The Null Device
The cat genome has been sequenced. Well, most of it. The feline Craig Venter whose actual DNA was sequenced is a pedigree Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon, descended from lab cats bred to develop a degenerative eye disease, whose genetic cause has since been discovered.
Analysis of the cat genome sequence could also shed light on everything from evolution to the origins of feline domestication, they say.
"One thing I'd like to discover is the genes for good behaviour in the cats - the genes for domestication, the things that make them not want to kill our children but play with them," he added.If they do find the makes-a-good-pet gene, they could possibly use it to create transgenic pets which don't do the amount of ecological damage to non-native environments that cats do. (There would be a solid case for eliminating cats from, say, Australia, though because of their popularity, such a move would be impossible to implement in anything resembling a democracy.) An alternative would be to find the genes responsible for predatory instincts and knock them out, creating a cat that's, well, a pussycat. Oh, and if they find out how to encode bitmaps into the cat's coat patterns, designer kittens could be as much a possibility as laser-engraved iPods.
As we dig in for the long siege and see potential terrorists in every shadow, the war on terror is, according to Bruce Schneier, turning into a war on the unexpected, with untrained civilians encouraged to report anything out of the ordinary, and the authorities escalating such reports to full-blown incidents:
We've opened up a new front on the war on terror. It's an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected; it's a war on different. If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested -- even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong. The problem is a combination of citizen informants and a CYA attitude among police that results in a knee-jerk escalation of reported threats.
This story has been repeated endlessly, both in the U.S. and in other countries. Someone -- these are all real -- notices a funny smell, or some white powder, or two people passing an envelope, or a dark-skinned man leaving boxes at the curb, or a cell phone in an airplane seat; the police cordon off the area, make arrests, and/or evacuate airplanes; and in the end the cause of the alarm is revealed as a pot of Thai chili sauce, or flour, or a utility bill, or an English professor recycling, or a cell phone in an airplane seat.Schneier also links to this blog item, which shows that this principle is being extended towards the padeophile end of the paedoterrorist axis; apparently, in Virginia, a father holding his young daughter's hand is a sign of probable sexual abuse.
A new report from the World Cancer Research Fund claims that eating bacon increases the risk of cancer. The Sun wastes no time in responding:
Clever, Rupert. Very clever.
There's bad news for the Westboro Baptist Church, a religious organisation whose central principle appears to be hatred of homosexuals and of anybody who doesn't hate them; they've been hit with a US$10.9m fine for picketing the funerals of soldiers (on the grounds that their deaths are divine punishment for America being too corrupt to put homosexuals to death).
Albert Snyder's attorney, Craig Trebilcock, had urged jurors to agree an amount "that says 'Don't do this' in Maryland again. Do not bring your circus of hate to Maryland again".
Defence attorney Jonathan Katz's argument that the $2.9m in compensatory damages already far exceeded the defendants' net worth and would be enough to "bankrupt them and financially destroy them" was ignored.Couldn't happen to a nicer guy...
Seen in a Times piece on amusing signs around the world, this sign is in Pune, India:
They do seem to have an appreciation of the full breadth of the English language in Pune.