Thursday, September 30, 2010

Earth-Like Planet That Could Sustain Life

By Irene Klotz
Wed Sep 29, 2010 05:01 PM ET


* A new planet that's the right size and location for life has been discovered 20 light-years away.
* The newly discovered world exists in a solar system very similar to our own but much smaller.
* Current technologies won't allow scientists to study the planet's atmosphere for chemical signs of life.

What does it take to find a planet 63 light-years from Earth?

A new member in a family of planets circling a red dwarf star 20 light-years away has just been found. It's called Gliese 581g, and the 'g' may very well stand for Goldilocks.

Gliese 581g is the first world discovered beyond Earth that's the right size and location for life.

"Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on this planet are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it," Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California Santa Cruz, told Discovery News.

The discovery caps an 11-year effort to tease out information from instruments on ground-based telescopes that measure minute variations in starlight caused by the gravitational tugs of orbiting planets.

Planet G -- the sixth member in Gliese 581's family -- orbits right in the middle of that system's habitable region, where temperatures would be suitable for liquid water to pool on the planet's surface.

"This is really the first 'Goldilocks' planet, the first planet that is roughly the right size and just at the right distance to have liquid water on the surface," astronomer Paul Butler, with the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., told reporters during a conference call Wednesday.

"Everything we know about life is that it absolutely requires liquid water," he added. "The planet has to be the right distance from the star so it's not too hot, not too cold... and then it has to have surface gravity so that it can hold on to a substantial atmosphere and allow the water to pool."

With a mass three times larger than Earth's, the newly discovered world has the muscle to hold atmosphere. Plus, it has the gift of time. Not only is its parent star especially long-lived, the planet is tidally locked to its sun -- similar to how the moon keeps the same side pointed at Earth -- so that half the world is in perpetual light and the other half in permanent darkness. As a result, temperatures are extremely stable and diverse.

"This planet doesn't have days and nights. Wherever you are on this planet, the sun is in the same position all the time. You have very stable zones where the ecosystem stays the same temperature... basically forever," Vogt said. "If life can evolve, it's going to have billions and billions of years to adapt to the surface."

"Given the ubiquity of water, it seems probable that this thing actually has liquid water. On the surface of the Earth, everywhere you have liquid water you have life," Vogt added.

The question wouldn't be to defend that there is life at Gliese 581g, says Butler. "The question," he said, "would be to demonstrate that there isn't."

Current technologies won't allow scientists to study the planet's atmosphere for chemical signs of life, but astronomers expect many more similar life-friendly planets to be discovered soon. If one or more of those cross the face of their parent star, relative to our line of sight, then it's possible to gather atmospheric data.

"This system is not in an orientation such that this planet would ever transit, so unfortunately this is not a case where nature has thrown us a bone," Vogt noted. "That being said, it is so close and we have found this thing so soon that it suggests we will start finding a lot of these things in the future and eventually we will find systems that do transit. This is a harbinger of things to come."

The research appears in this week's issue of Astrophysical Journal.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Apple Peel, turns iPods into iPhones, coming to US

Summary: Being in short supply and high demand, the device addresses the Chinese domestic market, and is now on it's way to the U.S.

Yoison Technology is selling (the Apple Peel) in China for $US77. Other knock-off versions of the device are already being sold online in China.

An iPhone 4 without a contract in China is slightly more expensive than it is in America. The 16GB = $744, 32GB = $893.

Apple's latest iPod Touch = $269/8GB - $478/64GB.


The Apple Peel 520, a Chinese-developed product that drew the media's attention for being able to turn an iPod Touch into an iPhone-like device, is coming to America.

The add-on device, which just went on sale in China, has been billed as a more affordable option for users wanting to get their hands on an iPhone, but lack the budget. The Apple Peel is a protective case equipped with a dock connector, battery and SIM card, that slips on to an iPod Touch. Once connected and properly installed, the device will allow the iPod Touch to make phone calls and send text messages.

Earlier this month, solar technology company GoSolarUSAsigned an agreement with the Chinese developer of the Apple Peel, Yoison Technology, to develop the device, file it for a U.S. patent and distribute it in America. The first demonstration models of the Apple Peel will arrive in America this week, GoSolarUSA said in a statement on Monday.

"As soon as they arrive, we'll begin distributing demonstration models to retail buyers across the country," said GoSolarUSA CEO Tyson Rohde in a statement. "The amount of interest in this product that we've received from distributors has been staggering."

The Apple Peel features five hours of talk time and 120 hours of standby use on its battery. GoSolarUSA has yet to offer a retail price for the add-on. But Yoison Technology is selling the device in China for $US77.

Yoison could not be reached for comment. But the company plans on releasing 2,000 Apple Peels this month in China, according to Yoison's online auction site. Other knock-off versions of the device are already being sold online in China.

The release comes after Apple launched its iPhone 4 in China last week. The smartphone is so popular that its already in short supply among retail outlets selling the device. Purchasing an iPhone 4 without a contract in China is slightly more expensive than it is in America. The 16GB model costs $744, while the 32GB model costs $893.

The shortage of iPhone 4s and the high price are reasons why the Apple Peel may find a strong following in China. Prices for Apple's latest iPod Touch range from $269 for the 8GB model up to $478 for the 64 GB model.

How the Apple Peel will fare in the Chinese market will depend partly on how consumers perceive the price gap, said Flora Wu, an analyst with Beijing-based consulting firm BDA. "The iPhone 4 will decrease in price over time, and so if the price gap is small, the incentive won't be as big."

But the Apple Peel is a notable example of "reverse innovation," in which Chinese developers have found ways to tweak products from foreign countries and make them more suitable for the domestic market, Wu said.

"I think there will be a market for the device," she added. "But the market potential will depend on the price gap and how well the user experience is."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

UK Teenage Slang


Paul Kerswill, professor of sociolinguistics at Lancaster University, is studying street language in London. He says an entirely new dialect is emerging.

"Young people are growing up with a new form of composite language. It's a bit cockney, a bit West Indian, a bit West African, with some Bangladeshi and Kuwaiti - and it seems to be replacing traditional cockney."


...To illustrate the differences we gave the same phrase to children in different parts of the country and ask how they would say it in their own slang.

The phrase we chose was: "John's girlfriend is really pretty. But she got mad with him the other day because he wanted to hang out with his friends rather than take her to the cinema. She got really angry and stormed off. It was very funny."

Now see how the phrase was regurgitated in the local vernacular in five schools.

Bishopston Comprehensive School, Swansea, Wales

"John's missus is flat out bangin'. But she was tampin' the other day 'cause he bombed her out for the boys instead of going to the cinema. She... started mouthing. It was hilarious."

Holy Family Catholic School, Keighley, West Yorkshire

"Jonny's bird is proper fit and she got in a right beef the other day cos he'd rather chill with his mates than go to the cinema. She got stressed and did one. It was quality haha."

Cardinal Newman High School, Bellshill, Lanarkshire

"John's burd is well stunnin'. She wis pure mental wae 'um the other day cos he wantit tae hing aboot wi 'is pals 'n no take hur tae the Showcase. She took a hissy 'n bolted. It wis well funny."

Phoenix High School, Shepherds Bush, west London

"John's chick is proper buff but she switched on her man the other day 'cos he wanted to jam with his bred'rins instead of taking her out to the cinema. She was proper vexed and dust out. It was bare jokes."

St Cecilia's College, Londonderry, Northern Ireland

"John's girlfriend is pure stunnin'. But she was ragin' cos he dogged her out of it to got to the pictures with his muckers. She pure went into one and booted. It was some craic."

Rodborough School, Godalming, Surrey

"John's girlfriend is well fit. But... he wanna chill out wid his m8s rather than take her to the film. She got like well lairy and she legged it. LOL."


wasteman (London) - idiot, fool

bewt or pearla (Wales) - fantastic or beautiful

sick (London and south east) - very good

tidy or sound (Wales) - good

craic (Northern Ireland) - good fun

buff or peng (London and south east) - very attractive

bangin' or mint or lush (Wales) - very good looking

hissy (Scotland) - angry or losing temper

owned (London and south east) - beaten up or made a fool of
beef (Yorkshire) - grudge or argument

Other examples from

Nang/nanging - excellent
Hard, greezy - excellent
Allow it - let it go, stop
What's good - hello
I'm ghost - goodbye
Chung, peng - attractive
Long - boring
Bare - lots of, very
Sik - cool
Moist or dry - awful, terrible

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ahmadinejad's Secret Dinner with Farrakhan, New Black Panther Party

"President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's six nights in New York featured a secret sit-down with militant minister Louis Farrakhan, heckling in a hotel bar, and a fear of being rubbed out that bordered on paranoia.

The president shared a hush-hush meal with Farrakhan and members of the New Black Panther Party Tuesday at the Warwick Hotel on West 54th Street.

The meeting of the podium smackers took place in a banquet room, where the fiery leaders presumably exchanged theories on what's wrong with the world."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

K is for Cookie

This skit was originally cast with the Cookie Monster but he brought cookies and they had to taze him.

Racial Maps of Big American Cities

"Using information from the latest U.S. census results, the maps show the extent to which America has blended together the races in the nation’s 40 largest cities. With one dot equalling 25 people, digital cartographer Eric Fischer then colour-coded them based on race..."

One dot equals 25 people

Whites = pink
Blacks = blue
Hispanic = orange
Asians = green

San Francisco

One dot equals 25 people

Whites = pink
Blacks = blue
Hispanic = orange
Asians = green


One dot equals 25 people

Whites = pink
Blacks = blue
Hispanic = orange
Asians = green

San Antonio

One dot equals 25 people

Whites = pink
Blacks = blue
Hispanic = orange
Asians = green

New York City

One dot equals 25 people

Whites = pink
Blacks = blue
Hispanic = orange
Asians = green

Los Angeles

One dot equals 25 people

Whites = pink
Blacks = blue
Hispanic = orange
Asians = green

Washington D.C.

One dot equals 25 people

Whites = pink
Blacks = blue
Hispanic = orange
Asians = green


One dot equals 25 people

Whites = pink
Blacks = blue
Hispanic = orange
Asians = green

Atlanta Circa 2000

Friday, September 24, 2010

Researcher Builds Machines That Daydream

From slashdot:

"Murdoch University professor Graham Mann is developing algorithms to simulate 'free thinking' and emotion. He refutes the emotionless reason portrayed by Mr Spock, arguing that 'an intelligent system must have emotions built into it before it can function.' The algorithm can translate the 'feel' of Aesop's Fables based on Plutchick's Wheel of Emotions. In tests, it freely associated three stories: The Thirsty Pigeon; The Cat and the Cock; and The Wolf and the Crane, and when queried on the association, the machine responded: 'I felt sad for the bird.'"

from the article:

Perth computer scientist Graham Mann was developing algorithms to simulate "free thinking" and emotion.

Speaking at the World Computer Congress in Brisbane this week, the Murdoch University professor described efforts to translate the "feel" of Aesop's Fables for machines.

Today's machines outperformed humans on "high focus", rational tasks like diagnosing breast cancer from data.

But they lacked "lower focus" capabilities that identified superficial resemblances and salience, Mann explained.

"It's long been thought that emotions and reason are in conflict with each other," he said. "You think of Mr Spock, or scientists as very cold people who are objective and so on.

"I've reached the conclusion that an intelligent system must have emotions built into it before it can function and so on.

"I believe that it is possible - if we start to model the way human beings reason about things - to achieve much more flexible processing of storylines, plans, even understanding how human beings behave."

Mann developed a conceptual parser that identified the "feel" of Aesop's Fables, which were deemed "simple and short enough to represent as conceptual graph data structures".

His algorithm was based on Plutchick's Wheel of Emotions, which illustrated emotions as a colour wheel and disallowed mutually exclusive states - like joy and sadness - from being experienced simultaneously.

The machine freely associated three stories: The Thirsty Pigeon; The Cat and the Cock; and The Wolf and the Crane.

When queried on the association, the machine responded: "I felt sad for the bird."

Mann, who has researched machine "daydreaming" since 1998, said entertainment content providers could use the algorithm to suggest and deliver related movies.

The algorithm could also improve computer games by automatically providing a cultural context for characters.

"Would it be possible to manipulate people's emotions precisely?," Mann mused, suggesting that the algorithm could also be used in medical therapy to present similar patient stories.

"We use emotions for a whole range of things ... to make judgements between things based on their value to us," he told iTnews.

"Even though the emotions of machines could be different from a human being, they're still very important, I think, for [machines] to function properly."

China Embargos Rare Earth Exports To Japan, Japan to free Chinese boat captain amid row

Summary from Slashdot:

"The NY Times reports that the Chinese government has placed a trade embargo on all exports to Japan of a crucial category of minerals used in products like hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles. China mines 93 percent of the world's rare earth minerals, and more than 99 percent of the world's supply of some of the most prized rare earths, which sell for several hundred dollars a pound. The embargo comes after a dispute over Japan's detention of a Chinese fishing trawler captain whose ship collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels as he tried to fish in waters controlled by Japan but long claimed by China. The Chinese embargo is likely to have immediate repercussions in Washington. The House Committee on Science and Technology is scheduled to review a detailed bill to subsidize the revival of the American rare earths industry and the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to review the American military dependence on Chinese rare earth elements."

Japan is to release a Chinese fishing boat captain whose arrest two weeks ago led to a major row with Beijing.

Japan had accused Zhan Qixiong of deliberately ramming two patrol vessels near disputed islands in the East China Sea.

China said his detention was "illegal and invalid", and was sending a plane to bring him home.

It came after four Japanese men were detained in China on suspicion of illegally filming in a military area.

A Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said its embassy in Beijing had received confirmation that the four were being held, but he said he did not want to speculate whether it was linked to Japan's detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain.

Officials said the four men were employees of a Japanese construction company who were in China to bid for a project to dispose of chemical weapons from World War II.

Roland Buerk BBC News, Tokyo

Many in Japan may bristle, saying the country has caved in to Chinese pressure. But Japan certainly had a lot to lose. The economy is dependent on exports for growth, and China is its biggest trading partner. Japan's government is looking in to reports that China stopped shipments to Japan of rare earths - elements in which it has a near monopoly vital for the manufacture of hi-tech goods like electric cars.

By releasing the captain, Japan may ease tension, but it looks weak. China, too, may lose in the long run. The events of this month have cast a chill over its neighbours just as China hopes to take on a larger global role.
Escalating tensions

At a news conference, prosecutors in Naha, Okinawa, said Mr Zhan was just a fishing boat captain and had no criminal record in Japan.

They said they did not perceive any premeditated intent to damage the patrol boats and therefore had decided that further investigation while keeping the captain in custody would not be appropriate, considering the impact on relations with Japan.

It was unclear whether Mr Zhan would be charged with anything, or when he would be released.

"It is a fact that there was the possibility that Japan-China relations might worsen or that there were signs of that happening," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, the Reuters news agency reported. "Our ties are important and both sides must work to enhance our strategic and mutual beneficial relations."

Spokeswoman Jiang Yu said on the Chinese foreign ministry website that the government would send a charter plane to bring Mr Zhan home, reiterating that "any form of so-called legal procedures taken by Japan against the Chinese boat captain are illegal and invalid".

Tensions had escalated since Japan detained the Chinese captain.

Beijing cut off ministerial level contacts between the two countries and thousands of Chinese tourists pulled out of trips to Japan. Concerts by a Japan's top boy band SMAP due to take place in Shanghai were cancelled by the Chinese organisers.

Earlier this week Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that Japan bore full responsibility for the situation and demanded the immediate release of the captain.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the two sides to settle the issue before it had a long-term impact on the region.

The Japanese coastguard arrested Zhan Qixiong on 8 September after his trawler collided with two of their patrol boats in an area claimed by both countries, near uninhabited islands which may have oil and gas deposits

Japanese prosecutors had until next Wednesday to decide whether or not to charge the man.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Stewart Copeland

With Klark Kent - Don't Care

Klark Kent - Too Kool To Kalypso

Klark Kent: Grandelinquent/Ritch in a Ditch

Klark Kent - Away From Home

With Curved Air:
stark naked (bbc sessions 29-1-76) live

Curved Air - Moonshine (part 1)

Kinetic Ritual by Stewart Copeland (The Police)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Have Been Compromised by Unidentified Aerial Objects

PR Newswire


Ex-military men say unknown intruders have monitored and even tampered with American nuclear missiles

Group to call on U.S. Government to reveal the facts

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Witness testimony from more than 120 former or retired military personnel points to an ongoing and alarming intervention by unidentified aerial objects at nuclear weapons sites, as recently as 2003. In some cases, several nuclear missiles simultaneously and inexplicably malfunctioned while a disc-shaped object silently hovered nearby. Six former U.S. Air Force officers and one former enlisted man will break their silence about these events at the National Press Club and urge the government to publicly confirm their reality.

One of them, ICBM launch officer Captain Robert Salas, was on duty during one missile disruption incident at Malmstrom Air Force Base and was ordered to never discuss it. Another participant, retired Col. Charles Halt, observed a disc-shaped object directing beams of light down into the RAF Bentwaters airbase in England and heard on the radio that they landed in the nuclear weapons storage area. Both men will provide stunning details about these events, and reveal how the U.S. military responded.

Captain Salas notes, "The U.S. Air Force is lying about the national security implications of unidentified aerial objects at nuclear bases and we can prove it." Col. Halt adds, "I believe that the security services of both the United States and the United Kingdom have attempted—both then and now—to subvert the significance of what occurred at RAF Bentwaters by the use of well-practiced methods of disinformation."

The group of witnesses and a leading researcher, who has brought them together for the first time, will discuss the national security implications of these and other alarmingly similar incidents and will urge the government to reveal all information about them. This is a public-awareness issue.

Declassified U.S. government documents, to be distributed at the event, now substantiate the reality of UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites extending back to 1948. The press conference will also address present-day concerns about the abuse of government secrecy as well as the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons.

WHO: Dwynne Arneson, USAF Lt. Col. Ret., communications center officer-in-charge

Bruce Fenstermacher, former USAF nuclear missile launch officer

Charles Halt, USAF Col. Ret., former deputy base commander

Robert Hastings, researcher and author

Robert Jamison, former USAF nuclear missile targeting officer

Patrick McDonough, former USAF nuclear missile site geodetic surveyor

Jerome Nelson, former USAF nuclear missile launch officer

Robert Salas, former USAF nuclear missile launch officer

WHAT: Noted researcher Robert Hastings, author of UFOs and Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites, will moderate a distinguished panel of former U.S. Air Force officers involved in UFO incidents at nuclear missile sites near Malmstrom, F.E. Warren, and Walker AFBs, as well as the nuclear weapons depot at RAF Bentwaters.

WHEN: Monday, September 27, 2010

12:30 p.m.

WHERE: National Press Club

Holeman Lounge

Event open to credentialed media and Congressional staff only

SOURCE Former U.S. Air Force Officer Robert Salas, and Researcher Robert Hastings

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Guggenheim's exhibits selections of YouTube art videos

From the site:

"The shortlist for YouTube Play. A Biennial of Creative Video has been announced! Selected from more than 23,000 submissions from 91 countries, the 125 shortlisted videos can now be seen on the YouTube Play channel.

The jury will now select their top choices to be revealed and presented at a special YouTube Play celebration event at the Guggenheim Museum on October 21 and on The final videos selected by the jury will be on view to the public at the Guggenheim Museum from October 22 through 24, and available to a worldwide audience on the You Tube Play channel."

China confirms two nuclear reactors for Pakistan

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING, Sept 21 (Reuters) - China on Tuesday gave its firmest government confirmation yet of plans to build two new nuclear reactors for Pakistan, but a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she did not know about talks over a bigger reactor deal.

The spokeswoman Jiang Yu said China plans to help Pakistan expand its Chashma nuclear energy complex in Punjab by building two reactors in addition to one already operating and another nearing completion.

Her comments also suggested Beijing may see no need to seek approval for the two new Chashma reactors from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), an international council of governments, some of whose members have voiced qualms about the deal.

"This project is based on an agreement signed between the two countries in 2003 about cooperation in the nuclear power field," Jiang told a regular news conference, citing plans to build the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of about 300 megawatts each at Chashma.

"China has already notified the International Atomic Energy Agency about the relevant details, and invited the IAEA to exercise safeguards and oversight of this project," said Jiang.

Up to now, Chinese government officials have been tight-lipped in public about the planned new units at Chashma, although the Chinese companies picked to build them have announced contract signings.

Jiang's statement that the new reactors come under a 2003 agreement may ruffle other countries that have pressed China to seek a waiver for them from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a 46-member consensus-based body that seeks to ensure nuclear exports are not diverted to non-peaceful purposes.

The expansion of China's nuclear power ties with Pakistan has magnified unease in Washington, Delhi and other capitals worried about Pakistan's history of spreading nuclear weapons technology, its domestic instability, and about the potential exceptions created in international non-proliferation rules.


Jiang was also asked about the China National Nuclear Corp's statement on Monday that it is in talks to build a 1-gigawatt nuclear reactor for Pakistan, in addition to the four smaller Chashma units built, being finished or planned.

But she had less to say on this.

"We don't understand this matter. You can make further inquiries with the company," Jiang said.

Pakistan is a long-standing partner of China, and has been suffering chronic power shortages.

To receive nuclear exports, nations that are not one of the five officially recognised atomic weapons states must usually place all their nuclear activities under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, say NSG rules.

When the United States sealed its nuclear agreement with India in 2008, it won a waiver from that rule from the NSG after contentious negotiations in which China raised misgivings.

Washington and other governments have said China should at least seek a similar waiver for the planned new reactors in Pakistan.

But China now appears positioned to argue that the two new units at Chashma were part of an agreement made before it joined the NSG in 2004, and so do not need another waiver.

Beijing stayed quiet about Chashma at an NSG meeting in June and has not publicly sought an exemption.

Monday, September 20, 2010

U.S. shifts approach to deporting illegal immigrants

By Marcus Stern, ProPublica

The Obama administration is changing the federal immigration enforcement strategy in ways that reduce the threat of deportation for millions of illegal immigrants, even as states such as Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio and Texas are pushing to accelerate deportations.

The changes focus enforcement on immigrants who have committed serious crimes, an effort to unclog immigration courts and detention centers. A record backlog of deportation cases has forced immigrants to wait an average 459 days for their hearings, according to an Aug. 12 report by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), which analyzes government data.

Among the recent changes:

• Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton ordered agency officials on Aug. 20 to begin dismissing deportation cases against people who haven't committed serious crimes and have credible immigration applications pending.

• A proposed directive from Morton posted on ICE's website for public comment last month would generally prohibit police from using misdemeanor traffic stops to send people to ICE. Traffic stops have led to increased deportations in recent years, according to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank whose research supports tighter enforcement.

The directive said exceptions would be made in certain cases, such as when immigrants have serious criminal records.

• ICE officers have been told to "exercise discretion" when deciding whether to detain "long-time lawful permanent residents, juveniles, the immediate family members of U.S. citizens, veterans, members of the armed forces and their families, and others with illnesses or special circumstances," Daniel Ragsdale, ICE executive associate director of management, testified July 1 in the administration's lawsuit to block Arizona's controversial immigration law. The law requires police officers to determine the immigration status of suspects stopped for another offense if there was a "reasonable suspicion" they are in the USA illegally. A U.S. district judge has held up the provision pending review.

• A draft memo from ICE's sister agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, to Morton discussed ways the administration could adjust regulations so certain groups, such as college students and the spouses of military personnel, could legalize their status or at least avoid deportation if Congress doesn't pass comprehensive immigration reform. USCIS rules on applications for visas, work permits and citizenship. USCIS spokesman Christopher Bentley said the memo was intended to stimulate brainstorming on how to legalize immigrants if new laws aren't passed.

The administration's new direction puts it at odds with those who believe the nation's immigration laws should be strictly enforced and that all illegal immigrants should be deported.

ICE is "thumbing its nose at the law," said Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the top Republican on the House immigration subcommittee.

The changes have also drawn complaints from immigration advocates. They say deportations under Obama are at record highs and immigrants who remain behind are living in limbo, without work permits, Social Security cards or driver's licenses.

"This isn't a free ticket," said Raed Gonzalez, a Houston attorney who saw cases against his clients dropped last month. "The government can put them back into proceedings at any time."

Morton said in an interview that the new strategy is smarter, not softer, enforcement. At a time when more than 10 million people are in the country illegally, record sums are spent on enforcement and the federal budget faces huge deficits, it makes sense to target people who pose the biggest threat to public safety or national security, he said.

"Congress provides enough money to deport a little less than 400,000 people," Morton said. "My perspective is those 400,000 people shouldn't be the first 400,000 people in the door but rather 400,000 people who reflect some considered government enforcement policy based on a rational set of objectives and priorities."

ICE statistics show that deportations have increased dramatically from 189,000 in 2001 to 387,000 in 2009. Much of the increase results from deportations of people who haven't committed serious crimes, according to TRAC.

This year, however, that trend took a sharp turn, according to an Aug. 12 TRAC report.

The number of criminal immigrants removed by ICE "climbed to an all-time high," the report said. In fiscal 2010, which began Oct. 1, "The removal pace of criminal aliens ... is fully 60% higher than in the last year of the Bush administration, and at least a third (37%) higher than in the first year of the Obama administration."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

US Couple Arrested For Transmitting Nuclear Secrets to Venezuela


WASHINGTON — A scientist and his wife who both once worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory were arrested Friday after FBI agents allegedly lured them into what they were told was a conspiracy to help develop a nuclear weapon for Venezuela.

They were accused of offering nuclear weapons secrets to Venezuela, but the U.S. government is not alleging Venezuela or anyone working for it sought U.S. secrets.

Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, 75, and Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, 67, a U.S. citizen, were arrested Friday, a day after they were indicted. They appeared in federal court in Albuquerque, where Mascheroni, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina, was ordered held pending another hearing Monday morning. His wife was released under strict conditions.

Kenneth Gonzales, U.S. attorney for New Mexico, said the indictment does not allege the government of Venezuela or anyone acting on its behalf sought or was passed any classified information. Gonzales did not take questions after giving a brief statement to reporters.

It's been known for about a year that Mascheroni was under investigation — the FBI last October seized computers, letters, photographs, books and cell phones from the couple's Los Alamos home. In an interview with The Associated Press at the time, he said he believed the U.S. government was wrongly targeting him as a spy. He has denied the accusation.

Mascheroni said in the interview that he approached Venezuela after the United States rejected his theories that a hydrogen-fluoride laser could produce nuclear energy.

According to the 22-count indictment, Mascheroni told the undercover agent he could help Venezuela develop a nuclear bomb within 10 years and that Venezuela would use a secret, underground nuclear reactor to produce and enrich plutonium, and an open, aboveground reactor to produce nuclear energy.

If convicted, the Mascheronis face up to life in prison.

Many previous FBI spy sting cases have begun this way: U.S. intelligence learns, often by electronic surveillance, that someone in this country is trying to contact a foreign power to offer their services or U.S. secrets. Then the FBI has an undercover agent pose as a representative of that country to respond favorably, cultivate a relationship and see what, if any, secrets the person tries to pass or sell.

Mascheroni worked in the nuclear weapons design division at the Los Alamos lab from 1979 until he was laid off in 1988. His wife, a technical writer, worked there between 1981 and 2010.

He told AP last year he was motivated by his belief in cleaner, less expensive and more reliable nuclear weapons and power. He began approaching other countries after his ideas were rejected by the lab and, later, congressional staffers.

In July 2008, the undercover FBI agent provided Mascheroni with 12 questions purportedly from Venezuelan military and scientific personnel.

The criminal charges allege Mascheroni delivered to a post office box in November 2008 a disk with a coded 132-page document on it that contained "restricted data" related to nuclear weapons. Written by Mascheroni and edited by his wife, the document was entitled "A Deterrence Program for Venezuela" and laid out Mascheroni's nuclear weapons development program for Venezuela.

Mascheroni stated the information he was providing was worth millions of dollars, and that his fee for producing the document was $793,000, the indictment alleges.

Earlier in the investigation, Mascheroni allegedly asked the FBI agent about obtaining Venezuelan citizenship.

He told the undercover agent he should be addressed as "Luke," and he would set up an e-mail account solely to communicate with the undercover agent, according to the indictment.

Mascheroni used the account to communicate with the agent and to arrange for deliveries of materials at the post office box used as a dead-drop location, authorities say.

In June 2009, Mascheroni received another list of questions, again purportedly from Venezuelan officials, and $20,000 in cash from the FBI agent as a first payment.

The following month, Mascheroni delivered a disk that contained a 39-page document with answers to the questions. The document was allegedly written by Mascheroni, edited by his wife, and contained "restricted data" related to nuclear weapons.

Mascheroni allegedly wrote that the information he provided was classified and was based on his knowledge of U.S. nuclear tests he had learned while working at Los Alamos. But the government said Mascheroni also wrote that he would state the document was based on open information found on the Internet if "our relationship/alliance does not work."

He told the AP last year he thought the Venezuelan government wanted him to produce a study on how to build a nuclear weapons program. In return, he asked for $800,000, which he said he planned to use for his scientific research on nuclear fusion in hopes of persuading Congress to take a look at his theories.

He said he received a formal request via e-mail from his Venezuelan contact in July 2008 to write the study. Mascheroni told AP he finished the study in November 2008 and, following directions, placed a CD containing only unclassified information available on the Internet — which he already had provided to congressional staffers — inside a post office box at the Albuquerque airport.

Later, he told AP, he received an e-mail telling him to return to the same post office box where he found a note saying there was $20,000 in $100 bills inside an envelope. He has said he never opened the envelope, and that FBI agents opened it when they searched his home.

Associated Press Writer Pete Yost in Washington, D.C., and AP correspondent Barry Massey in Santa Fe, N.M., contributed to this report.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Virginia-Built 110MPG X-Prize Car

"Instead of using Detroit engineers or Silicon Valley bitheads, Virginia-based Edison2 relied on retired Formula 1 and Nascar engineers to build its entry for the X-prize. Relying on composite materials and titanium, the team assembled an ultra-lightweight car that provides all the comforts of a standard 4-passenger vehicle, but gets more than 100 mpg. The custom engineering goes all the way down to the car's lug nuts, which weigh less than 11 grams each. Amazingly, they expect a production version of the car should cost less than $20,000." Earlier today, in a Washington, DC ceremony, Edison2 received $5 million as the X-prize winner. Writes the AP (via Google) "Two other car makers will split $2.5 million each: Mooresville, N.C.-based Li-Ion Motors Corp., which made the Wave2, a two-seat electric car that gets 187 miles on a charge, and X-Tracer Team of Winterthur, Switzerland, whose motorcycle-like electric mini-car, the E-Tracer 7009, gets 205 miles on a charge. Both of those companies are taking orders for their cars."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Leap for quantum computing

"A new photonic chip that works on light rather than electricity has been built by an international research team, paving the way for the production of ultra-fast quantum computers with capabilities far beyond today’s devices."

Jeremy O’Brien, director of the UK’s Centre for Quantum Photonics.

"Using our new technique, a quantum computer could, in less than ten years, be performing calculations that are outside the capabilities of conventional computers," commented Professor Jeremy O'Brien, Director of the Centre for Quantum Photonics.

Currently the Most Annoying Meme: "I know, right?"


"I know, right?"

This phrase has been whittling me down to my last ganglion and I finally had to search and confirm that I'm not the only one to notice. That's how out of the loop I am. I mentioned it to some friends the other day who looked at me with slight concern, and I suspect that they are not likely around the same generation or demographic of idiots as myself.

For those of you who embrace this phrase, please correct your reflex before it spreads any further. For me, it renders the user into a caricature that falls somewhere between the McKenzie brothers' "Great day, eh?" and Jeff Spicoli's "I'm so wasted!", yet the intention seems to carry an attempt to associate with a more elite crowd who believes themselves to be in the know. 'Who knew?' I guess that would be the 'hipster'. That's who knows. Knows to say 'who knew'. As Ken Nordine describes the atheist who publicly humiliates a small town preacher with his 'sparkling wit and his shallow understanding'.

 But in the case of adorning oneself with a plumage of memes, there is only the pretense of wit to camouflage the complete absence of originality or processing. I doubt many of the kids who embrace 'sagging' were deliberately seeking to associate themselves with criminals.

Maybe it's a little worse in the South, where people sometimes overcompensate by dissociating themselves, neutralizing their southern accents or even taking on regional affectations. But, I can recall a blatant instance of such dissociation between two coworkers who were both from Chicago.

I believe the phrase to be akin to "Well, that's right", a slightly lesser offense often committed by NPR reporters as the host introduces the story and the correspondent picks up with the details with a tone of self-assured authority. It is here that I believe we begin to approach one popular habitat of the meme pond.

But, there are many, many such environments that I have thought would likely come to screeching halts should someone impose penalties or threats of revoking their language licenses should they commit certain memetic offenses. In fact, I sent myself a brief email back around 2007 that I believe is an update from previous years, noting specific phrases that I wish to flag, daring the meme-ridden, jargon-saddled appropriators to restrain themselves. I have found that overuse of 'frankly' and 'caveat' will bore into flesh at an alarming rate. Surely, we all know someone who clings desperately to 'at the end of the day' like a hyena gnawing on a picked over carcass.

And describing anyything as 'delicious' has gotten completely out of hand, especially as a way of projecting one's appreciation for intellectual pursuits. It makes me feel like I'm listening to a displaced obscene phone caller.

Few these days are so brazen as to say 'Thus, or 'thusly', but why hold back? Newscasters and politicians being so incestuous, make use of the same limited arsenal which has included 'transparency', 'an historic', and 'holed up in a...(mosque, the office, the public restroom stall, etc.). I feel redeemed to verify a few of these irksome phrases as I write these thoughts. When speaking of India for example, a reporter will often replace the next reference to India with 'that country'.

'As for Iran, Mr. Powell said he doesn't think "the stars are lining up" for an attack on that country's known or suspected nuclear sites.'
(Extracted from an article in the Washington Times.)

I understand and appreciate variety in language, but how about a little variety in treatment? Because these people use this same damn convention every time and after a while of listening, I feel like I'm in the checkout line at the grocery store. Affirmative, I found everything I need.

Regarding 'an historic', the first link below states that as of 2008, 'an historic' is used by 30% of online writers compared to 'a historic', and that while 'an historic' is less common, both are correct.

The second link states that the 'question highlights a difference between American and British usage--though even British usage is moving away from using an in such phrases...'

Oh, I see. Trying to sound British, who also also refer to 'an regular guy'. Maybe this explains why 'an historic' strikes me more as needing to distinguish oneself or lunging for a heightened sense of importance. I know I heard George W. do it at least once. Anyone who has ever been accused of being 'a idiot' knows my frustration. Like mispronouncing 'especially' as 'ekspecially', while somehow gaining momentum as being an improvement upon language.

The second link offers great reference:

In Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay,* Richard Lederer and Richard Dowis are quite dogmatic about whether or not one should use an before such words as historic and historical:

an historic (never)
"This is an historic occasion," intoned Senator Pfogbottom.

"I don't care to listen to this windbag," said the cynical reporter. "I think I'll go to McDonald's for an hamburger."

. . . When the aitch (h) is silent, as in honor and hour, use the article an. When the aitch is pronounced, as in house, hamburger, history, and historical, use the article a. (33)

'A/an historic, usage'

'Holed up' - this one is worth reading.

I realize that I am likely far behind the curve in my listing of memes. Those of you lobbing some of this crap over from the 'left coast', just simmer down. Yours will get to us eventually.

Let's close with a demonstration of how to dress up the crack whore of trite pleasantries with something that makes the vector feel that they are doing their part. Must I stumble through the cumbersome, 'Have a bless-ed day' or can I count on readers to receive a slightly toned down exchange?

With a little cooperation and tolerance, I propose that we might blend the oil and water of meme pools THUSLY:

'Have a blessed one.'

'I know, right?'


Designated meme receptical in list form:

it's been a minute - sometimes a minute feels like an eternity, especially around those who are desperate enough to sound clever at the expense of being original.

epic - maybe this one's on it's way out, but it still sucks.

no worries - more hipster, smugness attempting to sound more sophisticated, worldly, in control, calm and cool, all the things hipsters wish to project.

I really enjoy checking urban dictionary for these phrases - helps me know I'm not alone - see comment 11:

"In USA, a flippant expression, almost always spoken by people who are insecure, as a way to quickly both end the conversation, and demean the other person by making it seem as though they were worried, when they were not. A top-down mentality, to belittle someone, from people of vast insensitivity. Should be banished immediately."

hot mess - enough of this, please. You're old and dry.

but, I digress - While you're at it, why don't you do us all a favor and drop dead

a certain je ne sais quoi, and quid pro quo can both take a hike

boo-yah - thank God, this seems to have fallen out of vogue, but I'll bet it's lurking somewhere

golden (as in "you're golden" i.e. situated or optimal condition) - trust fund hippies love this one

all the trimmings (this is really just an idiom, but it gets on my nerves, and not just at Thanksgiving)

uber - put it back in your man purse, roll up a pants leg and courier yourself elsewhere

proverbial - Not that I can think of a better substitute, but it's overused, and typically those who use it wear it like a badge. Better to just not use it at all. Combined with the quote marks in the air, we have a complete snap shot. Probably the same person who would dish out 'anywho' a lot and think they are funny, hip, and original.

snarky -  the word itself is almost self referencing. Apparently a combination of 'snide' + 'remark' =  snark, which puts the word somewhere on the same level as 'shart'. I must admit, for a minute there I was almost convinced snark was a real word. I concluded snarkasm, snarkastic and snarkaholic on my own, but turns out I'm not the first.

girls night out / man-cave:  these two go great together. The willingness to relegate ourselves to the role poles in the most stereotypical ways. How can we live in such a politically correct society that is so fast to adopt these kinds of terms for gender-based tendencies? Men can have a home office, and so can women. Can't women and men can both go out with their friends without dubbing it some kind of title? And, shouldn't it be 'Woman's night out'? If a guy decided to start labeling his wife's social outings as 'Girl's Night Out', it wouldn't fly, kind of like the monopoly blacks maintain on the 'N' word. Although I hear that license has been extended to people of all races under a certain age, along with the right to posting selfies. Is the logic that they don't know any better, thereby rendering the act innocuous, or is it that they are so in the know and qualified to handle these dangerous goods? As for the aforementioned terms, this is how couples identify their need to preserve their identities without feeling threatened when they aren't spending time together.

endoplasmic reticulum - just kidding

best (insert anything here) ever - see snarky, and see what I mean. Conspicuous in the Awesome movement

have a great day - especially when used in voice messaging. Some people seem to think this conveys an air of professional courtesy, and I hear it a lot. Just send flowers if you care so much. Have a nice day has been lampooned for decades, so how has have a great day made it this far? By the time I've waited through enough rings to reach a voice message, I don't want to hear long, obligatory instructions about what I'm supposed to do, unless there's another number I can try. But, then, to finish off with 'have a great day'? I'm really surprised at who complies to this convention. I suspect it's control freaks who cast the wide safety net of have a great day. I even encountered one person who went above and beyond to say 'make it a great day'. When I hear 'have a great day' in an answering message, if I know the person, I sometimes let them know in my message that I am, in fact, having a great day, and this is the same line of thinking that caused me to leave Facebook, for fear of alienating a lot of people by mocking their projections of home dining choices, curling up on the couch with coffee and a book, or deep lyric quotes.  Upon reflection, 'have a good one' or 'have a blessed day' are almost from another planet, or at least from another socioeconomic status. Ahhh!

Bless you - say this to me once, and I'll go along with it. But, say it with each sneeze and I might get claustrophobic and start swinging. Relax, demons will not enter my body if I sneeze and noone is around to say 'Bless you'. If I'm wrong, this is nothing that can't be solved with a phone app and a microchip implanted into our skulls.

Shoot me an email -  I had no idea that email was such an action sport.

Made/makes me smile - an awkward attempt at sentimentality, but ick, the phrase gets passed around like a nasty chapstick. In response to a joke, it can be a little smug. Smile? Oh, well, I was hoping you'd piss your pants.

Oh, and... I'm seeing this used a lot in job postings. Rather than the usual, long list of requirements, recruiters are trying to sound conversational or spontaneous, I guess, and maybe adorn snark fashion as though they have a personality? Either the recruiter is challenging the would-be candidate to possess all of the above qualifications to join the ranks of their elite company, or they are trying to sell the job by making it sound generous, as though saying 'but wait, there's more' like they're selling a Ronco product. It typically reads like: 'Must be fabulous. Oh, and did I mention we're fabulous?' When I see such a post, I get the impression that the company culture consists of vacuous reality tv consumers who spend too much time pecking at their mobile device and L'ing-O-L on Facebook.

anywho - It's as though everyone who would otherwise quote Monty Python was disemboweled and then re-stuffed with Jim Carrey.

'try and' vs 'try to' - Maybe this is more noticeable in writing than in speech, and I found reference stating that 'try and' is an idiom/colloquialism whereas 'try to' is formal and works in any context (for those who learned to read and write?).

For me, 'try and' instantly casts the speaker and especially the would-be writer into the same herd of dipshits who pronounce 'something' as 'suh-ehn'.

Mechanically, the problem is that 'try and' separates 'try' from the stated intention, thereby setting up two intentions, and also suggests a guaranteed outcome while casting the object of 'try' into oblivion. For example, to say 'I will try to remember' links effort - try - to the infinitive form of the verb - to remember.   'I will try and remember' suggests that 'I will try' and 'I will remember'. Wait, try what? Did someone put out a Whitman's sampler in front of you as a memory enhancer? 'Try to' guides effort towards the stated target - 'to remember'.

Let's concoct a context. Someone asks when you last ate pizza. You respond, "I'm trying to remember" as you are thinking. Then, they ask you to send an email when you remember, and you say "I'll try to remember".

If your over-eager, braggadocious street phrase toolbox contains only 'try and...', you'll be wallowing in your present tense failure, confessing "I'm trying and not remembering" or more pathetically "I'm trying...", so ashamed you can't complete the sentence. Just fast forward to your inevitable memory failure in the future tense so you can employ that one-trick pony "I'll try and remember". You dumb ass.

find funny - more an idiom, but at least I must call to question some pretense in the insistance upon 'I find that funny...I don't find that funny'. These days, I guess 'that's funny' is just too dogmatic for our sensitive society, or maybe the slightly apologetic 'I think that's funny' is just too Casual Friday. We have to put on our little owl glasses and 'find it funny' or 'find it offensive'. When I pulled back the drapes, there it was. I found it. And then, I LOL'd.

Corporate environment memes

pivot - This word is being used a lot lately. Can't wait for society to pivot on to something less annoying.

caveat - Some people just have to spoil everything, now don't they? Just when I'm getting my enthusiasm going, the speaker let's me know there's a caveat. I don't mind said caveat, but did they have to invoke the caveat meme? I'm not sure why, but it seems to circulate around some people more than others and they use it up. But, can I suggest a better alternative? Well...

having said that - Now, having said that, I don't have an alternative to saying 'caveat' other than maybe 'catch' or 'downside' which are both kind of jargony.  Now, having said that, let's stop saying 'having said that'. Not because it's contradictory; rather because it's annoying as hell.

in a timely manner - If I see this phrase one more time, my anus is going to become like a black hole and vacuum in everything, perhaps not all at once, but certainly in a timely manner.

fair enough - middle management loves this one

 (a legitimate expression, but in the hands of the wrong idiot, it becomes a weapon)

utilize - unless you're discussing plant food, just say 'use', or I'll utilize a club on the back of your skull.

Gesture Memes

I've opened a can of worms here, and this could be the start of a long list. So, here goes.

The act of snorting when laughing -  I realize that most people might regard this phenomenon as an involuntary act or parasympathetic accompaniment, and at first glance it's perhaps endearing and comical. However, I recently encountered one who snorts while laughing with abandon and later spoke of it openly and with pride, justifying it as a sign of their intellect. I have witnessed the same unapologetic snortering before, and I can only conclude that either they truly cannot control their snorting, that their parents might have told them it's a sign of intelligence, OR that snorting while laughing is a learned affectation that they choose to embrace and flaunt to deliberately project eccentricity. I immediately think of the Tappet brothers from Car Talk on NPR, who are both funny and smart snort-laughers.  I don't think I've ever heard either of them say 'I know, right', but it's been a while since I listened. Maybe I'm being unfair, but my tendency is to associate it with people who want not only to be perceived as intelligent, but possibly as a chip on the shoulder, as though to say 'I snort when I laugh and I don't care what you think about me' or 'If you really love me, you'll continue to accept me even though I snort when I laugh'. I'm not saying that people can't accidentally snort when laughing, but when it's chronic, I suspect that someone either had a competitive sibling rivalry or that their parents passed it down as a family party trick. I say it's only slightly dignified when it's done on purpose as a character à la Lily Tomlin. Otherwise, it's a lot like being locked in a car on a road trip with someone who has smelly feet. If it's any sign of intellect, I'm raising a red flag on the E.Q.

The Ernie laugh - This is not my video, but it wasn't hard to find:

 The fist bump - I've waxed on about the fist bump in another entry. If I start rattling on about memes and gestures associated with various cultures, I'll be needing a diaper and an IV, and I'm afraid someone might send a sniper my way. When I say 'cultures', no doubt that can include not only ethnicities or races, but also specific trades or environments. Any collective tends to take on behavioral characteristics - just think of 'artists' or 'musicians' or 'engineers'.  But, I must say, I encounter some cultures a lot more than others, and some cultures really demand not only acceptance but a right to take a dump on the floor right in front of me (a lot like the aforementioned smelly feet road trip).

to be honest with you
"to be ahness wichoo" - This one made a mark on me when a guy delivered my washing machine, and now, to be ahness wichoo, I can't stop using it. I'm including this one under gestures because the expression goes best with the chin pose.

Wussup muh Nilla? To be ahhness wichoo, not much these days. Word to yuh mu-thuh.

To be honess wichoo, dissizz not da bess chin pose, but it beats out Nilla's.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Facebook the Most Dangerous Social Tool For Businesses

One third of small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) experienced a malware or virus infection via social networks through July of this year, and 23 percent actually lost sensitive data via these networks, according to Panda Security’s first annual Social Media Risk Index. Thirty-five percent of the respondents that were infected by malware from social networking sites suffered a financial loss, with more than a third of those companies reporting losses in excess of $5,000.Social Media Risk Index

According to the survey, SMBs’ top concerns with social media include privacy and data loss (74 percent), malware infections (69 percent), employee productivity loss (60 percent), reputation damage (50 percent), and network performance/utilization problems (29 percent). However, these concerns are not deterring SMBs from utilizing social media in business situations. Seventy-eight percent use these tools to support research and competitive intelligence, improve customer service, drive public relations and marketing initiatives or directly generate revenue.

Facebook: Top Source for Malware Infections

Facebook is by far the most popular social media tool among SMBs, with 69 percent of respondents reporting that they have active accounts with this site, followed by Twitter (44 percent), YouTube (32 percent) and LinkedIn (23 percent).

Facebook is also the top culprit for companies that experienced malware infection (71.6 percent) and privacy violations, e.g. the leaking of sensitive company information (73.2 percent). YouTube took the second spot for malware infection (41.2 percent), while Twitter contributed to a significant number of privacy violations (51 percent). For companies suffering financial losses from employee privacy violations, Facebook was again cited as the most common social media site where these losses occurred (62 percent), followed by Twitter (38 percent), YouTube (24 percent) and LinkedIn (11 percent).

Restrictive Social Media Policies Common

To minimize the risks associated with social media, 57 percent of SMBs currently have a social media governance policy in place, with 81 percent of these companies employing personnel to actively enforce those policies. This figure is in surprising contrast to larger organizations, only 40 percent of which have such policies according to the 2011 Global State of Information Security Study by CIO, CSO and PricewaterhouseCoopers. In addition, 64 percent of the SMBs reported having formal training programs to educate employees on the risks and benefits of social media.

The majority of respondents (62 percent) do not allow the personal use of social media at work. The most common disallowed activities include playing games (32 percent), publishing inappropriate content on social media sites (31 percent) and installing unapproved applications (25 percent). In addition, 25 percent of companies said that they actively block popular social media sites for employees, mainly via a gateway appliance (65 percent) and/or hosted Web security service (45 percent).

What should companies do?

Alex Thurber, SVP Worldwide Channel Operations for McAfee's Mid Market business suggests that companies give employees the tools use social media responsibly. "Although users can’t trust every link that people post or control, companies can put forward best practices to arm employees with the tools they need to be productive and safe. Between this type of education, and technology that can block dangerous links and applications, Web 2.0 can be used safely for business," writes Thurber.

Israeli Hydrogen Car Tech

"With our solution, we have solved the three major problems that have faced hydrogen fuel technology -- size of tank, its safety and lightweight storage," Stern said.

The company, called to have developed prototypes that store double the amount of hydrogen of currently available tanks.

The new tank, say C.En, would weigh 50 kg (110 pounds) and run a vehicle for 600 km (373 miles).

Under the hood with C.En’s hydrogen gas storage technology

Moshe Stern, head of C.En (Clean Energy)
C.En Ltd.
Mr. Moshe Stern, +972-3-613-8588
President and C.E.O
Prof. Dan Eliezer, +972-3-612-4616
V.P. and Chief Scientist

Collection of articles from 2006-2010:

Friday, February 03, 2006

February 1, 2008
Israeli-led venture develops auto hydrogen fuel tank

April 24, 2008
Israeli invention could pave way for hydrogen cars

June 2009
Hydrogen Storage Technology Developer C.En Ltd. Appoints World-Renowned Russian Scientist Prof. E.P. Velikhov Honorary President

August 2009
Hydrogen Technologies in Israel

November 24, 2009
C.En Ltd. Completes Financing Round with Generali Group

April 18, 2010
Hydrogen still in the eco-car race

Apr 24th 2010
Israeli researchers develop small, lightweight hydrogen storage tech

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Things You See...


I noticed a writing spider over the bay window, then another at the foot of the door a few days later, which I put on top of my porch light hoping it would build a web to catch bugs at night. Initially, it started a web right over the door and I had to move it a couple of times. This morning, I found that it had spun a web right where I had hoped.

It's not that I necessarily think that the spider will control the bug problem, but it sets up an obvious and compelling potential and it represents hope for prosperity. If only spiders would eat feral cats.

I also saw two praying mantises...mantes...mantids on my door - wiki says the mating season begins in autumn.

Click to zoom for detail:

Artificial skin

Biotech wizards have engineered electronic skin that can sense touch, in a major step towards next-generation robotics and prosthetic limbs.

The lab-tested material responds to almost the same pressures as human skin and with the same speed, they reported in the British journal Nature Materials.

Important hurdles remain but the exploit is an advance towards replacing today's clumsy robots and artificial arms with smarter, touch-sensitive upgrades, they believe.

"Humans generally know how to hold a fragile egg without breaking it," said Ali Javey, an associate professor of computer sciences at the University of California at Berkeley, who led one of the research teams.

"If we ever wanted a robot that could unload the dishes, for instance, we'd want to make sure it doesn't break the wine glasses in the process. But we'd also want the robot to grip the stock pot without dropping it."

The "e-skin" made by Javey's team comprises a matrix of nanowires made of germanium and silicon rolled onto a sticky polyimide film.

The team then laid nano-scale transistors on top, followed by a flexible, pressure-sensitive rubber. The prototype, measuring 49 square centimetres (7.6 square inches), can detect pressure ranging from 0 to 15 kilopascals, comparable to the force used for such daily activities as typing on a keyboard or holding an object.

A different approach was taken by a team led by Zhenan Bao, a Chinese-born associate professor at Stanford University in California who has gained a reputation as one of the top women chemists in the United States.

Their approach was to use a rubber film that changes thickness due to pressure, and employs capacitors, integrated into the material, to measure the difference. It cannot be stretched, though.

"Our response time is comparable with human skin, it's very, very fast, within milliseconds, or thousandths of a second," Bao told AFP. "That means in real terms that we can feel the pressure instantaneously."

The achievements are "important milestones" in artificial intelligence, commented John Boland, a nanoscientist at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, who hailed in particular the use of low-cost processing components.

In the search to substitute the human senses with electronics, good substitutes now exist for sight and sound, but lag for smell and taste.

Touch, though, is widely acknowledged to be the biggest obstacle.

Even routine daily actions, such as brushing one's teeth, turning the pages of a newspaper or dressing a small child would easily defeat today's robots.

Bao added important caveats about the challenges ahead.

One is about improving the new sensors. They respond to constant pressure, whereas in human skin more complex sensations are possible.

This is because the pressure-sensing cells in the skin can send different frequencies of signal -- for instance, when we feel something painful or sharp, the frequency increases, alerting us to the threat.

In addition, Bao warned, "connecting the artificial skin with the human nerve system will be a very challenging task".

"Ultimately, in the very distant future, we would like to make a skin which performs really like human skin and to be able to connect it to nerve cells on the arm and thus restore sensation.

"Initially, the prototype that we envision would be more like a handheld device, or maybe a device that connects to other parts of the body that have skin sensation.

"The device would generate a pulse that would stimulate other parts of the skin, giving the kind of signal 'my (artificial) hand is touching something', for instance."

In the future, artificial skin could be studded with sensors that respond to chemicals, biological agents, temperature, humidity, radioactivity or pollutants.

"This would be especially useful in applications where we want to send robots into environments, including space, where it could be dangerous for humans to go," said Bao. "They could collect information and send it back."

Series: Character Formation in Different Cultures

Gregory Bateson: "No organism can afford to be conscious of matters with which it could deal at unconscious levels."

Trance and Dance in Bali
(22 min.)

Trance and Dance in Bali is a short documentary film shot by Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson during their visits to Bali in the 1930s. The film was not released until 1952. In 1999 the film was deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Records a performance of the Balinese ceremonial kris (dagger) dance-drama, which depicts the never-ending struggle between witch (death-dealing) and dragon (life-protecting), as it was given in the village of Pagoetan in the late 1930s. The dancers experience violent trance seizures, turn their krises against their breasts without injury, and are restored to consciousness with incense and holy water. Narrated by Margaret Mead against a background of Balinese music. From the Character Formation in Different Cultures series. Produced by Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead.
Release in 1952
Runtime: 22 min
Country: USA
Color: Black and White
Filming Locations: Bali, Indonesia

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Description of filming and process here:

White Knuckles

April Lawton

Danny Cotter from Time Toy showed me this...

Listen to "Breathless", written and performed by April Lawton:

April was apparently the lead guitar in a band called Ramatam, which featured Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience on drums. Died in 2006 at age 58 of heart failure.

Some of her work is in the Smithsonian:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wisdom Teeth contain stemcells for self-treatment

For most people, wisdom teeth are not much more than an annoyance that eventually needs to be removed. However, a new study appearing in the September 17 Journal of Biological Chemistry shows that wisdom teeth contain a valuable reservoir of tissue for the creation of stem cells; thus, everyone might be carrying around his or her own personal stem-cell repository should he or she ever need some.
Click here to find out more!

Groundbreaking research back in 2006 revealed that inducing the activity of four genes in adult cells could "reprogram" them back into a stem-cell-like state; biologically, these induced-pluripotent stem cells are virtually identical to embryonic stem cells, opening up a new potential avenue for stem-cell therapy whereby patients could be treated with their own stem cells.

However, despite their promise, making iPS cells is not easy; the reprogramming efficiencies are very low and vary among the cells that can be used for iPS generation and thus require good amount of "starter" cells - which might involve difficult extraction from body tissue (unfortunately skin cells, the easiest to acquire, show very low reprogramming efficiency).

Now, a team of scientists at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology may have found an ideal source: third molars, commonly known as wisdom teeth.

The soft pulp inside of teeth contains a population of cells known as mesenchymal stromal cells that are similar to cells found in bone marrow, a common stem-cell source. However, unlike bone marrow, tooth pulp is more easily obtained, especially in wisdom teeth, which most individuals have removed anyway.

The researchers, led by Hajime Ohgushi, collected tooth samples from three donors and managed to generate a series of iPS cell lines following the similar procedure of activating three key genes (however, in another beneficial change they did not have activate the c-MYC gene which might lead the cells to become cancerous).

The different cell lines displayed varying degrees of robustness but in some cases proliferated quite well, up to 100 times more efficiently than typical skin-cell-derived iPS cells. The molar-derived cells also could differentiate into many other cell types including beating cardiomyocytes (see an attached movie), as expected.

The presence of a supply of MSCs in wisdom teeth could have meaningful therapeutic ramifications. As noted by the researchers and others, wisdom tooth extraction is a common medical procedure in developed nations and, thus, creates a perfect opportunity to remove biological material in a sterilized setting; the teeth subsequently can be frozen and stored for many years until needed. In the meantime, that also provides time for researchers to better understand the details of iPS creation to further increase the efficiency for clinical use.

Derek Riggs interview, portfolio




Friday, September 10, 2010

New York Times vs. Wall Street Journal

High dynamic range imaging

Soviet Montage Productions releases information on the first true High Dynamic Range (HDR) video using DSLRs

San Francisco, CA, September 9, 2010: Soviet Montage Productions demonstrated today the first true HDR video sourced from multiple exposures. Unlike HDR timelapse videos that only capture a few frames per minute, true HDR video can capture 24 or more frames per second of multiple exposure footage. Using common DSLRs, the team was able to composite multiple HD video streams into a single video with an exposure gamut much greater than any on the market today. They are currently using this technology to produce an upcoming film.