Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Readings 5-21-08

Study Says Carbon Nanotubes as Dangerous as Asbestos

Inhaling carbon nanotubes could be as harmful as breathing in asbestos, and its use should be regulated lest it lead to the same cancer and breathing problems that prompted a ban on the use of asbestos as insulation in buildings, according a new study posted online today by Nature Nanotechnology.

Big challenge for the nanotech community if this bears out.

As homes foreclose in U.S., squatters move in
Squatting is on the rise across the United States as foreclosures surge, eviction notices mount and homes go unsold for months, complicating the worst U.S. housing slump in a quarter century and forcing real-estate brokers to enlist the help of law enforcement and courts to sell empty houses.

In some regions, squatting is taking on new twists to include real-estate scams in which thieves "rent out" abandoned homes they don't own. Others involve "professional squatters" who move from one abandoned home to another posing as tenants who seek cash from banks as a condition to leave the premises -- a process known by real-estate brokers as "cash for key."

We have to be careful with how we define the term squatter. There are many possible interpretations, some not so good in the eyes of society at large. The cases cited in this article paint squatting strictly as a willful criminal act, while there are many cases where people revitalize abandoned and decaying areas or are so destitute that they just need a place to stay.

Years back, I squatted in London for a while and found that I was helped and encouraged from many quarters, including the local government and even the police. It was decent cold-water council flat in Southwark. A bit of roughing it at first, but after a short while, we had a nice little crib going. We were a small improvement on a largely abandoned and decaying neighborhood.

via Squatter City

The freedom to say 'no'
Why aren't there more women in science and engineering? Controversial new research suggests: They just aren't interested.

So, in other words, instead of pushing for more women to go into the hard sciences, why not ask them what they would prefer to do?

One thing I found interesting about the study was the evidence showing that a majority of the women preferred to work with people while the men preferred to work with things. A cliché, perhaps, but there seems to be a some truth to this if you buy into this research.

via Arts & Letters Daily

The List: The Worst Place to be a Terrorist

This reminds me of a moment in Robert Littell's 2002 novel, The Company (p. 707):
"I stumbled across an Israeli report describing how the Russians dealt with a hostage situation," he said. "Three Soviet diplomats were kidnapped in Beirut by a Hezbollah commando. The KGB didn't sit on their hands, agonizing over what they could do about it. They abducted the relative of a Hezbollah leader and sent his body back with his testicles stuffed in his mouth and a note nailed-- nailed, for Christ's sake-- to his chest warning that the Hezbollah leaders and their sons would suffer the same fate if the three Soviets weren't freed. Within hours the three diplomats were released unharmed a few blocks from the Soviet embassy."

But hey, we're America, we don't work that way... right?

I don't necessarily condone this type of activity, but I can safely say that there were no more abductions of Soviet citizens in Lebanon after that exchange. Only Americans and Britons that were held suffering for many years.

I'm conflicted on this.


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