Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Terrafugia Transition 'flying car' gets go-ahead from US air authorities


See also http://www.terrafugia.com/

By Tom Chivers
Published: 12:56PM BST 29 Jun 2010

The Transition was designed as a "light sport" aircraft, the smallest kind of private aeroplane under FAA classification, with a maximum weight of 1,320lb. But the manufacturers found it impossible to fit the safety features - airbags, crumple zones and roll cage, for instance - that are required for road vehicles into that weight.

Uniquely, however, the FAA has granted the Transition an exemption - allowing it to be classified as a light sport aircraft despite being 120lb over the limit.

Light sport aircraft licences require just 20 hours' flying time, making them much easier to obtain than full private licences.

The two-seater Transition can use its front-wheel drive on roads at ordinary highway speeds, with wings folded, at a respectable 30 miles per gallon. Once it has arrived at a suitable take-off spot - an airport, or adequately sized piece of flat private land - it can fold down the wings, engage its rear-facing propellor, and take off. The folding wings are electrically powered.

Its cruising speed in the air is 115mph, it has a range of 460 miles, and it can carry 450lb. It requires a 1,700-foot (one-third of a mile) runway to take off and can fit in a standard garage.

Terrafugia says that one of the major advantages of the Transition over ordinary light aircraft is safety - in the event of inclement weather, it can simply drive home instead of either being grounded or flying in unsafe conditions.

The company says that 70 people have ordered the car, leaving a $10,000 (£6,650) deposit each. The car is expected to retail at $194,000 (£129,000). Deposits are held in escrow, meaning that should the company go bankrupt before delivery, the money will be refunded.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Believing You Are Very Good Or Evil Boosts Your Physical Capabilities


Research by Kurt Gray, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard, shows that a person's capacity for willpower and physical endurance increases if they perceive themselves as good or evil. "Evil" acts in particular give a person a large boost in physical strength. From the article: “'People perceive those who do good and evil to have more efficacy, more willpower, and less sensitivity to discomfort,' Gray said. 'By perceiving themselves as good or evil, people embody these perceptions, actually becoming more capable of physical endurance.' Gray’s findings run counter to the notion that only those blessed with heightened willpower or self-control are capable of heroism, suggesting instead that simply attempting heroic deeds can confer personal power."

New research from Harvard University suggests that moral actions may increase people’s capacity for willpower and physical endurance. Study participants who did good deeds — or even just imagined themselves helping others — were better able to perform a subsequent task of physical endurance.

The research, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, shows a similar or even greater boost in physical strength following mean-spirited deeds.

Researcher Kurt Gray, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard, explains these effects as a self-fulfilling prophecy in morality.

“People perceive those who do good and evil to have more efficacy, more willpower, and less sensitivity to discomfort,” Gray said. “By perceiving themselves as good or evil, people embody these perceptions, actually becoming more capable of physical endurance.”

Gray’s findings run counter to the notion that only those blessed with heightened willpower or self-control are capable of heroism, suggesting instead that simply attempting heroic deeds can confer personal power.

“Gandhi or Mother Teresa may not have been born with extraordinary self-control, but perhaps came to possess it through trying to help others,” said Gray, who calls this effect “moral transformation” because it suggests that such deeds have the power to transform people from average to exceptional.

Moral transformation has many implications, he said. For example, it suggests a new technique for enhancing self-control when dieting: Help others before being faced with temptation.

“Perhaps the best way to resist the donuts at work is to donate your change in the morning to a worthy cause,” Gray said.

The study also may suggest new treatments for anxiety or depression, he said, since helping others may be a useful way of regaining control of your own life.

Gray’s findings are based on two studies. In the first, participants were given $1, and were told either to keep it or to donate it to charity. They were then asked to hold up a 5-lb. weight for as long as they could. Those who donated to charity could hold the weight up for almost 10 seconds longer, on average.

In a second study, participants held a weight while writing fictional stories of themselves either helping another, harming another, or doing something that had no impact on others. As before, those who thought about doing good were significantly stronger than those whose actions didn’t benefit other people.

But surprisingly, the would-be malefactors were even stronger than those who envisioned doing good deeds.

“Whether you’re saintly or nefarious, there seems to be power in moral events,” Gray said. “People often look at others who do great or evil deeds and think, ‘I could never do that,’ or ‘I wouldn’t have the strength to do that.’ But in fact, this research suggests that physical strength may be an effect, not a cause, of moral acts.”

Gray’s research was supported by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Institute for Humane Studies.

Khan Academy Delivers 100,000 Lectures Daily


The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere.
We have 1400+ videos on YouTube covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, biology and finance which have been recorded by Salman Khan


Sunday, June 27, 2010



The Virtusphere is a one-of-kind locomotion (meaning: the movement of people) platform that allows users to be completely immersed into their interactive virtual experience. The Virtusphere technology enhances virtual reality and 3D entertainment for the most immersive experience possible . The Virtusphere is a natural user interface and by it’s brilliant design provides “infinite space”. It allows users to go deeper into virtual space and interact with it. The VirtuSphere patented technology enables the user to make lifelike movements in cyberspace and delivers a breakthrough Human Computer Interface (HCI) via the most natural form of navigation - by walking.

Friday, June 25, 2010

German court legalises euthanasia with patient consent


A top German court has ruled that it is not a criminal offence to cut off the life support of a dying person if that person has given their consent.

The Federal Court of Justice acquitted a lawyer who had advised the daughter of a comatose woman to cut off her feeding tube.

Earlier the patient had expressed her wish not to be kept alive artificially.

The lawyer appealed to the federal court after a lower court had given him a nine-month suspended sentence.

The mother, in her seventies, fell into a coma in 2002 and had been in a vegetative state for five years when her daughter removed the feeding tube.

After the daughter's action hospital staff reinserted a feeding tube, against the children's wishes, but the patient died of heart failure two weeks later.

Germany's Justice Minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said the Karlsruhe federal court ruling brought clarity to cases involving terminally ill patients.

The ruling does not legalise active assisted suicide, which is punishable by up to five years in prison in Germany, the news website Spiegel Online reports.

The ruling applies to passively assisting death through the removal of artificial life support. It makes this legal if the patient has given clear consent.

Afghan minerals mean 'self sufficiency' in 10 years


These include vast reserves of oil, gas, copper, gold and lithium.

* Iron: $421bn
* Copper: $274bn
* Niobium: $81bn
* Cobalt: $51bn
* Gold: $25bn

Afghanistan could be self-sufficient within a decade if its mineral resources are properly exploited, its mines minister has told the BBC.

Wahid Shahrani is in London to encourage the world's mining companies to invest in his country.

He says his country has untapped mineral wealth worth in excess of $3tn.

Mr Shahrani says that mining could move the country from being aid dependent to being self-sufficient in 10 years.

The BBC's Jill McGivering says that Mr Shahrani is on a multi-billion dollar sales tour, trying to drum up bids from the world's mining companies for his country's untapped minerals.

Mr Shahrani sees mining as the country's economic mainstay in the future.

In seven years mining taxes should pay the government $1bn a year, he says, and within a decade Afghanistan could be self-sufficient.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Shahrani dismissed critics who argue that such a massive influx of money raises concerns about corruption.

"We have improved our legislation, the procedures have been upgraded and we have been getting a tremendous amount of support from our international partners," Mr Shahrani said.

"In future whatever contracts would be awarded, all the information will be published, to make sure that all the relevant stakeholders, civil society and media and parliament, will have access to the information, to make sure we will have sufficient amount of the safeguards, to make sure that we will achieve the high standards of transparency."

Security is another key concern in relation to exploiting the country's mineral reserves, correspondents say.

The first big projects on offer are in the most secure regions of the country - and the government has promised investors a special mining protection security force.

Mining companies will also have to invest heavily in infrastructure - from electricity to roads and railways, Mr Shahrani said.

Rats Breathe With Lab-Grown Lungs

by Mitch Leslie on June 24, 2010 2:53 PM

(Video embeded on link page)

For the first time, an animal has drawn a breath with lungs cultivated in the lab. Although preliminary, the results might eventually lead to replacement lungs for patients.

People whose lungs are failing because of diseases such as emphysema or cystic fibrosis face a grim outlook. Only 10% to 20% of patients who undergo lung transplants survive for 10 years, versus about 50% for heart recipients. Research to create new lungs in the lab has lagged because of their complex structure and multiple cell types, notes biomedical engineer Laura Niklason of Yale University.

Tissue engineers are enthusiastic about a technique called decellularization that involves using detergent to remove all of the cells from an organ, leaving a scaffold consisting of the fibrous material between cells. The material serves as a template for fresh cells, orchestrating their assembly and growth into a new organ. The technique has yielded implantable liver grafts for rats. And in 2008, a 30-year-old woman received a replacement for one of the lung's main air passages, which scientists had seeded with her own cells.

Now Niklason and colleagues say they have used the method to produce rodent lungs. The team started with decellularized adult rat lungs, which retain the organs' branching airways and blood vessel network, and added a mixture of lung cells from newborn rats. Niklason says that the crucial step was nurturing the would-be lungs in a bioreactor that circulates fluid—simulating what would happen during fetal development—or air through them. The cells stuck to the scaffold in the right locations and multiplied. After up to 8 days in the bioreactor, they had coalesced into what the researchers' tests indicated was functional lung tissue.
To make a lung. This video shows the procedure the researchers followed to grow lungs in the lab and implant them into rats.
Credit: Video file courtesy of Laura Niklason and Thomas Petersen

To determine whether the new organs worked, the researchers removed rats' left lungs and stitched in lab-grown replacements. X-rays showed that the implanted lungs were inflating, though not fully. Tests of gas levels in blood flowing to and from the replacement organs showed that they were taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide at 95% of normal efficiency. The researchers allowed the animals to breathe with the lungs for up to 2 hours before euthanizing them because of blood clots.

"We've shown that it's possible to engineer a lung that can perform the single most important function—exchange of gases," says Niklason, whose team reports its findings online today in Science. She describes the results as one advance in a "20- to 25-year project" and cautions that a huge obstacle lies ahead. Researchers need to identify cells—possibly adult stem cells from the patient—that can reconstruct lung tissue without provoking attack by the immune system, the problem that plagues current transplant recipients.

Tissue engineer Joan Nichols of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston praises most of the study. "It started out beautifully, it was so well done." However, she argues that the organs were implanted prematurely. The bleeding the researchers detected within the lungs suggests that the organs weren't ready, she says. Nichols recommends a much longer growth period—say, 60 days—and further testing to make sure the lungs are sound. "The answer is not just to implant and see if it works," she says.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

100 Best Places to Work in IT 2010





2 Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.
3 JM Family Enterprises Inc.
4 General Mills Inc.
5 University of Pennsylvania
6 SAS Institute Inc.
7 Quicken Loans Inc.
8 Verizon Wireless
9 Securian Financial Group Inc.
10 Salesforce.com Inc.
11 Kellogg Co.
12 Southern California Edison Co.
13 H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute Inc.
14 American Fidelity Assurance Co.
15 Genentech Inc.
16 Campbell Soup Co.
17 Chesapeake Energy Corp.
18 American Express Co.
19 Prudential Financial Inc.
20 Qualcomm Inc.
21 Scottrade Inc.
22 National Information Solutions Cooperative
23 Marriott International Inc.
24 University of Miami
25 DTE Energy Co.
26 The Mitre Corp.
27 Kaiser Permanente
28 Medtronic Inc.
29 Palmetto Health
30 OhioHealth
31 Discovery Communications Inc.
32 Cedars-Sinai Health System
33 Southern Co.
34 Texas Health Resources
35 The Vanguard Group Inc.
36 Lehigh Valley Health Network
37 Corning Inc.
38 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc.
39 Rackspace US Inc.
40 Altria Group Inc.
41 VHA Inc.
42 HCA Inc.
43 Northwestern Mutual
44 Express Scripts Inc.
45 Edward Jones
46 Quest Diagnostics Inc.
47 CME Group Inc.
48 Raytheon Co.
49 Principal Financial Group Inc.
50 Allstate Insurance Co.
51 Intermountain Healthcare
52 Cerner Corp.
53 Temple University
54 Raymond James Financial Inc.
55 WellPoint Inc.
56 Thomson Reuters Corp.
57 Health Care Service Corp.
58 Harrah's Entertainment Inc.
59 Southwest Airlines Co.
60 Publix Super Markets Inc.
61 State Farm Insurance Cos.
62 The Sherwin-Williams Co.
63 Kraft Foods Inc.
64 Norton Healthcare
65 Sacramento Municipal Utility District
66 The George Washington University
67 Transocean Ltd.
68 Indiana University
69 Automatic Data Processing Inc.
70 Antares Management Solutions
71 FedEx Corp.
72 Grant Thornton LLP
73 Northern Trust Corp.
74 Commonwealth Financial Network
75 Aflac Inc.
76 Partners HealthCare System Inc.
77 Discover Financial Services
78 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
79 Penn National Insurance
80 GlobalScape Inc.
81 State Street Corp.
82 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
83 Intuit Inc.
84 W.W. Grainger Inc.
85 The University of Oklahoma
86 Eastman Chemical Co.
87 Comerica Bank
88 Black Hills Corp.
89 Paychex Inc.
90 International Paper Co.
91 Xerox Corp.
92 Applied Materials Inc.
93 United States Postal Service
94 American Water
95 Red Hat Inc.
96 Hess Corp.
97 Baker Hughes Inc.
98 We Energies
99 CDW Corp.
100 SRA International Inc.

Europe To Import Sahara Solar Power Within 5 Years


(Reuters) - Europe will import its first solar-generated electricity from North Africa within the next five years, European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in an interview on Sunday.

Gulf Oil Spill

The European Union is backing projects to turn the plentiful sunlight in the Sahara desert into electricity for power-hungry Europe, a scheme it hopes will help meet its target of deriving 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources in 2020.

"I think some models starting in the next 5 years will bring some hundreds of megawatts to the European market," Oettinger told Reuters after a meeting with energy ministers from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

He said those initial volumes would come from small pilot projects, but the amount of electricity would go up into the thousands of megawatts as projects including the 400 billion euro ($495 billion) Desertec solar scheme come on stream.

"Desertec as a whole is a vision for the next 20 to 40 years with investment of hundreds of billions of euros," said Oettinger. "To integrate a bigger percentage of renewables, solar and wind, needs time."

The EU is backing the construction of new electricity cables, known as inter-connectors, under the Mediterranean Sea to carry this renewable energy from North Africa to Europe.

Some environmental groups have warned these cables could be used instead to import non-renewable electricity from coal- and gas-fired power stations in north Africa.

"This is a good question but not a question to destroy our project," Oettinger said. "This question must be answered by a good answer and so we need ways to ensure that our import of electricity is from renewables."

He said he believed it was technologically possible to monitor electricity imports to the EU and establish if they come from renewable sources or fossil fuels. "This question must be solved in the next years," he said.


The Desertec consortium includes major firms such as Siemens, RWE and Deutsche Bank. They are expected to seek public money for the project.

Oettinger said the EU's assistance was likely to include help coordinating stakeholders, updating regulations to allow the imported electricity to move across European borders, and financing feasibility studies.

On the prospect of EU subsidies, or the European Commission permitting state aid to firms involved in the project, he said that would become clear once the consortium has presented a detailed business plan.

Oettinger said all three energy ministers at the meeting in the Algerian capital sent a signal they were willing to build the infrastructure and common market rules needed to allow a trade in renewable electricity with Europe.

He countered concerns expressed in the past by some officials in Algeria that the project could involve Europeans exploiting north Africa's natural resources.

"Renewables are a two-way partnership because electricity produced here is for the home market of north African countries," he said.

"Maybe a bigger percentage of the electricity will be exported to Europe but at the same time we have to export the technology, tools, machines, experts, and so it's a real partnership, not only a partnership by selling and by buying."

(Additional reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Medvedev Shows Off Sample Coin of New ‘World Currency’ at G-8

Medvedev Shows Off Sample Coin of New ‘World Currency’ at G-8

View the proposed coin from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev here:http://www.futureworldcurrency.com


By Lyubov Pronina - July 10, 2009 10:23 EDT

July 10 (Bloomberg) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev illustrated his call for a supranational currency to replace the dollar by pulling from his pocket a sample coin of a “united future world currency.”

“Here it is,” Medvedev told reporters today in L’Aquila, Italy, after a summit of the Group of Eight nations. “You can see it and touch it.”

The coin, which bears the words “unity in diversity,” was minted in Belgium and presented to the heads of G-8 delegations, Medvedev said.

The question of a supranational currency “concerns everyone now, even the mints,” Medvedev said. The test coin “means they’re getting ready. I think it’s a good sign that we understand how interdependent we are.”

Medvedev has repeatedly called for creating a mix of regional reserve currencies as part of the drive to address the global financial crisis, while questioning the U.S. dollar’s future as a global reserve currency. Russia’s proposals for the G-20 meeting in London in April included the creation of a supranational currency.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lyubov Pronina in L’Aquila, Italy at lpronina@bloomberg.net

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Clinton: Obama Administration To Sue Arizona Over Immigration Law


According to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department is currently in the process of deciding whether or not to file suit over Arizona's controversial immigration law, which Mr. Obama has called "misguided" and potentially discriminatory.

According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, the decision has already been made.

"President Obama has spoken out against the law because he thinks that the federal government should be determining immigration policy," she said in an interview with an Ecuadorean television station flagged by The Right Scoop. "And the Justice Department, under his direction, will be bringing a lawsuit against the act."

The Arizona law, which would go into effect in July, requires immigrants in the state to carry documents verifying their immigration status and requires police officers to question a person about his or her immigration status during a "lawful stop" if there is "reasonable suspicion" that person may be in the country illegally.

Holder has indicated that he believes "the law is an unfortunate one that will be subject to potential abuse" and said that the Justice Department is "considering a court challenge."

It is not clear whether Clinton was just making a prediction or whether she was getting ahead of a planned announcement by the administration.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Church bones 'belong to Caravaggio', researchers say


Human remains found in a church in Tuscany almost certainly belong to Renaissance artist Caravaggio, Italian researchers said.

The team said they were 85% sure that the set of bones of a man who died in about 1610, aged between 38 and 40, were that of the painter.

The remains had been kept in an ossuary in a church crypt in Porto Ercole, after reportedly being exhumed in 1956.

Caravaggio was known for his "chiaroscuro" painting technique.

The method, in which light and shadow are sharply contrasted, revolutionised painting.

The researchers, from four Italian universities, said they believed Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio died of sunstroke while weakened by syphilis.

The findings come after a year-long investigation using DNA, carbon dating and other analysis.

The cause of his death had been a mystery, with various theories put forward, including that he was assassinated for religious reasons, and that he collapsed with malaria on a deserted beach.

Some have said he was on his way to Rome to seek a pardon when he died.

Carravagio was famed for his wild lifestyle, including often starting fights and ending up in jail. He even killed a man.

He was born in either 1571 or 1573, according to varying scholars, and spent the last few years of his life fleeing justice in southern Italy.

His works include Bacchus, The Supper at Emmaus and Sacrifice of Isaac.

The remains are believed to have laid originally in an umarked grave among around 200 others at the church cemetary, until they were exhumed in 1956 and placed in the ossuary.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fugitive TV tycoon denounces Venezuela's Chavez


By Esteban Israel


CARACAS (Reuters) - The fugitive boss of Venezuela's opposition Globovision television station accused socialist President Hugo Chavez on Monday of ordering his arrest to stifle his criticism of the government.

Authorities in the OPEC nation issued a warrant for Guillermo Zuloaga and raided his house on Friday, accusing him of illegally storing new vehicles last year for speculative purposes. He was not home at the time.

Zuloaga said in a telephone call to Globovision from an undisclosed location that the charges were politically motivated and he was the victim of a witch hunt.

"We have been viciously attacked again by the government for the sole purpose of trying to silence us," he said. "I have come to the conclusion that handing myself in would do no good for the country, for Globovision, or for my family."

Zuloaga was detained for a few hours in March after criticizing Chavez at a media conference in Aruba. The attorney general said then he was being investigated for possible crimes of giving false information and offending the president.

He faces between one and five years in prison if convicted of usury in the new case. That warrant is linked to a 2009 case in which Zuloaga was accused of illegally storing 24 new Toyota vehicles to manipulate prices.

Globovision is often described as operating like an opposition political party, offering outspoken criticism of Chavez as well as a venue for politicians to gain exposure.

The station is the last main Venezuelan channel to hold its editorial line. One station, RCTV, was taken off the air in 2007 when Chavez refused to renew its concession after it supported a short-lived coup against him in 2002. Other networks toned down their opposition after the coup to avoid reprisals.

The government has brought several legal cases against opposition politicians, prompting some to flee the country.

Venezuelan authorities also took over the mid-sized Banco Federal -- which has links to Globovision -- citing liquidity problems and risk of fraud.

(Writing by Daniel Wallis; editing by Chris Wilson)

WickedLasers Unveils "Lightsaber" Powerful Enough to Set People on Fire


View product website:

With recent advances in lasers, many have fantasized about creating "real life lightsabers". Many military commanders have fantasized about creating portable blasters along the lines of those portrayed in fictional workers like Star Trek and Star Wars. The Spyder III Pro Arctic laser from WickedLasers can be seen perhaps as the culmination of those efforts and perhaps the first consumer laser weapon.

The laser is built with a diode from Casio's new mercury-free Green Slim projectors which ironically have a somewhat blue tint. The laser is rated at 1 watt of power and retails for a mere $200 USD.

And here's the best (or worst) part -- it can set people (or things) on fire. Apparently the laser is so high powered that shining it on fleshy parts will cause them to burst into flames. Of course it's equally capable of blinding people. The retailer warns:

Warning: Extremely dangerous is an understatement to the power of 1W of laser power. It will blind permanently and instantly and set fire quickly to skin and other body parts, use with extreme caution and only when using the included eye protection. Customers will be required to completely read and agree to our Class IV Laser Hazard Acknowledgment Form.

If you're willing to "sign the form", WickedLasers warns you "With greater power comes the need for greater responsibility." (We can't make this stuff up, really!)

The laser comes in sleek packaging that looks, unsurprisingly like a lightsaber. Hopefully its users follow the path of the light side. The last thing we need is a bunch of Sith running around.

The price of $200 is quite commendable, considering it's 20 times as powerful as the company's previous best model, "Sonar", while a mere tenth of the cost ("Sonar" sells for $2,000 -- we imagine it will be discontinued as it seems most customers will flock to the Spyder III). The product even comes with a free pair of safety glasses, so you don't accidentally blind yourself.

Gates, venture capitalist Doerr issue warning about America's future


Gates, venture capitalist Doerr issue warning about America's future

Join GE CEO Immelt in effort to help U.S. gain an innovation edge in the push for clean tech

By Patrick Thibodeau
June 10, 2010 03:13 PM ET

Computerworld - WASHINGTON -- The ever expanding BP oil spill, in a sense, provides Bill Gates the perfect backdrop for selling Congress and the White House on a proposal to increase annual U.S. spending on clean energy research and development from $5 billion to $16 billion.

Gates, General Electric Co. CEO Jeff Immelt and venture capitalist John Doerr, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer, are among the well-known business people involved in high-level lobbying effort on clean energy.

The trio discussed the need for clean energy investment at a press conference here today, and are slated to discuss it further with President Barack Obama this afternoon.

Today's message, and a related American Energy Innovation Council report listing a number of energy policy recommendations, didn't cite BP oil spill. It was about which country will lead in what may easily be the world's next big industrial push.

Gates, Immelt and Doerr are all members of the energy innovation council.

This business-driven push for a better energy plan already has some congressional support, principally from U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), who heads the House Committee on Science and Technology. He said Thursday that he plans to work with the group on legislation that implements its proposals.

At an earlier meeting with congressional leaders on the BP oil spill, Obama made note of today's planned meeting today with Gates and others.

"We can't keep our eye off the importance of having an energy policy that meets the needs of the next generation and ensures that the United States is the leader when it comes to energy policy," said Obama. "We are not yet that leader, and that's what I want us to do."

The U.S. isn't the worldwide leader in clean technology today, agreed Doerr during the press conference. America is a worldwide leader in biotechnology and information technology, he said, but "that's not the case in today's energy technologies."

Of the top 30 new energy technology companies worldwide that produce batteries, solar technologies and advanced wind energy, only four are headquartered in the United States, Doerr said.

"It's very sad that Americans spend more on potato chips than we do on investment in clean energy R&D," said Doerr.

Gates said more federal research spending is needed to spur investment in clean technologies. "The incentives aren't there to make it happen," said Gates.

"In the same way that the U.S. has led in health care, the same way we have led in IT, it takes an upfront investment," said Gates.

U.S.-based General Electric is one of the top companies on Doerr's list, and Immelt said that its revenue from clean energy products has gone from $5 billion to $20 billion.

"It's created jobs, and it's created competitive advantage," said Immelt, adding that the company plans to increase R&D spending in this area.

The timeline for producing results is years away.

It will take a decade to bring a number of technologies in the pilot stage, and perhaps take 20 years before there is a clear idea what the winning technologies look like, according to those involved in this effort.

Monday, June 14, 2010

$1 Trillion In Minerals Found In Afghanistan

Published: June 13, 2010


WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

The value of the newly discovered mineral deposits dwarfs the size of Afghanistan’s existing war-bedraggled economy, which is based largely on opium production and narcotics trafficking as well as aid from the United States and other industrialized countries. Afghanistan’s gross domestic product is only about $12 billion.

“This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines.

American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan. The American-led offensive in Marja in southern Afghanistan has achieved only limited gains. Meanwhile, charges of corruption and favoritism continue to plague the Karzai government, and Mr. Karzai seems increasingly embittered toward the White House.

So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced.

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts. Afghanistan has a national mining law, written with the help of advisers from the World Bank, but it has never faced a serious challenge.

“No one has tested that law; no one knows how it will stand up in a fight between the central government and the provinces,” observed Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of defense for business and leader of the Pentagon team that discovered the deposits.

At the same time, American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

Another complication is that because Afghanistan has never had much heavy industry before, it has little or no history of environmental protection either. “The big question is, can this be developed in a responsible way, in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible?” Mr. Brinkley said. “No one knows how this will work.”

With virtually no mining industry or infrastructure in place today, it will take decades for Afghanistan to exploit its mineral wealth fully. “This is a country that has no mining culture,” said Jack Medlin, a geologist in the United States Geological Survey’s international affairs program. “They’ve had some small artisanal mines, but now there could be some very, very large mines that will require more than just a gold pan.”

The mineral deposits are scattered throughout the country, including in the southern and eastern regions along the border with Pakistan that have had some of the most intense combat in the American-led war against the Taliban insurgency.

The Pentagon task force has already started trying to help the Afghans set up a system to deal with mineral development. International accounting firms that have expertise in mining contracts have been hired to consult with the Afghan Ministry of Mines, and technical data is being prepared to turn over to multinational mining companies and other potential foreign investors. The Pentagon is helping Afghan officials arrange to start seeking bids on mineral rights by next fall, officials said.
At War

“The Ministry of Mines is not ready to handle this,” Mr. Brinkley said. “We are trying to help them get ready.”

Like much of the recent history of the country, the story of the discovery of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth is one of missed opportunities and the distractions of war.

In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

“There were maps, but the development did not take place, because you had 30 to 35 years of war,” said Ahmad Hujabre, an Afghan engineer who worked for the Ministry of Mines in the 1970s.

Armed with the old Russian charts, the United States Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 percent of the country.

The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted.

The handful of American geologists who pored over the new data said the results were astonishing.

But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information — and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits.

Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings, and then briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Mr. Karzai.

So far, the biggest mineral deposits discovered are of iron and copper, and the quantities are large enough to make Afghanistan a major world producer of both, United States officials said. Other finds include large deposits of niobium, a soft metal used in producing superconducting steel, rare earth elements and large gold deposits in Pashtun areas of southern Afghanistan.

Just this month, American geologists working with the Pentagon team have been conducting ground surveys on dry salt lakes in western Afghanistan where they believe there are large deposits of lithium. Pentagon officials said that their initial analysis at one location in Ghazni Province showed the potential for lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia, which now has the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

For the geologists who are now scouring some of the most remote stretches of Afghanistan to complete the technical studies necessary before the international bidding process is begun, there is a growing sense that they are in the midst of one of the great discoveries of their careers.

“On the ground, it’s very, very, promising,” Mr. Medlin said. “Actually, it’s pretty amazing.”

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bionic-Eyed Man Wants To Stream Eye Video Online




Main Blog: http://eyeborgblog.com

Rob Spence looks you straight in the eye when he talks. So it’s a little unnerving to imagine that soon one of his hazel-green eyes will have a tiny wireless video camera in it that records your every move.

The eye he’s considering replacing is not a working one — it’s a prosthetic eye he’s worn for several years. Spence, a 36-year-old Canadian filmmaker, is not content with having one blind eye. He wants a wireless video camera inside his prosthetic, giving him the ability to make movies wherever he is, all the time, just by looking around.

"If you lose your eye and have a hole in your head, then why not stick a camera in there?" he asks.

Spence, who calls himself the "eyeborg guy," will not be restoring his vision. The camera won’t connect to his brain. What it will do is allow him to be a bionic man where technology fuses with the human body to become inseparable. In effect, he will become a "little brother," someone who’s watching and recording every move of those in his field of vision.

If successful, Spence will become one of a growing number of lifecasters. From early webcam pioneer Jennifer Kaye Ringley, who created JenniCam, to Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell, to commercial lifecasting ventures Ustream.tv and Justin.tv, many people use video and internet technology to record and broadcast every moment of their waking lives. But Spence is taking lifecasting a step further, with a bionic eye camera that is actually embedded in his body.

"The eyes are like no other part of the body," says Spence. "It’s what you look into when you fall in love with somebody and [influences] whether you trust someone or not. Now with a video camera in there, it will change how people see and perceive me."

It’s an interesting and innovative idea, says Yonggang Huang, a professor in the departments of civil and mechanical engineering at Northwestern University. Huang, along with University of Illinois professor John Rogers has developed a web of micro-sensors to enable eye-shaped cameras. Huang is not involved in Spence’s project.

"It’s very clever," says Huang of Spence’s quest. "It is not a true eye but it provides the way for people to record images in life as they see [them] and store [them]."

Spence lost his right eye at 13 while playing with his grandfather’s gun on a visit to Ireland. "I wanted to shoot a pile of cowshit," he says. "I wasn’t holding the gun properly and it backfired, causing a lot of trauma to the eye."

This short video by Rob Spence shows the operation in which surgeons removed his sightless eye. Warning: Graphic imagery may be unsettling to many viewers.
Video by Rob Spence

After the accident, he returned to Belleville, a small town two hours east of Toronto, where he grew up. Spence became technically blind in the eye, and over the years, his vision deteriorated completely. Three years ago he had his eye removed and a prosthetic one inserted. Ever the filmmaker, he even made a movie out of his surgery. But it wasn’t an easy decision.

"When you completely lose an eye it is a difficult thing to let go of," he says. "The eye has an emotional attachment. It is a window to your soul."

Spence wore an eye patch for a while, which he says looked cool.
But once he started thinking about having a camera in his eye, Spence got in touch with Steve Mann, a professor at the University of
Toronto. Mann is one of the experts in the world of wearable computing and cyborgs — organisms that blend natural and artificial systems.

"There are a lot of challenges in this," says Mann, "from actually building a camera system that works, to sending and receiving images, to getting the correct shape of the camera."

Even in the age of miniaturization, getting a wireless video camera into a prosthetic eye isn’t easy. The shape of the prosthetic is the biggest limitation: In Spence’s case, it’s 9-mm thick, 30-mm long and
28-mm high.

While that might seem like plenty of room in an age when digital cameras are squeezed into unimaginably slim and compact phones, it actually isn’t. The average area available inside a prosthetic eye for an imaging sensor is only about 8 square mm, explains Phil Bowen, an ocularist who is working with Spence. Also, a digital camera has many more components than the visible lens and the sensor behind it, including the power supply and image-processing circuitry.
Getting a completely self-contained camera module to fit into the tiny hollow of a prosthetic eye is a significant engineering challenge.

That’s where Professors Huang and Rogers’ research could come in handy. Three months ago, the duo published a paper that showed how a new sensor built out of a flexible mesh of wire-connected pixels could replace the traditional flat imaging chip as the light sensor for a camera. The mesh is made from many of the same materials as a standard digital-camera sensor, but it has the ability to conform to convoluted, irregular surfaces — like the back of a synthetic eyeball.

"Our cameras might more naturally integrate with a prosthetic eye, due to their hemispherical shapes," says Rogers. "One might also argue that they can provide a more human-like perception of the world."

Then there’s the question of how the prosthetic eyeball (the outer shell for the camera) will be made. The eyeball chassis

has to close shut and be watertight.

Traditional prosthetic eyes are single pieces made with polymethyl-methacrylate (PMMA), a flexible polymer that is also used in dentures. To fit a camera in, Bowen redesigned the prosthetic eye into two pieces that could snap shut.

But with a camera inside there’s something new to worry about. The modified prosthetic eye will be heavier than traditional ones and that could affect the eye socket, says Bowen. "The weight might stretch out the lower lid," he says, potentially disfiguring the face.

Assuming the size, weight and water-tightness issues can be solved, Spence has a vague idea of how he thinks it can work. A camera module will have to be connected to a transmitter inside the prosthetic eye that can broadcast the captured video footage. To boost the signal, he says he can wear another transmitter on his belt. A receiver attached to a hard drive in a backpack could capture that information and then send it to another device that uploads everything to a web site in real time.


If it sounds rather cumbersome and complicated, it is. Spence and his team are still working to find the right answers.

He hasn’t been able to get the bigger camera companies to work with him. "Part of problem is if you cold call somebody it sounds like there is a maniac on the other end of the phone," he says. "This whole idea confuses and overwhelms most people."

"Right now I am begging, borrowing and stealing camera modules from different cameras to make a stage one prototype," says Spence.

Spence is not the only one attempting to implant a video camera in his eye socket — artist Tanya Vlach is working on a similar project — but if he’s successful he will be more than just another cyborg. The documentary film he’s making about his efforts, plus the experience of living with a video camera in his eye, could help build greater awareness about the culture of surveillance in our society today, he says.

"No one is going to ban surveillance cameras," says Spence. "It’s more about being aware of it. It’s about giving a shit in the first place."

Having a bionic eye doesn’t mean Spence will be recording all the time, he says. Unlike lifecaster Justin Kan, Spence is not promising to broadcast all of his life’s moments. (Even Kan reneged on his promise within a few short months, as soon as a romantic opportunity presented itself.)

Spence is willing to turn off his camera in spaces such as gyms, theaters or private events. But he will be making many of those decisions on the spur, every day. "I wouldn’t behave that differently than someone with a cellphone today," he says.

Even though his project is still in its early stages, Spence says many people have already told him they wouldn’t be comfortable being filmed.

"People are more scared of a center-left documentary maker with an eye than the 400 ways they are filmed every day at the school, the subway, the mall," he says.

He hopes he will help get people thinking about privacy, how surveillance cameras and the footage they record are being used and accessed.

"Sometimes I run a little experiment," he says. "I tell people around me, ‘Did you know there are 11,000 new video cameras being installed in our country every day?’ Then I will exaggerate and say there are 50,000 new video cameras going in everyday," says Spence. "Most of the times I get the same answer: ‘That’s interesting. Now what’s for lunch?’ or ‘The weather is nice today.’

"I wonder what those people will say when they are staring back into the video camera in my eye?"

Gesture-based interface for mobile devices



‘Imaginary’ interface could replace real thing
Screen, even keyboard, for mobile devices might be supported by gestures

Hasso Plattner Institute

By Adam Hadhazy
updated 6:42 p.m. ET, Tues., June 8, 2010

Researchers are experimenting with a new interface system for mobile devices that could replace the screen and even the keyboard with gestures supported by our visual memory.

Called Imaginary Interfaces, the German project uses a small, chest-mounted computer and camera to detect hand movements. Unlike Tony Stark in "Iron Man," who manipulates holographic elements in his lab with his hands, users conjure up their own imaginary set of graphical interfaces. For example, people can manually draw shapes and select points in space that have programmed functions, such as a power switch or a "send" key, for example.

This interface could allow people to use gestures during phone calls, much as they do in face-to-face conversations, while eliminating traditional hardware elements.
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"We definitely envision a system like this replacing all input for mobile devices," said Sean Gustafson, a research student at the Hasso Plattner Institute at Potsdam University in Germany and lead author of an upcoming study on the Imaginary Interfaces concept.

Button-pushers, screen watchers
The standard way one operates a cell phone or a computer, of course, involves using a touchpad, mouse or buttons to select options electronically displayed on a screen.

These devices cannot get any smaller really, Gustafson and his co-authors contend, because screens and buttons require a minimum size to remain viewable, touchable and hence usable.

Many attempts to advance beyond keyboards and mice have focused on gestures.

Yet these gesture-based interfaces have still relied on some sort of "real" visual reference, meaning one that other people can see and that does not exist solely in a user's mind: Think of "Minority Report"-style screens that people manipulate rather like conductors of an orchestra, or gaming on a Nintendo Wii.

In place of the screens found in these setups, some interface concepts use head-mounted projectors that display imagery on a wall or a hand, say, in order to provide a frame of reference. Sixth Sense, a project out of MIT, and Brainy Hand from the University of Tokyo are two such examples.

With Imaginary Interfaces, however, there is nothing to see; short-term visual memory instead serves as the reference, and like mimes, people can mentally record and "touch" these make-believe elements.

"People are able to interact spatially without seeing what it is that they create," said Patrick Baudisch, a professor of computer science at the Hasso Plattner Institute and Gustafson's teacher.

The un-imaginary device
In generating a virtual reality interface, the Imaginary Interfaces device combines a camera and a computer to see and then interpret gestures.

The device for now is about 2 inches by 2 inches square and attaches to the clothes on a user's chest. Its makers envision shrinking it down to the size of an unobtrusive button.

A ring of light emitting diodes (LEDs) around the camera beams out invisible infrared light. The camera sees this light reflected by the nearby gesturing hands but the distant background does not get illuminated.

To operate Imaginary Interfaces, people use two basic commands. Making an 'L' shape with one's non-dominant hand (typically the left) 'opens up' a two-dimensional plane where the finger tracing interaction will take place; the L acts as the lower left corner of the plane in this example.

Users can 'pinch' with the dominant hand to select a point in space on this plane that can serve a function. As an easy frame of reference, a grid can be visualized based on the lengths of the finger and thumb in the L gesture as a 'Y' and 'X' coordinate, respectively. Pinching at approximately 3, 2 — or three finger-lengths up and two thumb-lengths over — could press a virtual button.

Other more sophisticated methods of interfacing via one's imagination are in the works. "We are exploring how users can sketch interfaces, then use them," said Baudisch. "It has a cartoony quality to it."

Such a "draw your own interface" would have advantages, Gustafson said. "If the user places the user interface elements themselves then they will remember — visually and proprioceptually – the location for later use," he said. (Proprioception refers to the sense of our body parts and their relation to one another in space.) "If they ever forget the location, they can just redraw it."

Applications easy to imagine
This ability to create simple sketches on the fly opens up a range of new application scenarios, and could make phone conversations more like person-to-person interactions that often involve gestures.

"I would love to reclaim the hand gestures that are missing from normal telephone conversations," Gustafson told TechNewsDaily.

"We use our hands in conversation to, amongst other things, transmit spatial information that is hard to get across otherwise," Gustafson continued. "For example, driving directions and the like are much easier to get across with some simple hand movements. It would be wonderful to re-enable this communication channel for telephone conversations."

Imaginary Interfaces still needs work. The infrared detection of hand gestures by the camera does not function well outdoors in sunlight, for example.

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And Imaginary Interfaces would not be detailed or precise enough for engineering schematics or the like. "Architectural drawings require a large amount of precision that is probably not possible without a high-res input and output channel," said Gustafson. "I like to think this system is best for 'napkin drawings' — simple visual representations of ideas that aid conversation."

A study about Imaginary Interfaces that includes several user trials will be presented at the 23rd Symposium of User Interface Software and Technology held by the Association for Computing Machinery in New York this coming October.
© 2010 TechNewsDaily

Thursday, June 10, 2010

After Lawsuits and Therapy, Star Wars Kid is Back


It may be the most legendary monument to the internet’s 15 megabytes of fame – or unintentional infamy: eight years ago, private footage of a heavy-set teenager, spinning nearly uncontrollably while wielding an imaginary-lightsaber, as if in an audition tape for Star Wars, was uploaded to the web and passed around. Within days it was well on its way to becoming the most popular viral video of all time. It’s since been viewed by over 1 billion people.

Not as many people know the rest of the story: Ghyslain Raza – or to the internet,Star Wars Kid – didn’t feel famous, or funny. He felt harassed, the victim of the most visible bullying in history. Ghyslain dropped out of his Quebec high school, was diagnosed with depression, and checked into a psychiatric ward for children.

Ghyslain and his parents would later sue the families of the three classmates who leaked the video in 2003, for around $250,000. According to the lawsuit, which resulted in a settlement, “Ghyslain had to endure, and still endures today, harassment and derision from his high-school mates and the public at large.”

But after eight years of laughs at his expense – and a few campaigns in his defense – Ghyslain is back. Now in his early 20s, he’s reemerged as the president of the Patrimoine Trois-Rivières, a conservation society that aims to preserve the cultural heritage of his hometown of Trois-Rivières.

Revenge of the Sith this isn’t, but he’s putting his litigious experience to some use, getting his law degree at McGill University in Montreal.

The vicissitudes of the internet are now well known, thanks in parts to tales like Ghyslain’s. But cyberbullying and trolling have only grown more intense since “Star Wars Kid,” due to the increasing tendency to share, the decline of privacy, and the morally-fluid culture of anonymity that has grown around message boards like 4chan.

And the impacts remain as serious as ever. As Alexey “Impossible Is Nothing” Vayner told us in our recent documentary about internet culture, “things got bad.” He received death threats and warnings that he would be deported from people he didn’t know, “and people who didn’t know me.” In the United States, cyberbullying has been tied to three suicides of children between the ages of 12 and 13.

For Ghyslain and Alexey, their characters will forever be tied up with the myths fashioned by a click-hungry internet. “i don’t think his life was ruined or he killed himself,” says a Youtube uploader of the “Star Wars Kid” video. “these are what people always tell me but where is the proof? don’t rely on wiki to get your answers. most people want to think the worst because that’s a common initial reaction. i don’t go on this account much but enjoy coming back to read all the mail people take the time to send me. as for offers on advertising sponsorship, i am still considering, i have a lot of loans to pay off.”

On the upside, just as Ghyslain is pursuing a career in law, Alexey has mined his experience to fashion himself into an online marketing expert. Impossible may or may not be nothing, but perhaps anything is possible.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chinese internet addicts stage mutiny at boot camp


Jane Macartney, Beijing

Fourteen young detainees overcame their guard and fled a boot camp regime of physical training and psychological treatment designed to cure their addiction — to the internet.

The group, aged 15 to 22, staged their mass breakout by grabbing a duty supervisor when he was in bed and immobilising him in his quilt.

He shouted for help and they apologised before tying him up. They then made their way in groups of three to the home town of the leader of the group.

The addicts made their break from the Huai’an Internet Addiction Treatment Centre in eastern Jiangsu province last Wednesday, complaining that they could no longer endure its “monotonous work and intensive training”.
Related Links

* Brutal boot camp 'cure' for China net addicts

* Teenager beaten to death in web addiction clinic

* China’s parents try shock tactics to cure net ‘addicts’

It is the latest incident to highlight the sometimes brutal techniques employed at camps across China to wean young people off the internet. A 15-year-old boy was beaten to death last year days after he was admitted to a camp. Last month a court sentenced two instructors to up to ten years in jail for the incident.

The China Youth Association for Network Development estimates that about 24 million Chinese adolescents are addicted to the internet, many to gambling sites.

For the recent escapees freedom proved short lived. A taxi driver alerted police after the young men were unable to pay the fare. There was little sympathy from their exasperated parents either, who had paid 18,000 yuan (£1,830) for their children to receive six months’ treatment at the camp.

Most insisted that their children should go back to the camp at once and since the breakout all but one have been returned.

One mother wept at the police station when she described how her son once spent 28 consecutive hours playing online games. A camp official justified the methods used to cure the addiction, saying: “We have to use military style methods such as total immersion and physical training on these young people. We need to teach them some discipline and help them to establish a regular lifestyle.”

The camp requires its “inmates” to be up at 5am and in bed at 9.30pm. During the day they must undergo two hours of physical drills, as well as courses in calligraphy, traditional Chinese philosophy and receive counselling.

Yang Guihua, the mother of the youth who orchestrated the escape, said that her son must return and defended the treatment. She said: “I don’t think there is any problem with the training methods at the centre. They are for my child’s own good.”

• China underscored its commitment to keeping a tight grip on the internet yesterday, vowing in a new White Paper to block anything deemed subversive or a threat to national unity.

It said that it wanted to boost internet usage to 45 per cent of the population in the next five years but gave no indication that it would ease the Great Firewall, which blocks websites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Aubrey de Grey Fights Aging With Regenerative Medicine (Video)

More on Aubrey de Grey: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aubrey_de_Grey


May 22nd, 2010 by Aaron Saenz

de Grey asks, "Why do you want to die?"

Aubrey de Grey looks and speaks like a wizard, but don’t dismiss him. He stands out as one of the most impassioned and well-reasoned advocates for longer, healthier life. His non-profit, the SENS Foundation (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), seeks to use regenerative medicine to combat the disability and illnesses associated with aging. In his talk last year at TEDMED, he outlined how a “maintenance approach” could drastically extend the length of healthy life by systematically combating the damage our bodies accumulate as they age. Watch the video below and you’ll start to believe that regenerative medicine is on the path to curing old age.

Regenerative medicine includes a wide range of scientific endeavors, from genetic therapies to immune system training. Stem cells get the most attention, and perhaps rightfully so. Growing a new organ in a lab, or even in the body, is pretty remarkable stuff. What we need to remember though is that scientific research is developing many different treatments for injury to our bodies. Aubrey de Grey proposes that this research (with a few additions) will be enough to keep us healthy and fit well beyond our current expectations. He outlines seven major types of damage that cause the problems associated with aging and the means to combat each (12:15).


Repairing damage, “maintenance”, could be enough to keep us going for a very long time, and in a very healthy state. In essence, de Grey is debunking the myth that getting old and frail is a necessity. Instead, he proposes that regenerative medicine, which is advancing quite rapidly, may provide longevity by the steady and cautious repair of our systems down to the cellular level. It’s an idea that requires us to rethink our attitudes about aging. The only real barrier between us and living longer could be our apathy in pursuing this kind of research.

[screen capture and video credit: TEDMED]
[source: SENS, TEDMED]

Germany’s Artificial Cornea Ready To Restore Sight To Thousands


June 2nd, 2010 by Aaron Saenz

An artificial cornea (prototype shown here) could restore sight to thousands starting this year.

An expansive EU project to produce an artificial cornea has found success thanks to the work of Joachim Storsberg of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Germany. Storsberg helped develop a new version of an opthalmological polymer which the eye will bond to and still allow to function properly. The new polymer could help restore sight to thousands waiting for corneal transplants around the world. The artificial cornea has passed clinical trials and is ready to see expanded use in patients this year. Very soon those with corneal blindness may find a ready cure in the form of the new implant.

Corneal blindness affects millions around the world. According to the WHO, about 5 million cases of blindness in the world (as of 2001) were a result of corneal damage or dystrophy. We’ve seen several high-tech approaches to fighting corneal blindness including the application of embryonic stem cells to generate new tissue. For most of those affected around the world, however, corneal transplants represent the surest and most accessible treatment for their condition. A readily accessible, easily made artificial cornea is a huge boon to corneal transplants.

More than one hundred thousand patients wait for corneal transplants each year (~40k in EU, another 40k in the US, and many more around the world). While such transplants are fairly routine and regularly successful operations, they require the donation of the tissue from another human being, almost always someone recently deceased. The artificial cornea not only eases the pressure on finding enough donors for recipient needs, it also provides the opportunity for hospitals to increase the speed and availability of such treatments. Ideally, no one will ever have to go without a new cornea ever again.

Joachim Storsberg poses with the new artificial cornea set to see continued use in 2010.

In order to work in the human body, an artificial cornea has to meet some rather stringent requirements. First, it has to bond to the human eye around its edge, but stay unclouded by cells in its center. To that end, Storsberg took a widely used opthalmological polymer (found often in intraocular lenses) and adapted it with other special polymers around the edges. Combined with the application of a growth factor protein, the modified edge promoted cell growth around the periphery of the implant and secured it in place using the body’s own cells. The center of the artificial cornea, however, does not promote cell growth and remains clear so that it can be seen through. The artificial cornea also has to move freely with the eyelid and balance moisture on its faces. The polymer Storsberg chose is hydrophobic, allowing tears to lubricate the surface and provide the correct moisture on both of its sides.

Storsberg’s work was part of a larger EU funded endeavor, the Artificial Cornea Project, which sought to create a non-human based replacement for damaged corneas. The Artificial Cornea Project took three years, and the work of many collaborators around the continent, to produce the new implant. Miro GMBH handled the actual production of the material. Animal trials in pigs and rabbits were successful and lead to the first human uses in 2009. Those early human cases showed enough success to get EU approval for the device and the artificial cornea is expected to see its first widespread use sometime in 2010. That’s very exciting news. This project has not only succeeded, but the fruits of its labor are about to be (readily?) available to patients throughout the EU very soon.

A non-degrading piece of plastic permanently grown into your eye does not sound like the most elegant solution to the problem of corneal blindness, especially when regeneration of tissue through stem cells is on the horizon. But the artificial cornea is a solution which is (almost) available NOW. That’s immensely important. As with so many other current endeavors in medicine, curing blindness is likely to see a staged series of solutions using various emergent technologies. Artificial materials and implants in the near term, autologous stem cells in the far term, and DNA based solutions in the very far term. We need all of these solutions to help transition into a time when blindness is no more of medical hurdle than a broken bone. I wish nothing but the best of luck to Storsberg and the rest of the large team from the Artificiail Cornea Project. With their help I think we are continuing our journey towards an age when medicine can regenerate or replace absolutely any part of your body. Check off “building new eyes” on the list of requirements for immortality.

[image credits: Artificial Cornea Project, Fraunhofter/Dirk Mahler]
[source: Fraunhofer Press Release, Artificial Cornea Project, National Institute of Health]

Google's Plans to Save the News


By James Fallows

Plummeting newspaper circulation, disappearing classified ads, “unbundling” of content—the list of what’s killing journalism is long. But high on that list, many would say, is Google, the biggest unbundler of them all. Now, having helped break the news business, the company wants to fix it—for commercial as well as civic reasons: if news organizations stop producing great journalism, says one Google executive, the search engine will no longer have interesting content to link to. So some of the smartest minds at the company are thinking about this, and working with publishers, and peering ahead to see what the future of journalism looks like. Guess what? It’s bright.

Other plans...

N Korea: Border guard 'shoots three Chinese dead'... hails development of new 'super drink'...following claims of achieving nuclear fusion


China says a North Korean border guard shot and killed three people near the countries' border last week.

A fourth person was reportedly injured in the incident near the north-eastern border town of Dandong.

China has made a formal complaint to North Korea, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said.

The two countries are considered to be close allies and Beijing rarely makes any public criticism of its isolated neighbour.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news conference in Beijing that the four residents of Dandong, in Liaoning province, had been shot "on suspicion of crossing the border for trade activities".

"China attaches great importance to that and has immediately raised a solemn representation with the DPRK," he said, using North Korea's full name (Democratic People's Republic of Korea).
Close ally

Mr Qin said the case was being investigated, but gave no further details. Pyongyang has not commented on the accusations.

Illegal traders regularly cross the border between North Korea and China, taking black market goods into the impoverished country.

China is North Korea's main trading partner and the country perceived to have the most influence on the state.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been high since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March with the loss of 46 lives.

An international investigation blamed North Korea for the sinking, but China has resisted pressure to condemn its ally. Instead, it has urged both the Koreas to show restraint.

Last month, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, was reported to have visited China to seek economic and political support.

China is crucial to North Korea's fight for economic survival, providing Pyongyang with food, fuel and much-needed investment.

Beijing is also a participant in the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme. The talks have been going on since 2003 without much progress.

In 2009, North Korea detained two US journalists on the border with China, accusing them of entering North Korea illegally.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who said they were detained on the Chinese side, were sentenced to 12 years' hard labour but were freed in August after four months in captivity, as part of a diplomatic mission spearheaded by former US President Bill Clinton.

A US man, Robert Park, was also arrested in December last year, after walking into North Korea across a frozen river. He was released in February.

Super Drink

North Korea has developed a "super drink" that, it says, can multiply brain cells and stop skin ageing.

The secretive state's official news agency, KCNA, says the drink contains 60 kinds of "microelements" extracted from more than 30 species of plants.

It attracted "much interest from Chinese, German and other businessmen" at a trade fair in Pyongyang last month, the agency reports.

It was developed by a joint venture fruit juice company.
'No side-effect'

KCNA says: "It, with effects of both preventive and curative treatment, helps improve mental and retentive faculties by multiplying brain cells.

"It also protects skin from wrinkles and black spots and prevents such geriatric diseases as cerebral haemorrhage, myocardium and brain infarction by removing acid effete matters in time.

"It, much higher than quality cosmetics in anti-oxidation capacity, is efficacious for different skin diseases, including allergic dermatitis. It also makes skin fair.

"The drink has no side-effect."

The agency quotes a company manager, Jong Song Ho, as saying the drink has "proved efficacious among workers of such industrial establishments as thermal power station and smeltery and at medical institutions".

Nuclear Fusion

From Slashdot: "North Korea claims to have achieved nuclear fusion by building what it describes as a 'unique thermo-nuclear reaction device.' This announcement was met by skepticism on just about every news website this side of Saturn. Pyongyang claims its latest scientific breakthrough coincides with the birthday of the country's founder and eternal president Kim Il-sung. This is not the first time it seems that the laws of nature have been bent in his honor. According to official biographies, when his son, Kim Jong-il, was born, a new star appeared in the sky."

By John Sudworth
BBC News, Seoul

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il (C) waving from a train while leaving Chinese capital of Beijing ending his five-day visit to China, May 2010
A new star appeared in the sky when Kim Jong-il was born, biographers say

North Korea has announced that it has made significant progress towards the development of thermo-nuclear power.

It is a claim that is likely to be met with some scepticism.

Despite hopes that the technology can produce large quantities of cheap, clean energy, no country has so far succeeded in making it work.

North Korea is one of the world's poorest countries and struggles to generate enough electricity for lighting and other basic needs.

The statement, carried by North Korea's official state media, said the country's scientists had succeeded in carrying out nuclear fusion.

Laboratory demonstrations of the process, known to release large amounts of energy, are nothing new.

But the North Koreans appear to be claiming to have gone much further, by building what they describe as a "unique thermo-nuclear reaction device".

'Highly unlikely'

The dream of overcoming the huge technical challenges to make nuclear fusion commercially viable has so far eluded scientists in Europe, America and China, but they continue to try because the prize is so great: a cheap and abundant source of energy with little environmental impact.

North Korea's claim that it has completed the fundamental research, putting the technology within its grasp, will be dismissed as highly unlikely unless concrete evidence is produced.

Pyongyang says its latest scientific breakthrough coincides with the birthday of the country's founder, and eternal president Kim Il-sung - not the first time it seems that the laws of nature have been bent in his honour.

According to official biographies, when his son, the current leader Kim Jong-il was born, a new star appeared in the sky.

Monday, June 7, 2010

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Gaza blockade: Iran offers escort to next aid convoy


• Aide threatens use of Revolutionary Guard
• Netanyahu warns of Jerusalem missile danger

Ali Shirazi, an aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaks under a picture of the supreme leader in Tehran Hojjatoleslam Ali Shirazi, an aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, pledged Tehran would send Revolutionary Guard units to escort Gaza aid convoys. Photograph: Reuters

Iran has warned that it could send Revolutionary Guard naval units to escort humanitarian aid convoys seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza – a move that would certainly be challenged by Israel.

Any such Iranian involvement, raised today by an aide to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would constitute a serious escalation of already high tensions with Israel, which accuses Tehran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon and of backing Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza.

"Iran's Revolutionary Guard naval forces are prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys that carry humanitarian assistance for the defenceless and oppressed people of Gaza with all their strength," pledged Hojjatoleslam Ali Shirazi, Khamenei's personal representative to the guards corps.

The threat came as the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, dismissed a UN proposal for an international commission to investigate last week's commando assault on aid ships, in which nine people died. Another aid ship, the Rachel Corrie, carrying Irish and other peace activists, was boarded peacefully by Israeli forces on Saturday, escorted to the port of Ashdod, and its passengers deported.

Netanyahu has defended Israel's right to maintain the blockade by arguing that without it Gaza would become an "Iranian port" and Hamas missiles would strike Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel's undeclared aim is to weaken or bring down the Hamas government.

Iran continued to exploit the "freedom flotilla" affair to lambast Israel. Its foreign minister, Manuchehr Mottaki, told the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Jeddah on Sunday that Israel's crime was "another instance of the Zionist regime's brazen and merciless treatment of Muslims, especially the oppressed Palestinian people."

Mottaki also called for a UN resolution condemning Israel. The security council is discussing imposing new sanctions on Iran because of its failure to meet international demands over its nuclear programme.

Iran and Israel have had no diplomatic relations since the 1979 revolution and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regularly predicts the disappearance of the Jewish state as well as denying the Holocaust.

Shirazi said Iran should encourage international efforts to break the blockade. "We should expose our enemies to spontaneous global action and not let them achieve their heinous goals," he was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr news agency.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards, which have a command structure separate from the regular armed forces, are fiercely loyal to the supreme leader. Khamenei has attacked the raid as a "mistake" that "showed how barbaric the Zionists are".

Israel's determination to strike at links between Iran and Hamas was dramatically demonstrated in January when presumed Mossad agents in Dubai assassinated Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was described as the Hamas official in charge of smuggling Iranian weapons into Gaza.

Israel's no-compromise attitude to aid convoys could be tested again after two Lebanese organisations pledged to send boats to Gaza in the next few days. Reporters Without Borders is attempting to assemble 25 European activists and 50 journalists for a boat leaving Beirut. The Free Palestine Movement is planning a similar attempt.

George Galloway, the founder of Viva Palestina, announced in London that two simultaneous convoys "one by land via Egypt and the other by sea" would set out in September to break the Gaza blockade. The sea convoy of up to 60 ships will travel around the Mediterranean gathering ships, cargo and volunteers.

North Korea in leadership reshuffle


North Korea has reshuffled its top leadership at a rare second session of its parliament, state media says.

Top leader Kim Jong-il attended the session, KCNA news agency said, after missing the previous one on 9 April.

Choe Yong-rim replaced Kim Yong-il as premier - the official responsible for the communist state's economic policy.

State media also said that Mr Kim's brother-in-law, Chang Song-taek, was promoted to a powerful military post on the National Defence Commission.

Mr Chang is thought to be a backer of a hereditary succession involving Mr Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong-un.
Succession hint?

The 687-member parliament - known as the Supreme People's Assembly - usually meets just once a year.

The special session of parliament, announced on 18 May, was called to discuss "organisational matters", KCNA said.

Choe Yong-rim, the Pyongyang party chief, was reportedly proposed as premier by the political bureau of the party's Central Committee.
Continue reading the main story Undated image of Chang Song-taek, released by North Korean state media on 18 January 2009 Profile: Chang Song-taek Profile: Kim Jong-un

Some reports linked the replacement of the premier to last year's failed currency revaluation.

Mr Chang's promotion came "at the proposal of Kim Jong-il", the agency said.

The NDC is North Korea's highest military body and Mr Chang - already a member - now becomes a vice-chairman.

Mr Chang has been described as one of Mr Kim's most trusted allies. Some reports said he had overseen affairs while Mr Kim was incapacitated after a stroke in 2008.

His promotion will be seen by some as a sign that Mr Kim is putting key personnel in place to ensure a smooth transition of power to his son.

Three ministers - of light industry, foodstuffs and physical culture - were replaced, and six new vice-premiers appointed.

The reshuffle comes with inter-Korean ties in tatters, following the sinking of a South Korean warship.

Forty-six sailors were killed when the Cheonan went down on 26 March near the disputed inter-Korean border.

International investigators say a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine sank the ship - something Pyongyang rejects.

It has called Seoul's decision to refer the issue to the UN Security Council "intolerable".

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The provincial lawyer who is helping plot an emirate coup


eter Cathcart works for ousted prince of Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates to co-ordinate a plot to return him to power.

Peter Cathcart Solicitor Peter Cathcart leaving his office in Uxbridge. Photograph: Sam Frost

A bloodless coup to take control of an Arab Gulf state is being plotted by an unlikely alliance that includes a powerful firm of US lobbyists and a provincial English high-street solicitor.

Peter Cathcart, a 59-year-old lawyer from Farnham, has been hired by the ousted crown prince of Ras al-Khaimah (RAK) in the United Arab Emirates to co-ordinate the plot aimed at returning him to power after seven years in exile.

Documents seen by the Guardian show that Cathcart has acted as a paid agent for Sheikh Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi in a multimillion-pound campaign to "undermine the current regime's standing" and to force the leadership of the UAE in Abu Dhabi, which has powerful influence over the emirate, to "make a change".

RAK is a strategically important part of the UAE, 50 miles from Iran across the Strait of Hormuz, through which 17 million barrels of oil are shipped each day. Sheikh Khalid, 66, was ousted by his father and brother as de facto leader in 2003.

The campaign alleges the regime presents an international security threat because the kingdom has become "a rogue state and gateway for Iran", allowing the shipment of weapons, including nuclear weapons parts, drugs and blood diamonds as well as military personnel and terrorists from al-Qaida and other networks.

Cathcart, a miniature steam train enthusiast and chairman of his local parish council who operates from modest offices in the outer London suburbs, cuts an unlikely figure in the plot, which involves highly paid US PR consultants, Washington lobbyists and former US-special forces strategists hired at a cost of at least $3.7m (£2.6m). They include BSKH, the lobbying firm which helped Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi politician who opposed Saddam Hussein and was widely blamed for providing unsubstantiated evidence about weapons of mass destruction used as justification for an invasion of Iraq.

It is not suggested that Cathcart's involvement is unlawful.

The plotters have claimed the RAK regime is implicated in an alleged terror plot to blow up the world's tallest building in Dubai, and a possible Iranian attack on US participants in the America's Cup yachting race, due to take place in the emirate but later cancelled.

The campaign to return Sheikh Khalid to power comes amid international concern about Iran's nuclear programme, and the deposed sheikh's focus on links between RAK and Iran appears calculated to turn international opinion, particularly in Washington, against the family who rejected him.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is among the US politicians including more than a dozen congressmen from whom Sheikh Khalid has sought support. In February, he made a speech in Washington in which he stated: "I am troubled that the current regime has allowed RAK to devolve into a rogue state and strategic gateway for Iran. Published reports in the Gulf region have repeatedly indicated that Iran has taken advantage of our free trade zones, using them as a transfer point to smuggle cargo, including arms, electronics, weapons parts, drugs and even humans to Africa, Europe and Asia."

His US communications team insists the claims are "well sourced", but they were rejected by the UAE embassy in London. The UAE also denied the Sheikh's claim that RAK has links to Iran's nuclear programme and that a port in RAK has in effect become an Iranian base, allowing Tehran to avoid international sanctions.

"These appear to be old, scurrilous rumours which Sheik Khalid has made on numerous occasions," a spokesman for the UAE said in a statement. "His claims are baseless and without foundation and should be seen in the context of his long-standing dispute with his family. We are surprised that these old allegations are now being rehashed once again."

Sources close to the plot believe it is now entering its endgame. Sheikh Khalid is understood to have returned to the UAE from exile in London last month and has been in Abu Dhabi meeting officials from the UAE federal government, they said.

The ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, is the UAE president and ratifies changes to the leadership of the emirates.

The plot has been under way since at least 2008, according to the documents seen by the Guardian. They show that Cathcart has overseen the disbursement of several million dollars to fund the plot and acted as an intermediary between PR consultants, lobbyists and Sheikh Khalid. Cathcart has also met congressmen in Washington DC on behalf of the sheikh and oversaw requests for new appointments to the team. On one occasion he was asked to approve win-bonuses for would-be US advisers of $250,000 per person if the sheikh returns to power.

Cathcart declined repeated requests by the Guardian to comment on his role.

Asked by the Guardian if "regime change" was a legitimate goal, the sheikh's communications team replied: "If you believe in the peace, prosperity and security of the region and in protecting US national security interests, of course. If you are pro-Iranian or believe that the questionable activities in RAK should be allowed to move forward without any concern, then you would probably not approve of our activities."