Thursday, May 14, 2009

the real "inconvenient" truth

Oil Drum | On American Sustainability—Anatomy of a Societal Collapse (Summary)

Most Americans believe that we are “exceptional”—both as a society and as a species. We believe that America was ordained through divine providence to be the societal role model for the world. And we believe that through our superior intellect, we can harness and even conquer Nature in our continuous quest to improve the material living standards associated with our ever-increasing population.

The truth is that our pioneering predecessors drifted, quite by accident, upon a veritable treasure trove of natural resources and natural habitats, which they wrested by force from the native inhabitants, and which we have persistently overexploited in order to create and perpetuate our American way of life. The truth is that through our “divine ordination” and “superior intellect”, we have been persistently and systematically eliminating the very resources upon which our way of life and our existence depend.

We now find ourselves in a “predicament”. We are irreparably overextended—living hopelessly beyond our means ecologically and economically—at a time when the supplies of many critical resources upon which we depend will soon be insufficient to enable our American way of life. We are about to discover that we are simply another unsustainable society subject to the inescapable consequence of our unsustainable resource utilization behavior—societal collapse.

bdsm mormons got PAID under W...,

Der Spiegel | CIA Outsourced Development of Interrogation Plan

The torture practices used in interrogations of al-Qaida prisoners were not developed by government officials in Washington, but by private security experts. In return for a daily consulting fee, they personally supervised the program at the CIA's secret prisons from the very beginning.

James Mitchell's new life begins with the same ritual every morning: He goes jogging, wearing Adidas shorts and a black tank top, his iPod in his ear. Then he gets into his luxury SUV and drives back to luxury home on Lake Vienna Drive in Pasco County, Florida.

The hacienda-style house, with a natural stone façade, columned walkways and palm trees in front of the door is brand-new. Mitchell has just had it built, in the midst of an upscale, gated community.

The freestanding garage to the right of the house is big enough for three or four cars, and a mountain bike is mounted to the back of the SUV. Mitchell, a tanned man in his late 50s with silver-gray hair, a neatly trimmed beard and trendy sunglasses, spends two hours a day exercising. In fact, exercise plays an important role in his new life under Florida's blue skies.

Mitchell is the man who, on the behalf of the administration of former President George W. Bush, developed the rules of the program that was somewhat shamefacedly referred to as "special interrogation techniques" and was authorized by the president in the summer of 2002. In truth, Mitchell developed a torture manual. His client was the CIA. The American foreign intelligence agency has engaged in its own share of dubious practices over the years, activities it initially treated as praiseworthy and would later come to bitterly regret. But now it has become clear that the CIA, ironically enough, outsourced its torture practices in interrogations during the darkest years of the Bush administration. It entrusted the development and supervision of these interrogations to a private security firm run by James Mitchell and his partner, Bruce Jessen.

The two psychologists, who had never even conducted an interrogation before -- in other words, two amateurs -- were largely responsible for developing the CIA's prisoner interrogation program. The recently published report of the Committee on Armed Services of the US Senate came out with new proof and details about this collaboration, ABC News succeeded in filming both Jessen and Mitchell who both refused to answer any questions concerning their past saying that they were not allow to speak about it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

swarm savvy

ScienceNews | “There is a new excitement in this whole field of decision making these days,” says ant biologist Nigel Franks of the University of Bristol in England. Franks and Seeley organized a multidisciplinary conference on collective decision making held in January at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. And both biologists contributed to a special issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (March 27) on the same topic. The issue considers insects as well as the European Parliament.

Even compared with gatherings of diplomats in bespoke suits, bee nests and ant colonies have plenty to contribute to the field. “The really lovely thing is that we can take these things apart and put them back together again, and we can challenge them with different problems,” Franks says. Seeley notes that studying honeybees has taught him a lot about how to run faculty meetings.

All but the darkest view of university professors credits them with more cognitive power than can be found in the minuscule brains (sorry, bees) of insects. So one might wonder how well collective wisdom works for nonhuman animals.

That question is what makes the research so intriguing. Bee colonies have been making collective decisions for about 30 million years, Seeley says, “so they’ve had lots of chances for failing systems to get pruned out by natural selection.” Bees have unique needs of course, but when it comes to real estate (alas, humans), bees almost always get it right.

the american dream is dying

The Trumpet | The American dream is fading. For many Americans, the idea is this: Simply survive. The borrow-and-spend-your-way-to-happiness model has evaporated. Now the harsh light of economic reality is pouring through the windows.

In its latest “Study of the American Dream” survey, MetLife reports that the country has “experienced major changes” that will likely leave “a lasting impact on how Americans achieve and sustain the dream.” The American dream has “once again been revised—possibly to a greater extent than could have been imagined just one year ago.”

Where previous generations generally defined the American dream as a combination of a good family life, home ownership, and a degree of financial security, the 2009 study found that the Americans dream now consists of an almost singular focus on financial security.

Paying the bills and putting food on the table has become the main concern for growing numbers of Americans. And more Americans define the dream not as a destination, but as a “never-ending chase.” The report’s executive summary states:

Across generations, the economic crisis has been a loud wake-up call for consumers. Economic concerns that arose in 2007—e.g., savings, job security, retirement shortfalls—have expanded dramatically over the past 12 months; cracks in the foundation of the American dream have worsened considerably. Concerns about the health of the American economy, inadequate personal safety nets and the erosion of corporate and social safety nets have left major portions of the American public—across all socio and economic demographics—exposed to financial hardship (possibly even ruin) on a scale not seen in most Americans’ lifetimes.

Americans are living on the edge. Half of those surveyed said they could only meet their financial obligations for one month if they were to lose their job. Almost 28 percent said they could not even last two weeks.

A whopping 72 percent of America’s population says it doesn’t have enough savings to last more than three months.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

music and genetic code

Concerning to interesting theme on music, I would like to pay attention on physiological aspects of music and their connection with genetic code.

From the information viewpoint, living organisms are information essences. They live due to receiving of the genetic information from the ancestors, and they exist to transfer the genetic information to their descendants. In the biological literature it is possible quite often now to meet the statement that living organisms are the texts since a molecular level of their organization. Just from the information-hereditary viewpoint, all living organisms are unified wonderfully: all of them have identical bases of system of genetic coding (from many other possible viewpoints - for example, locomotion, metabolisms, etc -, living organisms have no such unification, they are differ one from another in many cases).

All heritable physiological aspects of living organisms are co-ordinated with basic structures of genetic code (heritable physiological subsystems of organism can’t be transmitted to next biological generations without such agreement with basic mechanisms of genetic coding).

It’s well known, that special musical forms have essential physiological possibilities to stimulate processes of biological growth, to have therapy effects, etc. So, it can be supposed, that these musical forms are connected (co-ordinated) with genetic coding system structurally. And interesting question is the following: on the base of using of our modern scientific knowledge of structures of genetic code, can we create musical forms which will be else more effective in physiological aspects to use them in the field of mass media, medicine, ergonomics, sport, etc?

My own investigations in this direction are connected with new results on genetic code structures. These results are described at the FIS site in my article “Genetic
Code and the Ancient Chinese “Book of Changes”” . An existence of binary sub-alphabets of genetic code was shown and a biperiodic octet table of 64 genetic triplets was constructed by me there. This genetic biperiodic table was coincided practically with a historical famous table of 64 hexagrams of the Ancient Chinese “Book of Changes””, written several thousands years ago (according to Ancient Chinese statements, the system of this Book is the main archetype of all nature; this system is a base for many branches of Orient medicine, culture, philosophy, etc.). If “physiological music” has a connection with genetic code, the question on its connection with this ancient conception of archetypes is urgent. According to Ancient Chinese statements, “music is that that represents a harmony of sky and earth, a co-ordination of Yin and Yang” (“Lui shi chun tsu”).

Some of these questions are considered in a special paragraph “Genetic code and music» in my book: S.V.Petoukhov “Biperiodic Table of Genetic Code and Number of Protons”, Moscow, 2001, 258 p. (in Russian; information on this book, on its content, etc. in English is at site ).

I believe that binary sub-alphabets of genetic code and its biperiodic table permit to investigate a language of music more deeply and to create special forms of musical compositions characterized by the most physiological activity (so named “genetic music” or “genomusic”). Perhaps, due to its structural relationship with genetic code, this genetic music will be addressed to Jungian archetypes of people by the shortest route. (By the way, Carl Jung was connoisseur and profound expert of this “Book of Changes”, and the biperiodic table of genetic code has a connection with Jungian archetypes).

This theme of “genetic structured” music is a small addition to very interesting works by Juan Roederer è Michael Leyton, discussed on this session. In my opinion, physiological mechanisms and mathematical formalisms, analyzed by them for a theory of musical perception, should be coordinated (adjusted) with the specific structure of genetic code. The biological evolution can be interpreted in a whole as a process of deployment and duplicating of the certain forms of ordering (they can be named as “archetypes”). This thesis has a realization in physiological effective music also.

With best regards
Sergei Petoukhov

information and music

Here you can find links to mails from the FIS mailing list sorted by discussion themes. This page will not always be up to date, so if you want to read new mails from the complete mailing list, choose one of the links on the left.

Music Session

Monday, May 11, 2009

music between worlds

Roederer | Speech and music both involve the transmission of information by acoustic waves—air pressure oscillations within given ranges of frequency and amplitude. We have a clear understanding of what kind of information is conveyed by human speech, and strategies and algorithms are being developed to configure electromagnetic signals that may allow an alien intelligence to learn about human language and its relation to events in the environment and abstract things like numbers. Similar considerations apply to our strategies and algorithms to find out about the possible existence of linguistic communication in other civilizations. But what kind of biologically relevant information is conveyed by music? From our subjective experience we know that it has to do with feelings, i.e., the emotional states of the organism—but how do we explain this to an alien civilization? And how do we look for interstellar messages that may carry information on emotional states of extraterrestrial beings?

A related aspect difficult to convey as an interstellar message is the fact that, in contrast to speech, music seems to serve no immediate “practical” purpose (this, of course, is common to all expressions of art). Again, we know from experience that an important purpose of music is emotional arousal. But can we explain why we respond emotionally to successions and superpositions of tones which seem to have little relationship with environmental events, current or in our evolutionary past? And if we do have an answer, how would we formulate it in an interstellar message? Must we assume that musical feelings are such a ubiquitous attribute of intelligent beings that our message would be understood at once?

The purpose of this chapter is to analyze “music” as a human endeavor in the most comprehensive, objective and scientific terms possible, and to argue on neuroscientific grounds that musical arts may indeed be ubiquitous in civilizations exhibiting human-like intelligence.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

music: complex shapes and memory stores?

Leyton | The book A Generative Theory of Shape (Michael Leyton, Springer-Verlag, 2001) develops new foundations to geometry in which shape is equivalent to memory storage. With respect to this, the argument is given that art-works are maximal memory stores. The present paper reviews some of the basic principles concerning our claim that, in particular, musical works are maximal memory stores. The argument is that maximizing memory storage explains the structure of musical works.

We first review the basic geometric theory of the book: A generative theory of shape is developed that has two properties regarded as fundamental to intelligence – maximization of transfer and maximization of recoverability. Aesthetic structuration is taken to be equivalent to intelligence. Thus aesthetics is brought into the very foundations of the new theory of geometry. A mathematical theory of transfer and recoverability is developed, using symmetry-breaking wreath products.

From this, it becomes possible to develop a theory of musical composition, as follows:

Musical works are complex shapes.

A theory of complex-shape generation is presented, in which any structure is described as unfolded from a maximally collapsed version of that structure, called an alignment kernel. This process is formalized by proposing a new class of groups called unfolding groups. The alignment kernel is a subgroup of that structure, consisting of symmetry ground-states which are themselves formalized by a new class of groups called iso-regular groups. In music, the iso-regular groups represent the anticipation hierarchies, for example the regular meters of the work. The process of musical composition is then described by an unfolding group, which "unfolds" the work, by successively breaking the iso-regular groups of the alignment kernel.

dry taps in mexico city

Time | The reek of unwashed toilets spilled into the street in the neighborhood of unpainted cinder block houses. Out on the main road, hundreds of residents banged plastic buckets and blocked the path of irate drivers while children scoured the surrounding area for government trucks. Finally, the impatient crowd launched into a high-pitched chant, repeating one word at fever pitch: "Water, Water, Water!"

About five million people, or a quarter of the population of Mexico City's urban sprawl, woke up Thursday with dry taps. The drought was caused by the biggest stoppage in the city's main reservoir system in recent years to ration its depleting supplies. Government officials hope this and four other stoppages will keep water flowing until the summer rainy season fills the basins back up. But they warn that the Mexican capital needs to seriously overhaul its water system to stop an unfathomable disaster in the future. (See pictures of the world water crisis.)

It is perhaps unsurprising that the biggest metropolis in the Western hemisphere is confronting problems with its water supply — and becoming an alarming cautionary tale for other megacities. Scientists have been talking for years about how humans are pumping up too much water while ripping apart too many forests, and warning that the vital liquid could become the next commodity nations are fighting over with tanks and bombers. But it is hard for most people to appreciate quite how valuable a simple thing like water is — until the taps turn off.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

conference of the birds..,

Come you lost Atoms

to your Centre draw,

And be the Eternal Mirror

that you saw:

Rays that have wander'd

into Darkness wide

Return and back

into your Sun subside

the chemist

Wikipedia | Information about Attar's life is rare. He is mentioned by only two of his contemporaries, `Awfi and Nasir ud-Din Tusi. However, all sources confirm that he was from Nishapur, a major city of medieval Khorasan (now located in the northeast of Iran), and according to `Awfi, he was a poet of the Seljuq period. It seems that he was not well known as a poet in his own lifetime, except at his home town, and his greatness as a mystic, a poet, and a master of narrative was not discovered until the 15th century.

`Attar was probably the son of a prosperous chemist, receiving an excellent education in various fields. While his works say little else about his life, they tell us that he practiced the profession of pharmacy and personally attended to a very large number of customers.[1] The people he helped in the pharmacy used to confide their troubles in `Attar and this affected him deeply. Eventually, he abandoned his pharmacy store and traveled widely - to Kufa, Mecca, Damascus, Turkistan, and India, meeting with Sufi Shaykhs - and returned promoting Sufi ideas.

`Attar's initiation into Sufi practices is subject to much speculation and fabrication. Of all the famous Sufi Shaykhs supposed to have been his teachers, only one - Majd ud-Din Baghdadi - comes within the bounds of possibility. The only certainty in this regard is `Attar's own statement that he once met him.

In any case it can be taken for granted that from childhood onward `Attar, encouraged by his father, was interested in the Sufis and their sayings and way of life, and regarded their saints as his spiritual guides.

`Attar reached an age of over 70 and died a violent death in the massacre which the Mongols inflicted on Nishabur in April 1221.[1] Today, his mausoleum is located in Nishapur. It was built by Ali-Shir Nava'i in the 16th century.

Like many aspects of his life, his death, too, is blended with legends and speculation.


Wikipedia | The word 'Attar', 'ittar' or 'othr' is basically an Arabic word which means 'scent'; this in turn is believed to have been derived from the Sanskrit word Sugandha, meaning 'aromatic'. The earliest distillation of Attar was mentioned in the Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita. The Harshacharita, written in 7th century A.D. in Northern India mentions use of fragrant agarwood oil.

The story of Indian perfumes is as old as the civilization itself. Archaeological evidence shows the earliest inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent held plants in great reverence. With the passage of time, scented oils were extracted by pressing, pulverizing or distilling aromatic vegetal and animal produce. Such processes led to the development of the art of alchemy, the earliest indications of which are available from the perfume jars and terracotta containers of the Indus Valley civilization. That the art has survived for centuries speaks volumes for the Indian perfumes.

Integrated into India's daily life, scented plants are used to celebrate every aspect of Indian culture, from the ritual to the culinary, from the celibate to the erotic. Vedas mentioned a combination of numerous herbs, twigs, barks and flowers as offering to Gods in yagnas.

Archaeological excavations have revealed round copper stills, used for making attars, that are at least five-thousand years old. These stills are called degs. Following the seasons of the flowers, traditional attar-makers, with their degs, traveled all over India to make their attars on-the-spot. Even now, rural areas often lack good roads to quickly transport the harvested flowers, and a few traditional attar-makers still travel with their degs to be close to the harvest. Their equipment has changed little, if at all, in the last five thousand years.

In ancient India, an Attar was prepared by placing precious flowers and sacred plants into a water or vegetable oil. Slowly the plants and flowers would infuse the water/oil with their delicate fragrance. The plant and flower material would then be removed and a symphony of their aromatic beauty would be held in the Attar. These Attars were then worn as a sacred perfume or to anoint.

In Ain-e-Akbari, Abul Fazal, has mentioned that Akbar used ittar daily and burnt incense sticks in gold and silver censers. A princess’s toilette was incomplete without incense and attar. A very popular ittar with the Mughal princes was ood, prepared in Assam.

Ittar is an indigenous product of Kannauj Uttar Pradesh India. According to Mr. Afsar Ali Khan of Nizam Attars Hyderabad India. There is a legend on how the first ittars were made. The forest dwelling Hindu Sadhus, used certain perfumed jungle herbs and roots in their bonfires during the winters. The shepherds who grazed their sheep in that region, found the perfume lingering in the burnt wood, long after the Sadhus left the place. Word spread about this incident and some enterprising people, searched and found the fragrant herbs and roots. Then the experiments on ittar began and one of the first ittars to be made was Rose and Hina.

what does it mean?

NPR | Dancers Are Vocal Mimics

Schachner says the important thing is that, like humans — and unlike dogs or cats — parrots and elephants are both known to be vocal mimics. They can imitate sounds. "And that's really striking," she says.

It means dancing may be a byproduct of an ability that evolved for vocal imitation and vocal learning. After all, to mimic a sound, you have to listen to it and its rhythm and then use that information to coordinate movement — to shape the way you move your lips and tongue.

All of these findings have convinced Tecumseh Fitch, an evolutionary biologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who is interested in the origin of music.

"The capacity to extract a beat from sound and move your body to it was, until these papers, believed to be uniquely human," he says, adding that if parrots can really dance, all kinds of new experiments are now possible.

"For example, what genes are turned on while a bird is dancing?" wonders Fitch. "What genes are turned on by listening to a beat, versus listening to sounds that don't have a beat?"

And what would happen if a bird never heard any music for the first few years of its life? Could it still dance later on? That would be an interesting study, Fitch says, and one that could never be done on

what is music?

Wired | Knowledge is passed down directly from generation to generation in the animal kingdom as parents teach their children the things they will need to survive. But a new study has found that, even when the chain is broken, nature sometimes finds a way.

Zebra finches, which normally learn their complex courtship songs from their fathers, spontaneously developed the same songs all on their own after only a few generations.

“We found that in this case, the culture was pretty much encoded in the genome,” said Partha Mitra of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, co-author of a study in Nature on Sunday.

Birds transmit their songs through social interactions, as humans do for languages, dances, cuisine and other cultural elements. Though birds and humans have clearly followed different evolutionary paths, birdsong culture can still inform theories of human culture.

Normally, male finches learn their complex courtship songs (MP3) from their uncles and fathers. But if there are no vocal role models around, the song will deviate from the traditional song and be harsh to female finch ears (MP3). Each bird, then, must learn from his father or uncles, as they learned from their fathers, and so on — but this can only take us so far down the lineage.

“It’s the classic ‘chicken and the egg’ puzzle,” Mitra said. “Learning may explain how the son copies its father’s song, but it doesn’t explain the origin of the father’s song.”

Dale one mo gin...,

this time, however, it's a MAJOR node on the dot map. It should go without saying that I find the "culture in the genome" implication a priori ridiculous. Not because I find questions of extended phenotype intrinsically dubious, but instead, because the questions begged by the phenomenon observed are so much deeper and more interesting than the tired trope that these monkeys parroted.

they're part of the biosphere...,

Wired | A virus so large and strange that it’s redefined the very concept of a virus has been photographed for the first time. It’s even weirder than expected.

The virus was originally discovered infecting amoebas in a Parisian water tower in 1992. It was orders of magnitude bigger than any other virus — so large, in fact, that researchers figured it was a microbe.

It took 11 years for the mimivirus to be officially defined as a virus, though the definition didn’t quite fit. In addition to its enormous size, many of its genes came from bacteria. Some researchers called it a “missing link” that blurred the boundaries between viruses and living cells, between living and dead.

“The new structural finds, along with previous genetic and morphological work, confirm that mimivirus is an odd mix of genes and parts found in viruses, bacteria and even eukaryotes, the organisms that sequester their DNA in a nucleus,” write the researchers.

fist tap to Dale.

Friday, May 08, 2009

the art of illusion...,

Wired | The trick is called Looks Simple, and the point is that even a puff on a cigarette, closely examined, can disintegrate into smoke and mirrors. "People take reality for granted," Teller says shortly before stepping onstage. "Reality seems so simple. We just open our eyes and there it is. But that doesn't mean it is simple."

"Tricks work only because magicians know, at an intuitive level, how we look at the world," says Macknik, lead author of the paper. "Even when we know we're going to be tricked, we still can't see it, which suggests that magicians are fooling the mind at a very deep level." By reverse-engineering these deceptions, Macknik hopes to illuminate the mental loopholes that make us see a woman get sawed in half or a rabbit appear out of thin air even when we know such stuff is impossible. "Magicians were taking advantage of these cognitive illusions long before any scientist identified them," Martinez-Conde says.

Fist tap to my man Dale.

preparedness plans in place...,

WaPo | The Bush administration implemented an $8 billion pandemic flu planning program that created a detailed national blueprint and funneled millions of dollars to state and local governments to create and rehearse their own plans.

After the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the World Health Organization instituted measures that heightened the world's ability to identify and respond swiftly to outbreaks. They included international regulations that call for countries to report worrisome outbreaks quickly and a revised pandemic threat alert system, which was ratcheted up quickly last week.

So when reports emerged from Mexico of a new virus that most people might have no immunity against, and that appeared to be spreading easily from person to person and -- in an eerie echo of 1918 -- was killing healthy young adults, the world went on high alert.

"If what was being reported in Mexico played out in the United States and elsewhere, this was a potentially serious epidemic that was getting underway," Inglesby said. "We had to respond quickly."

The reaction has also been influenced by political missteps in previous emergencies, including the mixed messages and poor communication about the 2001 anthrax letters and the slow reaction to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

AP | "If we do move into a pandemic, then our expectation is that we will see a large number of people infected worldwide," Fukuda said. "If you look at past pandemics, it would be a reasonable estimate to say perhaps a third of the world's population would get infected with this virus."

With the current total population of more than 6 billion, that would mean an infection total of 2 billion, he said, but added that the world has changed since pandemics of earlier generations, and experts are unable to predict if the impact will be greater or smaller.

to serve man...,

Reuters | Stephen Friedman, chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank's board of directors, resigned on Thursday amid questions about his purchases of stock in his former firm, Goldman Sachs (GS.N).

Friedman, a retired chairman of Goldman Sachs who has led the New York Fed's board since January 2008, said he quit to prevent criticism about his stock buying from becoming a distraction as the Fed battles a severe U.S. recession.

"Although I have been in compliance with the rules, my public service motivated continuation on the Reserve Bank Board is being mischaracterized as improper," he said in a letter of resignation to New York Fed President William Dudley.

"The Federal Reserve System has important work to do and does not need this distraction," Friedman said.

The U.S. central bank is comprised of a seven-member Board of Governors in Washington, and 12 regional Fed banks.

economic misinformation or bald-faced lying?

Knowing what we know about reduced exploration, precipitous oil-field decline, reduced overall production, and dire workforce sustainability issues - all of which information is in the public domain - this Associate Press International wire feed stands out as an obviously and patently false piece of propaganda. Oil prices are no doubt rising, but not for the reasons given by this "reporter". Is this an example of nonsense economics distorting the reporter's perception and narrative, or, is this just bald-faced lying from a propaganda organ as much in decline as global oil supply?

AP | Oil rises above $57 on economic recovery hopes
Oil prices rose above $57 a barrel Friday in Asia as investors bet that a year-end recovery in the global economy will boost oil demand.

Traders have shaken off weeks of dismal economic news amid signs that the slowdown has eased and a recovery could gain steam by the end of the year.

"Market psychology has clearly turned around," said Christoffer Moltke-Leth, head of sales trading for Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore. "I could see oil going above $60."

Benchmark crude for June delivery was up 53 cents to $57.24 a barrel by midday in Singapore, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the contract rose as high as $58.57 a barrel, a six-month high, before settling up 32 cents at $56.47.

Until this week, oil had traded in a range near $50 a barrel since the end of March as investors looked for evidence that the U.S. economy had stabilized after a severe recession in the fourth and first quarters.

On Thursday, several U.S. retailers, led by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., reported better-than-expected April sales, and new applications for jobless benefits fell to the lowest level in 14 weeks, signaling a wave of layoffs may have peaked.

Still, some traders are skeptical that the recent run-up in prices is warranted, given the slump in consumer demand and surging crude inventories. The International Monetary Fund forecasts the global economy will shrink 1.3 percent this year.

"I think the market has gotten a little ahead of itself," Moltke-Leth said. "The fundamentals don't support this recent rally."

Investors will be watching for the monthly U.S. jobs report for April. The unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March, the highest since 1983.

"It's like the market is saying, `Hey, we're not in free fall anymore, that's good.'" Moltke-Leth said. "But you still have an economy contracting and more people unemployed, and that will continue for a long while."

In other Nymex trading, gasoline for June delivery rose 2.80 cents to $1.69 a gallon and heating oil gained 1.44 to $1.50 a gallon. Natural gas for June delivery jumped 6.8 cent to $4.12 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent prices rose 80 cents to $57.27 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

hyperbolic geometry of coral and crochet..,

The natural world is full of hyperbolic wonders and embodied knowledge....,