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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Take a break (photographs by Matthias Klose)

“The breaks are the best part of the day” – this was the first line of a hit song in the 1970s, reflecting the work ethic in Germany of that time. In most companies, there are dedicated areas for those small breaks from routine – where you can drink a coffee standing, smoke a quick cigarette or have a quick chat.
These areas are rooms that you might pass through without really taking any notice of them. And their function is the meaning: creating free space for people who want to switch off their work batteries and recharge for a moment. Matthias Klose has photographed these oases in the world of work. His pictures are devoid of people – intentionally so. What interests him is the room as he finds it and in which he changes nothing. For him, authenticity is important. Without being distracted by people, the rooms exhibit an aesthetic quality of their very own. Man is indirectly present in Klose’s pictures via the traces of the private mise-en-scène of the room. The gaze of the beholder alights on the structure of the room, on its contents, and starts to explore it on the look-out for characteristic features. And what he finds ranges from the amusing to the absurd. “Some rooms,” Matthias Klose says, “ could have relocated to museums without any changes being made.” These rooms are not intended for the public. In only the rarest of cases does the design of such break rooms correspond to the image of the corporations in question. And not every company felt at ease with this obvious contrast – indeed, some subsequently prohibited publication of the photographs. Matthias Klose loves irony, his photographs give us documentary moments with a wink. This is reflected in the pictures and the title of the series „...dann woll'n wir mal wieder...!“ (“That’s it, back to work!”).
This was seized 4 u at Deutsche Boerse

Friday, April 28, 2006

Subliminal advertising may work after all

It was a stunt that launched a thousand conspiracy theories. Market researcher James Vicary claimed in 1957 that he could get movie-goers to "drink Coca-Cola" and "eat popcorn" by flashing those messages on the screen for such a short time that viewers were unaware of it. People were outraged, and the practice was banned in the UK, Australia and the US.
Vicary later admitted that his study was fabricated, and scientists through the years who have tried to replicate it have largely failed. But now researchers have shown that if the conditions are right, subliminal advertising to promote a brand can be made to work.
Johan Karremans at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands and his colleagues wanted to see if they could subliminally induce volunteers to favour a particular brand of drink, Lipton Ice. For comparison, they chose a brand of mineral water called Spa Rood, as it was deemed to be as well known as Lipton Ice and equally thirst-quenching. The researchers asked 61 volunteers to perform a nonsense task - counting how many times a string of capital Bs was infiltrated by a lower-case b as they flashed up on a screen. The B strings appeared for 300 milliseconds each, and before them, a string of Xs always appeared, flanking a 23-millisecond subliminal message. For the experimental group, the message was "Lipton Ice". Controls saw "Nipeic Tol".
When the volunteers had completed this task, they were asked to choose between Lipton Ice and Spa Rood by clicking one of two keys - though they were told this was part of a separate study. They were also asked how likely they would be to order either of these drinks if they were sitting on a terrace, and to rate how thirsty they were. Volunteers who rated themselves as thirsty were more likely to choose Lipton Ice, but only if they had received the subliminal message.
In a second study the researchers made half of their 105 volunteers thirsty by giving them a very salty candy before the task. As predicted, among the thirsty, subliminal messaging had an impact. Eighty per cent of thirsty volunteers who had been exposed to the Lipton Ice message chose that product, compared to only 20 per cent of the controls. The thirstier volunteers rated themselves to be, the more likely they were to choose Lipton Ice. Those who were not thirsty were only slightly more likely to pick the iced tea (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2005.12.2005). "Priming only works when the prime is goal-relevant," says Karremans. The researchers are now planning to study just how long-lasting these effects are.
Meanwhile, advertisers have found alternative means of pushing their products. Earlier this month, the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine published a report showing that for each additional hour per day that a child watched television an average of one additional request was made for an advertised product. The effect of the commercials on children lasted up to 20 weeks.
This was seized 4 u at New Scientist

Insect eye inspires future vision

An artificial insect eye that could be used in ultra-thin cameras has been developed by scientists in the US. The dimpled eye, contains over 8,500 hexagonal lenses packed into an area the size of a pinhead. The dome-shaped structure, described in the journal Science, is similar to a bee's eye.

The researchers, from the University of California, Berkeley, say the work may also shed light on how insects developed such complex, visual systems. "Even though insects start with just a single cell, they grow and create this beautiful optical system by themselves," said Professor Luke Lee, one of the authors on the paper. "I wanted to understand how nature can create layer upon layer of perfectly ordered structures without expensive, fabrication technology," he said. As a result, the team of bioengineers came up with a relatively cheap and easy method for creating the artificial eyes that may in part mimic natural processes.

Insect eyes, known as compound eyes, usually consist of hundreds of tiny lens-capped optical units, known as ommatidia. For example, a dragonfly has 30,000 of the structures in each eye. Individual ommatidia guide light through a lens and cone into a channel, known as a rhabdom, which contains light-sensitive cells. These are connected to optical, nerve cells to produce the image. The ommatidia are crammed side by side into bulges that create a wide field of view for the insect. As each unit is orientated in a slightly different direction, the honeycombed eye creates a mosaic image which, although low in resolution, is excellent at detecting movement.

The team created the artificial eye by first creating a tiny, reusable mould with 8,700 indentations. The pock-marked hemisphere was then filled with an epoxy resin that reacts when exposed to ultraviolet light to create a harder material with different chemical properties. After being baked at a low temperature to set the material it can be extracted from the mould.

This was seized 4 u at BBC News

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Beat Streuli's photographs

When studying Beat Streuli's photographs, one or two viewers might be tempted to think "I could do that, too." Or, to put it a little more bluntly: "Why are these photographs hanging on the wall there supposed to be so much better than my own snapshots?" Streuli is not surprised by such responses. He is not afraid of contact with the broader public. And one of the things he particularly likes about photography is that, unlike media which rely on complex technology, it is easy to use and easy to view. Millions of hobby photographers cannot be wrong. But what exactly are the photographs hanging there on the wall? Most of them are of people, shots Streuli has taken over the past ten years on the shopping streets of the world’s big cities: London, Tokyo, New York, Sydney, etc. Contemporary social portraits, a heterogeneous mix of people, repeatedly featuring the local urban youth. The photos look as if they have been staged, but actually they have not. Streuli does not approve of working with models, preferring to use a telephoto lens instead. Although he is not really hidden, he does work from a distance. And people do not notice that they are being photographed. Admittedly there is an element of voyeurism involved here. The camera allows us an insight into other people's lives – specifically because Streuli only presses the shutter release when the people think no-one is looking at them. To be more precise, when they let the mask of their public persona slip in order to be alone with themselves for a moment. The photographer is fascinated by the thrill of the quotidien. And in his portrait work he endeavors to find it in the tension between public anonymity and complete self-absorption. Nothing is more interesting than reality, or so Streuli's pictures seem to say. But it would be wrong to think that it is possible to capture this reality simply by taking a picture. "If you hang a real snapshot on the wall, you'll notice the difference," explains Beat Streuli. "Hundreds of thousands of chance elements will get in the way and prevent reality from looking realistic." Indeed, just as the photos are the product of careful reflection, so, too, their presentation is the result of compositional deliberation. Streuli opts for large-format projections, poster work, and video installations to heighten the natural quality of the images. And increasingly frequently, he also exhibits them where he originally took them: on the street.
(Deutsche Boerse will be open for the public this saturday as part of the "Nacht der Museen" event.)
This was seized 4 u at Deutsche Boerse

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The world's Web-savviest nation is Denmark, India & China are closing digital gap

Berlin, Germany (Reuters) -- The digital divide is narrowing as citizens in emerging markets get online via computers and mobile phones, with some regions now on a par with developed nations, a ranking of Web-savvy nations showed on Wednesday. "Encouraging is the apparent narrowing of the digital divide," said the annual study published by U.S. computer company International Business Machines Corp. and the intelligence unit of British magazine The Economist.
"This is particularly evident in basic connectivity: emerging markets are providing the vast majority of the world's new phone and Internet connections," the study found. Within China and India, regions such as Shanghai and Bangalore have almost the same level of Internet and mobile phone connections as developed nations, said Peter Korsten, European director at IBM's Institute for Business Value.
"This is the first time we see a level playing field between developed and developing nations in terms of connectivity. It's up to governments to take advantage with education and other initiatives," he said. The survey looks beyond basic connections and also studies how the Internet is being used to improve productivity and reduce costs, including online access to public services. "Virtually all countries have improved their scores over the past year. The improvement is greater in the lower tiers of the rankings than at the top. As a result, the distance separating the best from the rest has declined," the study said.
The difference between the world's Web-savviest nation Denmark and the least "e-ready" country Azerbaijan remains nevertheless huge, with respective scores of 9.0 and 2.9 out of a possible 10.
India and China, including their less developed provinces, scored 4.25 and 4.02, ranking No. 53 and 57 respectively. Switzerland entered the top three, replacing Sweden which dropped to fourth place, while the United States held on to its No. 2 spot. Denmark remained No. 1 in taking advantage of the Internet, both connecting citizens securely over broadband and wireless networks as well as using its near ubiquitous hook-ups for Internet banking and government services such as tax returns. "E-procurement (for public services) is saving Danish businesses 50 million euros ($62.1 million) and taxpayers as much as 150 million euros per year. The rest of Europe is expected to follow Denmark's lead," the study said.
Six nations in the top 10 are European, taking advantage of cheaply available broadband offerings and good education. The U.S., Australia, Canada and Hong Kong complete the top 10.
In central and eastern Europe, the new European Union member states formed an upper tier while other nations lag far behind. Mobile phone penetration is ubiquitous, but fixed line Internet connections are not widely available, while the business and legal environment is weak.
Overall, the region remains well behind the EU, North America and developed markets in Asia Pacific.
This was seized 4 u at CNN

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

World Bank acused to cheat with anti-malaria projects

A group of public health experts has accused the World Bank of publishing false statistics to exaggerate the performance of its anti-malaria projects, and of funding inappropriate treatments against the disease in India. But in a rebuttal the World Bank counters that the accusations include many “inaccuracies and misunderstandings”. It does concede that its past efforts to fight malaria were understaffed and under-funded, but says that its recently amended strategy to fight malaria will function better.
The World Bank launched the Roll Back Malaria campaign in 1998 and in 2000 pledged $300-500 million to fight malaria in Africa. But Amir Attaran at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada, and his colleagues claim that the organisation has failed to lend Africa the promised funds and has obscured its allocation of money with “Enron-like accounting”.
Attaran, a lawyer and biologist, says that the organisation should not have set a target it could not reach: “They should not have done it unless they had a means of honestly meeting it.”
The World Bank admits that it did not reach all of the 2000 funding goals, but says that it had already readjusted its targets when it launched its Global Strategy & Booster Program in 2005. In this new scheme, it hopes to commit $500 million to $1 billion towards fighting malaria with help from partner organisations.
The new approach involves a greater emphasis on malaria prevention, according to Suprotik Basu, a public health specialist for the World Bank’s Booster Program for Malaria Control. He says that this includes more emphasis on the distribution of tools such as mosquito netting to keep away the insect that transmits the disease. Attaran and colleagues also accuse the World Bank of downsizing its staff of malaria experts from seven to zero, soon after promising to do more to combat the disease. Read more...
This was seized 4 u at The Lancet

Monday, April 24, 2006

Convicted because of digital camera 'fingerprints'

A new forensic technique means many digital photographs can now be traced to the individual cameras that took them. The method works by analysing imperfections in the cameras' light sensors. Jessica Fridrich and colleagues at Binghamton University in New York, US, analysed more than 3000 digital images taken using 11 different models of digital camera. They found that minute flaws in each camera's sensors left their mark on the images, making it possible to link each picture to a particular camera. Inside each camera, a light-sensitive chip called a charge-coupled device (CCD) converts incoming photons into electrons. Each CCD is covered with millions of individual light-sensors. But these individual sensors do not capture light with uniform efficiency and leave a subtle pattern of variation, or "noise", on each digital image. Fridrich's team developed an algorithm that identifies the noise produced by a particular camera's sensor by analysing scores of images taken using it. "No two CCD sensors are alike," Read more...
This was seized 4 u at New Scientist

Switch between biological and silicon worlds

Scientists have created a molecular switch that could play a key role in thousands of nanotech applications. The Mol-Switch project successfully developed a demonstrator to prove the principle, despite deep scepticism from specialist colleagues in biotechnology and biophysics. "Frankly, some researchers didn't think what we were attempting was possible because standard descriptions in physics, for example the Stokes equation for viscosity indicated that the system might not work. But viscous forces do not apply at the nano-scale," says Dr Keith Firman, Reader in Molecular Biotechnology at Portsmouth University and coordinator of the Mol-Switch project, funded under the European Commission’s FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) initiative of the IST programme. "However, we got our molecular switch to work."
The upshot is that the Mol-Switch project was far more successful than expected. The team's switch works with a number of DNA-based motors and can achieve incredible performance. Specific sensors, which emit electrons, can tell if the biological motor is working, so the switch links the biological world with the silicon world of electronic signals.
Here's how it works. The team uses a microfluidics chip that includes a number of channels measured in nano-metres. The novelty of microfluidics is that it can channel liquids in laminar, or predictable, flow. The floor of this channel is peppered with Hall-Effect sensors. The Hall Effect describes how a magnetic field influences an electric current. That influence can be measured to a high degree of accuracy. These measurements link the biological motor with the electronic signals of the silicon world. The biological element of the device starts with a DNA molecule that's fixed to the floor of the microfluidic channel. This strand is held upright, like a string held up by a weather balloon, by anchoring the floating end of the DNA strand to a magnetic bead, itself held up under the influence of magnetism...
"The light switch, the button that makes a retractable pen, all these are actuators, and by developing a molecular switch we've created a tiny actuator that could be used in an equally vast number of applications," says Firman. This is particularly important because a nano-scale actuator will be immensely useful. An actuator is a mechanism that supplies and transmits a measured amount of energy for the operation of another mechanism or system. It can be a simple mechanical device, converting various forms of energy to rotating or linear mechanical energy. Or it can convert mechanical action into an electrical signal. It works both ways.
The number of potential applications is staggering. They can be used for flow-control valves, pumps, positioning drives, motors, switches, relays and biosensors.
The system could be used to develop molecular circuits, or even molecular scale mechanical devices. The potential applications are difficult to predict, but are only limited by the imagination of researchers, such is the versatility of an actuator on this scale. "It could be used as a communicator between the biological and silicon worlds. I could see it providing an interface between muscle and external devices, through its use of ATP, in human implants. Such an application is still 20 or 30 years away," says Firman "It's very exciting and right now we're applying for a patent for the basic concepts."
One hugely important application is DNA sequencing, discovering the order of the four DNA-bases, the absolutely fundamental step for genetic research. This is almost a 'bonus' application, a happy side effect of the actuator's operation. The team used the Mol-Switch with time-resolved fluorescence for DNA sequencing. Read more...
This was seized 4 u at Information Society Technologies

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Jingjing and Chacha - The Great Firewall of China

China has two main methods for censoring the Web. For companies inside its borders, the government uses a broad array of penalties and threats to keep content clean. For Web sites that originate anywhere else in the world, the government has another impressively effective mechanism of control: what techies call the Great Firewall of China.
When you use the Internet, it often feels placeless and virtual, but it's not. It runs on real wires that cut through real geographical boundaries. There are three main fiber-optic pipelines in China, giant underground cables that provide Internet access for the public and connect China to the rest of the Internet outside its borders. The Chinese government requires the private-sector companies that run these fiber-optic networks to specially configure "router" switches at the edge of the network, where signals cross into foreign countries. These routers — some of which are made by Cisco Systems, an American firm — serve as China's new censors.
If you log onto a computer in downtown Beijing and try to access a Web site hosted on a server in Chicago, your Internet browser sends out a request for that specific Web page. The request travels over one of the Chinese pipelines until it hits the routers at the border, where it is then examined. If the request is for a site that is on the government's blacklist — and there are lots of them — it won't get through. If the site isn't blocked wholesale, the routers then examine the words in the requested page's Internet address for blacklisted terms. If the address contains a word like "falun" or even a coded term like "198964" (which Chinese dissidents use to signify June 4, 1989, the date of the Tiananmen Square massacre), the router will block the signal. Back in the Internet cafe, your browser will display an error message. The filters can be surprisingly sophisticated, allowing certain pages from a site to slip through while blocking others. While I sat at one Internet cafe in Beijing, the government's filters allowed me to surf the entertainment and sports pages of the BBC but not its news section.
One mistake Westerners frequently make about China is to assume that the government is furtive about its censorship. On the contrary, the party is quite matter of fact about it — proud, even. One American businessman who would speak only anonymously told me the story of attending an award ceremony last year held by the Internet Society of China for Internet firms, including the major Internet service providers. "I'm sitting there in the audience for this thing," he recounted, "and they say, 'And now it's time to award our annual Self-Discipline Awards!' And they gave 10 companies an award. They gave them a plaque. They shook hands. The minister was there; he took his picture with each guy. It was basically like Excellence in Self-Censorship — and everybody in the audience is, like, clapping." Internet censorship in China, this businessman explained, is presented as a benevolent police function. In January, the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau created two cuddly little anime-style cartoon "Internet Police" mascots named "Jingjing" and "Chacha"; each cybercop has a blog and a chat window where Chinese citizens can talk to them. As a Shenzhen official candidly told The Beijing Youth Daily, "The main function of Jingjing and Chacha is to intimidate." The article went on to explain that the characters are there "to publicly remind all Netizens to be conscious of safe and healthy use of the Internet, self-regulate their online behavior and maintain harmonious Internet order together."
This was and excerpt from Clive Thompson's splendid New York Times article "Google's China Problem (and China's Google Problem)". Its a long and very interesting story covering censorship, practicing democracy in the context of Google "entering" the chinese market. Read the full story!
This was written by Clive Thompson & seized 4 u at The New York Times

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Start confessing & lets 4give ( opened for the public)

I have already written twice about After a long time of developement they finaly opened the page for the public.
Here some of the new features :
* Reputation system fully functional!
* Anonymous Posting!
You dont need to log or sign inorder to post! and even if you did sign and you want to post a few as Anonymous feel free its also possible!
* Member Page for each user with detailed information about each user
* Advance main page with a lot of statistics etc.
The main reason for posting that article is of course the screenshot including my favorite "Top Saint" - me ;-)

The Skyline Of Aalborg

In order to give Steve and some other skyline-lovers (like me) something to think about and as a tribute to a faithful reader I recommend the skyline of Aalborg (Ok - its only the Limfjordsbro at night) as this years (at least most original) skyline ;-)
This picture was seized 4 u from Henrik Hansen

Friday, April 21, 2006

When you're in orbit, which way is Mecca?

Space Adventures is my favorite travel agency and New Scientist has developed to be my favorite "science for weirdos" hotspot. Digg that: Malaysia's National Space Agency is trying to determine how its astronaut candidates will practice Islam in space. Three of its four astronaut candidates are Muslim, and two will be selected for a future Russian space flight. Once in their orbiting spacecraft, they will circle the Earth once every 90 minutes. Traditionally, Muslims pray five times per day, at times connected to the position of the Sun in the sky. This will make prayer observance a challenge if they accept a "day" as being just 90 minutes long. A similar problem occurs for Muslims who live close to Earth's polar regions where there are long periods of daylight or darkness. Islamic legal scholars traditionally say that in such situations, a Muslim should pray as they would at a particular, relatively high latitude, even if they venture nearer the poles. "Any legal scholar advising these astronauts would have to simply pick various times that would roughly correspond to their morning, noon, afternoon, sunset and night prayers," says Alan Godlas, a professor of religion at the University of Georgia, US. Additionally, Muslims turn toward Mecca when they pray. Zooming around the Earth at 28,000 kilometres per hour might make pinpointing the exact location of Mecca pretty tricky. Godlas says that orienting oneself toward Earth might be good enough. "There are instances where the prophet indicated a wide swathe; kind of a general direction," Godlas says. Read more...
This was seized 4 u at New Scientist

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Digg Corrupted: Editor's Playground, not User-Driven Website

Growing concerns over Digg "censorship" have been submitted steadily. I found the post "Digg Corrupted: Editor's Playground, not User-Driven Website" interesting have have extracted its conclusion for you:
Digg as an idea is fantastic. As a system of disseminating news without having to wait for editors it is amazing. But it seems to be suffering from a power complex. The two articles we originally mentioned were obviously promoted to the front page in an artificial manager.. Our website getting banned was obviously in retaliation to our story. Their entire philosophy now feels shallow and false - the editors decidedly put those two articles to the front page, just like they decidedly removed us from their system. Users may have originally driven the website, but it looks like that ideal is nothing more than a nice idea in the past.

Of course, this could be another interesting social case. Just like word of mouth and 'user effort' is what helped Digg surge, maybe the same users can help spread the word on how Digg is a shadow of its original ideal.
...just one remark from me: is of course banned from Digg because of the name "reseize" - I did not want to, and do not find it necessary to convince some no-brainers (as I concider these guys at Digg). It is also easier to cheet their system then going into a dialog in which Digg seems to have no interest at all. I felt no interest in posting reseize stuff on Digg but I will of course place this one in their system ;-) (needing the fun)
This was seized 4 u at

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

An antimatter spaceship for Mars?

If you're a science fiction reader, you know that spaceships are using antimatter to travel through space. Now NASA is working on such a spaceship to go to Mars in 45 days using only 10 milligrams of anti-electrons — or positrons — for the round trip mission. These positrons will emit gamma rays with about 400 times less energy than the ones emitted by antiprotons used in previous designs. Such a rocket would be much safer because it would reduce the time to travel to Mars and because there should be no leftover radiation after the fuel is used.
There are still some remaining issues, such as the cost — $250 million for 10 milligrams — and the storage of antimatter which would have to be contained with electric and magnetic fields. But it's permitted to dream, isn't? If such a small quantity of antimatter can propel a spaceship to Mars — and even further — why hasn't been tried before?
In reality this power comes with a price. Some antimatter reactions produce blasts of high energy gamma rays. Gamma rays are like X-rays on steroids. They penetrate matter and break apart molecules in cells, so they are not healthy to be around. High-energy gamma rays can also make the engines radioactive by fragmenting atoms of the engine material. The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is funding a team of researchers working on a new design for an antimatter-powered spaceship that avoids this nasty side effect by producing gamma rays with much lower energy.
Antimatter is sometimes called the mirror image of normal matter because while it looks just like ordinary matter, some properties are reversed. For example, normal electrons, the familiar particles that carry electric current in everything from cell phones to plasma TVs, have a negative electric charge. Anti-electrons have a positive charge, so scientists dubbed them "positrons". When antimatter meets matter, both annihilate in a flash of energy. This complete conversion to energy is what makes antimatter so powerful. Even the nuclear reactions that power atomic bombs come in a distant second, with only about three percent of their mass converted to energy. Read more at NASA & Ermerging Technology Trends
This was seized 4 u at Roland Piquepaille's post at ZDNet's Ermerging Technology Trends & NASA

San Francisco faces big shaker

Another magnitude 7.9 earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area would probably produce much stronger shaking than the catastrophic 1906 event of the same size. The wider region should also expect thousands of fatalities and economic losses in the billions.
These conclusions are contained in two reports released to coincide with the 18 April centennial of the great quake that destroyed the city and killed 3,000 people.
Scientists say the next big quake - a magnitude 6.7 or larger - will likely come within 30 years.
The first study, When the Big One Strikes Again, was commissioned by conference organisers and provides an estimate range of the death and damage toll for Northern California if an earthquake similar to 1906 hit the region today.
One of its shaking scenarios suggests that out of the 10 million residents in 19 counties, a 7.9 earthquake could kill 1,800 and seriously injure 8,000 if it hit at night; and kill 3,400 and seriously injure 13,000 if it hit during the day.
"Daytime casualties are typically higher than night-time, when people are in homes that are less susceptible to collapse than commercial buildings," said Dr Kircher. However, the proportion of night-time deaths is raised slightly in San Francisco itself, where older homes are more vulnerable to collapse. Roughly one quarter - 800 - daytime deaths and almost a third of night-time deaths- 574 - would be in SF city districts.
The estimates are based on death by building collapse by shaking alone; not by fire, which could raise the death toll. Of the city's 400,000 residents in 1906, it is estimated that 3,000 died from both building collapse and the conflagration that swept the city immediately afterwards.
While it was unlikely a fire that size would rage again, smaller fires were very possible, said Dr Kircher. "We expect fires to contribute significantly to the total loss," he added.
Adding in the cost of damage due to fire and lifeline infrastructure - such as highways - could raise the economic bill to $150bn. And this does not include long-term economic impact, the sort experienced in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The total is 10 times the loss from the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, a 6.7 tremor on the San Andreas Fault centred in a mountainous region 100km (60 miles) to the south of San Francisco.
This was seized 4 u at BBC

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

News getting into the internet age

European researchers hope to take news agencies into the internet age by commercialising a platform of integrated Web services that can automatically classify, annotate and analyse news stories. It will mean stories can be defined, on the fly, with a precision greater than a library's card catalogue. The News Engine Web Services (NEWS) platform is aimed at news agencies, governments and large enterprises and will enable them to develop highly advanced analysis to raw text, with a vast number of potential applications.
News agencies will be able to automatically create very highly personalised news profiles for readers. Governments will be able to analyse social and political trends through newspaper reports, at a much higher level of detail than was possible previously, and large businesses will be able to study market and product developments. The project that developed the platform even managed to develop a proof-of-concept service for analysing audio, by combining their system with a commercial voice recognition programme.
At the heart of this functionality is the powerful classification and ontology-based annotation system that can work across languages. "News classifications up to now typically consisted of about 12 terms, like sport, world news, finance, that a journalist knew off by heart," says Dr Ansgar Bernardi, deputy head of the Knowledge Management Group at DFKI, the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, and coordinator of the IST-funded NEWS project. "That's not very precise. Our system can automatically analyse a story and access 1300 classification terms to define it," says Bernardi.
What's more it can access a large ontology of terms related to the specific story definitions within a class, terms like president, head-of-state and government in the politics class, for example. The end result is a very large data set of standardised terms that define the story's content. That data set can then be used in a huge variety of ways to potentially answer almost any query a user can imagine. A simple example: “Show me news items about the US president in January 2006” will deliver news items about George W. Bush in this time frame. "We expect that platform users will take the basic functionality and develop around it to respond to the information they want to analyse," says Bernardi. Read more at the source...
This was seized 4 u at Information Society Technologies

Study Shows Readers Often Scan Web Pages in an "F" Pattern

F for fast. That's how users read your precious content. In a few seconds, their eyes move at amazing speeds across your website’s words in a pattern that's very different from what you learned in school.

In our new eyetracking study, we recorded how 232 users looked at thousands of Web pages. We found that users' main reading behavior was fairly consistent across many different sites and tasks. This dominant reading pattern looks somewhat like an F and has the following three components:

* Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. This initial element forms the F's top bar.
* Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement. This additional element forms the F's lower bar.
* Finally, users scan the content's left side in a vertical movement. Sometimes this is a fairly slow and systematic scan that appears as a solid stripe on an eyetracking heatmap. Other times users move faster, creating a spottier heatmap. This last element forms the F's stem.

Obviously, users' scan patterns are not always comprised of exactly three parts. Sometimes users will read across a third part of the content, making the pattern look more like an E than an F. Other times they'll only read across once, making the pattern look like an inverted L (with the crossbar at the top). Generally, however, reading patterns roughly resemble an F, though the distance between the top and lower bar varies.

This was seized 4 u at

Monday, April 17, 2006

How does easter fit with eggs & bunnies?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The fish that hunts on land

Zoologists have found a remarkable fish that can wriggle from Africa's tropical swamps to snaffle a snack on land. The eel catfish,Channallabes apus, catches unsuspecting victims by arching upwards and descending upon prey, trapping an insect against the ground before sucking it up. It performs this trick thanks to a bendy neck supported by specialized vertebrae, which allows it to hover over prey without needing fins or arms to hold up its head. The same trick may have been used by the very first vertebrates to venture onto land, the researchers speculate. Sam Van Wassenbergh of the University of Antwerp in Belgium and his team present the observation, complete with video evidence, in this week's Nature. Most fish capture dinner by opening wide and expanding their mouth cavity: this pulls in extra water and sucks up prey. But this only works below the surface; animals cannot create the same amount of suction by opening their mouths in air, which is 800 times less dense than water. Animals have evolved various strategies to capture insects on land, from sticky tongues to lightning-fast lunges and snapping jaws. For C. apus, the solution consists of being able to loom over its target with its mouth in a position to engulf it from directly from above. Other fish known to hunt on land, called mudskippers, also have extremely flexible necks. It is suspected that this trick might be the best way for a fish to catch a meal on dry land. "I don't think there are any other options," he reflects. And the eel catfish, although a modern species, may demonstrate just how the first vertebrates graduating to land caught their dinner. Palaeontologists last week unveiled fossils of Tiktaalik roseae, a creature that had limb-like bones encased in fleshy fins. The fish that crawled out of the water'). Tiktaalik roseae certainly seems to have had a fairly versatile neck, notes Van Wassenbergh.
This was originally written by Michael Hopkin & seized 4 u at Nature

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Synthehol - get the booze without any hangover

Synthehol is a science-fictional substitute for alcohol that appears on the Star Trek:The Next Generation television series. It allows drinkers to experience all of the enjoyable, intoxicating effects of alcohol without unpleasant side-effects like hangovers. Professor David Nutt, a psychopharmacologist at the University of Bristol in the UK, believes that there is no scientific reason why it cannot be created now. Alcohol works in the brain mainly by latching onto signalling molecules called GABA-A receptors. There are dozens of subtypes of these; not all of them are associated with specific effects of alcohol. For example, memory loss may occur in conjuction with drinking because alcohol binds to alpha-5, a GABA-A receptor subtype in the hippocampus. Professor Nutt suggests that if molecules that bind poorly to the bad subtypes like alpha-5 could be developed, it would be possible to retain the pleasant effects of alcohol without the bad side-effects. Read more...
This was seized 4 u at LifeScience wich has seized that at New Scientist which has seized it...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Which is the best online calendar? (Google Calendar vs. 30 Boxes)

Like word processing, online calendars are considered to be a center for social networking, this is why that category has a lot of drive & competing services. The most important (beside Yahoo & MSN) are the "old fashioned" CalendarHub, the ambitious Airset, the flashy SpongeCell & the frontrunner 30 Boxes.
Now Google has entered the market and this is a preliminary roundup: It is easy to use, you can manage multiple calendars,
gcal allows you to share your calendar with others but I think the most interesting aspect of Google’s calendar is its open platform. If you already maintain a calendar you can import events from those sources. So far this is a one-way import. The service is not yet set up to do a two-way synchronization between itself and other programs or handheld devices but stay tuned. Google plans to make it relatively easy for others to add functionality to the calendar. An API is in the works, which will enable developers to create new products on top of Google Calendar. This API is what I believe truly makes Google Calendar a platform and game changing product. Just as the Google Maps API enabled numerous mash-ups like, the Google Calendar API will create a new ecosystem of applications around schedules (A hair salon could use Google Calendar to handle online appointment scheduling etc...).
What have the existing services got that can beat the new Google Calendar?

In my opinion only 30 Boxes has the only really competitive product. This calendar is at the moment superior to all
competitors. Its integration of RSS, syndication features and flexibility is unmatched. The Google calendar has of course the advantage of the tight integration to all the other Google services (first of all Gmail) but the open platform should ensure that other competing applications are free to offer the better service. As an example the statement from 30 Boxes: "First, we are glad to see Google drawing attention to the entire “event/time” arena and we plan to fully support gcal integration where we are able. Second, we think the app is a bit on the boring side and the UI needlessly cluttered. Different strokes for different folks ... Whatever Google brings to the table, we will do it better. We invite you to join in the forums to help us along the way. Oh, and we have some sweet email integration on the way."
I'm not sure - Which is the best online calendar?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Hydrogen powers whisper-quiet bike

Remember the old line, ''If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?" Here's a variation: If a motorcycle goes down the street, and no one hears it, could it really be a motorcycle? I mean, motorcycles are all about the sound they make, right? Harley-Davidson attempted to patent the unique potato-potato sound its motorcycles emit. An entire industry devoted to motorcycle exhaust pipes has sprung up. Bumper stickers everywhere proclaim: ''Loud pipes save lives!" So, what do you do with a motorcycle that makes no noise? Is it really a motorcycle?
I found myself wondering that, as I rode around recently on the ENV. The ENV, or ''Envy," is an acronym for Emissions Neutral Vehicle . . . the world's first hydrogen-powered motorcycle. It makes no sound other than a slight whisper of a breeze out of its cooling fins. And that lack of engine rumble is what's disconcerting about it. Motorcycles should make noise. Usually the more noise, the better. Unless you're a neighbor. But even your neighbors would like the ENV. In addition to being ''whisper-quiet," which despite the public-relations hype about it, it actually is; it also is environmentally friendly.
The Envy will run for about four hours, or 100 miles, whichever comes first, on a ''tank" of hydrogen. The ''tank" is a detachable, modular fuel cell that is shaped sort of like an old 5-gallon gas can. It plugs into the motorcycle's chassis, right where the engine would normally be. The design seems clever because the same kind of modular tank could be made to plug into any number of other devices suitable for hydrogen power, such as a personal watercraft or ATV. It could even be a substitute for generator power, in something like a cabin or an RV.
The only question is ''where do you fill it up?" Right now, California has more solutions to that than most places. The state has two-dozen hydrogen refilling stations, with more on the way. ''In the none-too-distant future," said Harry Bradbury, the president of Intelligent Energy, ''people will be able to use a bike like ENV to leave work in an urban environment, drive to the countryside, detach the [fuel cell] and attach it to another vehicle, such as a motorboat, before going on to power a log cabin with the very same fuel cell, which could then be recharged from a mini hydrogen creator the size of a shoe box."

This was seized 4 u at

Nature paper shows that cell division is reversible

Oklahoma City–Gary J. Gorbsky, Ph.D., a scientist with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, has found a way to reverse the process of cell division.
The discovery could have important implications for the treatment of cancer, birth defects and numerous other diseases and disorders. Gorbsky's findings appear in the April 13 issue of the journal Nature. "No one has gotten the cell cycle to go backwards before now," said Gorbsky, who holds the W.H. and Betty Phelps Chair in Developmental Biology at OMRF. "This shows that certain events in the cell cycle that have long been assumed irreversible may, in fact, be reversible."
Cell division occurs millions of times each day in the human body and is essential to life itself. In the lab, Gorbsky and his OMRF colleagues were able to control the protein responsible for the division process, interrupt and reverse the event, sending duplicate chromosomes back to the center of the original cell, an event once thought impossible. "Our studies indicate that the factors pointing cells toward division can be turned and even reversed," Gorbsky said. "If we wait too long, however, it doesn't work, so we know that there are multiple regulators in the cell division cycle. Now we will begin to study the triggers that set these events in motion."
The findings may prove important to controlling the development and metastasis of certain cancers. It also holds promise for the prevention and treatment of birth defects and a wide variety of other conditions. "Dr. Gorbsky's results provide elegant proof that the cell cycle must be precisely controlled," said Dr. Rodger McEver, OMRF vice president of research. "Now he and his lab can work toward developing innovative methods to probe and better understand the complex process of cell division."
Gorbsky heads the Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology Research Program at OMRF and holds both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in biology from Princeton University. He is also adjunct professor of Cell Biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and a member of the OU Cancer Institute. His research focuses on mitosis and cytokinesis, the processes involved in cell division, and he has earned international recognition for his work in the area of chromosomal movement and cell cycle control.
The actual paper, available at Nature is currently unavailable. I'll update this link as soon as it is available. -Steve
This was gratefully seized 4 u at

Fat Melting Laser May Treat Cellulite, Heart Disease And Acne

Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital, USA, are using the Free-Electron Laser at specific wavelengths (selective photothermolysis) to heat up fat, which is then excreted by the body - without harming the skin. They say this technique could be used for treating cellulite, acne and heart disease.
Researchers used pig fat and two-inch-thick skin samples.
Prof. Rox Anderson, Mass. General Hospital, said “The root cause of acne is a lipid-rich gland, the sebaceous gland, which sits a few millimetres below the surface of the skin. We want to be able to selectively target the sebaceous gland and this research shows that, if we can build lasers at this region of the spectrum, we may be able to do that…. We can envision a fat-seeking laser, and we're heading down that path now "
Prof. Anderson presented the team's finding at the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery annual meeting.
This technique could also be used to eliminate cellulite and body fat, say the researchers. Fat build up in the arteries (plaques), which causes heart attacks, could also be treated.
Prof. Anderson said we are still a few years away from testing this technique on human beings.

This was seized 4 u at Medical News Today

Japan to run world's first fuel-cell trains

Tokyo, April 12 (DPA) East Japan Railway Co. is to conduct a test run of the world's first fuel-cell-powered train in July, the company said Wednesday.
The fuel cells, which generate power from a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, will help reduce environmental pollution compared to the existing electric and diesel engines, the company said. The new power source would also help improve scenery when Japan's web of railroads drops electric-power lines. The fuel-cell trains will maintain the same current speed at about 100 km per hour, but the railway company is still developing a system capable of long distance travel.

This was seized 4 u at Yahoo! News

World's Strongest Glue! Available Only From Nature!

The bacterium Caulobacter crescentus uses the toughest glue on Earth to stick to river rocks, and now scientists are trying to figure out how to produce the stuff. The adhesive can withstand an enormous amount of stress, equal to the force felt by a quarter with more than three cars piled on top of it. That’s two to three times more force than the best retail glues can handle.
The single-celled bacterium uses sugar molecules to stay put in rivers, streams, and water pipes, a new study found. It’s not clear how the glue actually works, however, but researchers presume some special proteins must be attached to the sugars. "There are obvious applications since this adhesive works on wet surfaces," said study leader Yves Brun, an Indiana University bacteriologist. "One possibility would be as a biodegradable surgical adhesive." Engineers could use the superior stickum too, Brun and colleagues say. But making it has proved challenging. Like a mess of chewing gum, the gunk globs to everything, including the tools used to create it.
"We tried washing the glue off," Brun said. "It didn't work."
The research, announced by the university Friday, will be detailed in the April 11 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This was seized 4 u at Yahoo! News

Fossil connects human evolution dots

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The latest fossil unearthed from a human ancestral hot spot in Africa allows scientists to link together the most complete chain of human evolution so far. The 4.2 million-year-old fossil discovered in northeastern Ethiopia helps scientists fill in the gaps of how human ancestors made the giant leap from one species to another.
That's because the newest fossil, the species Australopithecus anamensis, was found in the region of the Middle Awash -- where seven other human-like species spanning nearly 6 million years and three major phases of human development were previously discovered.
"We just found the chain of evolution, the continuity through time," study co-author and Ethiopian anthropologist Berhane Asfaw said in a phone interview from Addis Ababa. "One form evolved to another. This is evidence of evolution in one place through time."
The findings were reported Thursday in the scientific journal Nature.

This was seized 4 u at

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Virtual reality gets real

A cheap VR simulator has been created by exploiting a motion illusion of the human brain
Creating close to real-life virtual reality (VR) experiences has proven to be costly and has had rather poor results. In response, a European research team has explored how exploiting visual and auditory illusions can possibly lead to low-cost virtual reality simulators of the future.
Nowadays virtual reality is used within a wide range of areas such as medicine and the car manufacturing industry. However, due to problems with cost and quality, the technology has not yet reached a wider market.
Instead of trying to simulate the sense of the person’s motion by physically moving the person, which often causes motion sickness, the Swedish-German POEMS project, used a perceptually-oriented approach towards self-motion simulation. Thanks to funding under the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies initiative of the IST programme, their work and findings resulted in a simulator prototype, presented at the 8th International Presence Conference, held in London 2005.
At the event a group of 20 participants tested the prototype simulating the market place in Tübingen, Germany. Although seated, with headphones and a screen in front of them, participants got the distinct feeling of moving as the image on the screen in front of them turned around the square.
Basically the simulator exploits a vection illusion of the brain, which makes us believe we are moving when actually we are stationary. The same can be experienced, for instance, when you are stopped at a traffic light in your car and the car next to you edges forward. Your brain interprets this peripheral visual information as though you are moving backwards. Read more...
This was seized 4 u at Information Society Technologies

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The DNA Of Google (Google Organizes the Globe)

A handful of examples of how Google's genetic composition is poised to transform — in most cases, the transformation has already begun.
Over the past eight years, Google has quietly and steadily assembled an impressive suite of products and services (yes, their capabilities span far beyond the realm of "I'm Feeling Lucky"). All the while, critics argue that at a time when it is essential for the promise of the Google brand be clear to all, the evolution of Google and its sub-branded properties only makes its promise more elusive.
The Google-gloomy-Gus circle contends that the company has by no means created a suite, but rather has simply cobbled together a number of disparate products and services that do nothing to bring cohesion to the brand. They claim that Search, AdSense, Local/Maps/Earth, Froogle, Gmail, Base, Mini/Search Appliance, Google Pack, Video Store, Blogger, and Google Talk are about as much a nuclear family as Joan Crawford's was.
They are wrong.
What naysayers don't understand is that the DNA of the Google brand is unlike anything ever seen in the modern market landscape. Google is actually the first company with a brand that is built entirely of stem cells: able to grow and develop into whatever form it sees fit. In the future, many a company will learn the hard way that Google's mission statement, "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," is the anthem behind Google becoming a jack-of-all-trades... and master of all.
The following are a handful of examples of how Google's genetic composition is poised to transform in the not-too-distant future. In most cases, the transformation has already begun.
Google Communications? This is a genetic no-brainer. Google Talk (its IM and VoIP service) is going head-to-head with eBay's Skype as well as AOL, Microsoft, and Vonage. As part of its Gmail suite, Google Talk gives users a tremendously integrated voice/text experience, featuring its trademark user-friendly interface. With major cities around the world on the verge of offering free Wi-Fi (including a Google-financed San Francisco wireless system), it's easy to imagine the telephony of tomorrow taking place over Google Talk. Oh, and for those who don't want to be tied to their laptops to call Mom, fear not: Google Talk engineers are hinting at new mobile versions of the software in the months ahead.
Google Marketplace? Clearinghouses, such as craigslist and eBay, beware; Google Base is lurking in the cyber-shadows. The stem-cell speculation about the enigmatic Google Base includes everything from a comprehensive classifieds site like craigslist to a Google-managed currency system, which some have dubbed "Google Money." While eBay was busy spending US$ 1.5 billion on its acquisition of PayPal, Google may be circumventing the entire process by inventing a legal tender of its own.
Google Entertainment? Yeah, its DNA can do that. In January of this year, Google announced that it is collaborating with Intel to "give consumers an easy way to search, manage, and consume the huge amount of video information available on the Internet from the comfort of their couch," according to a company release. The Google Video Store currently competes with Apple's iTunes, which for the time being is more user-friendly and has a substantially larger market-share. But given Google's distribution network — either through Froogle or its Google Base — the market-share gap could narrow in a hurry.
Google Hardware? Genetic mission accomplished. A year ago, Google launched the Mini, a scaled-down, blue version of Google's bright yellow Search Appliance, which is essentially a rack-mounted server that businesses can integrate into their network infrastructure for searching shared files and web pages. In this space, Google takes on IBM, Thunderstone, and the UK-based Autonomy. The stem-cell question for prospective consumers is, Where would you prefer to buy this hardware — from IBM, or a company that can give you 5,093,127 results for "enterprise servers" in 0.41 seconds?
Google Everywhere? You read it right: everywhere. Maybe you've tinkered with Google Earth and used Google Maps or Google Local. It's only the beginning. Zagat, Michelin, et al., are shaking in their culinary boots as they watch young foodies downloading the Google Local for mobile beta application to cellphones and conducting geography-specific searches for restaurants, markets, entertainment, etc. — with instant links to their locations and directions, as necessary. At present, even though search results contain no specific ratings information associated with them, the democratic mathematics of Google is itself a ratings proxy: When a restaurant/store/nightclub is prompted for you, it is because other searchers found that suggestion to be useful, valid, and accurate.
HBO and Nike have already teamed up with Google Maps to enhance their entertainment and products, respectively. HBO integrated a Google Maps tool into to support the return of "The Sopranos," refreshing viewers' memories of where key characters were whacked, bludgeoned, and buried (along with the relevant video clips associated with the respective swamps, warehouses, and waste disposal sites of New Jersey). Aspiring Steve Prefontaines can use Nike's RouteFinder, a feature on, which lets users work the magic of Google Maps to plot jogging routes around Hyde Park, through Buckingham Palace, and into 10 Downing Street (well, almost).
Closer to home, although Google Local trails Yahoo!, according to Nielsen Net Ratings, Google's decision to make an open software interface has skyrocketed its popularity and given rise to an entire culture of Local/Maps/Earth "mashups." (How about a virtual hip-hop tour, featuring a bird's-eye view of where Tupac Shakur was shot and where Kanye West's mama lives?) Many experts predict that the local-search market will be worth just under US$ 4 billion by 2009. With those kinds of numbers at work, it's easy to understand why Google wants to be here, there, and everywhere.
In all, then, with a brand promise that can deliver in communications, entertainment, marketplaces, hardware, and most everywhere else, it's clear that Google is on the verge of achieving the holy grail of branding: stem cells that can be all things to all markets. Of course, the obvious question remains: In the spirit of parity, will President Bush cap Google's eligibility at 78 stem cell lines, or will he allow the company limitless access to the vast and vulnerable marketplace? Stay tuned.
This was written by Gabriel Stricker & seized 4 u at BusinessWeek Online

Monday, April 10, 2006

Music Fingerprinting System - Music Digital Naming Service (MusicDNS)

A digital music identification system that can search through 17 million songs in under 1 second has been launched in the US. MusicIP, based in California, US, announced last week that it had received a US patent for its method of automatically identifying, or "fingerprinting", digital music files. The company already offers software that analyses the music collection on a computer, identifies it, and makes recommendations. But now it will now offer its music identification feature for other companies to include in their products. The system can recognise a song from its audio "fingerprint" in a fraction of a second. This allows users to rapidly organise their music collection, discover more about a particular track or get new recommendations, through connected databases, regardless of the format of the audio file. Matthew Dunn, chief executive of MusicIP, claims his company's fingerprinting technology is the fastest available and uses the largest commercial database – containing 17 million songs. To make a fingerprint, MusicIP quickly scans the first 2 minutes of a track and records frequency data every 185 milliseconds, before compressing the results into a 512 byte file. It also measures records the four most dominant tones in the first 30 seconds of the music. The program uses information about these dominant tones to narrow the search before searching the song database using the frequency information. Dunn says this allows the company to perform hundreds of searches each second and that the service is sensitive enough to distinguish between different versions of the same tune, such as live and studio recordings. While other companies (Shazam Entertainment, in London, UK & Gracenote, in California, US) use digital fingerprints to identify songs, the databases they claim are much smaller. An alternative approach is user collaboration. Online services such as Audioscrobbler and Pandora, for example, recognise songs and make recommendations by searching through user-generated playlists. But Dunn hopes the speed and size of MusicIP's database will make it stand out. Companies must pay a license fee to access MusicIP’s Music Digital Naming Service service, but non-profit organisations can access it for free.
This was seized 4 u at New Scientist & MusicIP

Nanotech Consumer Product Recalled in Germany

On March 31, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) issued a warning against using a household product containing nanoparticles that has led to what is apparently the first recall of a nanotechnology-based product. In a period of less than two weeks, regional poison control centers in Germany received about 80 reports of people coughing or complaining of fever and headache, and several people were hospitalized with pulmonary edema, after using "Magic Nano" surface-sealing sprays. Cleaning-roduct manufacturer Kleinmann GmbH, which packages and sells the sprays, quickly withdrew aerosol formulations that also contain a propellant and warned against their further use. The company has sold the products in pump bottles for more than two years and has had no reports of problems. The sprays are designed for treating glass and ceramic surfaces to make them water- and dirt-repellant for easier cleaning.

This was seized 4 u at Chemical Engineering News

Bush planning nookular strike against Iran

The Bush administration has sent undercover forces into Iran and has stepped up secret planning for a possible major air attack on the country, according to the renowned US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.
"You see, nookular weapons are bad, and we can;t let Iran get any, and even though we can't prove they have any, or even that they can make any, the only safe course of action to prevent Iran getting nookular bombs is to drop our nookular bombs all over it!" -- Official White Horse Souse
This was seized 4 u at What Really Happened dot com

New Investigative Report on Fake News

Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed is the title of a report released April 6, 2006, by the Center for Media and Democracy. This multi-media report is the result of an intensive ten-month investigation by CMD's senior researcher Diane Farsetta and research consultant Daniel Price. It documents for the first time how commercial propaganda -- fake TV news created by PR experts -- is being extensively broadcast as TV "news".
The Center for Media and Democracy and the media reform group Free Press simultaneously filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission requesting a crack-down on TV news fraud and calling for mandatory on-screen labeling of all phony news stories so that TV viewers know what is real reporting, and what is fake TV news.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

This Boring Headline Is Written for Google

Journalists over the years have assumed they were writing their headlines and articles for two audiences — fickle readers and nitpicking editors. Today, there is a third important arbiter of their work: the software programs that scour the Web, analyzing and ranking online news articles on behalf of Internet search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN. The search-engine "bots" that crawl the Web are increasingly influential, delivering 30 percent or more of the traffic on some newspaper, magazine or television news Web sites. And traffic means readers and advertisers, at a time when the mainstream media is desperately trying to make a living on the Web.
So news organizations large and small have begun experimenting with tweaking their Web sites for better search engine results. But software bots are not your ordinary readers: They are blazingly fast yet numbingly literal-minded. There are no algorithms for wit, irony, humor or stylish writing. The software is a logical, sequential, left-brain reader, while humans are often right brain. In newspapers and magazines, for example, section titles and headlines are distilled nuggets of human brainwork, tapping context and culture. "Part of the craft of journalism for more than a century has been to think up clever titles and headlines, and Google comes along and says, 'The heck with that,' " observed Ed Canale, vice president for strategy and new media at The Sacramento Bee.
Moves to accommodate the technology are tricky. How far can a news organization go without undercutting its editorial judgment concerning the presentation, tone and content of news?
So far, the news media are gingerly stepping into the field of "search engine optimization." It is a booming business, estimated at $1.25 billion in revenue worldwide last year, and projected to more than double this year. Much of this revenue comes from e-commerce businesses, whose sole purpose is to sell goods and services online. For these sites, search engine optimization has become a constant battle of one-upmanship, pitting the search engine technologists against the marketing experts and computer scientists working for the Web sites.
Think of it as an endless chess game. The optimizer wizards devise some technical trick to outwit the search-engine algorithms that rank the results of a search. The search engines periodically change their algorithms to thwart such self-interested manipulation, and the game starts again.
News organizations, by contrast, have moved cautiously. Mostly, they are making titles and headlines easier for search engines to find and fathom. About a year ago, The Sacramento Bee changed online section titles. "Real Estate" became "Homes," "Scene" turned into "Lifestyle," and dining information found in newsprint under "Taste," is online under "Taste/Food."
Some news sites offer two headlines. One headline, often on the first Web page, is clever, meant to attract human readers. Then, one click to a second Web page, a more quotidian, factual headline appears with the article itself. The popular BBC News Web site does this routinely on longer articles.
Nic Newman, head of product development and technology at BBC News Interactive, pointed to a few examples from last Wednesday. The first headline a human reader sees: "Unsafe sex: Has Jacob Zuma's rape trial hit South Africa's war on AIDS?" One click down: "Zuma testimony sparks HIV fear." Another headline meant to lure the human reader: "Tulsa star: The life and career of much-loved 1960's singer." One click down: "Obituary: Gene Pitney."
"The search engine has to get a straightforward, factual headline, so it can understand it," Mr. Newman said. With a little programming sleight-of-hand, the search engine can be steered first to the straightforward, somewhat duller headline, according to some search optimizers.
On the Web, space limitations can coincide with search-engine preferences. In the print version of The New York Times, an article last Tuesday on Florida beating U.C.L.A. for the men's college basketball championship carried a longish headline, with allusions to sports history: "It's Chemistry Over Pedigree as Gators Roll to First Title." On the Times Web site, whose staff has undergone some search-engine optimization training, the headline of the article was, "Gators Cap Run With First Title." Read more...
This was written by Steve Lohr & seized 4 u at The New York Times

Saturday, April 08, 2006

"Monster rabbit" targets vegetable patch

It sounds like a job for Wallace and Gromit. A "monster" rabbit has apparently been rampaging through vegetable patches in a small village in northern England, ripping up leeks, munching turnips and infuriating local gardeners. In an uncanny resemblance to the plot of the hit animated film "Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit," angry horticulturists in Felton, near Newcastle, have now mounted an armed guard to protect their prized cabbages and parsnips. "They call it the monster. It's very big -- it's nearly the size of a dog," said Joan Smith, whose son Jeff owns one of the plots under attack. "It's eating everything, all the vegetables," she told Reuters. "They are trying to shoot it. They go along hoping to catch it but I think it's too crafty."
In the "Wallace" film, which topped both the U.S. and UK box office charts and in March won an Oscar for best animated feature film, the plasticine heroes battle a mutant rabbit bent on destroying their home town's annual Giant Vegetable Contest. Those who say they have witnessed Felton's black and brown monster describe it as a cross between a rabbit and a hare with one ear bigger than the other. Its antics came to public attention when Jeff Smith, 63, raised it as an issue with the local parish council.
"He came along to pay the annual fee for the allotment (vegetable patch) and he said 'ooh we've got this big cross between a hare and a rabbit,'" the council's clerk Lisa Hamlin told Reuters.
Smith himself has described it as a "brute" which had left huge pawprints.
"This is no ordinary rabbit. We are dealing with a monster," he was quoted by newspapers as saying.
"It is absolutely massive. The first time I saw it I thought to myself 'What the hell is that?'
"We have two lads here with guns who are trying to shoot it, but it is very clever."
This was seized 4 u at Reuters

Music Download Services - a comparision from TechCrunch

We’ve analyzed the services that sell digital music (iTunes and its competitors). This Part focuses on the pay-per-download services. In Part 2 we’ll compare the all-you-can-eat subscription services. While compact disc sales have declined 19 percent since 2001, online music sales have started to boom. According to a recent report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, revenues from digital music sales almost tripled in the last year, to $1.1 billion in 2005. Apple’s iTunes accounted for over 85 percent of the single song downloads, but Apple is not alone in the online music space. Legal downloads now account for about 6% of record companies’ revenues, up from practically zero two years ago.
We’ve signed up for just about every music download and subscription site out there and prepared a two part feature and pricing comparison of the best. We’ve divided the sites into “rent” v. “buy”. “Rent” sites are subscription based, all-you-can-eat services where you get to listen to all music in the catalog as long as you continue to pay the monthly fee. “Buy” sites are pay-per-download services, like iTunes, where you can also burn the song to a CD, and then rip the CD back to a computer and strip out any digital rights management (DRM) restrictions.
There are eleven total sites that sell downloadable, CD-burnable music. However, two of these sites, AOL Music Now and Virgin Digital, require a paid subscription to their all-you-can-eat service in order to download songs (downloads cost an additional $0.99 each on both services). We’ve therefore left them out of the comparison chart. Another, eMusic, is focued on independent labels, and we’ve removed it from the comparison even though it offers DRM-free music at an attractive price ($0.25 per song). The remaining eight services are AllofMP3, BuyMusic, iTunes, MSN Music, Napster Light, Real Rhapsody, and Yahoo Music Unlimited.
All but iTunes use the Windows Media Audio (WMA) file format. iTunes supports the AAC format. The only reason this is important is that Apple iPods won’t play WMA files, and non-iPods can’t play the iTunes AAC format. So your selection may largely be determined by which music player you choose to use.
The choice for best overall service is dead simple. The best service by far is Music costs $0.02 per MB (about 9 cents per song), and it can be downloaded in any common audio format and quality level. It is so cheap and easy to use that many people choose to download music from AllofMP3 in lieu of ripping their own CD collection. The problem is that AllofMP3 operates under a different set of rules (Russian copyright law) than the rest of the companies. The service has been around for years and has many loyal users; however, its continued existence is in question. Some people have ethical concerns with using the service since no money makes its way back to the artists or labels.
Of the remaining services, the first question is what music player you will use. If you want to use an iPod, you need to use iTunes. If you want to use a non-iPod device, any of the others will work. The clear winner of the non-iTunes services is Real Rhapsody. They have one of the largest selections of music, quickly include new music, and have the cleanest user interface on the store. Rhapsody also has the highest quality downloads, at 192 kbps. At $0.99 per song, though, Rhapsody is not the cheapest provider. That honor goes to BuyMusic at $0.79 per song. If you are price sensitive, BuyMusic may be the best choice for you.
This was posted by Frank Gruber & seized 4 u at TechCrunch

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Hundt for better business models

Capitalism is not a business model. It's a description of economic systems which can feature many business models. Capitalists do what works. Right now open source works, open networks work, open spectrum works. These provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people, and businesses.
Arguments in Washington against these concepts eventually devolve toward the creation of laws or rules meant to limit them. Copyright everything so open source has no purchase. Sell all the spectrum so none of it is open. Make the networks proprietary, then extract monopoly rents and use the law to prevent new competitors from emerging. When business efficiency is forbidden by law, can the government that does this claim to be capitalist? Only by defining itself as the ultimate authority, meaning it is by defiinition right, and all those who question it in any way are wrong.
But there is also a word we have for such governments, no matter how constituted, no matter their economic system. The word is authoritarian.
This was a quiet sub-text in a long speech given by former FCC chair Reed Hundt this week at Freedom2Connect. Hundt considers his greatest achievement to have been halting a 1994 attempt by phone companies to charge per-minute rates on local calls. Had he lost the dial-up Internet boom might never have happened.
Hundt says the idea of a commons is essential to an open Internet, that a public Internet is worth fighting for because that commons is the engine of growth. It was the most bald-faced political statement I heard all week, but was it wrong?
This was written by Dana Blankenhorn & seized 4 u at ZDNet OpenSource

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Battery electrodes self-assembled by viruses

Genetically modified viruses that assemble into electrodes could one day revolutionise battery manufacturing. Researchers in the US have created viruses that automatically coat themselves in metals and line up head to tail to form an efficient battery anode – the negatively charged component that channels electrons to generate current. These nanowires could be used to make revolutionary new forms of lithium-ion batteries, the researchers say. "Now it's simply a matter of designing the other components, and we'll be able to form batteries by simply pouring all the ingredients together and letting them self-assemble," says Angela Belcher, a biological engineer at MIT who led the research. "Plus we can make them at room temperature in very safe conditions, instead of the high temperatures and dangers usually associated with battery production."
Belcher's team genetically modified tube-shaped viruses that normally infect bacteria to create the electrodes. They introduced snippets of single-stranded DNA that caused the viruses to manufacture specific molecules on their outer coating that attach to cobalt ions and gold particles. This combination turns the virus into an efficient anode as they provide an ideal conduit for electrons.
This was seized 4 u at New Scientist

China Telekom represented by Shanghai Telekom wants to block Internet calls

A maker of network management systems said Wednesday it had received an order from Shanghai Telecom Co. for a system that can detect and block telephone calls placed over the Internet. Shanghai Telecom, which has 6.2 million landlines, plans to use Mountain View, California-based Narus Inc.'s system to improve its ability to block "unauthorized" Internet calls that connect to its phone system, bypassing its toll structure. Use of Internet calling, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is growing quickly across the world, threatening the business models of some telephone companies. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission fined a small telephone company that prevented its Internet subscribers from accessing competing VoIP service, but some countries with state-owned telecommunications companies are taking a different tack. In China, the government has sided with carriers and allowed them to block VoIP services that compete with the carrier's own products. A recent report in the Financial Times quoted an executive with a Hong Kong company as saying that the government would not issue new licenses for computer-to-phone calling services until 2008. The Chinese government and major phone companies have refused to confirm that account. Steve Bannerman, a spokesman for Narus, said carriers in several countries, including Egypt, are using its software to block gateways that connect VoIP calls to the phone network. VoIP-blocking software from another U.S. company, Verso Technologies Inc., is being tried out by an unidentified Chinese carrier. Narus' and Verso's software can be configured to block the use of Skype, eBay Inc.'s popular VoIP application. However, Shanghai Telecom has not bought the module from Narus that blocks Skype calls, Bannerman said. The Chinese version of Skype does not connect to the phone network, unlike the international version.
This was seized 4 u at CNN

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Planets around Dead Stars

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has uncovered new evidence that planets might rise up out of a dead star's ashes. The infrared telescope surveyed the scene around a pulsar, the remnant of an exploded star, and found a surrounding disk made up of debris shot out during the star's death throes. The dusty rubble in this disk might ultimately stick together to form planets.
This is the first time scientists have detected planet-building materials around a star that died in a fiery blast. "We're amazed that the planet-formation process seems to be so universal," says Deepto Chakrabarty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, principal investigator of the new research. "Pulsars emit a tremendous amount of high energy radiation, yet within this harsh environment we have a disk that looks a lot like those around young stars where planets are [being born]."
The finding represents the missing piece in a puzzle that arose in 1992, when Aleksander Wolszczan of Pennsylvania State University found three planets circling a pulsar called PSR B1257+12. Those pulsar planets, two the size of Earth, were the first planets of any type ever discovered outside our solar system. Astronomers have since found indirect evidence the pulsar planets were born out of a dusty debris disk, but nobody had directly detected this kind of disk until now.
The pulsar observed by Spitzer, named 4U 0142+61, is 13,000 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. It was once a large, bright star with a mass between 10 and 20 times that of our sun. The star probably survived for about 10 million years, until it collapsed under its own weight about 100,000 years ago and blasted apart in a supernova explosion.
Some of the debris, or "fallback," from that explosion eventually settled into a disk orbiting the shrunken remains of the star, or pulsar. Spitzer was able to spot the warm glow of the dusty disk with its heat-seeking infrared "eyes." The disk orbits at a distance of about 1 million miles and probably contains about 10 Earth-masses of material. Read more...

This was seized 4 u at NASA

Man held as terrorism suspect over listening to The Clash's 'London Calling'

Anti-terrorism detectives escorted a man from a plane after a taxi driver had earlier become suspicious when he started singing along to a track by punk band The Clash, police said on Wednesday. Detectives halted the London-bound flight and Harraj Mann, 24, was taken off. The taxi driver had become worried on the way to the airport because Mann had been singing along to The Clash's 1979 anthem "London Calling," which features the lyrics "Now war is declared -- and battle come down" while other lines warn of a "meltdown expected".
Mann told newspapers the taxi had been fitted with a music system which allowed him to plug in his MP3 player and he had been playing The Clash, Procol Harum, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to the driver. "He didn't like Led Zeppelin or The Clash but I don't think there was any need to tell the police," Mann told the Daily Mirror. A Durham police spokeswoman said Mann had been released after questioning -- but had missed his flight. "The report was made with the best of intentions and we wouldn't want to discourage people from contacting us with genuine concerns," she said.
In order to stay comfortable please do not listen to Was (Not Was), Neneh Cherry, The Ramones, Radi8, Molly Beanland,
22 Pistepirkko, Imogene Heap, the guy on the picture or tunes (sounds) from other subversive audiophile individuals.
This was seized 4 u at Reuters

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Reseize has got a sister

Heavy daily use of ecstasy does not make physically dependent, but...

At the height of his use, the man - known as "Mr A" - was taking 25 tablets a day, Psychosomatics journal revealed. The 37-year-old still had trouble with short-term memory problems seven years after he stopped taking the drug. Doctors at St George's Hospital, London said Mr A's case was extreme, but showed ecstasy's long-term effects. The doctors said it was the largest reported ecstasy lifetime consumption by one person, the previous being around 2,000 tablets. Writing in Psychosomatics, they say Mr A reported he had used ecstasy between the ages of 21 and 30. For two years, he took five tablets every weekend, rising to an average of 3.5 tablets per day for the next three years, then soaring to 25 tablets a day over the next four years. After "collapsing" three times at parties, Mr A stopped taking ecstasy. The team say that, while much of the information on Mr A's drug use was self-reported, and therefore could have been affected by his memory problems, his history was confirmed by medical notes taken just after he stopped taking the drug. Writing in Psychosomatics, the medical team led by Dr Christos Kouimtsidis, said: "For a few months, he felt as if he was still under the influence of ecstasy and suffered several episodes of 'tunnel vision'. "He eventually developed severe panic attacks, recurrent anxiety, depression, muscle rigidity (particularly at the neck and jaw levels)." Mr A also experienced hallucinations and paranoid ideas. When he saw doctors at the addiction centre at St George's Hospital, Tooting, south London, he was still using cannabis, and said he had previously taken solvents, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, LSD, cocaine, and heroin. There was no mental illness in his family and no previous psychiatric history. When the doctors carried out tests on Mr A it was found he had memory impairment and "major behavioural consequences of his memory loss" such as repeating activities several times. This meant that he could not concentrate well and had very poor short-term memory, forgetting the time or what he had put in his supermarket trolley. However, he seemed unaware he had these problems. Reducing his cannabis use meant Mr A's paranoia and hallucinations disappeared, and his panic attacks were reduced, but his other symptoms persisted. He had no family history of psychiatric problems, and his medical record showed he had not had any difficulties prior to his drug use. A brain scan failed to show any obvious damage or atrophy in his brain, but Dr Kouimtsidis said such a scan was "not sensitive enough". He told the Guardian: "This is probably an extreme case so we should not blow any observations out of proportion. "But if this is what is happening to very heavy users, it might be an indication that daily use of ecstasy over a long period of time can lead to irreversible memory problems and other cognitive defects." Mr A discharged himself before doctors were able to complete their assessment and, although they continued to support him, he started to use cannabis again and dropped out. They tried to regain contact with him, but lost touch about a year ago. Martin Barnes, chief executive of the charity DrugScope, said: "It is possible to become psychologically dependent on the feelings associated with ecstasy but heavy daily use is extremely rare and it is not thought that people can become physically dependent. "The short-term effects - in terms of impaired memory, sleep problems and the 'mid-week hangover' - are well documented, but less is known about the longer-term effects, particularly of prolonged use."
This was seized 4 u at BBC

Monday, April 03, 2006

Fingerprints reveal clues to your habits

Fingerprints from a crime scene are useless if the perpetrator's prints are not on file. But new forensic techniques now mean they can be used to determine whether a person is a smoker, uses drugs, and even which aftershave they wear - information that could help narrow down suspects.
Fingerprints contain a mixture of skin cells, sweat secretions and substances picked up from elsewhere. Careful analysis can show whether a person may have handled drugs or explosives, but the new tools make it possible to determine a person's habits from the secretions in their prints as well.
"We have found you can detect cotinine, made when someone metabolises nicotine, in fingerprints," says Sue Jickells, an analytical chemist at Kings College London, UK. "This tells you if that person is a smoker, and this kind of additional information could be useful if you don't have a suspect." For about fi
ve hours after application, aftershave is also left behind, she says. "It is currently difficult to differentiate different kinds of product," Jickells adds. "But I think in the future biosensors will be used to easily tell them apart."
Jickells is also looking at differences in individual fingerprint chemistry. Much of the material of a fingerprint consists of lipids - fat secreted by pores in the skin. "It seems people differ in the amount they secrete of the different kinds of lipid," Jickells says. "The differences aren't great enough to be able to identify someone specifically, but you could definitely rule out suspects if you found they had produced a lot of one lipid, in contrast to a print at the crime scene."

A particularly quick method of analysing fingerprints has been developed by David Russell, a chemist at the University of East Anglia, UK, who has also developed a way to tell if a fingerprint was left by a smoker. Russell coated gold nanoparticles with an antibody specific to cotinine, and labelled the particles with a fluorescent protein.
A solution containing the particles is then applied to a fingerprint and illuminated with light. The fluorescent particles then show up under the light if the print is from a smoker. "The idea is to develop something for first responders, so they can quickly find out more about a suspect," Russell says.
Russell's nanoparticle method has also been used to develop a quick check for toxins like ricin and cholera. Particles are coated with a sugar that binds to the toxins and dissolved in a coloured solution. If a sample containing the toxin is added to the solution, the particles immediately clump together and scatter light differently. This causes the solution to quickly change colour. "It's a simple, quick, yes-or-no detection method," Russell says.
Russell's team hopes to adapt the technique to speed up detection of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, or bird flu. Currently, samples must be sent away for lab analysis, so a portable detector could see potential outbreaks
This was seized with my gloves on 4 u at New Scientist

Sunday, April 02, 2006

See the World's Tallest Skyline

Matt Bowker and James Newman put together a very interesting visualization. What would a city look like if it contained the twenty five tallest (circa 2003) buildings in the world? Check out their impressive virtual skyline over at Skyscraper News.
This was seized 4 u at Skyscraper News

22 Pistepirkko: Birdy

I feel spring in my veins. Birdy is not about spring at all, but it sounds like it - so just relax and enjoy this tune while waiting for the forthcoming album of The Others a.k.a. 22PP.

© 22 Pistepirkko - 'Birdy' is from the 1992 album 'Big Lupo', the video was directed by Mika Taanila

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Microsoft Buys!

For an undisclosed sum reputed to be in the billions, Microsoft's Bill Gates has personally bought the leading open-source desktop project. Saying he "was sick and tired of open-source eating away at his profits," the world's richest man decided to put an end to the nuisance and simply buy It will form part of a growing list of Microsoft acquisitions, including several erstwhile competitors, a considerable number of prominent politicians, and a few small governments.
Read the full story...
This was seized 4 u at OpenOffice

TalQer On The Google Talk Fast Lane

Google Talks short coming number one is the fact that you could not use it to make phone calls to plain old phones. TalQer ads the functionality of Skype & Yahoo Messenger - best known as "SkypeIn" & "SkypeOut" to Google Talk. So, in a way Google Talk is now complete. The odd thing is that TalQer is not associated with Google, they just describe themselves as fans of Google Talk. The service works really well and this is what TalQer offers:
  • Choice: You choose whether you want to integrate Talqer together with Google Talk or use it as a stand alone application
  • Quality: Talqer is based on open industry standards and offers very high voice quality
  • Convenience: Talqer adds three buttons to the Google Talk user interface to allow you to call normal telephone lines from inside Google Talk
  • Prizing: Talqer offers affordable rates: every single Talqer rate is lower than Skype. Calls to 22 countries cost only 1.5¢ per minute: a 33% savings when compared with Skype for US callers and a 53% savings for European customers (no VAT). We offer calls to another 8 countries at just 2¢ per minute. That's thirty (30) countries at 2¢ or less!
Talqer™ (pronounced "talker") is brought to you by Vozin Communications, Inc which engineering team is split between US and China.
TalQer has all the usual PSTN-in and PSTN-out features and especially the prizing (better than Skype and competitive with Yahoo) makes it interesting while waiting for Google to make their move.