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first_imgIf accountants cooked the books like this, they’d serve jail time.Suppose your financial planner tells you, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that in five years, you’ll be a billionaire! The bad news is that you need to come up with 750 million dollars that I can invest for you.” That’s what evolutionary origin-of-life theorizing is like. As long as they can cheat, they can accomplish anything.Cheating in the IngredientsMatthew Powner and Jack Szostak are “circus toymakers” in what reporter Susan Mazur calls The Origin of Life Circus (Caswell Books, 2016). Their most recent toys are the four nucleotides that make up RNA: two purines and two pyrimidines. Because getting these to form under simulated early-earth conditions has been a challenge for 50 years, NASA’s Astrobiology Magazine throws a party for them, called “How RNA formed at the origins of life“:In a study, published today [5/24/17] in Nature Communications and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Simons Foundation and the Origins of Life Challenge, researchers from UCL, Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital suggest a single chemical mechanism by which both classes of nucleotides – purines and pyrimidines – could have formed together….Purine and pyrimidine nucleotides are used to create the DNA and RNA. The purine and pyrimidine nucleotides bind to one another through specific molecular interactions that provide a mechanism to copy and transfer information at the molecular level, which is essential for genetics, replication and evolution. Therefore understanding the origins of nucleotides is thought to be key to understanding the origins of life itself.Sounds impressive till you uncover the cheating. In their paper in Nature Communications, you have to look deep in the Supplementary Information PDF file. But there it is: they bought their ribose from a supplier! That’s like the 750 million dollars you have to cough up before you get your billion. Ribose, the sugar on which these bases depends, has been devilishly hard for the circus toymakers to make, because it falls apart in water and is extremely delicate to work with (see the Illustra Film Origin). So yeah, if you buy it at the supply house and treat it very carefully under intelligently-designed conditions, you might get something you want. But from what supply house did mindless chance buy its ribose? Did NASA tell you about that?The probability of getting a meaningful sequence is nil.The cheating is actually much, much worse. Cheating often depends on distraction. Powner and NASA lead the audience to think that some great breakthrough has been made in the origin of life, but actually, getting the building blocks is the easy part. Some building blocks, like amino acids, form naturally under various conditions (although they do NOT link up in water). Nucleotides are tougher to make, but they are still nothing more than building blocks. So while the audience is distracted looking at nucleotides, the cheaters fail to mention that the big challenge for the origin of life is sequencing the building blocks into information-rich polymers (proteins, nucleic acids and sugars) that have biological function. That has to come about by chance—totally out of the question (again, see the film Origin). On top of that, the building blocks have to be one-handed, or they won’t work, and that, too, has to happen by chance—again, totally out of the question (read this). The paper says nothing about these little ‘details’. So what does this have to do about the emergence of life on earth? Precious little. This circus act is all clown and no money.Cheating in the RecipeAnother team recognizes the sequencing problem, but cheats to get a workable sequence to ’emerge’ (one of the origin-of-life cheaters’ favorite magic words). How do they accomplish this? Through “chaotic flows,” Phys.org says — “Chaotic flows and the origin of life.” The setup teases the audience with suspense:Scientists have long known that the building blocks of life – amino acids, nucleobases and sugars – were present in the early ocean, but they were very low in concentration. In order for life to emerge, these building blocks needed to be combined and enriched into long-chain macromolecules. Identifying the process and mechanism driving this synthesis has been one of the largest questions concerning the origin of life.Believe it or not, these wizards from Texas A&M address the problem by conjuring up “complex and chaotic” flow patterns in models of hydrothermal vents. And then, they compare this ‘mechanism’ to Lava Lamps and patterns you get when you stir cream into your coffee. Has anyone had a meaningful message appear in a Lava Lamp or coffee cup lately? Any life emerge?The article never resolves the suspense. The authors point to the fact that chaotic flows might cause rocks (like carbonates) to form at the vents. What does that have to do with life? Zero. Zilch. Nada. But they got their ideas published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, claiming that they discovered “a mechanism that may have played a major role in combining these dilute chemical building blocks into the long-chain macromolecules necessary for life.”Making chains does nothing to solve the sequencing problem. If random building blocks are meaningless on the floor, they are going to be equally meaningless arranged by chance into chains. Throwing kids’ alphabet blocks into a tornado would be just as promising.Here’s the mentality that drives these clowns. They say, ‘We’re here, and since creation is illegal, it must have happened somehow. We’ll just work on individual pieces of the big picture.” We have used two analogies to show how asinine this is. In one analogy, we said that scientists have scattered pieces of a puzzle but no box top (5/01/08). They sketch out what they think the picture should be, and start trying to fit pieces into their model. But if their imagined picture is false, what’s going to happen? All their busy work will be in vain. They will never arrive at the true picture.In the second analogy, we pictured a canyon representing the gulf between non-life and life (5/22/02). The origin-of-life clowns believe that material processes built a bridge across the canyon, so they imagine parts of a bridge that might fit. One team hires a helicopter to hold a piece of steel out in mid-air, then publishes a scientific paper claiming that this piece fits their model of a possible bridge. But it hangs on nothing! When the helicopter lets go, the steel falls to the floor of the canyon. Another team imagines a protrusion on the non-life side of the canyon providing a scaffold on which a bridge might ’emerge.’ Each team works on various pieces of an imaginary bridge that chance built, feeling rewarded that they are solving one of the great mysteries of science. But a bridge will never emerge by chance. For one thing, the teams have different models for bridges and how to build them, and each team likes to falsify the other team’s model, saying it won’t work. For another, the pieces of models do not fit each other. A more important objection is that chance does not want to build a bridge, and chance cannot build a bridge. Again, these are all exercises in futility.Don’t we see natural bridges? Yes, occasionally, but they are already present before the stream carves out the channel underneath. The same is true for natural arches. Chance never constructs a bridge of multiple parts for the purpose of allowing entities to get across. And if you have a sufficiently wide canyon, no natural process will ever build a bridge. For the origin of life, it would be like building a bridge across the universe. And that’s being generous to the materialists (again, see the film Origin). One thing we know from uniform experience: complex bridges that permit orderly travel across canyons are built by intelligent design. That’s a positive argument for design, not a god-of-the-gaps argument. Who has a gap argument but the person who has ruled out design from the get-go, and must resort to chaotic flows or magical ’emergence’ to maintain a materialistic worldview? If we’ve learned anything from the last 66 years since the Miller experiment, it’s that the canyon has been growing wider and wider than anyone ever thought. Chance-of-the-gaps was impossible then; it is unthinkable now. Cheaters will not prosper. Let’s shut down the clown act and get back to scientific causes that we know from our uniform experience are necessary and sufficient to explain the phenomenon in question: life. (Visited 670 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more


first_imgRunners set a competitive pace on their way to the finish line. (Image: Comrades Marathon) • Comrades Marathon Museum +27 33 897 8650 [email protected] www.comrades.com • 2011 Comrades draws big names • Living on in the Comrades spirit • South Africa’s toughest endurance challenges • Running is in her blood • The pain is soon forgotten • Sport in South AfricaLucille DavieSouth Africa is arguably the world’s toughest endurance race capital, where thousands of athletes of all ages and abilities turn up to compete in some of the most gruelling races on the planet.The numbers are astonishing: the Cape Argus Cycle Tour attracts 35 000 cyclists each year, to ride 109km through some of the peninsular’s most spectacular scenery. Some 20 000 runners sign up for the brutal Comrades Marathon every year, a running race of 90km between the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. The Midmar Mile, which has a Guinness World Record, has 20 000 swimmers splash into the water outside Pietermaritzburg each year, to swim a mile, or 1.6km.Yet other races, like the 2 300km mountain bike Freedom Challenge and the 240km Berg River Canoe Marathon, attract a handful of elite extreme athletes, keen to pit themselves against the unforgiving elements and huge distances, and test their mental and physical ability to the limit.The Dusi Canoe Marathon, the Comrades Marathon, the Midmar Mile, the Cape Epic, the Freedom Challenge, the Berg River Canoe Marathon, and the Cape Argus Cycle Tour – all are tests of extreme ability and endurance, and attract men and women, and in some cases, children, of all abilities. And more and more international athletes are discovering the country’s top races.The Comrades MarathonThe Comrades Marathon, with the tagline “Hard is what makes it great”, has been going for 93 years. The first race was run in May 1921 and it has been run every year since then, except from 1941 to 1945, during World War 2. It started outside the City Hall in Pietermaritzburg with 34 runners, and ended in Durban, a run of some 90 kilometres along the back roads of the province. It alternates each year, one year up from Durban, the next down to Durban. The race is done in one day – in other words, it is just more than two marathons, run back to back, within a cut-off time of 12 hours.Despite its toughness, with some spirit-breaking hills, it attracts more than 20 000 runners, most of whom are South Africans. But in the past 15 years foreigners have discovered it, and have been taking the medals. In 2013, runners from almost 66 countries entered, with 1 400 foreign runners hitting the tar.Women were only allowed to run the race from 1965. South African Frith van der Merwe still holds the women’s record, winning in an astounding five hours, 54 minutes, and 43 seconds, in 1989. The Russian twins Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva have dominated the podium since 2003, taking first place. In the most recent Comrades, on 1 June 2014, British-born Canadian runner Eleanor Greenwood won the women’s race. Elena Nurgalieva came in second, followed by Olesya Nurgalieva in third place.In the men’s race, this year’s down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban was won by Bongmusa Mthembu, from the KwaZulu-Natal village of Bulwer, followed by Ludwick Mamabolo and Gift Kelehe – all three of them South Africans.Heroes allLike the Dusi, the Comrades has its hero – a lean Bruce Fordyce, who won the race for eight consecutive years, then missed a year but came back to take the title for a ninth time in 1990. A Russian, Leonid Shvetsov, raced the fastest time in 2007, in a remarkable five hours, 20 minutes, and 49 seconds.It’s a race that runners finish and swear they won’t do again, but such is its spirit and comradeship, they line up the next year to beat their personal barriers to cross the finish line again. Some 112 000 people have looked into their souls doing the race over its history.It was the dream of Vic Clapham, on his return from World War 1. “A soldier, a dreamer, who had campaigned in East Africa in that terrible war approached the League of Comrades of the Great War with a vision that would result in the world’s greatest ultra-marathon eighty years later,” explains the Comrades website.“He felt that if infantrymen, drafted into the armed forces from sedentary jobs, could endure forced marches over great distances, trained athletes could cover the distance between the two cities without great difficulty.”The league helped families torn apart by war, but also gave soldiers a place to rekindle the camaraderie shared on the battlefield. After he was turned down by the athletics bodies in Pietermaritzburg, Clapham approached the league, but it thought that the race would be “far too strenuous for even a trained athlete and turned his proposal down”.The first ultra-marathonUndaunted, he applied to the league again in 1919, and again in 1920. It was only in 1921 that he was given a loan of one pound, and made plans for the run. “Vic Clapham endured much from his critics, but in that year he forged ahead with his plans and under the doubtful watch from the League of Comrades of the Great War, founded the Comrades Marathon.”He announced the event through a letter in the local newspaper. He got donations for prizes, and told potential entrants to collect their entry forms from his home in Pietermaritzburg or from the office of the secretary of the league in Durban.“And so one of the great athletics events of our time was born on Empire day, May 24th 1921. The camaraderie had as its basis the memories of that terrible war three years previous. Traditions would grow and survive even into the present day,” records the website. And indeed, even today, runners famously stop and help struggling comrades along, particularly in the final kilometre into the stadium, sometimes sacrificing their own personal goals of crossing the line in a particular time.In 1923 the first woman, Frances Hayward, a typist from Durban, entered to run the race but her entry was refused. Undaunted, she arrived at the start in a green gymnasium costume and ran anyway. She finished 28th in a time of 11hours, 35 minutes, but her time was not recorded and she did not receive a medal. “Sadly being an unofficial entrant, she was not to enjoy the coveted Comrades Medal. Her fellow runners and spectators held a shilling collection to buy her a prize. A hundred pounds was collected with which a silver tea service and rose bowl were purchased and presented to her. That evening, after the race, she went to the theatre.”It took another 42 years before women were officially welcomed to run, in 1965, and now some 22 percent of the field is women.Determined runnersThe race has nurtured some amazing athletes. Arthur Newton, a 39-year-old farmer from Harding in KwaZulu-Natal, won the up race in 1922 in eight hours 40 minutes. He said after his win: “It came as a surprise to myself. I rather thought I could run into third or fourth place, but certainly I did not expect to win, and still less to cover the course in under nine hours, 15 minutes.” He modestly added: “It isn’t my fault I won. If Phillips and Rowan hadn’t cut such a terrific pace at the start they both would have finished in front of me, because they are better runners.”The next year he brought his time below seven hours by coming in at six hours and 56 minutes, surprising the officials, who thought it would be another hour before the winner would cross the line. Newton managed to bring his time down even further, and in 1925 he ran the race in six hours and 24 minutes. He was 42 at the time. But he left South Africa in 1925. “During 1925 Newton left South Africa in protest. Some of his farmlands were being expropriated at below market prices and the softly spoken, pipe smoking champion was lost to South Africa.”What makes this time more remarkable is that in the 1920s athletes were running in unsuitable shoes, often canvas, and there were no water stations along the route. They were told to get refreshments at hotels they passed.Another memorable runner was Wally Hayward. He won the race on his first attempt in 1930 at the age of 21. He went on to win again four more times, 20 years later, breaking the records for the up and down runs. Then in 1988, at the age of 79, he returned, beating half the field in the up run. His final run, at the age of 80, took place in 1989, when he staggered across the finish line with just under two minutes to spare. He is the oldest finisher of the Comrades Marathon. He died in 2006.Then there’s Dave Rogers. He did his first race at the age of 18, and at 71, entered to do his 46th race this year. He says he continues to do the race because of the “camaraderie amongst fellow runners during training and the race, and the satisfaction of having overcome the challenges that one always encounters during such endurance events”.His best time was five hours and 52 minutes, but these days he times his race to finish within 10 minutes or so of the cut off. As to how long he will continue doing the race, he says: “The older one gets the more uncertainty there is, so it is really in the hands of the good Lord, but it would be nice to dream that I could keep running for another decade or so.”He continues to run the race for the same reason as everyone who does it: “It keeps one fit, healthy and motivated, but the most important thing is that I enjoy it.”last_img read more


first_imgTrelbyTrelby has built a strong following over the years as being a cheap and easy free alternative to Final Draft. While not as collaborative and accessible anywhere as its newer counterparts, it does provide a solid structure and a developed interface built for usability. Unfortunately, it’s also not on Mac yet – but if you’re looking for that Linux-friendly scriptwriting software, Trelby might just be for you. WriterDuetCreated mostly for those looking to collaborate with other writers at the same time, WriteDuet is another strong option to explore. The major meat of the app comes in the upgraded monthly payment package ($7.99/mo. for Pro, $89/yr. for “Screencraft” edition). However, used as a free option, it serves admirably as is. Looking to pen your next screenplay but don’t want to invest in an expensive scriptwriting program? Here are six free scriptwriting resources for you to check out!Top image via ShutterstockIn film and video production, the script is often the backbone of a project. While detailed shot lists and call sheets help with specific scenes, the script is needed to give context to the whole (with just enough details to guide production).As such, there is a need for scripts to follow a certain format that is recognizable and pragmatic in its style and information. There are several standard programs and softwares used in the industry, all of which with their own quirks and nuances.Final Draft happens to be my favorite, but it’s also the one I started on and have developed a comfort with. However, at its core it’s no different than any of the options below. So, if you’re looking to try your first software or find a cheaper alternative to your paid program, check out one of the free options below.CeltxCeltx is actually much more than a scriptwriting software. If you’re interested, Celtx offers a full package of storyboards, catalogs and viewing models. However, for purposes of this review, let’s focus on the screenplay edition, which is free to create an account and use online.Celtx requires an account to access, which is fine as it allows you to access your account on any computer or device and edit or share your project from anywhere. It can be a little buggy at times, but the word processing is solid and intuitive to help with speed and formatting. You can also work offline by downloading the file as a .txt.Cost: Free (or $15 a month for full package)Platform: WebCloud Availability: YesCollaborative: YesWebsite: celtx.com Cost: FreePlatform: Windows/LinuxCloud Availability: NoCollaborative: NoWebsite: trelby.org Adobe StoryAdobe’s recent addition to their cloud-based services, Story is a great free alternative with its friendly functionality and familiar Adobe aesthetics. If you’re already on the Creative Cloud, the premium is a good option and great for any cross integration you may need. However, if you’d like to keep the commitment one way, the app works fine without the premium but will lack some of the cloud and collaborative options.Cost: Free ($9.99/mo. for Creative Cloud premium)Platform: WebCloud Availability: With premiumCollaborative: YesWebsite: story.adobe.com Amazon Story WriterLike Adobe’s Story, Amazon Story Writer is a new addition to the field by a major brand looking to lock up what is a very brand-fickle community. Amazon’s Story Writer is actually a really great program that is probably the cleanest app for those looking for a simple aesthetic. You can access the app on Chrome so you can use it on any computer online or off. It also syncs up with different computers for collaborative sharing.  The auto-formating is on par with any Fountain-based software and is easy to get rolling with shortcuts and back-and-forths.Cost: FreePlatform: WebCloud Availability: YesCollaborative: YesWebsite: storywriter.amazon.com Cost: Free ($7.99/mo. for offline and other features)Platform: WebCloud Availability: YesCollaborative: YesWebsite: writerduet.com PlotBotTo its credit, PlotBot is probably the simplest option available for those looking to jump into their next screenplay. Its in-browser software allows for collaborative sharing through an HTML link. You can also make it backwards compatible with other script writing softwares by just copy and pasting into their format.The downsides with plotbot are similar to other web-based programs. Inconsistent saving can result in lost work here and there. Its workflow isn’t as advanced as other higher-end options which can result in grinding at a slower rate over a long period of time.Cost: Free (or $15 a month for full package)Platform: WebCloud Availability: YesCollaborative: YesWebsite: plotbot.com Have any other script writing resources you’d like to share? Let us know how these work out!last_img read more


first_imgAction has been initiated against 2,923 farmers so far in 20,729 cases of stubble burning reported till November 1 in Punjab, which expects a 10-20% decline in the number of such cases this year compared with 2018, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said.As against a total of around 49,000 cases of stubble burning last year, this year the State government has so far received reports of 20,729 cases, with more than 70% of the paddy already harvested.‘Drive intensified’Despite the High Court having stayed the recovery of fines from farmers penalised last year, the State government has intensified its drive against the dangerous practice of stubble burning, Capt. Amarinder said in a statement here on Sunday.The enforcement teams had till November 1 visited 11, 286 fire incidents sites, and environment compensation amounting to ₹41.62 lakh had been imposed in 1,585 cases, red entry made in revenue documents (khasra girdawari) in 1,136 cases, and prosecution-FIR filed in 202 cases against defaulting farmers.The process of verifying the remaining fire incidents and levying of environmental compensation was being expedited, said the Chief Minister. He said that the Punjab Pollution Control Board had also imposed environmental compensation of ₹62 lakhs on 31 combine harvesters operating without Super Straw Management System.Central compensationCompensation by the Central government was the only solution in the circumstances, said the Chief Minister, adding that the matter was not one of politics, but “a question of the future of our people, which goes beyond politics.” The ball was totally in the Centre’s court since most State governments were bankrupt, with his own State reeling under massive debt, Capt. Amarinder said, adding that the fiscal situation was linked to GST, which had aggravated their economic problems.last_img read more


first_imgSomdev Devvarman and Karan Rastogi kept themselves in the medal hunt by reaching the men’s singles quarterfinals with easy wins in the tennis competition of the Asian Games on Saturday.Both the Indian players, who have hardly been challenged so far in the tournament, yet again scored dominating victories.Second seed Somdev won at the expense of just two games as he beat Uzbekistan’s 16th seed Vaja Uzakov 6-1 6-1 in the third round at the Aoti Tennis Centre.The ranking difference between the two players was all the more palpable as 105th-ranked Somdev took just 39 minutes to dispatch the 960th ranked Uzbek.Somdev will next take on sixth seed Chinese Zhang Ze, who is ranked way behind the Indian at 307.Rastogi, coming back to international tennis after an injury lay-off, did not have much trouble in thrashing Taipei’s 10th seed Ti Chen 6-0 6-4.After blanking his rival in the opening set, the 332-ranked Indian dropped his serve in first game of the second set but broke 525-ranked Chen in the eighth game to draw parity and broke him for again in the 12th game to clinch the issue.Rastogi’s first real test comes now as he faces top seed and world number 40 Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan next.If Somdev and Rastogi manage to win one more match, they will be assured of at least a bronze medal in the singles event.With PTI inputslast_img read more

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