Thursday, 28 February 2008

Happy pills?

Pills (medicines) for children are often coated with bright colors, to make the pills more look more appealing. So far all is well. However, the color used is so called azocolor. The problem with this synthetic color is that it is harmful to humans. This is something which is not recognized and dealt with by pharmaceutical producers.

Azocolor are a group of water-soluble or oil-soluble mono-, di-, and trisulfonated colors containing a naphthalene ring and an azo linkage to either a second naphthalene or benzene ring. This coloring compound are involved in induction of DNA-change, eg. they are mutagenes. By this process sever disorders can arise, such as cancer. Furthermore, studies have shown children developing hyperactivity and behavioral disorders after exposure to this group of colored compounds.

These kind of coloring is also present in many food products, something which has recently been getting media attention.

Some further information:
Radomski, 1974
Tsuda, et al., 2001

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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Emission rights

The main objective with emission rights is obviously to reduce green house gas emissions. This is as we all now an important objective. Also the emissions right are traded as a financial instrument. Except for the fact that skillful traders can make money on this; it has another interesting implication.

The emissions right and their costs gives companies and states incentives to make reductions of emissions where they are most cost efficient, in simpler words the reduction are carried out where they are the cheapest. For example if you can invest in X tons of carbondioxide reduction in China, you will not buy an emission right that costs more.

Currently European companies are making significatn proporttions of their emission reductions in development countries. These kind of investment gives them a type of emission right that is an alternative to regular emission rights.

Currently, a new period of emission right is beginning. In the previous period there was an abundance of emissions rights, meaning the value of them and the incentives for decreasal of emissions was low. For this period the number of emission rights have decreased, forcing a decreasel of emission from companies in countries bound by the Kyoto agreement. However, to make this a powerful tool there are three major players that need to sign the agreement USA, China and India. When these three have joined, the real decrease will come. For USA it looks hopeful if a democrat regime is elected. China and India will probably not sign the agreement anytime soon, my opinion is that they will focus on growth and let the environment come second (or not at all).

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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Fear of the outside world

In a kind of pathetic attempt to discredit Obama, the Clinton's campaign organization dug up and published a photo of Obama wearing a traditional muslim dress. The fact is just that this does not show that Obama is muslim, but rather that he has realtives in Kenya and has been there visiting.

However, if there is one country where this action could be successful it would be the USA. A country that since 9/11, and to some extent before that, has been displaying a large fear of muslim people and culture. Which in itself is a frigthening development in a country claiming to be one of the world's largest democracies and a leading power.

I doubt that this picture will have any large effect on the elections. I believe that the only winner when democrats are fighting amongst each other are the other side, the republicans. Thus, it is kind of contraproductive in some ways. A united democratic front would be better in the end.

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Monday, 25 February 2008

Brain control?

According to a American scientist, Ray Kurzweil, who has recently been invited to the American Engineering Academy to discuss the technology of the future, we will have nano-robots in our brains soon. According to Kurzweil this will happen in around 20 years.

These small nano-robots will be transported through our capillaries and interact with our own neurons. The purpose would be to make us smarter and improve our memory, but also to repair damages. This sounds like a far off future scenario, but mostly just scary.

The first objection must be, who will control these robots? If they are powerful enough to influence our mind, then this should be the ultimate tool of (government) control. Whether or not these bots would be programmable is unknown, but one would argue that they are only a few molecules and would not hold any software, but rather act on chemical principles. WHich would also make the one doing or controlling the design powerful.

If this scenario comes, I expect major scepticism and resistance to arise. It is probable that it is a long way from happening. But as always with the future it is largely unclear.

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Friday, 22 February 2008

Flying on rails

The general opinion is today agreeing on the fact that flying is the most environmental harmful way of travelling. For intercontinental travels flying may still be necessary in the future. For these travels a need for new energy systems and better fuel is of utmost importance.

However, for shorter travels, for example within Western Europe, train could be just as quick. What is needed is development of the train system. Higher capacity is needed and more high speed trains. If this is established the trains should be able to be a serious competitor to flying. And much more environmentally friendly, provided that the energy is produced in a good way.

A problem for this is however the different standards in different countries. For example when it comes to width of the rails it differs between countries in Europe, forcing time consuming transfers. But trains definitely has a future in a more environmentally concerned society, but action is needed for the trains to fulfill its potential.

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Thursday, 21 February 2008

The serbian response

The situation in Cosovo has triggered reactions in Serbia, the country to which Cosovo previously belonged. The already strong nationalist movement is building momentum and is likely to gain power.

The rage within Serbia is mainly directed towards USA, the country which has enacted as an important enabler of Cosovo's independence. Today the American embassy has been attacked and burned by a raging mob. I do not really see how USA can calm the situation down, maybe brute force will be needed. An angry mob is hard to control in any situation, and anything diplomatic will take to much time. By the time a diplomatic solution can be reached the damage is already done. USA is surely in a tight spot here...

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Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Climate Wars

As earlier written here, the changes in climate may very well be the cause of the next great war. A recently published report by a european governmental agency states that almost 4 billion persons are risking to face armed conflicts or political instability as an effect of climate change. The largest risk is for inhabitants of instable countries or countadries with bad leadership. Furthermore, it states that there is a lack of willingness to respond to the coming climate change in many countries.

A recognition of this problem is needed on an international and intragovernmental level, otherwise this is bound to be a major factor shaping the coming century. Swift action and support is needed from the international community, first and foremost from the industrialized world. A willingness from USA and the European Union will be needed, and a new president in USA may be a prerequisite for this.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2008

The tides are turning

USA has for some time been the world largest democracy, the world foremost industrial country and the foremost oil power. During the last years and in the near future this is all changing. Other countries are growing at a much mroe rapid pace. Economists has forecasted that China will surpass USA in terms of purchasing power between 2012 and 2015. By 2025 China is set to be the largest economic power in the world. How radical will this change be?

This economic power, the quest for water and raw materials and climate changes will have large consequences. Will this create an imperialistic policy? With China seeking expansion and increased influence?

India is today the world's largest democracy, China is the foremost industrial power and USA is an oil importer. A lot has changed, and it is not finished yet.

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Monday, 18 February 2008


Cosovo's independence has turned in to a tug-o-war between Russia, supporting the Serbs and USA supporting an independent Cosovo. After the declaration of independence by the Cosovo parliament a new state has been created. The issue is however the fact that the new state is nowhere near being economically independent. Cosovo will be supported by outside funding, mostly from the European Union. This is indeed an odd way to create a new country. It is contradictory to the whole concept of independence and rather creating a new state with the European Union and USA as its puppeteers. Is this really a sustainable solution.

Furthermore, this will most likely add to the conflict in the Balkans and result in an even larger Serbian nationalist movement. This is not only creating enlarging the conflict between Serbia and Cosovo, but also between USA/Nato and Serbia. This solution seems a bit hasty.

Also this may create sort of a international prejudicate, with more regions declaring its independence. Results of this might be seen in the various parts of Russia, Cyprus (Turk and Greek) and Spain (Catalonia and Basque country).

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Saturday, 16 February 2008

The US Inquisition

Torture as a means of getting a confession was widely used during medieval times, for example the spanish inquisition or the witch trials going on until around 1700. After a time of torture the victims are often happy to confess to anything just to end it, often by being executed. This is a barbaric practise and taking torture to an even worse level.

How come then the country perceiving itself as the world's foremost democracy are using this horrible methods. Apparently fighting terror is viewed as more important than human right, democracy or fair trials. The problem is just that a confession under torture is more or less worthless. Thus, this creates no value for the war on terror. Adding to the atrociousness of these actions carried out by the US army is the fact that these "confessions" will be used trying condemn these men to death.

It is time for the rest of the world, first and foremost the European Union and United Nations to stand up for democracy and codemn the US treatment of prisoners and lack of respect for fair trials.

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Wednesday, 13 February 2008


Ethanol is sometimes praised as the great fuel of the future, a biofuel which is significantly decreasing carbon dioxide emission. In most cases this is just not true and ethanol has some other setbacks.

The European Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warns that “the current push to expand the use of biofuels is creating unsustainable tensions that will disrupt markets without generating significant environmental benefits. The ethanol is generally produced from sugarcanes, wheat or corn. the ethanol produced contains less energy than an equal amount of gasolin. The general problem is that to produce the raw material for ethanol often large areas of forest are burned down creating large emissions. In the end the ethanol is often even giving more emissions than gasolin. Furthermore, cultivation for ethanol production is taking up large areas that would be needed to produce food. For example, filling up one SUV fuel tank one time with ethanol uses enough corn to feed one person for a year.

Another solution is distilling ethanol from cellulose, which will not compete with food production. However, this is depleting the soil where it is grown. Also the production of ethanol requires energy, which often comes from natural gas or oil.

Biofuels is the future, but there needs to be significant development before they can make any real changes. The use of ethanol is more important as a indication of willingness to change, than as a solution for reducing emissions.

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Monday, 11 February 2008

Spawning of terrorism

The war on terror will never be a success. No matter how much military spending is put in to it. It can at best keep USA a head in a constant struggle against terrorists.

The problem is that the invasion of Afghanistan or whatever target is chosen only creates more terrorists and hostility. For every day a country is occupied by a foreign force without the support of the people new terrorists will spawn.

An occupant, such as USA in Iraq, will need to have the support of the people and in cooperation with the people create a democratic system, otherwise the mission is bound to fail. Inevitably leading to enormous spendings and the occupying force ultimately withdrawing with their tails between their legs.

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Fainting Goats

Evolution is the basis of new species and new solutions to the problems of life. Examples of the wonders of nature are all around us and in one way or another in every animal. However, sometimes odd side effects show up.

An amazing, and entertaining, example of this is the fainting goats. These goats look like a regular goat, but when they become stressed or excited their legs freeze, and often they fall over due to this. The freezing is neither permanent nor harmful, and they will stand up soon again. The older more experienced goats usually managed to stay standing up and jump around with stiff legs. This effect is however only caused by external factors, the goats does not inflict this on each other. It can be such simple things as being fed or someone unfolding an umbrella.

So how has this evolutionary side effect arisen? Does it make sense? It has to be assumed it is not harmful for the goats in the wild. Even though goats have been domesticized for thousands of years this is a relatively short time in an evolutionary perspective. It is also probable that this is an side effect of some favourable mutations in the genetic history of the goats.

Here below are two entertaining and enlightening videos:
Video 1
Video 2

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Saturday, 9 February 2008

Misdirected punishment

As the climate changes due to global warming gradually comes; the wet areas will be wetter and dry areas will be drier. Many of the developing countries are located in areas that will become very dry or be flooded. This is problematic in several ways, except for the obvious impact on the everyday life of millions of people.

Morally, the global warming is almost exclusively caused by greenhouse gas emissions from the industrialized countries, the Western World. However, the most severe effects will affect the developing countries. In other words they will take the hit for our actions. Furthermore, can the Western World deny the developing countries to pollute as we have done. The people in developing countries are seeking a standard of living as we already have; for this to take place industrialization is needed and it will not come clean. China and India are there now. china has clearly indicated that it will not show any environmental concern while trying to catch up with the West.

Firstly, the Western world need to act as champions of change. Changes and adaptation needs to be done, to minimize climate change. This is important to show the rest of the world that there is a will, and also a way.

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Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Free Trade & Market economy

Basically there are many problems with giving foreign aid. The foreign aid is often short-sighted and not creating sustainable improvements. There need to be a shift from shipping food to developing countries to a foreign aid for a long term improvement. I am not saying catastrophy aid is not needed; it is very much needed. But an economy cannot be built around foreign aid.

The first mission should be free trade. The most efficient way for developing countries to develop is by letting them trade their goods with the rest of the world, without traid barriers. This will create an increased prosperity and incentives for technological development. Furthermore, the industrialized world needs to stop dumping goods in developing countries, destroying the domestic market and companies.

When this is done, important steps towards market economy have been taken. But this need to be followed up by creating a transparent and reliable market. This is the responsibility of the local government, creating the prerequisites for this development. The market economy will drive economical and technological development, thus reinforcing itself.

With the increased prosperity brought by the market economy, an efficient educational system need to be created. This is creating a workforce suited for jobs in a knowledge intensive industry and incentives for multinational companies to establish operations here.

This will create a growing educated middle class, which most probably will create a demand for democracy and decreased corruption. These systems, market economy and democracy, are reinforcing themselves and each other by their existence and interaction.

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Tuesday, 5 February 2008

The all-seeing ear

Last week I came across one of the most astonishing things I have seen in a while. It is about a teenage boy, who has been blind since he was only a few years old, but can see in his own way. He had his eyes removed after a severe case of cancer in his eyes as an infant.

This boy is now using his mouth to make a clicking sound, which is helping him to navigate in the world without his eyes. This is truly amazing and a proof of the unused resources of our brains, which can be utilised with the right training. Apparently he has refined this technique for many years; now it is making him able to avoid obstacles while riding his bike or skating on his inlines.

In some extra-ordinary manner his brain is able to "paint" him a picture of the surroundings by analyzing the echoes of these click sounds. Furthermore, he is also displaying a lust for life and a recentment towards being labelled as handicapped.

The videos in the links below are a documentary on this amazing boy.
Part 1 of 5
Part 2 of 5
Part 3 of 5
Part 4 of 5
Part 5 of 5

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Monday, 4 February 2008

Super Bowl

Right now the Super Bowl is in half-time. This large spectacle of a sports event; one of the largest isolated sport events in competition with the soccer World Championship and the Summer Olympics.

It has been estimated that the Super Bowl generates almost $10 billion dollars of sales, within product areas such as television sets, snacks and beverages. This is a huge amount of money relating to one event, as a comparison this number is larger than the GDP of about 80 countries. Even though the US economy is seeing a recession, the spending relating to Super Bowl are largely unafflicted.

Time for the second half now.

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Sunday, 3 February 2008

Microsohoo !?

Google is now the dominant force in the internet. Microsoft is set to acquire Yahoo through a hostile bid; what is the scope of this deal? Will Microsoft try to heat up the competition with Google or is Microsoft moving towards the next generation of internet products?

This is partly a clash of business concepts, Microsoft that has lately been growing by acquisitions and Google who have grown more organically through bottom-up innovation. Google has demonstrated its ability to meet new market demands and also create new markets. Google is currently one of the most innovative companies in a dynamic industry, this should be a good framework for success...

The most likely reason for this huge acquisition is primarily to competet with Google in online advertising. The buzz in the industry has spoken of this for a while. Google has a dominant standing in the online advertising, and Microsoft is looking to catch up. For this new and innovative solutions will be required, competing by trying to copy Google will be hard or even pointless.

Will Microsoft try to compete in the same more or less unfair manner as they have done when it comes to software or will Microsoft pursue another strategy? Only time will tell...

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The oil will not run out anytime soon

Some claim that the oil will run out soon. Actually it has been claimed for almost fifty years that the oil will run out within 25 years. There are two reasons for this, more oil is found and technology changes make more of the oil available for economically beneficial extraction.

What will happen is however that oil prices will rise as extraction of oil gets more expensive. There is much more oil in the earth than that which is extracted today, for example there is oil in minerals in the ground and deeper in the sea.

So to all with environmental concerns, thinking that the lack of oil will force environmentally friendly technologies to be used; this is far away. Maybe the increasing prices will hurry up the search for environmentally friendly fuels, but it will not be the most important force. Action to minimize global warming needs to be taken much sooner, actually it should have been done yesterday.

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