Sunday, May 05, 2013

Highlights of The grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck

Trailer for the 1940 black and white film The ...
Trailer for the 1940 black and white film The Grapes of Wrath. Henry Fonda. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Highlights of The grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck

People living in constant ache by economic crisis, poor people getting worst each time, while the land owners, banks and the industry in a furious capitalism getting profits and wealthier... Nothing new under the sun. The grapes of wrath is a must read to forecast the destiny of a eager, classist, consumerist majority... Enjoy:

Then they asked, What'll we do? And the men replied, I don't know. But it was all right. The women knew it was all right, and the watching children knew it was all right. Women and children knew deep in themselves that no misfortune was too great to bear if their men were whole.

Before I knowed it, I was sayin' out loud, 'The hell with it! There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do. It's all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain't nice, but that's as far as any man got a right to say.'"

"I figgered about the Holy Sperit and the Jesus road. I figgered, 'Why do we got to hang it on God or Jesus? Maybe,' I figgered, 'maybe it's all men an' all women we love; maybe that's the Holy Sperit- the human sperit- the whole shebang. Maybe all men got one big soul ever'body's a part of.' Now I sat there thinkin' it, an' all of a suddent- I knew it. I knew it so deep down that it was true, and I still know it."

"You can't hold no church with idears like that," he said. "People would drive you out of the country with idears like that. Jumpin' an' yellin'. That's what folks like. Makes 'em feel swell. When Granma got to talkin' in tongues, you couldn't tie her down. She could knock over a full-growed deacon with her fist."

"They was a guy paroled," he said. "'Bout a month he's back for breakin' parole. A guy ast him why he bust his parole. 'Well, hell,' he says. 'They got no conveniences at my old man's place. Got no 'lectric lights, got no shower baths. There ain't no books, an' the food's lousy.' Says he come back where they got a few conveniences an' he eats regular. He says it makes him feel lonesome out there in the open havin' to think what to do next. So he stole a car an' come back."

Some of them hated the mathematics that drove them, and some were afraid, and some worshiped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from thought and from feeling.

banks were machines and masters all at the same time. Some of the owner men were a little proud to be slaves to such cold and powerful masters. The owner men sat in the cars and explained. You know the land is poor. You've scrabbled at it long enough, God knows.

Sure, cried the tenant men, but it's our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if it's no good, it's still ours. That's what makes it ours- being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it. We're sorry. It's not us. It's the monster. The bank isn't like a man.

The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it.

Well- first the sheriff, and then the troops. You'll be stealing if you try to stay, you'll be murderers if you kill to stay. The monster isn't men, but it can make men do what it wants. But if we go, where'll we go? How'll we go? We got no money. We're sorry, said the owner men. The bank, the fifty-thousand-acre owner can't be responsible.

And the women went quickly, quietly back into the houses and herded the children ahead of them. They knew that a man so hurt and so perplexed may turn in anger, even on people he loves. They left the men alone to figure and to wonder in the dust.

No man had touched the seed, or lusted for the growth. Men ate what they had not raised, had no connection with the bread.

"Sometimes a sad man can talk the sadness right out through his mouth. Sometimes a killin' man can talk the murder right out of his mouth an' not do no murder. You done right. Don't you kill nobody if you can help it."


Made a damn nuisance of hisself.

He'd come to our house in the night sometimes, an' we knowed he'd come 'cause jus' as sure as he come there'd be a pack a gum in the bed right beside ever' one of us. We thought he was Jesus Christ Awmighty."

Noah moved slowly, spoke seldom, and then so slowly that people who did not know him often thought him stupid. He was not stupid, but he was strange. He had little pride, no sexual urges. He worked and slept in a curious rhythm that nevertheless sufficed him.

You're not buying only junk, you're buying junked lives. And more- you'll see- you're buying bitterness.

We'll start over. But you can't start. Only a baby can start. You and me- why, we're all that's been. The anger of a moment, the thousand pictures, that's us. This land, this red land, is us; and the flood years and the dust years and the drought years are us. We can't start again. The bitterness we sold to the junk man- he got it all right, but we have it still.

Wouldn't go out naked of a rifle. When shoes and clothes and food, when even hope is gone, we'll have the rifle.

I'm scared of stuff so nice. I ain't got faith. I'm scared somepin ain't so nice about it."

"They was two ways a thinkin'. Some folks use' ta figger that a preacher was poison luck."

"Once a fella's a preacher, he's always a preacher.

The man who is more than his chemistry, walking on the earth, turning his plow point for a stone, dropping his handles to slide over an outcropping, kneeling in the earth to eat his lunch; that man who is more than his elements knows the land that is more than its analysis.

Fella says you're jus' as free as you got jack to pay for it.

ever' time since then when I hear a business man talkin' about service, I wonder who's gettin' screwed. Fella in business got to lie an' cheat, but he calls it somepin else.

The people in flight from the terror behind- strange things happen to them, some bitterly cruel and some so beautiful that the faith is refired forever.

Results, not causes; results, not causes. The causes lie deep and simple- the causes are a hunger in a stomach, multiplied a million times; a hunger in a single soul, hunger for joy and some security, multiplied a million times; muscles and mind aching to grow, to work, to create, multiplied a million times.

fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.

The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one.

If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin, were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into "I," and cuts you off forever from the "we."

Need is the stimulus to concept, concept to action.

"Why ya late?" Kid says, "Had a take a heifer down- get 'er bred." Teacher says, "Couldn't your ol' man do it?" Kid says, "Sure he could, but not as good as the bull."

"All we got is the family unbroke. Like a bunch a cows, when the lobos are ranging, stick all together. I ain't scared while we're all here, all that's alive, but I ain't gonna see us bust up.

"Got to grow into her when you're a little kid," Tom said. "It ain't jus' knowin'. It's more'n that. Kids now can tear down a car 'thout even thinkin' about it."

"If he needs a million acres to make him feel rich, seems to me he needs it 'cause he feels awful poor inside hisself, and if he's poor in hisself, there ain't no million acres gonna make him feel rich, an' maybe he's disappointed that nothin' he can do'll make him feel rich- not rich like Mis' Wilson was when she give her tent when Grampa died.

The Mexicans were weak and fled. They could not resist, because they wanted nothing in the world as frantically as the Americans wanted land. Then, with time, the squatters were no longer squatters, but owners; and their children grew up and had children on the land. And the hunger was gone from them, the feral hunger, the gnawing, tearing hunger for land, for water and earth and the good sky over it, for the green thrusting grass, for the swelling roots. They had these things so completely that they did not know about them any more. They had no more the stomach-tearing lust for a rich acre and a shining blade to plow it, for seed and a windmill beating its wings in the air.

Now farming became industry, and the owners followed Rome, although they did not know it. They imported slaves, although they did not call them slaves: Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, Filipinos. They live on rice and beans, the business men said. They don't need much. They wouldn't know what to do with good wages. Why, look how they live. Why, look what they eat. And if they get funny- deport them.

And in the south he saw the golden oranges hanging on the trees, the little golden oranges in the dark green trees; and guards with shotguns patrolling the lines so a man might not pick an orange for a thin child, oranges to be dumped if the price was low.

How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can't scare him- he has known a fear beyond every other.

And the great owners, who must lose their land in an upheaval, the great owners with access to history, with eyes to read history and to know the great fact: when property accumulates in too few hands it is taken away. And that companion fact: when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need. And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed. The great owners ignored the three cries of history. The land fell into fewer hands, the number of the dispossessed increased, and every effort of the great owners was directed at repression. The money was spent for arms, for gas to protect the great holdings, and spies were sent to catch the murmuring of revolt so that it might be stamped out. The changing economy was ignored, plans for the change ignored; and only means to destroy revolt were considered, while the causes of revolt went on.

The great companies did not know that the line between hunger and anger is a thin line.

Wisht I knowed what all the sins was, so I could do 'em. THE MIGRANT PEOPLE looked humbly for pleasure on the roads.

There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificate- died of malnutrition- because the food must rot, must be forced to rot.

and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

Man, he lives in jerks- baby born an' a man dies, an' that's a jerk- gets a farm an' loses his farm, an' that's a jerk. Woman, it's all one flow, like a stream, little eddies, little waterfalls, but the river, it goes right on. Woman looks at it like that. We ain't gonna die out. People is goin' on- changin' a little, maybe, but goin' right on."

The women watched the men, watched to see whether the break had come at last. The women stood silently and watched. And where a number of men gathered together, the fear went from their faces, and anger took its place. And the women sighed with relief, for they knew it was all right- the break had not come; and the break would never come as long as fear could turn to wrath.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

What's cool on sci & tech this week via G+

Luis David Alcaraz shared Mark Bruce's post with you.
SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - Week 41 of 2012
A Top 10 selection of the scientific and technological advances that I discovered this week.

1. Engineering The Most Complex Synthetic Biology Circuit.
The most complex synthetic biology circuit ever build has been created by researchers at MIT The key breakthrough to enable this was characterising and designing biological circuit components that don’t interfere with each other; the necessary jumbling together of such protein-based components in the cell had seriously hampered such efforts in the past. The circuit comprises four different protein-based sensors for four different molecules, which could instruct a cell to respond to these molecules in the environment by behaving in a certain way. With the new tools and techniques developed by the team to achieve this advance they now believe it will be possible to incorporate hundreds of synthetic circuit elements. This hot space just got hotter.

2. Graphene Chips Controllably Doped With Light.
By using plasmonic nanoantennas and quantum dots attached to sheets of graphene, researchers demonstrated that sheets of graphene can be n -type or p -type doped at will simply by shining light of an appropriate wavelength onto the chip This presents the possibility of graphene computer chips that are selectively and reversibly amenable to doping, a graphene sheet with circuitry that can be written and erased at will depending on the pattern, wavelength, angle, or polarisation of incident light. There was lots of other news about graphene:
* Graphene for trapping and packing molecular structures
* Graphene combined with a polymer to replace ITO in displays
* Synthesising graphene films with a standard DVD player / laser
* Graphene membranes with pore for selective gas separation
* Using graphene as a tunnel barrier for spintronics

3. Measurements to Detect Whether the Universe is a Simulation.
The Simulation Hypothesis has garnered quite a bit of interest over the last couple of months, seeming to rise from obscurity of sorts to reach a wider audience. This week we had physicists proposing how we might find evidence that our Universe is a simulation The basic idea stems from knowledge of what we currently know of how our own (limited) simulations are put together and depend on their superposition on a discrete three dimensional lattice. The physicists hypothesise that if our Universe is a simulation subject to its own three dimensional lattice, then the lattice spacing would impart limits on the energy that particles can have, and probing this energy or energies beyond it might suggest evidence for such a simulated reality. In related news on the nature of our Universe, researchers present an interesting new theory of everything that includes at its core topology and symmetry

4. The Latest Robotic Bee Gains New Abilities.
Robotics researchers have further developed their miniature robotic bee to give the little autonomous flying machine the ability to pitch and roll and so steer in different directions This work follows on from last week’s announcement of a project to map and simulate the brain of a bee, and which could well find a home one day in this little flying machine. Development still has a way to go - to incorporate feedback and finer control - but the vision of unleashing tens of millions of these little devices in a massive distributed sensor / communications swarm no longer seems far fetched.

5. Next Generation Deep Brain Implants to be Trialled Next Year.
Medtronic has developed and will next year trial the next generation of its commercially successful and widely adopted implantable deep-brain stimulation device The current device, which now resides in 80,000 people (cyborgs?) and counting, is mainly used to regulate and help control movement problems associated with Parkinson’s Disease and epilepsy. The next generation device will be able to accurately sense electrical activity in the brain and automatically adjust its stimulation activity to maintain an optimal level; it could for example turn itself off when the patient is asleep or activate a stronger response if the patient’s symptoms grew stronger. In related news the FDA approved a novel implantable defibrillator

6. Probing Quantum Superpositions Without Destroying Them.
By making constant weak measurements of a quantum system, researchers were able to probe a fragile quantum state without destroying it This was previously proposed “in principle” but the group only recently reduced the ideas to practice by very briefly measuring the frequency of oscillation of the quantum state that had been induced into a superposition. While their probe changed the system slightly, by introducing a second, opposite probe they were able to return the system to the state it had before the probe. This is considered an early step, but a big step forward in feedback control of an individual qubit.

7. Stem Cells Used to Regenerate the Myelin Sheaths of Neurons.
The results of a Phase 1 human clinical trial show that neural stem cells transplanted into the brains of people with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease can begin producing the myelin sheaths that these patients lack Such a treatment would also be of particular use for sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis, and given the decline of myelination with age this would also be a particularly useful anti-aging treatment for maintaining normal cognitive function. In related news researchers demonstrate a drug that treats neurodegeneration by increasing neural plasticity and inducing more connections between neurons

8. The Wonders of Metal-Organic Frameworks for Gas Storage & Separation.
Metal-Organic Frameworks have the highest surface-area of any known substance but wide industrial adoption has been held back due to costly synthesis methods. With the development of a novel synthesis technique that allows a simple scaled-up production process, full commercialisation is now being pursued by a University spin-out company,343081,en.html. Opportunities to be addressed include carbon capture, hazardous gas storage, natural gas processing, and hydrocarbon separation. MOFs are able to store gas in such a way that it takes up far less space than it would otherwise at the same pressure.

9. Using a Pencil to Draw a Carbon-Nanotube Enabled Gas Sensor.
Researchers have shown that low-cost and durable carbon nanotube sensors can be drawn and etched with normal mechanical pencils By replacing the graphite of a pencil with a compressed powder of carbon nanotubes the sensor can be drawn onto any surface by connecting the terminals of a printed circuit; current from a low-voltage power supply gives a measure of the change in resistance of the circuit caused by a particular gas binding to the carbon nanotubes. Selectivity for other gases can be altered by binding metal ions or polymers to the carbon nanotubes before compression.

10. Ultra-smooth Surfaces Key to Next Generation Self-Assembled High-Density Data Storage.
Researchers have determined the level of surface smoothness (and techniques to help attain that smoothness) required for efficient self-assembly of materials (including block copolymers) to form surface-based nano-structures capable of powering the next generation of data storage technologies They are actively pursuing the goal of 10 Terabits per square inch.

Bonus: If this isn't enough you should check out +Matthew J Price's Huge Backlog of Awesome, guaranteed to blow your mind with even more amazing advances!

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Monday, October 01, 2012

Metagenome wide association study (MGWAS)

A metagenome-wide association study of gut microbiota in type 2 diabetes

 Nature (2012) doi:10.1038/nature11450

Bacteroides biacutis—one of many commensal ana...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 Assessment and characterization of gut microbiota has become a major research area in human disease, including type 2 diabetes, the most prevalent endocrine disease worldwide. To carry out analysis on gut microbial content in patients with type 2 diabetes, we developed a protocol for a metagenome-wide association study (MGWAS) and undertook a two-stage MGWAS based on deep shotgun sequencing of the gut microbial DNA from 345 Chinese individuals. We identified and validated approximately 60,000 type-2-diabetes-associated markers and established the concept of a metagenomic linkage group, enabling taxonomic species-level analyses. MGWAS analysis showed that patients with type 2 diabetes were characterized by a moderate degree of gut microbial dysbiosis, a decrease in the abundance of some universal butyrate-producing bacteria and an increase in various opportunistic pathogens, as well as an enrichment of other microbial functions conferring sulphate reduction and oxidative stress resistance. An analysis of 23 additional individuals demonstrated that these gut microbial markers might be useful for classifying type 2 diabetes.

Read the warnings of over-interpretation of the paper here:

But think is worth to read it ...


Also read this:

Quantitative Analysis of the Human Airway Microbial Ecology Reveals a Pervasive Signature for Cystic Fibrosis

Sci. Transl. Med. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004458


    Cystic fibrosis (CF) is an autosomal recessive disease caused by mutations in the gene encoding the CF transmembrane conductance regulator. Disruption of electrolyte homeostasis at mucosal surfaces leads to severe lung, pancreatic, intestinal, hepatic, and reproductive abnormalities. Loss of lung function as a result of chronic lung disease is the primary cause of death from CF. Using high-throughput sequencing to survey microbes in the sputum of 16 CF patients and 9 control individuals, we identified diverse microbial communities in the healthy samples, contravening conventional wisdom that healthy airways are not significantly colonized. Comparing these communities with those from the CF patients revealed significant differences in microbial ecology, including differential representation of uncultivated phylotypes. Despite patient-specific differences, our analysis revealed a focal microbial profile characteristic of CF. The profile differentiated case and control groups even when classically recognized CF pathogens were excluded. As a control, lung explant tissues were also processed from a group of patients with pulmonary disease. The findings in lung tissue corroborated the presence of taxa identified in the sputum samples. Comparing the sequencing results with clinical data indicated that diminished microbial diversity is associated with severity of pulmonary inflammation within our adult CF cohort.

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    Wednesday, September 26, 2012

    Playing with phosphorus, plants, and the limits for the biosphere...

    Two papers to read today:

     Engineering phosphorus metabolism in plants to produce a dual fertilization and weed control system

    Ball-and-stick model of the triethyl phosphite...
    Ball-and-stick model of the triethyl phosphite molecule, the tri-ester of ethanol and phosphorous acid. Colour code (click to show) : Black: Carbon, C : White: Hydrogen, H : Red: Oxygen, O : Orange: Phosphorus, P (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    High crop yields depend on the continuous input of orthophosphate (PO4−3)-based fertilizers and herbicides1, 2. Two major challenges for agriculture are that phosphorus is a nonrenewable resource and that weeds have developed broad herbicide resistance3, 4, 5. One strategy to overcome both problems is to engineer plants to outcompete weeds and microorganisms for limiting resources, thereby reducing the requirement for both fertilizers and herbicides. Plants and most microorganisms are unable to metabolize phosphite (PO3−3), so we developed a dual fertilization and weed control system by generating transgenic plants that can use phosphite as a sole phosphorus source. Under greenhouse conditions, these transgenic plants require 30–50% less phosphorus input when fertilized with phosphite to achieve similar productivity to that obtained by the same plants using orthophosphate fertilizer and, when in competition with weeds, accumulate 2–10 times greater biomass than when fertilized with orthophosphate.

    Nature Biotechnology 30, 889–893 (2012) doi:10.1038/nbt.2346
     And this:

    A Measurable Planetary Boundary for the Biosphere

    "The projected 40% increase in human population by 2050 CE, combined with goals to substantially improve standards of living for the poorest 5 billion people on Earth, implies at least a doubling of future resource demand by 2050. As suggested 40 years ago (1), the limits to growth as measured by human consumption of NPP may well be reached in the next few decades."

    Science 21 September 2012: Vol. 337 no. 6101 pp. 1458-1459 DOI: 10.1126/science.1227620 

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    Thursday, September 20, 2012

    Genomics to get an idea of how a bacteria...

    Genomics to get an idea of how a bacteria can get virulent (anthrax)
    Genomic characterization of the Bacillus cereus sensu lato species: Backdrop to the evolution of Bacillus anthracis
    Next Section Abstract The key genes required for Bacillus anthracis to cause anthrax have been acquired recently by horizontal gene transfer. To understand the genetic background for the evolution of...
    View or comment on Luis David Alcaraz's post »

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