for an hour or so, too.)
  • The EP45UD3P Snow Leopard install package. This package allows you to skip all the command line work in my last guide, and you can download it here.

Step One: Prepare Your Thumb Drive

In this step, you're going to format your thumb drive and then restore the Snow Leopard DVD image to the thumb drive because later we'll be installing Snow Leopard to your hard drive using this thumb drive rather than the DVD. "Why?" you ask. Because in order to boot the installer, we need to customize the disk image with some special helper files of our own.

I went into great detail on this process last time, so this time I'm just going to include the step-by-step video below (made by the same generous man who created the EP45UD3P Snow Leopard installer package). If you want to read the very detailed version for a thorough explanation of how to rip the Snow Leopard install DVD to a disk image and then restore that image to your thumb drive, go here. (Come back when you get to the "Semi-heavy Terminal work" warning. That's when you're ready for the new and improved easy part.)

Note: Watch the video in HD and fullscreen to get a closer look at everything that's happening.

As you can see in the video, after you restore the Snow Leopard install DVD to your thumb drive, all you've got to do is fire up the EP45UD3P Snow Leopard.pkg file (if you haven't already downloaded and unzipped it, you can grab it here), select your thumb drive, and, let the installer take care of all the dirty work that you previously had to do one line at a time in Terminal.

Once you've finished there, you're ready to set your BIOS and install Snow Leopard.

Step 2: Set Your BIOS

Before you can boot into or install OS X on your Hackintosh, you've got to make some small adjustments to your system BIOS (press Delete at system startup to tweak your BIOS settings). Rather than taking you step by step through every change you need to make, I've simply snapped a picture of the relevant BIOS screens and added some notes. Just click through these images and make sure your BIOS settings match up.

Step 3: Install Snow Leopard

If you've made it this far, the hard part is over. Now it's time to install Snow Leopard, which—unlike what we've done so far—is extremely easy.

Make sure you've set the boot priority in your BIOS to boot from your thumb drive (you can see how in this pic), then simply plug your prepared thumb drive into your Hackintosh and power it up. Since screenshots aren't really an option—and since it's a fairly easy process—my install instructions come in video format:

The quick version goes like this: Boot into the Snow Leopard installer, format the hard drive you want to install Snow Leopard to (go to Utilities -> Disk Utility, then click on the drive, select 1 Partition, Mac OS X Journaled (Case-Sensitive Update: Several readers have suggested that case-sensitive formatting can cause problems with some applications, like Adobe's Creative Suite, so you may be better off sticking with plain old Mac OS X Journaled.), give it a name, and make sure GUID Partition Table is set in the Options. After you Apply the new partition, go back to the installer and install like normal to that drive. When you reboot after the install completes, press the arrow keys at the graphical boot menu and select the drive you just installed Snow Leopard to.

Two Last Tweaks

You could just stop there and be pretty happy at your new Hackintosh, but there are two little, easily performed tweaks you'll want to tackle to get everything in tip top shape: The first will get your sound fully working, and the second will allow you to boot into Snow Leopard without your thumb drive.

Tweak One: Snow Leopard should be up and running on your Hackintosh like a dream—with one exception: Sound isn't entirely working yet. You may notice that sound actually does work in some instances, but not all. In the old guide, you needed to install a custom audio kext (your Mac's equivalent to a driver); the setup has been slightly tweaked in this new method, so all you should actually need to do is open up the Sound preference pane in System Preferences (/Applications/System Preferences), click the Output tab, and change the output device to Built-in Line output (I haven't tested with digital out, but it should work fine in theory).

Tweak Two: At this point, in order to boot to your newly installed Snow Leopard installation, you need to have your thumb drive plugged in so it loads the custom bootloader, from which you can select your new Snow Leopard hard drive. To install the custom bootloader to your hard drive (so you no longer need the thumb drive to boot), again download the EP45UD3P Snow Leopard.pkg zip file and run it, but this time, instead of choosing to install the package to your thumb drive, select the hard drive you've installed Snow Leopard to. Once the installer completes, you'll no longer need your thumb drive plugged in to boot into Snow Leopard.

Congratulations! You've Got a Fully Functional Hackintosh—the Easy Way

Where the method I covered previously required a good amount of time and care in Terminal, this new and improved method is a breeze, and it works even better. (Sound works out of the box without any custom kexts, for example.)

It's also worth noting that you can go ahead and upgrade to OS X 10.6.1 without any problems.

If you've given the Hackintosh route a try since my first post, let's hear how it's been working out for you in the comments. If this extra ease-of-installation was just what the doctor ordered, go grab the parts listed in the last post and get ready for a fun weekend.

Adam Pash is the editor of Lifehacker; he loves a good hack, enjoys his Macintosh, and craves the power of a Mac Pro, so building a Hack Pro was a perfect fit. His special feature Hack Attack appears on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Hack Attack RSS feed to get new installments in your newsreader.

Dog days of summer: Surfing pets take to the water for charity

By Daily Mail Reporter

During one of the last dog days of summer nearly 4,000 spectators turned out yesterday to watch 's pets hit the beach for 'the world's largest dog surfing event'.

The dogs were taking part in the 4th annual Surf Dog Surf-a-Thon in order to raise money for a local animal shelter. The surfers rode waves at North Beach, also known as Dog Beach, in California.

The event, hosted by and benefiting the Helen Woodward Animal Centre in Rancho Santa Fe, has so far raised more than £17,500.

Enlarge Surfing U.S.A.: Kai the eight-year old Jack Russell terrier

Surfing U.S.A.: Kai the eight-year old Jack Russell terrier rides a wave

Enlarge A six-year old Pomeranian named Bobby Gorgeous jumps off the surfboard

Wipe out: A six-year old Pomeranian named Bobby Gorgeous jumps off the surfboard

'It just doesn't get any greater than San Diego showing its love for dogs and its love for surfing,' said animal centre President Michael Arms.

'What could be more fun than playing with your dog in the water?'

Mr Arms estimated that the crowd at the 'world's largest dog surfing event' was nearly 4,000 - double the number from last year.

The action was centred on the two to three foot waves that rolled in carrying pint-sized pooches, hefty hounds and everything in between.

Dozer, a 75-pound, 3-year-old bulldog, took first place in the second heat of the extra-large category. He has been surfing for only a year.

His owner, Gigi Bagaporo of Mira Mesa, said she never thought he would take to the sport, but after she was talked into giving it a try last summer, she was amazed to see her dog 'jump on and refuse to get off the board.'


The winner was Buddy who also rode with his owner in the 4th Annual comeptition


Bobby Gorgeous waits to compete in his 20lbs and under heat at the 4th annual Helen Woodward Animal Center "Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon"

Surfer, judge and animal centre board Chairman Bryce Rhodes said that while all the dogs have a great time, about 20 per cent fall into the upper echelon of athletes that the dog surfing community calls 'pros'.

Mr Rhodes, who is also the grandson of the late Helen Woodward, said the centre's founder would have been delighted to see the Surf-A-Thon.

'Our long-term goal is to put ourselves out of business - to see an end to the euthanisation of animals,' he said.

Launched in 2006, the contest started out as a fun way that pet owners could ride the surf with their pets and raise a little money.

Since then, it has mushroomed into a major event that draws national television coverage. The dogs are judged on several criteria - the length of the ride, the size of the wave ridden and their on-board manoeuvers.

Dogs receive extra points if they surf without their owner, and if they stand on the board rather than lie down.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology rickrolled

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the leading US science university, has been rickrolled on a grand scale.

The 'hack' was carried out by students at MIT
The 'hack' was carried out by students at MIT Photo: Greg Steinbrecher: The Tech

Students have plastered the first eight notes of Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up on scaffolding surrounding the Boston research centre's Great Dome.

The pranksters dreamed up the sophisticated stunt after noticing that the horizontal lines of the scaffolding cover resembled unfilled sheet music, according to MIT's student newspaper The Tech.

Rickrolling began as an online trend which involved tricking people into watching YouTube videos of Astley's 1987 hit, but quickly entered the "real" world.

Never Gonna Give You Up was selected as the new anthem for the New York Mets baseball team, and Astley was named best act ever at last year's MTV Europe Music Awards after fans of the crooner hijacked online votes.

Astley himself made a surprise appearance at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York in 2008, emerging from the back of a float to perform his most well-known song.

MIT students - who include some of the most promising young minds in the world - have developed a reputation for carrying out clever and ambitious pranks, known as "hacks".

On Sept 11 2006, professors and college officials woke up to find that a 25ft long fire engine had been placed on top of the Great Dome, apparently to mark five years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The rickroll stunt was carried out under the cover of darkness in the early hours of Wednesday morning last week.

Volkswagen’s Diesel-Hybrid L1 Concept Gets 170 MPG, Available by 2013

Volkswagen will display an updated version of its 1-Liter concept this week at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. The diesel-hybrid car which only weighs around 800 lbs gets an jaw-dropping 170 MPG. So who wants one?

It was seven years ago when VW first announced the idea. Dr. Ferdinand Piëch–currently the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Volkswagen Group–drove a prototype of the car from Wolfsburg to Hamburg. It was the world’s first car to travel 100 kilometers on just a single liter of fuel. But the concept wasn’t ready for production as the body’s carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) was too costly for consideration.

“It is an enormous challenge to control costs in producing the monocoque out of CFRP,” says Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, member of the Board of Management for the Volkswagen Brand with responsibility for development.

The 2-seater L1, with a length of 150 inches, is still similar to that of a Volkswagen Fox, and a height of 45 nearly matches that of a Lamborghini Murciélago.

Aerodynamics was a huge part of the L1 concept. The idea behind it was the form of a glider–one seat behind the other. It has a special chasi of aluminum components to take advantage of the CFRP body.

The two-cylinder rail-injected TDI, the E-motor and the 7-speed Direct Shift Gearbox are all rear located. The combo not only delivers a high fuel consumption but it only emits 36 g/km of C02. The hybrid module has been integrated into the housing of the 7-speed DSG and consists of a 10 kW / 14 PS electric motor and a clutch.

During general acceleration the electric motor can supply 40-percent additional torque and even propel the L1 over a short distance by itself. It also operates as a generator to charge the lithium-ion battery by recovering braking energy.

Full details on the car can be found at VWVortex. On display with the L1 concept, Vdub will also be showing off their Up! concept. I suspect we will be seeing a lot of these roll out under VW’s new BlueMotionTechnologies brand.

Source: VWVortex