Friday, July 30, 2010

Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid Gets Official Production Greenlight

500-horsepower, 78-mpg, 9,200-rpm 3.4-liter V-8 hybrid all-wheel-drive sports car capable of 3.2-second 0-60 mph, 198 mph top speed, 16-mile all-electric range.

Porsche had put a 1,000-buyer threshold on the decision to build the 918 Spyder.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm the Creature from Outer Space - Audio


...usually, the Greaseman plays this when referring to homeless people in a skit:

Artist: Wildman Jr.
from Rhino Brothers' Circus Royale
Various Artists / LP Record (1979)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Judge blocks parts of Arizona immigration law

By JACQUES BILLEAUD and AMANDA MYERS, Associated Press Writers Jacques Billeaud And Amanda Myers, Associated Press Writers

PHOENIX – A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona's immigration law from taking effect, delivering a last-minute victory to opponents of the crackdown.

The overall law will still take effect Thursday, but without the provisions that angered opponents — including sections that required officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.

The judge also put on hold parts of the law that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times, and made it illegal for undocumented workers to solicit employment in public places.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that those sections should be put on hold until the courts resolve the issues. Other provisions of the law, many of them procedural and slight revisions to existing Arizona immigraiton statute, will go into effect at 12:01 a.m.

The ruling came just as police were making last-minute preparations to begin enforcement of the law and protesters were planning large demonstrations to speak out against the measure. At least one group planned to block access to federal offices, daring officers to ask them about their immigration status.

The volume of the protests will likely be turned down a few notches because of the ruling by Bolton, a Clinton appointee who suddenly became a crucial figure in the immigration debate when she was assigned the seven lawsuits filed against the Arizona law.

Lawyers for the state contend the law was a constitutionally sound attempt by Arizona — the busiest illegal gateway into the country — to assist federal immigration agents and lessen border woes such as the heavy costs for educating, jailing and providing health care for illegal immigrants.

Opponents argued the law will lead to racial profiling, conflict with federal immigration law and distract local police from fighting more serious crimes. The U.S. Justice Department, civil rights groups and a Phoenix police officer had asked the judge for an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced.

"There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens under the new (law)," Bolton ruled. "By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose a 'distinct, unusual and extraordinary' burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose."

The law was signed by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in April and immediately revived the national debate on immigration, making it a hot-button issue in the midterm elections.

The law has inspired rallies in Arizona and elsewhere by advocates on both sides of the immigration debate. Some opponents have advocated a tourism boycott of Arizona.

It also led an unknown number of illegal immigrants to leave Arizona for other American states or their home countries.

Federal authorities who are trying to overturn the law have argued that letting the Arizona law stand would create a patchwork of immigration laws nationwide that would needlessly complicate the foreign relations of the United States. Federal lawyers said the law is disrupting U.S. relations with Mexico and other countries and would burden the agency that responds to immigration-status inquiries.

Brewer's lawyers said Arizona shouldn't have to suffer from America's broken immigration system when it has 15,000 police officers who can arrest illegal immigrants.

By the CNN Wire Staff
July 28, 2010 1:39 p.m. EDT

Protesters against the immigration law march past the Arizona state Capitol in Phoenix on Tuesday.

Phoenix, Arizona (CNN) -- With scant hours to go before a controversial Arizona immigration law goes into effect, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction Wednesday against the implementation of parts of the law.

U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton ruled that the federal government "is likely to succeed" in its challenge of the legality of one of the most controversial sections of the Arizona law.

That provision required police to "make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested" if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the United States illegally.

There are seven lawsuits seeking to block its implementation. Bolton made her ruling on a lawsuit filed by the federal government.

The law, signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in April, requires police to question people about their status if they have been detained for another reason and if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally. It also targets those who hire illegal immigrant laborers or knowingly transport them. It is to go into effect Thursday.

Opponents say the law will lead to racial profiling, which is illegal.

Supporters point out that the law prohibits racial profiling and people cannot be stopped and asked for proof of legal residence based solely on their looks.

In addition to the U.S. Justice Department, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy, the Christian Leaders League of United Latin American Citizens and other individuals or groups have asked the judge to halt the law, commonly known as SB 1070. Bolton heard arguments in the case last week from the Justice Department and the ACLU.

The separate hearings were held in Phoenix, where Bolton sits on the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

Bolton's courtroom was packed during the two July 22 hearings and protesters chanted outside throughout the afternoon.

Seven protesters were arrested on civil disobedience charges, according to the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

The legal arguments revolved around a range of issues, including racial profiling, effective enforcement and possible harm to Arizona's citizens.

Attorneys from the Obama administration presented their case at the second hearing. The administration's challenge contends Arizona's law would usurp federal supremacy on immigration.

Brewer attended the hearing.

Arizona has argued that the federal government has not done a good job of securing the border.

"A law unenforced is no law at all," said state attorney John Bouma.

The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of civil rights groups argued earlier in the day that the controversial law amounts to racial profiling and will have a profound effect if it goes into effect.

"It treats people of color as suspects first, rather than citizens," attorney Karen Tumlin said after the hearing.

Bouma said the law would not treat people unfairly.

"These are hypothetical arguments. Local police are enforcing immigration laws all over the country," he told Bolton.

Those in favor of the law say SB 1070 is consistent with federal law. They say the law explicitly prohibits racial profiling and they are challenging the legal standing of many of the groups opposed.

They also contend opponents of the law have not been able to show there will be any harm from its implementation.

During the first hearing, Bolton said the law has a section allowing parts to still take effect even if other parts are struck down, according to CNN affiliate KNXV.

Tumlin, managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, and other lawyers and foes of SB 1070 repeated assertions that Arizona's law should be rejected.

"We are here to defend the rights of those who cannot stand up for themselves," said Terri Leon, CEO of the Friendly House, which supports the legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Bolton heard a challenge to SB 1070 by an Arizona police officer the previous week.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Equation for the Perfect Handshake



Original post:

From the article:

It has heralded peace between nations, begun relationships and sealed deals for thousands of years, but new research out today reveals that as many as two in three people (70 per cent) have a crisis of confidence when it comes to performing the act of a human handshake.

Despite the average person shaking hands nearly 15,000 times in a lifetime, one in five (19 per cent) admit they hate the act of the handshake and are unsure how to do it properly, regularly making a handshake faux pas such as having sweaty palms, squeezing too hard or holding on too long. Over half of people (56 per cent) say they have been on the receiving end of an unpleasant handshake experience in the past month alone.

However, from today, help is literally at hand as scientists have created a mathematical formula for the perfect handshake taking into account the twelve primary measures needed to convey respect and trust to the recipient.

(Formula at the bottom)

(e) is eye contact (1=none; 5=direct) 5; (ve) is verbal greeting (1=totally inappropriate; 5=totally appropriate) 5; (d) is Duchenne smile - smiling in eyes and mouth, plus symmetry on both sides of face, and slower offset (1=totally non-Duchenne smile (false smile); 5=totally Duchenne) 5; (cg) completeness of grip (1=very incomplete; 5=full) 5; (dr) is dryness of hand (1=damp; 5=dry) 4; (s) is strength (1= weak; 5=strong) 3; (p) is position of hand (1=back towards own body; 5=other person's bodily zone) 3; (vi) is vigour (1=too low/too high; 5=mid) 3; (t) is temperature of hands (1=too cold/too hot; 5=mid) 3; (te) is texture of hands (5=mid; 1=too rough/too smooth) 3; (c) is control (1=low; 5=high) 3; (du) is duration (1= brief; 5=long) 3.

The mathematical formula has been developed for car brand Chevrolet as part of a handshake training guide for its staff to prepare them ahead of the launch of the new 5 Year Promise offer, which aims to offer peace of mind and reassurance to its customers.

Professor Geoffrey Beattie, Head of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester, who devised the formula comments:

“The human handshake is one of the most crucial elements of impression formation and is used as a source of information for making a judgement about another person. A handshake reveals aspects of the personality of the person giving it – for example, a soft handshake can indicate insecurity, whilst a quick-to-let-go handshake can suggest arrogance – so it is surprising that up until now there has not been a guide showing people how they should shake hands.

“The rules for men and women are the same: right hand, a complete grip and a firm squeeze (but not too strong) in a mid-point position between yourself and the other person, a cool and dry palm, approximately three shakes, with a medium level of vigour, held for no longer than two to three seconds, with eye contact kept throughout and a good natural smile with a slow offset with, of course, an appropriate accompanying verbal statement, make up the basic constituent parts for the perfect handshake.”

Les Turton from Chevrolet comments:

“It is easy to overlook everyday rituals, but as the handshake is used to complete agreements it is important our staff are well trained so they and can pass on trust and reassurance to our customers. The simple five-step guide for the perfect handshake should mean they are well prepared ahead of the introduction of our new 5 Year Promise ensuring all our deals are concluded in the proper way.”

The Chevrolet 5 Year Promise is the best ever combined warranty and aftersales package in the UK. It extends to every model in the value-for-money car manufacturer’s line-up and includes 5 year warranty, breakdown cover, servicing, MoT test warranty and annual vehicle health checks.


1. Sweaty palms (38 per cent say it is their top turn off)

2. Loose grip / limp wrist (35 per cent)

6. Gripping too hard (7 per cent)

3. Not making eye contact (5 per cent)

5. Shaking too vigorously (4 per cent)

8. Shaking for too long (4 per cent)

4. Standing too close (2 per cent)

9. Shaking with the left hand (2 per cent)

7. Not shaking for long enough (1 per cent)

10. Hot hands (1 per cent)

*Other (1 per cent)


Although three quarters of Brits (73 per cent) say the handshake is an important social gesture in the modern world, 22 per cent of those polled in East Anglia want to get rid of the custom.

People polled in London and the South West said they shake 5.4 hands a week on average, while East Anglia came out the lowest with the average person only shaking 3.6 hands a week. South Westerners also said they were the most confident when it came to delivering handshakes (34 per cent are completely confident). In contrast, 5 per cent of people in the North East have no confidence at all in their handshakes.

Men shake on average 6.2 hands a week, compared to only 2.6 for women. A third of women (32 per cent) said that the number of hands they shook per week was zero, compared to just one in 20 (6 per cent) of men. One in five men (17 per cent) shake hands more than ten times a week, compared to less than one in 40 (2 per cent) women.

This could be because over half of men (57 per cent) said they enjoyed the act of shaking hands, while less than one in three women (29 per cent) said the same. When faced with an outstretched hand, half of women (50 per cent) said sweaty palms were the biggest turn-off while only a third of men (32 per cent) agreed. Men identified having a limp wrist or loose grip was the worst handshake faux pas (42 per cent).


Archaeological ruins show that handshaking was practiced in ancient Greece as far back as the 5th Century BC as a gesture of peace by demonstrating the hand held no weapon. Researchers credit Sir Walter Raleigh with introducing the act to the Western World during the late 16th Century. John F. Kennedy thought it so important he commissioned an entire study to determine the most effective handshake he should use when meeting other world leaders.


On 21 November 2009, Americans Matthew Rosen and Joe Ackerman broke the Guinness World Record for the world's longest handshake, shaking hands for 15 hours, 30 minutes and 45 seconds.


In 2004 Australian Prime Minster John Howard had lost public trust going into a general election. His main political opponent was a newcomer called Mark Latham. A few days before the election John Howard and Mark Latham met at a radio interview and Latham shook the Prime Minister’s hand in a very aggressive manner – pulling him close and staring him down. Footage of the handshake spread across the internet. Although public opinion of John Howard was at an all time low, people thought Mark Latham was a bully for the way he “roughed up” the PM. Latham lost the election. After the election the polls showed that the major reason people voted against Latham was because of his overly aggressive handshake.


Singer Valli and songwriter Gaudio were the driving force behind The Four Seasons, one of the world’s most successful pop groups, with hits including Walk Like A Man, December 1963 (Oh What A Night) and Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You had a deal based on a handshake – the “Jersey way” as Valli put it.


In December 1990, British and French workers finally met each other underneath the Channel for the first time. The footage of firm handshakes taking place through a narrow gap in the seabed was broadcast around the world and heralded the final phase of construction on the ambitious project.


The most famous handshake of recent times is one that didn’t happen. Convention dictated that Manchester City defender Wayne Bridge and Chelsea captain John Terry shook hands ahead of their match earlier this year, but following the love scandal that rocked their private lives, Bridge chose to very publically snub the outstretched hand of Terry. Chelsea went on to take a 4-2 hammering from Manchester City.

PH = √ (e2 + ve2)(d2) + (cg + dr)2 + π{(42)(4

2)}2 + (vi + t + te)2 + {(42 )(42)}2


The puzzle of Japanese web design

From the article:

"With respect to clarity, simplicity, and boldness of line, the Japanese have been a thousand years ahead of us in fine art and graphic design. Our best painters learned minimalism, cartooning, and much else from the Japanese during the “Orientalism” period of the late 19th century. Before that, western fine art was judged in part on its complexity and detail. And our posters and advertisements! Don’t ask.

Even the way the Japanese design chopsticks reveals this genius for simplicity coupled with a reverence for the natural world. Your Chinese chopstick is all lathe work. It’s about the gloriously smooth finish of the stick. Chinese chopsticks are miniature masterpieces that we tragically toss away after a single use. But they are masterpieces of human skill.

In contrast, the Japanese don’t change the shape of the wood. They simply put a small crack in one side—just enough that you can snap it like a wishbone when you’re ready to use the chopsticks. The Chinese chopstick is about Man and His Craft. The Japanese chopstick is about the sacred, ephemeral beauty of the revealed world.

Given Japan’s world-leading preference for the boldly simple in the applied and graphic arts, it’s puzzling that so many Japanese website designs prize clutter over clarity. The online presence of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare is typical of the style. See also Japan Airlines,, and so on. Even web consultancies show off their capabilities on sites that are models of this strangely cluttered aesthetic—an aesthetic that is doubly strange coming from a culture that has long prized elegant simplicity.

Certainly, the West has its share of crazy cluttered sites, and there are plenty of big Western internet companies like Yahoo and MySpace that paste the content thickly to the page. But here the cluttered approach to design wins no awards and is considered a sign of design amateurism—a guilty pleasure at best. It is odd that in Japan, land of world-leading minimalism in the traditional arts and design, web users and skilled web design practitioners believe more is more."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Britain Plans to Decentralize National Health Care

Plan Outline: White Paper PDF Download

from the article:

"Practical details of the plan are still sketchy. But its aim is clear: to shift control of England’s $160 billion annual health budget from a centralized bureaucracy to doctors at the local level. Under the plan, $100 billion to $125 billion a year would be meted out to general practitioners, who would use the money to buy services from hospitals and other health care providers.

The plan would also shrink the bureaucratic apparatus, in keeping with the government’s goal to effect $30 billion in “efficiency savings” in the health budget by 2014 and to reduce administrative costs by 45 percent. Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost because layers of bureaucracy would be abolished."

Homemade 8 Bit Synthesizer Built into an Electronic Organ

For example, one can play the Super Mario Bros. theme live...

The Chipophone is a homemade 8-bit synthesizer, especially suited for live chiptune playing. It has been built inside an old electronic organ.

All the original tone-generating parts have been disconnected, and the keys, pedals, knobs and switches rerouted to a microcontroller which transforms them into MIDI signals. Those are then parsed by a second microcontroller, which acts as a synthesizer.!

Friday, July 23, 2010

North Korea vows 'physical response' to US exercise this Weekend

The comments came as Asian foreign ministers met in Vietnam for a regional security forum.

The forum has been dominated by the crisis resulting from North Korea's alleged sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

The US has accused Pyongyang of "provocative" behaviour and on Wednesday announced new sanctions.

North Korea's delegation spokesman at the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum (ARF) in Hanoi said the military exercises - which begin on Sunday - were an example of 19th century "gunboat diplomacy".

"It is a new century and Asian countries are in need of peace and development, and DPRK [North Korea] is also moving to that end," said Ri Tong-il.

He said the exercises went beyond defensive training and would involve "sophisticated weapon equipment".

"It is a threat to the Korean peninsula and the region of Asia as a whole. And the DPRK's position is clear: there will be a physical response to the threat imposed by the United States militarily."

Washington and Seoul say the war games - involving the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, 20 other ships and submarines, 100 aircraft and 8,000 personnel - are intended to deter North Korean aggression.

China has criticised the plans and warned against any action which might "exacerbate regional tensions".

But Japan is sending four military observers, in an apparent endorsement of the drills.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is attending the forum, declined to comment directly on North Korea's comments, but said the door remained opened for it to return to talks if it committed to irreversible de-nuclearisation.

In comments earlier in the day, she accused Pyongyang of launching a "campaign of provocative, dangerous behaviour".

John Sudworth BBC News, Seoul

It is unclear, of course, how carefully the North Korean spokesman weighed his words before unleashing his latest verbal broadside. But the talk of a "physical response", if taken at face value, seems troubling.

Angry rhetoric from North Korea is nothing new - it serves both a domestic political purpose, keeping the enemy constantly in the forefront of its citizens' minds, and an external one, by raising tension when Pyongyang believes it is in its interests to do so.

At times the language turns flamboyant, even poetic. So it is difficult to know what to make of the latest, threatened "physical response", but on past form, it probably should not be taken at face value.

On Wednesday, the US announced it was to impose new sanctions on North Korea, aimed at halting nuclear proliferation and the import of luxury goods.

The Asean Regional Forum was attended by foreign ministers from 27 nations, including China, Japan, North Korea and the US.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey in Hanoi said there had been hopes that the forum could be a chance to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula.

But if anything, the proximity of the protagonists seemed to inflame sentiment, our correspondent adds.

South Korea sought to rally support behind a statement condemning North Korea over the warship sinking.

But a closing statement from the forum only expressed "deep concern" over the incident, echoing a UN statement that fell short of blaming Pyongyang.

China - which is North Korea's closest ally - has been reluctant to take strong measures against its unpredictable neighbour.

The Cheonan warship sank in March near the disputed inter-Korean maritime border with the loss of 46 South Korean sailors.

An international investigation said it was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, but Pyongyang has rejected the charge and demanded its own inquiry.

In a separate development on Friday, North Korean and US-led UN Command military officials held rare talks on the sinking in the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas.

The talks lasted two hours, Yonhap news agency said. The results were not known, but they were believed to have set out the details for further higher-level talks on the issue.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hugo Chavez severs ties with Colombia

Venezuela has broken off diplomatic relations with Colombia.

In the latest turn for the worse in the strained relations between the two countries, the Venezuelan government ordered Colombian diplomats to leave by Sunday.

President Hugo Chavez said he had "no choice" after Colombia accused Venezuela of being a haven for guerrillas - a charge he denies.

He said that he was acting "out of dignity" in severing ties.

He also ordered the military to be on maximum alert on Venezuela's border with Colombia.

President Chavez made his announcement shortly after a meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Washington, at which Colombia presented videos, maps and photos to show that Marxist Farc and ELN rebels have bases in Venezuela.

The Colombian Ambassador to the OAS, Luis Alfonso Hoyos, said the material was clear evidence that some 1,500 Colombian rebels were sheltering at numerous camps inside Venezuela.

Mr Hoyos said the photographs showed that the rebels had 39 camps in Venezuela and that top guerrilla commanders were resident there.

His Venezuelan counterpart, Roy Chaderton, ridiculed the Colombian evidence, saying that the photos and videos could have been taken anywhere.

Mr Hoyos demanded that Venezuela fulfil its international obligations to fight terrorism and that it allow an international commission to visit suspect sites.

After the meeting, OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza told reporters that the regional body could not mount an inspection mission without Venezuela's consent.

President Chavez did not respond directly to the demand but said the US was using Colombia to undermine his country's regional integration efforts.

A US official was quoted by AFP news agency as saying Venezuela breaking ties with Colombia was not a "proper way" to raise concerns.

The issue over whether Venezuela has rebels on its territory has dogged ties between the two South American nations for the past eight years.

But the latest exchange plunges bilateral relations to a new low.

The BBC's Jeremy McDermott in Bogota says it also leaves Juan Manuel Santos, who takes over as Colombia's president from Alvaro Uribe in two weeks, with a very difficult situation to handle.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Robots aim to give web shoppers the right fit

By Clark Boyd Technology correspondent, BBC World Service

The shape-shifting robot has taken three years to develop

An Estonian firm has developed a team of shape-shifting robots designed to help shoppers get the right fit when buying clothes online.

"Only 7% of all clothing sales in the world happen online," says Heikki Haldre, chief executive of

"And the reason is that there's no way to really try clothes on before you buy."

Three years ago, Mr Haldre set out to change that, by combining robotics and fashion.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

It can grow petite, or muscular. It can create a virtual copy of pretty much everyone's body”

End Quote Heikki Haldre

He secured just over a million pounds in funding from the European Union, and approached Maarja Kruusma, professor of biorobotics at the University of Tallinn, with a novel proposal.

Could she help build a robot that could shape-shift into almost any body shape and size?

"My first reaction was to wave my arms and say: 'It's not possible. Dream on'," laughs Prof Kruusma.

"Think of all the minute - and not so minute - differences in every human body.

"Now, think of all the sensors, actuators and programming it would take to get one single robot to be able to reflect all those differences," says Prof Kruusma
First steps

Undaunted by the challenges, the project got under way.

"First we did interviews with tailors and fashion designers," says Prof Kruusma.

"We tried to scale down the problem by figuring out which measurements are considered really important."
Shape shifting robots The mannequin can shift between small and extra large

"Of course, everyone told us that it was all incredibly important and that tailoring is an art,'" she added.

Prof Kruusma and her team did eventually manage to narrow things down.

They started by focusing, she half-jokes, "on God's less complicated creature, the male".

"In men's fashion, shoulder and neck measurements are very important, but the lower stomach not so much."

Using a database of body sizes provided by another project partner, Human Solutions GmBH in Germany, the researchers managed to refine their design and programming.

Finally they created a robotic upper-body mannequin that they felt could shape-shift its torso, neck and upper arms the way they wanted it to.

"I guess it's kind of like The Terminator," jokes Mr Haldre.

"Our robotic mannequin can shape-shift to about 100,000 different body shapes and sizes. It can grow petite, or muscular. It can create a virtual copy of pretty much everyone's body."
Suits you

Mr Haldre's original idea was to sell the robots to tailors.

But he soon realized that there might be bigger business in working with online retailers.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

You can't just take a male mannequin and put breasts on it. That doesn't work”

End Quote Maarja Kruusma

He decided to try to use the robots to create a "virtual fitting room".

Imagine, Mr Haldre says, visiting your favourite online clothing retailer.

"You're looking at a blue shirt you must have. So, first we ask you to enter your body measurements. And then the online version of the robot will morph to your shape and size.

"Then, you can ask the robot to show how it will look on other sizes, such as small or extra large," he said.

However the robot is not doing this in real-time.

Instead, puts a small-sized shirt on the robot, and then runs a program where the mannequin shape-shifts into roughly 2,000 different body types, capturing an image for each one.

Then, they repeat the process with all the different shirt sizes.

The result is a database of images for every shirt, and every size, that can be called up when you input your dimensions online.
No shirt, no service's virtual fitting room is currently getting a trial run with Hawes and Curtis.

The London-based shirtmaker has integrated's virtual fitting room into its own website.
Shirts on a hangar The female body is more complex to model

Hawes and Curtis' e-commerce director, Antony Comyns, is pleased with the results so far.

"Not only do we expect it to increase sales," Mr Comyns says, "but it should also cut down on returns, because customers should be receiving a product that fits perfectly on their bodies."

But what retailers are really pushing for is the female version of the mannequin.

On average, women spend much more on clothing than men.

But the female robot is much harder, says Professor Kruusma.

"You can't just take a male mannequin and put breasts on it. That doesn't work," she says.

And, she notes, its about more than just more complicated biomechanics.

Women, she notes, also tend to be more discerning in their clothing purchases, trying a wider variety of cuts, styles and shapes before deciding on an item.

That makes getting the female robot right an even harder task.

Still, the company hopes to have it ready in October.

Is Prof Kruusma afraid, though, that there might be a danger in making too realistic? That, just maybe, some people don't want to see how they really look?

"That's a very real threat," she says.

"We give you immediate feedback on what you look like in a particular item.

"You can try on a selection of styles and sizes, even if you are size XXL.

"Hopefully you can find something and say, 'hey, that looks pretty good on me. I actually like my majestic figure'."

Oliver Stone: US should nationalize oil resources - Counterpoint: China oil spill 'worse than thought'

Oliver Stone: US should nationalize oil resources

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press Writer – Tue Jul 20, 1:27 pm ET

LONDON – The Gulf of Mexico oil spill shows that the United States should follow the example of South American socialists in nationalizing its energy industry, filmmaker Oliver Stone said Tuesday.

The Academy Award-winning director of "Born on the Fourth of July" and "JFK" said that America's country's natural wealth was too important to be left in private hands, telling journalists in central London that oil and other natural resources "belong to the people."

"This BP oil spill is typical" of what happens when private industry is allowed to draw revenue on what should be a public good, Stone said.

"We shouldn't make this kind of profit on oil or on health or on war or on prisons. All these industries should be public industries."

Stone, 63, is in the British capital to promote his documentary, "South of the Border," which tells the story of firebrand Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his left-wing Latin American allies.

The 75-minute film is meant to draw attention to the social improvements ushered in by Chavez, who has nationalized vast swaths of Venezuela's economy, including important parts of the oil sector and big chunks of the banking, electric and steel industries. Bolivian leader Evo Morales, also interviewed by Stone for the documentary, has similarly expanded the state's control over the country's energy infrastructure.

Critics of the film accuse Stone of painting a fawning portrait of the Venezuelan leader, saying the documentary ignores Venezuela's opposition — which human rights groups say is being squeezed by Chavez's increasingly authoritarian leadership and a crackdown on private media.

Stone accused critics of "nitpicking."

The director occasionally wandered off-topic during the press conference, discussing Latin American history, sharing his thoughts about President Barack Obama (who he dismissed as "Bush not-so-lite") and musing about the possibility of making a film about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

"I don't know, that's a hot potato for me," Stone said when asked whether a movie about Ahmedinejad was in the works. "Obviously he's got bad press in the West."

"South of the Border" had its U.K. premier Monday at the Curzon Cinema in central London.

China oil spill after pipe blast 'worse than thought'

By Chris Hogg BBC News, Shanghai

Some reports suggest windshave started blowing the oil back towards the shore

Efforts to clean up an oil slick continue in China, amid fears strong winds have dispersed the pollution more widely than previously been thought.

Shipments of oil from the north to the industrial belt in the south have been disrupted since the accident.

The oil spilled into the sea in North East China after two pipelines exploded on Friday night.

The environmental group Greenpeace says the spill is China's worst in recent memory.

In the area around where the pipes caught fire, beaches have been polluted.

An official in the State Oceanic Administration has told Chinese official media that heavy winds on Monday broke up the spill and dispersed it more widely than had previously been reported.

An area of ocean covering 430 sq km is now polluted.

Usually, 30,000 to 50,000 tones of oil for use in factories in the south leave the port each day.

Reserves in the south are reported to be ample at present - enough to guarantee 10 days' supply - and the oil price in that part of the country is stable.

But the officials leading the clean up warn it could take at least that long to complete their work.

Some reports suggest the winds since Monday have started blowing the oil back towards the shore away from international waters.

That could make the clean up easier, but the environmental impact worse if the oil contaminates more of the coastline.

Every year fishing boats in the area stop fishing from June to August.

Some of their skippers are worried that when they put to sea again in a few weeks, the pollution will have ruined the fishing grounds.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

China shows military strength ahead of US drill

Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:28pm IST

By Ben Blanchard and Emma Graham-Harrison

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has shown off its growing military strength with naval exercises off its eastern coast, shortly before Washington and Seoul are expected to carry out their own drills which Beijing has criticised.

State television broadcast images on Tuesday it said showed the East Sea Fleet on recent manoeuvres, including helicopters and a submarine launching a long-range missile underwater.

It did not say exactly where or when the pictures were taken and it was not clear if they showed a drill that the official Xinhua news agency said took place over the weekend.

Xinhua said four rescue helicopters and four rescue ships were deployed in the two-day drill in the Yellow Sea, where the United States and South Korea are planning manoeuvres aimed at sending a message of deterrence to North Korea.

Beijing has condemned those drills, which many in China feel are also aimed at their country.

Zhu Chenghu, a strategic studies professor at the National Defence University, told the China News Service that the U.S.-South Korean drills were clearly aimed at sending Beijing a message as much as they were directed at North Korea.

"They will take place in the Yellow Sea, which is the entry point to China's house, and they obviously want to show off their military strength," he said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates dismissed concerns on Tuesday, saying the drills were routine.

Neither Xinhua nor state television mentioned the U.S.-South Korean exercises. But the official China Daily quoted experts downplaying the Chinese drill, which started on Saturday.

"The nature of the drill is very different from that of the US-ROK joint military action," Beijing-based military analyst Peng Guangqian was quoted saying.

China's exercises rehearsed how to defend against long-distance attacks, as well as exploring ways to integrate troops and civilians to tackle emergencies, Xinhua said.

Tensions in the Korean Peninsula have risen since the sinking in March of a South Korean warship killed 46 sailors. An investigation launched by Seoul but including international experts concluded a North Korean torpedo had hit the ship.

North Korea has denied responsibility and long-time ally China has not accepted the findings of the investigation.

China has repeatedly criticised the U.S.-South Korean drills.

"We resolutely oppose any activities in the Yellow Sea that may threaten China's security," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang told a routine news conference last Thursday.

China's growing military clout and rising defence spending have raised concern in Asia, especially in Japan.

Taiwan, the self-ruled island China claims as its own, warned this week that its huge neighbour was still aiming missiles at it, despite warming business and trade ties.

(Additional reporting by Huang Yan, editing by Andrew Marshall)

Growing Number of Prosecutions for Videotaping the Police

Article summary that citizens videotaping abusive police are being prosecuted and are often ordered to turn off devices and assaulted when they do not comply. The idea is that private conversations may not be recorded without prior consent - not sure how this applies to observational video. ACLU is of course siding with citizens.

Friday, July 16, 2010

First 'Malaria-Proof' mosquito created by scientists

Around 1 million people die each year from malaria, most of them children, from a parasitic infection transmitted by mosquitoes. Researchers have created a mosquito that is unable to infect humans with malaria.

The University of Arizona team reported that their genetically modified mosquitoes are immune to the malaria-causing parasite, a single-cell organism called Plasmodium.

It may well possibly one day replace wild mosquitoes with lab-bred mosquitoes that cannot infect humans with malaria, researchers said.

"If you want to effectively stop the spreading of the malaria parasite, you need mosquitoes that are no less than 100 percent resistant to it. If a single parasite slips through and infects a human, the whole approach will be doomed to fail," research leader and entomology professor Michael Riehle said in a university news release.

Riehle and his colleagues tested their genetically-altered mosquitoes by feeding them malaria-infested blood. Not even one mosquito became infected with the malaria parasite.

"We were surprised at how well this works. We were just hoping to see some effect on the mosquitoes' growth rate, lifespan or their susceptibility to the parasite, but it was great to see that our construct blocked the infection process completely," Riehle said.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Square Pixel Inventor Tries to Smooth Things Out

Russell Kirsch says he’s sorry.

More than 50 years ago, Kirsch took a picture of his infant son and scanned it into a computer. It was the first digital image: a grainy, black-and-white baby picture that literally changed the way we view the world. With it, the smoothness of images captured on film was shattered to bits.

The square pixel became the norm, thanks in part to Kirsch, and the world got a little bit rougher around the edges.

As a scientist at the National Bureau of Standards in the 1950s, Kirsch worked with the only programmable computer in the United States. “The only thing that constrained us was what we imagined,” he says. “So there were a lot of things we thought of doing. One of which was, what would happen if computers could see the world the way we see it?”

Kirsch and his colleagues couldn’t possibly know the answer to that question. Their work laid the foundations for satellite imagery, CT scans, virtual reality and Facebook.

Kirsch made that first digital image using an apparatus that transformed his picture into the binary language of computers, a regular grid of zeros and ones. A mere 176 by 176 pixels, that first image was built from roughly one one-thousandth the information in pictures captured with today’s digital cameras. Back then, the computer’s memory capacity limited the image’s size. But today, bits have become so cheap that a person can walk around with thousands of digital baby photos stored on a pocket-sized device that also makes phone calls, browses the Internet and even takes photos.

Yet science is still grappling with the limits set by the square pixel.

“Squares was the logical thing to do,” Kirsch says. “Of course, the logical thing was not the only possibility … but we used squares. It was something very foolish that everyone in the world has been suffering from ever since.”

Now retired and living in Portland, Oregon, Kirsch recently set out to make amends. Inspired by the mosaic builders of antiquity who constructed scenes of stunning detail with bits of tile, Kirsch has written a program that turns the chunky, clunky squares of a digital image into a smoother picture made of variably shaped pixels.

He applied the program to a more recent picture of his son, now 53 years old, which appears with Kirsch’s analysis in the May/June issue of the Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“Finally,” he says, “at my advanced age of 81, I decided that instead of just complaining about what I did, I ought to do something about it.”

Kirsch’s method assesses a square-pixel picture with masks that are 6 by 6 pixels each and looks for the best way to divide this larger pixel cleanly into two areas of the greatest contrast. The program tries two different masks over each area — in one, a seam divides the mask into two rough triangles, and in the other a seam creates two rough rectangles. Each mask is then rotated until the program finds the configuration that splits the 6-by-6 area into sections that contrast the most. Then, similar pixels on either side of the seam are fused.

Kirsch has also used the program to clean up an MRI scan of his head. The program may find a home in the medical community, he says, where it’s standard to feed images such as X-rays into a computer.

Kirsch’s approach addresses a conundrum that the field of computational photography continues to grapple with, says David Brady, head of Duke University’s imaging and spectroscopy program in Durham, N.C.

Images built from pixels can show an incredible amount of detail, Brady says. “It’s fun to talk to kids about this because they don’t know what I’m talking about anymore, but the snow on analog television — a block-based imager can reconstruct that pattern exactly.”

But images taken from real life never look like that, Brady says. Typically, they have several large uniform sections — forehead, red shirt, blue tie. This means there’s a high probability that one pixel in an image will look the same as the pixel next to it. There’s no need to send all those look-alike pixels as single pieces of information; the information that’s really important is where things are different.

“I always joke that it’s like Los Angeles weather,” Brady says. “If you were a weatherman in Los Angeles you would almost always be right if you say tomorrow is going to be the same weather as today. So one thing you can do is say, I’m going to assume the next pixel is like this one. Don’t talk to me, don’t tell me anything about the image, until you get something different. A good weatherman in Los Angeles tells you when a big storm is coming. In an image, that’s an edge. You want to assume smoothness but have a measurement system that’s capable of accurately finding where the edges are.”

Where Kirsch uses masks to accomplish that task, researchers today typically use equations far more complex than his to strike the balance between shedding unnecessary information and keeping detail. Pixels are still the starting point of digital pictures today, but math — wavelet theory in particular — is what converts the pixels into the picture. Wavelet theory takes a small number of measurements and turns them into the best representation of what’s been measured. This best estimation of a picture allows a megapixel image to be stored as mere kilobytes of data.

Images: 1) This baby picture, scanned in 1957, was the first digital image. At 176 by 176 pixels, its size was limited by the memory capacity of the computer./NIST. 2) Before transforming the square-pixel image, a close-up of one ear appears as a blocky stack. The variably shaped pixel treatment turns it back into an ear./NIST.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

'Never-before-seen material' can store vast amounts of energy

Using super-high pressures similar to those found deep in the Earth or on a giant planet, researchers from Washington State University (WSU) have created a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy. Described by one of the researchers as “the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear energy,” the material holds potential for creating a new class of energetic materials or fuels, an energy storage device, super-oxidizing materials for destroying chemical and biological agents, and high temperature superconductors.

The researchers created the material in a diamond anvil cell – a small, two-inch by three-inch-diameter device capable of producing extremely high pressures in a small space. The cell contained xenon difluoride (XeF2), a white crystal used to etch silicon conductors, squeezed between two small diamond anvils.

At normal atmospheric pressure, the material's molecules stay relatively far apart from each other. But as researchers increased the pressure inside the chamber, the material became a two-dimensional graphite-like semiconductor. At around 50 GPa, the XeF2 transforms into a reddish two-dimensional graphite-like hexagonal layered structure of semiconducting XeF4. Above 70 GPa, it further transforms into a black three-dimensional fluorite-like structure of the first observed metallic XeF8 polyhedron.

The researchers eventually increased the pressure to more than a million atmospheres, comparable to what would be found halfway to the center of the earth. WSU chemistry professor, Choong-Shik Yoo, says all this "squeezing" forced the molecules to make tightly bound three-dimensional metallic "network structures." In the process, the huge amount of mechanical energy of compression was stored as chemical energy in the molecules' bonds.

Yoo says the research is basic science, but that it shows it is possible to store mechanical energy into the chemical energy of a material with such strong chemical bonds.

The study detailing the WSU team’s research, “Two- and three-dimensional extended solids and metallization of compressed XeF2, appears in the journal Nature Chemistry.