Friday, October 29, 2010

Electric Car Drives 375 Miles at 55 mph, Recharges In 6 Minutes

By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield

We all know that battery packs are the weakest link in electric vehicles. Not only are they heavy and expensive, but they take a long time to recharge and on average can only provide around 100 miles per charge.

A German-based company has changed all that with a new vehicle capable of driving up to 375 miles at moderate highway speeds.

That’s roughly the equivalent of driving from Santa Barbara, CA to the Hoover Dam, without a recharge.

It doesn’t end there. The company responsible for the battery pack, DBM Energy, claims a battery pack efficiency of 97 percent and a recharge time of around 6 minutes when charged from a direct current source.

Unlike the small Daihatsu which was heavily modified by a team in Japan earlier this year that achieved a massive 623 miles on a charge at around 27 mph, the Audi A2 modified by DBM Energy was able to achieve its 375 miles range at an average speed of 55 mph.

In contrast to the Japanese Daihatsu which had just one seat to enable more batteries to be squeezed into its diminutive frame, the DBM A2 retained its four original seats.

At the end of the historic drive, DBM’s CEO Mirko Hannemann, who has been driving the car for around seven hours between the German cities of Munich and Berlin even offered to charge up the cellphones of the waiting journalists with the remaining power left in the car.

Funded as part of a joint venture between German utility company Lekker Energie and the German Economy Ministry, the prototype battery offers a glimpse into the future of the electric car.

Don’t think for a second that this is a one-off battery pack. DBM’s battery technology, called KOLIBRI AlphaPolymer, is already in use in the unglamorous role of warehouses, where forklift trucks running on the same battery pack are capable of 28 hours of continuous operation before recharging is required.

We’re always a little cautious of battery technologies offering ultra-fast recharge and a magnitude of range improvement on other battery chemistry types, but everything we’ve seen and heard from DBM Energy thus far points to a battery technology we’re all keen to watch.

Could this be the future of electric vehicles? Is it ready?

If the battery technology is truly as revolutionary as this impressive journey hints and the battery packs from DBM are ready for the arduous duties of daily abuse at the hands of electric car drivers worldwide it is conceivable that this could be the answer to range anxiety.

Even more, dare we suggest it, the conventional combustion engined car may have met its match.

Only time will tell.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

China claims #1 Supercomputer


China's system is 47% faster than the U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory's machine:

1.7 Pflops (U.S. ORNL system) to 2.5 Pflops (Chinese system)

China claims supercomputer crown

China has claimed the top spot on the list of the world's supercomputers.

The title has gone to China's Tianhe-1A supercomputer that is capable of carrying out more than 2.5 thousand trillion calculations a second.

To reach such high speeds the machine draws on more than 7,000 graphics processors and 14,000 Intel chips.

The claim to be the fastest machine on the planet has been ratified by the Top 500 Organisation which maintains a list of the most powerful machines.
High power

China's Tianhe-1A (Milky Way) has taken over the top spot from America's XT5 Jaguar at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee that can carry out only 1.75 petaflops per second. One petaflop is the equivalent of 1,000 trillion calculations per second.

The news about the machine broke just before the publication of the biennial Top 500 Supercomputer list which ranks the world's most powerful machines.

Prof Jack Dongarra from the University of Tennessee, one of the computer scientists who helps to compile the list, said China's claim was legitimate.

"This is all true," he told BBC News. "I was in China last week and talked with the designers, saw the system, and verified the results."

He added: "I would say it's 47% faster than the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's machine, 1.7 Pflops (ORNL system) to 2.5 Pflops (Chinese system)."

Tianhe-1A is unusual in that it unites thousands of Intel processors with thousands of graphics cards made by Nvidia.

The chips inside graphics cards are typically made up of small arithmetical units that can carry out simple sums very quickly. By contrast, Intel chips are typically used to carry out more complicated mathematical operations.

The machine houses its processors in more than 100 fridge-sized cabinets and together these weigh more than 155 tonnes.

Based in China's National Center for Supercomputing in the city of Tianjin, the computer has already started to do work for the local weather service and the National Offshore Oil Corporation.

Ask the Author Live: Bob Mankoff on Cartoons

Thanks to Gregory Kogan for this link:

The New Yorker:
Robert Mankoff will be joining us shortly. For now, please submit your questions.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 2:56 The New Yorker

[Comment From GuestGuest: ]
Are the entries to the cartoon kit still being judged?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:00 Guest

Robert Mankoff:
We have a temporary hiatus on the cartoon kit so for now they are not being judged. I feel there were some flaws in it that led to a lot random fooling around with the images which often got people into incongruity cul de sacs they couldn't get out of.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:01 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Andy BroomeAndy Broome: ]
What tips and guidelines would you give to a cartoonist ready to submit a batch of art to you for submission?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:01 Andy Broome

Robert Mankoff:
Do lots of cartoons for each batch - 8-10 and don't get discouraged if you don't sell a cartoon on the first, second or 92nd attempt. I tried for 2 years before I got published.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:02 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From paprikapinkpaprikapink: ]
I have been enjoying New Yorker cartoons since before I could read. I absolutely love them. My only wish is that they were a little more reflective of the world I actually live in -- where the default person isn't always white.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:03 paprikapink

Robert Mankoff:
That is an excellent point. The default person does tend to be white and really all of our staff cartoonists are also. But the fact is there are very few magazine cartoonists at all and even fewer at The New Yorker than in the world at large. One cartoonist who does regularly have people of color in his cartoons is William Haeflie.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:04 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Farhad ManjooFarhad Manjoo: ]
Hi. I've asked thousands of people on Twitter to explain this Oct. 25, 2010, cartoon, and nobody gets it. Can you tell me the joke or reference? I'm stumped!
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:05 Farhad Manjoo

Robert Mankoff:
I can't see the cartoon so I don't know which one you are referring to but that is the case with some of our cartoons. That's why we have a feature, sometimes, in the cartoon issue called " I don't get it". Still our intention is not to be arcane and obscure.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:06 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From TobyToby: ]
What's changed for cartooning, and cartooning at the New Yorker, since you began at the magazine?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:06 Toby

Robert Mankoff:
I think there has been a gradual change in the type of humor in the cartoons that is in line with the evolution of humor style in general towards a more accesseble joke. Also, many cartoons in the past had people saying funny things in them but they themselves did not think they were funny. We observed it from the outside. Now, as in sit-com everyone has a one liner ready and they are aware of it.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:09 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From GuestGuest: ]
Do you need somebody to sort through the entries to the cartoon kit and eliminate the "chaff" before they are passed along to the cartoon editing dept.?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:09 Guest

Robert Mankoff:
Yes, someone sorts though both the entries to the cartoon kit and the caption contest. Actually the kit was much harder because all the images were different and had to be looked at individually versus the caption contest where we can just go through the thousands of caption fairly quickly ( still takes a couple of days)
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:10 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Andy BroomeAndy Broome: ]
Can a cartoonist submitting for the first time mail in cartoons or should he/she drop off in person or is there another method?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:11 Andy Broome

Robert Mankoff:
It's probably best to mail in but use copies not the original artwork. We do go through everything and try not to misplace anything but it happens.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:11 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From LevLev: ]
How did the current form of the New Yorker cartoon come to be, and would you say there is a form or template that you use?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:12 Lev

Robert Mankoff:
That's a long story. Funny too if you include the cartoons. The best treatment in the former cartoon editor Lee Lorenz's book " The Art of The New Yorker"
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:13 Robert Mankoff

Robert Mankoff:
At the present time the cartoonists both do the drawing and the caption. In the 30's and 40's it was often a team with a gag writer and an artist. For example, most of Peter Arno's captions were created by gag writers. Not all but most. We don't run a cartoon without a caption if the cartoonist had one but sometimes we take it off and use if for the caption contest.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:15 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Rob HollandRob Holland: ]
New Yorker is famous for its cartoons. Why do you think so few other magazines compete with you? Have you sucked up all the talent?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:15 Rob Holland

Robert Mankoff:
There is a lot of un-sucked up talent out there on the internet. I think a lot of magazines stopped using cartoons when they got taken over by art directors who couldn't find a place for them and had no sense of humor. Fortunately for The New Yorker it was part of our DNA from the start and remains so. I wish there was more competition.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:17 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From readerreader: ]
Is there a balance between being timely about the news in cartoons and still being timeless—are funny, say, political cartoons always funny, or do they depend on their context?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:17 reader

Robert Mankoff:
The more topical the cartoon the easier it is to make a joke about it. Just like it's easier for a person to get a laugh by referring to something personal that has happened to him or her among friends. We like both kinds of cartoons and both can be greater but the most enduring ones are those that are not tied to a particular moment.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:18 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Tal AlmogTal Almog: ]
I agree, I think people ended up trying to write captions to the cartoon kit in order to "justify drawings"---it's a result of the added degree of freedom that the kit gives you.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:19 Tal Almog

Robert Mankoff:
I think we created to much freedom. Maybe in the next iteration fewer characters and no ability to distort them.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:19 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From DorothyDorothy: ]
What is your favorite Leo Cullum cartoon? And sorry about your loss.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:19 Dorothy

Robert Mankoff:
So many favorites I cannot say. He was a wonderful guy and a great cartoonist. The loss is for everyone but his cartoons will still bring joy for decades to come
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:20 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Tal AlmogTal Almog: ]
It's Cotham's cartoon about the plane back to Ohioi
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:21 Tal Almog

Robert Mankoff:
Right, I think that was originally a topical cartoon that is no longer and honestly right now I forget the topic. A mistake.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:21 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Susan MurphySusan Murphy: ]
Are you surprised by how little people commented, voted, or otherwise gave you and each other feedback during the contest?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:22 Susan Murphy

Robert Mankoff:
Which contest?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:22 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From from Russia with lovefrom Russia with love: ]
What is the future of the single panel cartoons without captions? Will they disappear from the magazine eventually?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:22 from Russia with love

Robert Mankoff:
Hello Russia! There used to be a lot more cartoons that had no caption. The joke was purely visual. In fact the first 8 cartoons I had published in The New Yorker were like that. It seems to be a lost art although we still have cartoonists like John O'Brien who can do it.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:23 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Andy BroomeAndy Broome: ]
Are all the current cartoonist for the magazine freelancers or are there any staff or contract cartoonists?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:24 Andy Broome

Robert Mankoff:
Some staff and many freelancers.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:24 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Luis PomboLuis Pombo: ]
Hi Bob, I would like to know what do you think about the new technologies like ipad, kindle, etc. And how has it worked the Animated Cartoon? Best from Mexico City.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:24 Luis Pombo

Robert Mankoff:
I think all the new technologies are great including animating the cartoons. One thing you've got to remember is that cartooning is fun and fun for people to see but it is also a business and needs a viable business model to support it. While I for the most part prefer non-animated versions of the New Yorker cartoons the animated version are much better to advertise on.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:26 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From GuestGuest: ]
What kinds of submissions do you immediately reject?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:26 Guest

Robert Mankoff:
A cartoon has to fit within the context of the New Yorker. At a comedy club obscenity might be ok and even funny. In The New Yorker it is not.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:27 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Larry Van CleveLarry Van Cleve: ]
If we send in copies for submission is it necessary to include a stamped return envelope? Or is that standard practice?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:28 Larry Van Cleve

Robert Mankoff:
Include the stamped self addressed envelope
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:28 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From BobBob: ]
What is your favourite ancedote about Leo Cullum? I will miss his humour
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:29 Bob

Robert Mankoff:
Jack Ziegler, the great New Yorker cartoonist sent me this rememberance of Leo

Well, it was always a surprise to run into Leo. He'd just show up from his perch 3000 miles away, flying in at the drop of a hat to various events & non-events. In the pre-Nyer days I'd run into him on the street, and a long, long time ago we traded drawings - both were pieces rightfully rejected from everywhere - his to me being a drawing of a toilet bowl thinking vile thoughts - and I think mine to him might have involved the Pope involved in some sort of rude situation. I asked him once how pilots dealt with flying to the west coast in late afternoon into the sunset and he said, " Aw, we just cover the windshield (if that's what it's called) with newspapers and put the damn thing on autopilot."
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:29 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From KimKim: ]
how far ahead are your selections made
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:29 Kim

Robert Mankoff:
Sometimes the cartoons we select run the next week. Sometimes the next month and every once in a while the next year.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:30 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Tal AlmogTal Almog: ]
Is there any chance we'll see any of Leo Cullum's yet-unpublished cartoons appear posthumously?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:30 Tal Almog

Robert Mankoff:
Probably. Two are in the upcoming issue.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:30 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Ross NoverRoss Nover: ]
What feedback is there from the audience when a particular cartoon is or isn't appreciated?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:31 Ross Nover

Robert Mankoff:
Hi Ross.
The feedback is often in the form of disliking the cartoon because it doesn't meet present day standards of "political correctness". People often confuse the farce in cartoons with reality.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:32 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From DaveDave: ]
I know about Cartoon Bank, but, I am interested in buying original NYer cartoon art. Do cartoonists, like yourself, Barsotti, Maslin sell art through art galleries? Sometimes I see Whitney Darrow art on Ebay, I wish I saw more.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:32 Dave

Robert Mankoff:
Original art can be purchased sometimes directly through the artist or if you see it online at The Cartoon Bank through Sarah Walker Martin who handles that for them.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:33 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From JessJess: ]
Do your artists feel limited by black and white?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:33 Jess

Robert Mankoff:
I don't think so. Everyone once in a while a cartoon demands color for the joke to be understood or better understood but for the most part color is a distraction. Harold Ross, the first editor of The New Yorker when asked why the cartoons didn't use color answered " What's so funny about red?"
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:35 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From joeyjoey: ]
How many submissions did you have to ween down to chose a few to feature as longer strips in the Cartoon Issue?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:35 joey

Robert Mankoff:
Not as many as for the regular cartoons but for which there are many hundreds but a goodly number
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:36 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Susan MurphySusan Murphy: ]
What most salient thing have you and the NYer learned from the kit contest?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:36 Susan Murphy

Robert Mankoff:
Less is more. Not so many options which led to too much dragging and dropping and distortion of images and not enough thinking about what the actual joke would be.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:37 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Tal AlmogTal Almog: ]
I think the idea was that the Ohio character is completely passive, and "this isn't working out" is completely unilateral----she has to "put him on a plane" (as a passive entity) back to Ohio. The joke is about things "not working out" completely unilaterally. Or perhaps I'm over-analyzing as usual!
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:37 Tal Almog

Robert Mankoff:
No that's not it. It was a topical cartoon. Maybe about some kid who the father was trying to get back from another country. Totally blanking on this now but I'm sure that was it. We forgot to run it and then did which was a mistake.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:38 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From TEDTED: ]
Do you find most cartoonists to be funny in person, and what gives cartoonists a different kind of humor, than, comedians or performers?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:38 TED

Robert Mankoff:
Some cartoonists are funny in person, but many are sort of shy and save their humor for the cartoons. However, even if they are shy and not "on" talking to any of them for a while will bring out the humor that everyone sees in their work.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:40 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From ReillyReilly: ]
Do you ever match cartoons to editorial content from a particular issue?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:40 Reilly

Robert Mankoff:
No. Never.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:40 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From DustinDustin: ]
Do you ever catch people reading the magazine and laughing at a cartoon on the train, or in the park or some other public place?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:40 Dustin

Robert Mankoff:
Maybe smiling. People rarely laugh when they are alone of alone among others as on a train. When the last time you saw someone laugh to himself on a train? Usually will cause people to switch seats.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:41 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From GuestGuest: ]
How many cartoons do you personally complete per day or week?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:41 Guest

Robert Mankoff:
When I was not cartoon editor, I used to do about 3 a day.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:42 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From guestguest: ]
Is there a reason the New Yorker doesn't seem to run cartoons about actual people, but rather ones that refer to events more obliquely?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:42 guest

Robert Mankoff:
That's just our style in which the cartoons are not directly editorial but deal with almost all issues with how it affects the individual. I think it makes for a deeper type of humor. Certainly one that is less partisan
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:43 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From MimiMimi: ]
Do you prefer that freelance cartoonists submit cartoons via snail mail, or is sending by e-mail acceptable? If e-mail is acceptable, would you share the e-mail address to use?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:44 Mimi

Robert Mankoff:
Use the snail.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:44 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From DaveDave: ]
Does your personality resemble the NY'er cartoon editor in the Seinfeld episode?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:44 Dave

Robert Mankoff:
I'm cuter.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:44 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From GuestGuest: ]
How large are your original cartoons before they go into the magazine?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:45 Guest

Robert Mankoff:
There usually on about 8.5 X 11.5 paper
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:45 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Nick L.Nick L.: ]
How do you ensure that you don't publish cartoons that are very similar to ones from two or twenty-five years ago?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:46 Nick L.

Robert Mankoff:
We have a library with all the previous cartoons both in books and in an electronic database. When we select cartoons we run them against these references to see if they are too similar to ones that have run before. Every once in a while one slips by but rarely. We do our very best to see that doesnt happen
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:47 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Tal AlmogTal Almog: ]
Is there any kind of internal "blacklist", i.e. certain names who's submissions you don't bother reviewing because they've already sent in too many poor ones? I haven't submitted cartoons for about two years, but was just hoping my name wasn't on such a list if it exists! :-)
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:47 Tal Almog

Robert Mankoff:
No blacklist or even a dark gray one.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:48 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Rob HollandRob Holland: ]
Give us a thumbnail of Roz Chast.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:48 Rob Holland

Robert Mankoff:
You can learn a lot about Roz through her cartoons.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:49 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From ThePromenaderThePromenader: ]
The New Yorker brand of humour is one that I've seen almost nowhere in the US (I can even compare it to artists such as Sempé here in France) - and I fear that it is becoming a dying breed. Will you persist in maintaining the New Yorker's humouristic tone?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:49 ThePromenader

Robert Mankoff:
Vive La New Yorker brand of humor! We will not only endure, we will prevail.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:50 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Russia with loveRussia with love: ]
How many cartoons a day you make to keep you in shape?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:50 Russia with love

Robert Mankoff:
I try to jog while cartooning so I keep in double shape.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:50 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From GuestGuest: ]
What are your thoughts on the Seinfeld episode about New Yorker cartoons? (I know this goes back a few years, but still...)
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:50 Guest

Robert Mankoff:
The episode was great and was written by one of our cartoonists, Bruce Eric Kaplan (BEK). I love the part where the cartoon editor playing me explaining to Elaine the cartoon says " It's gossamer Elaine, you can't explain gossamer" I always use that line when I'm stuck also. And now that I realize it that Cotham cartoon no one got is "gossamer"
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:52 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From ZackZack: ]
It is possible to submit cartoons to the mag, even if you don't live in USA?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:52 Zack

Robert Mankoff:
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:52 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Krishn KaushikKrishn Kaushik: ]
How do you come up with cartoon ideas, upto 3 a day? I am an amateur cartoonist (really like just beginner) and it's tough to think of even one per day. How many sketches does it take you to reach your final product?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:53 Krishn Kaushik

Robert Mankoff:
It's like pushups. You maybe can do only a few when you start and then you build u p to it gradually. The first ideas are the hardest to get and then ideas beget more ideas. My book " The Naked Cartoonists" has a few chapters on it.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:54 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From DarinDarin: ]
Do you create the cartoon for the caption contest?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:54 Darin

Robert Mankoff:
Different cartoonists do. I've done a few.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:54 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From HolsteinHolstein: ]
Do you think any of the characters from current contributors could become a spin off for a movie or TV show?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:54 Holstein

Robert Mankoff:
Roz Chast's would be the most likely.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:54 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From tod formantod forman: ]
how do you choose what kind of cartoon makes the best front cover?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:55 tod forman

Robert Mankoff:
I don't do the covers. That's handled by our brilliant cover editor Francoise Mouly.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:55 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From GuestGuest: ]
Where is the snail address located?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:55 Guest

Robert Mankoff:
The Conde Nast Building
4 Times Square, 20th Floor, NY, NY, 10036
ATT: Robert Mankoff, Cartoon Editor
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:56 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From GuestGuest: ]
Is there a particular size submissions should be?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:56 Guest

Robert Mankoff:
Normal letter size is fine
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:57 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From kimkim: ]
I'm interested in hearing more about the selection process-do interns make the first cut? Does everyone get looked at?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:57 kim

Robert Mankoff:
Everyone gets looked at. No interns but my assistant looks at everything and gives me what she thinks might be worthwhile. I also periodically look at everything.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:57 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From JocelynJocelyn: ]
Someone may have already asked this but I am always curious to know what the cartoonist's ctptions would be/are for the Caption contest -it would be interesting to know what the cartoonist had in mind no?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:58 Jocelyn

Robert Mankoff:
Sometimes they have captions and when they do that caption is also always one that is one of the ones that are entered
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:58 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From ReaderReader: ]
Are there any successful cartoonist teams? My only hope of ever being a cartoonist would be to find someone else to do the drawing half.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:58 Reader

Robert Mankoff:
There have been in the past so don't give up hope.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:59 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From Krishn KaushikKrishn Kaushik: ]
I am a graduate student at Columbia School of Journalism. I really love cartoons and would like to do a profile on you. DO you think it could be possible that I can meet you for it?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:59 Krishn Kaushik

Robert Mankoff:
Sure call my office and we'll arrange it.
Wednesday October 27, 2010 3:59 Robert Mankoff

[Comment From paprikapinkpaprikapink: ]
How can I know you're not a dog?
Wednesday October 27, 2010 4:00 paprikapink

Robert Mankoff:
By my breeding. Good reference. Peter Steiner will appreciate it. Signing off now. It's been fun
Wednesday October 27, 2010 4:00 Robert Mankoff

Dream recording device 'possible' researcher claims

A US researcher has said he plans to electronically record and interpret dreams.

Writing in the journal Nature
, researchers said they have developed a system capable of recording higher-level brain activity.

"We would like to read people's dreams," says the lead scientist Dr Moran Cerf.

The aim is not to interlope, but to extend our understanding of how and why people dream.

For centuries, people have been fascinated by dreams and what they might mean; in ancient Egypt for example, they were thought to be messages from the gods.

More recently, dream analysis has been used by psychologists as a tool to understand the unconscious mind. But the only way to interpret dreams was to ask people about the subject of their dreams after they had woken up.

The eventual aim of Dr Cerf's project is to develop a system that would enable psychologists to corroborate people's recollections of their dream with an electronic visualisation of their brain activity.

"There's no clear answer as to why humans dream," according to Dr Cerf. "And one of the questions we would like to answer is when do we actually create this dream?"

Dr Cerf makes his bold claim based on an initial study that he says suggests that the activity of individual brain cells, or neurons, are associated with specific objects or concepts.

He found, for example, that when a volunteer was thinking of Marilyn Monroe, a particular neuron lit up.

By showing volunteers a series of images, Dr Cerf and his colleagues were able to identify neurons for a wide range of objects and concepts - which they used to build up a database for each patient. These included Bill and Hilary Clinton, the Eiffel Tower and celebrities.

So by observing which brain cell lit up and when, Dr Cerf says he was effectively able to "read the subjects' minds".
Dream catcher

He admits that there is a very long way to go before this simple observation can be translated into a device to record dreams - a "dream catcher". But he thinks it is a possibility - and he said he would like to try.

The next stage is to monitor the brain activity of the volunteers when they are sleeping.

The researchers will only be able to identify images or concepts that correlate with those stored on their database. But this data base could in theory be built up - by for example monitoring neuronal activity while the volunteer is watching a film.

Dr Roderick Oner, a clinical psychologist and dream expert, believes that while this kind of limited visualisation might be of academic interest, it will not really help in the interpretation of dreams or be of use in therapy.

"For that you need the entire complex dream narrative," he said.

Another difficulty with the technique is that to get the kind of resolution needed to monitor individual neurons, subjects had to have electrodes surgically implanted deep inside their brain.

In the Nature study, the researchers obtained their results by studying patients who had electrodes implanted to monitor and treat them for brain seizures.
Translating thoughts

But Dr Cerf believes that sensor technology is developing at such a pace that eventually it might be possible to monitor brain activity in this way without invasive surgery. If this were to happen it would open up a range of possibilities.

"It would be wonderful to read people's minds where they cannot communicate, such as people in comas," said Dr Cerf.

There have been attempts to create machine interfaces before that aim to translate thoughts into instructions to control computers or machines.

But in the main these have tried to tap into areas of the brain involved in controlling movement. Dr Cerf's system monitors higher level areas of the brain and can potentially identify abstract concepts.

"We can sail with our imaginations and think about all the things we could do if we had access to a person's brain and basically visualise their thoughts.

"For example, instead of just having to write an email you could just think it. Or another futuristic application would be to think a flow of information and have it written in front of your eyes."

Professor Colin Blakemore, a neuroscientist at Oxford University, believes that it is quite a jump from the limited results obtained in the study to talking about recording dreams.

Friday, October 22, 2010

NPR Ends Juan Williams' Contract After Muslim Remarks, Fox offers $2 Million contract


(Read William's retort below, scroll further for Fox offer details)

by David Folkenflik

NPR News has terminated the contract of longtime news analyst Juan Williams after remarks he made on the Fox News Channel about Muslims.

Williams appeared Monday on The O'Reilly Factor, and host Bill O'Reilly asked him to comment on the idea that the U.S. is facing a dilemma with Muslims.

O'Reilly has been looking for support for his own remarks on a recent episode of ABC's The View in which he directly blamed Muslims for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Co-hosts Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set in the middle of his appearance.

Williams responded: "Look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Williams also warned O'Reilly against blaming all Muslims for "extremists," saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

But strong criticism followed Williams' comments.

Late Wednesday night, NPR issued a statement praising Williams as a valuable contributor but saying it had given him notice that it is severing his contract. "His remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR," the statement read.

Williams' presence on the largely conservative and often contentious prime-time talk shows of Fox News has long been a sore point with NPR News executives.

His status was earlier shifted from staff correspondent to analyst after he took clear-cut positions about public policy on television and in newspaper opinion pieces.

Reached late Wednesday night, Williams said he wasn't ready to comment and was conferring with his wife about the episode.

Juan Williams: NPR Went After Me Because 'I Appear On Fox'

by Mark Memmott and David Folkenflik

Saying that he thinks NPR terminated his contract because "I appear on Fox," news analyst Juan Williams tonight continued to protest the decision by NPR executives to cut the organization's ties with him.

"I don't fit in their box. I'm not a predictable, black liberal," he told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, however, told executives of NPR's member stations that Williams' contract was terminated Thursday because he had more than once expressed personal opinions on controversial issues while offering commentary on other media outlets' shows — most recently on Monday's edition of Fox's The O'Reilly Factor when Williams says he gets nervous when he sees people in "Muslim garb" on airplanes.

Williams, who Fox announced Thursday would be taking on an "expanded" role with that network and had signed a multi-year contract, joined NPR a decade ago as host of Talk of the Nation and later became a senior correspondent. But he rankled executives with outspoken remarks on Fox News, where he was also a paid commentator, and in newspaper opinion pieces. In the spring of 2008, NPR shifted him from a staff correspondent position, making him instead a senior news analyst on contract. In 2009, NPR also asked Fox News not to identify him as an NPR analyst on screen — most recently, after he described first lady Michelle Obama as being like the black militant Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress.

Schiller compared Williams' dismissal to NPR's recent decision to ban news staffers from attending the upcoming Washington rally of political satirist Jon Stewart - who frequently targets conservatives. She says it's important to maintain journalistic objectivity.

She also on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself, "his psychiatrist or his publicist" — a comment she later said she regretted. "I spoke hastily and I apologize to Juan and others for my thoughtless remark," Schiller said in a statement released by NPR.

O'Reilly said NPR was wrong to terminate Williams and that Schiller was invited to appear on the Factor. Using a word his viewers have heard him say many times when talking about guests he has criticized who decline such invitations, O'Reilly said it was "cowardly" not to accept.

Listeners on Thursday deluged NPR with complaints, by e-mail and phone, while leading Republicans — many with close ties to Fox — called on Congress to withhold all funding for NPR.

NPR receives about one percent of its budget each year directly from the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a similar amount from the National Endowment for the Arts —- but public radio stations that purchase NPR's programming receive more federal dollars and send some of that money back to NPR in fees.

Our original post from 7:55 p.m. ET, with updates added during Williams' appearance on The O'Reilly Factor:

The story of NPR's decision to terminate the contract of news analyst Juan Williams in the wake of comments he made Monday on Fox News Central about being nervous when he sees people in "Muslim garb" on airplanes takes another turn this evening. Williams will be on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor — the same show where he made the remarks that kicked off the controversy.

The Factor gets going at 8 p.m. ET. We'll update this post with news as it happens, so be sure to hit your "refresh" button. Afterward, we'll recap.

Update at 8:25 p.m. ET: Williams earlier today made the point that he was "the only black male on NPR." During his discussion with O'Reilly, he added this: "I don't fit in their box. I'm not a predictable, black liberal."

Update at 8:13 p.m. ET: Williams' time on the show appears to be over. While talking to Bill O'Reilly, he said he believes NPR was pressured to take action in part by an e-mail campaign "orchestrated by a Muslim-rights group."

For the record, at the top of his show O'Reilly did show NPR CEO Vivian Schiller saying today that "this action was not anti-Fox ... it was pro-journalism standards. We're not picking on Juan."

Update at 8:10 p.m. ET: "They were looking for a reason to get rid of me because I appear on Fox News," Williams says.

Update at 8:07 p.m. ET: Williams says NPR took "something totally out of context" because during Monday's edition of the Factor he also spoke out about the need to be tolerant of Muslims.

In wake of NPR controversy, Fox News gives Juan Williams an expanded role,0,4294425.story

The cable news network signs the analyst to a new three-year contract for nearly $2 million. Meanwhile, conservative figures blast the public radio network for its response to Williams' comments about Muslims.

Reporting from Washington —
As NPR weathered a storm of criticism Thursday for its decision to fire news analyst Juan Williams for his comments about Muslims, Fox News moved aggressively to turn the controversy to its advantage by signing Williams to an expanded role at the cable news network.

Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes handed Williams a new three-year contract Thursday morning, in a deal that amounts to nearly $2 million, a considerable bump up from his previous salary, the Tribune Washington Bureau has learned. The Fox News contributor will now appear exclusively and more frequently on the cable news network and have a regular column on

"Juan has been a staunch defender of liberal viewpoints since his tenure began at Fox News in 1997," Ailes said in a statement, adding a jab at NPR: “He’s an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by Fox News on a daily basis.”

Meanwhile, conservative leaders lambasted NPR for firing Williams and called for cutting public funding for the media organization. By midafternoon Thursday, more than 4,900 comments had been posted on, including many from people who said the media organization was bowing to political correctness and unfairly punishing Williams for expressing his personal opinions.

"In one arrogant move the NPR exposed itself for the leftist thought police they really are,” read one typical post. “After this November elections I hope one of the first things the new Congress does is to defund this poor excuse for public radio.”

The controversy kicked off Monday night when Williams, a Fox News contributor, made an appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor.” In a conversation with host Bill O’Reilly about how fear of terrorism affects perceptions of Muslims, Williams noted that he harbored some anxieties, even as an author of books about the civil rights movement.

"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot….But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous," Williams said.

He also noted that it was not fair to cast all Muslims as extremists.

On Wednesday, NPR told Williams it was terminating his contract, saying his remarks “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

The abrupt break came after years in which Williams’ role at Fox News caused internal tension at the public radio organization. Many NPR listeners registered complaints about comments he made on the cable news channel, particularly remarks last year in which he described First Lady Michelle Obama as having “this Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress thing going” and saying she could become “an albatross."

In response, NPR executives asked Williams to request Fox News not identify him as an NPR analyst when he appeared on “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Dana Davis Rehm, NPR’s senior vice president for communications, said in an interview that Williams’ comments violated internal ethics policies that prohibit NPR journalists from going on other media and expressing “views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.” The guidelines also prohibit NPR journalists from participating in programs “that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.”

Rehm said Williams had been warned several times in the past about making personal comments that violated the policy.

“This wasn’t the first time where we felt Juan crossed the line in terms of what’s permitted for NPR analysts and journalists as a whole,” she said. “We felt we really didn’t have an alternative. And it was not without regret, and it was not a decision that was made lightly by any means. We do appreciate the work he has done.”

Williams told Fox News on Thursday that he was let go over the phone and taken aback that he wasn’t given a chance to defend himself.

"It's not a bigoted statement,” he told Fox News in an interview the cable news network ran throughout the day. “In fact, in the course of this conversation with Bill O'Reilly, I said we have an obligation as Americans to be careful to protect the constitutional rights of everyone in our country and to make sure that we don't have any outbreak of bigotry. But that there's a reality. You cannot ignore what happened on 9/11, and you cannot ignore the connection to Islamic radicalism, and you can't ignore the fact of what has even recently been said in court with regard to this is the first drop of blood in a Muslim war in America."

Fox News made the most of the incident, rerunning a package about the controversy throughout the day. Williams was scheduled to appear on “The O’Reilly Factor” Thursday night to further address the issue and will guest host the program Friday.

In the meantime, NPR was slammed by conservative leaders such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, who tweeted, “NPR defends 1st Amendment Right, but will fire u if u exercise it. Juan Williams: u got taste of Left's hypocrisy, they screwed up firing you."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who hosts a show on Fox News, said he now plans to boycott NPR and decline its interview requests.

"NPR has discredited itself as a forum for free speech and a protection of the First Amendment rights of all and has solidified itself as the purveyor of politically correct pabulum and protector of views that lean left,” Huckabee wrote on his blog, adding: "It is time for the taxpayers to start making cuts to federal spending, and I encourage the new Congress to start with NPR."

NPR receives no direct federal funding for its operations, but between 1% and 3% of its $160-million budget comes from competitive grants awarded by publicly funded entities such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. Since 2009, NPR has received $8 million in competitive grants from the CPB for technology development and journalism initiatives. It also received a one-time grant of $78 million between 2007 and 2009 to upgrade satellite technology.

Local NPR stations receive $90 million in annual appropriations from the CPB that amount to about 10% of their revenue, on average.

Rehm said it was inappropriate for politicians to interject the issue of federal funding into an editorial decision, adding that she hoped the controversy would not affect financial support for public radio. “Stations are in fund-raising season, so it is unfortunate that this occurred at this time,” she said.

Cheap Stop Motion Software



New York Times article:


For Stuart Bury, Jeremy Casper and Isaiah Powers, the path to a student Academy Award for their stop-motion animation cost less than $1,000, although it did require four months of often constant filming in Mr. Powers’s basement.
Enlarge This Image
Linnea Spransy

The co-directors of “Dried Up” won the silver medal in animation at the 37th Student Academy Awards in 2010. From left, Isaiah Powers, Stuart Bury and Jeremy Casper,
Enlarge This Image
Adam Buritch

The filmmakers used a homemade camera rig for moving shots.
Enlarge This Image
Adam Buritch

Mr. Casper on the set of “Dried Up.”

The animators, all of whom were students at the Kansas City Art Institute at the time, built the sets and the dolls out of found objects and material rescued from junkyards, staying up late to animate the items by shooting still images of their set and moving the objects a few millimeters before shooting again. “We had to share the room with other people who had their winter clothes down there,” said Mr. Bury.

But despite the long hours — by Mr. Bury’s estimation, “well over 80” a week — all three said that the production was much easier with the low-cost software that any aspiring filmmaker can buy — in their case, a $275 program called Dragon Stop Motion.

Their efforts paid off. The six-minute film, “Dried Up,” the story of a man’s quest to bring hope and life to a drought-ridden town, won the silver medal in animation at the 37th Student Academy Awards in 2010, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“It still comes down to a ridiculous amount of work,” said Mr. Powers. “But it’s really nice when the new computer software is so streamlined. It’s nice to work with it instead of fighting it.”

While putting together stop-action animation can still be tedious, the process is now easier than ever. The art form is familiar to anyone who has seen a Wallace and Gromit short or last year’s movies “Coraline” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

To simulate movement and expression, animators bend or twist their objects ever so slightly between shots, a painstaking process that makes it difficult to achieve consistency from frame to frame. But now, software can help remedy that, with programs that help check the alignment of the camera and the lighting of the scene while letting the animator flip between recent images to see if the items are moving realistically.

That part of the process — synchronizing the shots — was what made it difficult for amateurs to make a good movie. “We have one really solid product, and we make it reachable for a serious college or high school student, considering the gadgets that kids have these days,” said Jamie Caliri, a stop-action film director and a founder of Dragon Stop. His co-founder and brother, Dyami, is the software programmer.

“I really enjoy putting the real tools into someone’s hands. I wouldn’t buy my kid a plastic guitar,” Jamie Caliri said. “I also use the product. That’s part of our story about how we sell it. I won an Emmy last year.” The award-winning animation in question, the title sequence of the “United States of Tara,” took six weeks to shoot after four weeks of preparation.

Software like Dragon Stop Motion is making animation even simpler. Children, adults and professionals alike can construct elaborate stories with their toys, paper goods, found objects or sculpture, and the computer organizes the images into a film. Some filmmakers are even beginning to build three-dimensional movies using special rigs.

“An animator who used to shoot six seconds a day can now shoot 20 seconds a day,” said Paul Howell, the founder and director of Stop Motion Pro, another software package.

“Young kids can make a film in their room and distribute it and have half a million people view it,” said Mr. Howell. “Very young kids can have huge audiences for their work. Not long ago, it was impossible to consider someone that young having access to an audience that large. Students of the art can find hundreds of stop-motion films on video-sharing sites like YouTube, many of which are constructed by children who are younger than 10.”

Mr. Howell also says that many schools, and even some medical centers, are using the software to tell stories because it lets children express themselves when traditional words fail them.

“It’s become the software of choice for working with autistic children,” said Mr. Howell. “They’re uncovering issues that they’re finding hard to talk about conventionally or by writing down, but they’re quite comfortable making a film about it.”

The basic version of his product, Stop Motion Pro, begins at $70, but more sophisticated editions, which offer higher definition and the ability to connect with high quality digital S.L.R. cameras, can cost up to $295. A number of other programs are on the market at prices that range from free to hundreds of dollars.

While many of the free versions are adequate for experimentation, they usually only offer a limited collection of features.

The older version of AnimatorDV from Wroblewski Multimedia, for instance, is available at no cost, whereas the newer version, AnimatorHD, comes with a free demonstration mode that shuts off some features after a minute. iStopMotion, a program for the Mac, offers a demonstration mode that works for five days.

The more sophisticated Dragon Stop Motion package includes a number of features that simplify the tasks done by a computer, allowing an animator to concentrate elsewhere. One button on the keyboard toggles between the last frame and the current image captured by the camera, a common task when an animator wants to ensure that any moving object is seen to move properly.

Other options help control and balance the lighting to ensure that the images have consistent hue and saturation, a problem that is even more of a challenge in stop-motion animation than in other types of filmmaking.

Synchronizing the sound with the images is also difficult, especially when a clay mouth must approximate the way a real mouth moves. Dragon Stop Motion manages a list of frames and plots the audio tracks with the associated sounds or phonemes, making it much simpler for an animator to adjust the size and shape of the mouths.

Other programs bundle a database of common sounds that can be added with a click. Diarmuid Brennan, the chief executive of iKITSystems, which distributes iKITMovie, created his software after his 12-year-old son became frustrated with the lack of options for adding sound to movies. The current version comes with over 2,200 sounds.

“We have 15 to 20 different types of footsteps, like walking on gravel or walking on concrete,” he said. But with a clientele of children, the library of sounds goes beyond that. “There are 20 different burp sounds” and 20 different sounds for passing gas.

His software for all 2,200 sounds is either $69, or $80 bundled with a Web camera. Mr. Brennan says that his product was originally intended for children who made movies recreationally, but he found that schools were interested in filmmaking as an educational tool. Creating an animated lesson, he says, requires diligence and a thorough understanding of the topic at hand.

“If they’re dissecting a frog, they can do it in clay and animate it,” he said. “When a child creates a project to explain something, because it’s methodical, they’ll never forget what they’re explaining.”

NASA Strikes Gold, Silver, Mercury and Water On the Moon

By Jenny Marder

There is water on the moon ... along with a long list of other compounds, including, mercury, gold and silver. That's according to a more detailed analysis of the chilled lunar soil near the moon's South Pole, released as six papers by a large team of scientists in the journal, Science Thursday.

"We thought the moon was bone dry," said planetary geologist Peter Schultz of Brown University, lead author of one of the studies. "All the books on the moon say that the moon is dry, and now we have to rewrite that chapter."

The data comes from the October 2009 mission, when NASA slammed a booster rocket traveling nearly 6,000 miles per hour into the moon and blasted out a hole. Trailing close behind it was a second spacecraft, rigged with a spectrometer to study the lunar plume released by the blast. The mission is called LCROSS, for Lunar Crater Observer and Sensing Satellite.

Turns out the moon not only has water, but it's wetter than some places on earth, such as the Sahara desert. Roughly 5 percent of water ice - that's combined water vapor and ice - was found buried in the crater. This water ice could provide a valuable resource for human space travel, generating drinking water, but also possibly hydrogen and oxygen for breathing and rocket fuel. The amount, Schultz said, adds up to about 12 to 14 gallons per ton of material. This is important, because transporting water to the moon costs about $100,000 per gallon of water.

"One of the things LCROSS was meant to do as a strategic mission was to understand whether hydrogen is a usable resource," said Anthony Colaprete, principal investigator of the LCROSS studies. "Based on the results, the answer is yes. The resources are there, and they have the potential to be usable for future missions."

But also key to the findings were the range of other chemicals: carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ammonia, sodium, hydrogen and small amounts of calcium and magnesium. Schultz believes that many of these materials, otherwise foreign to the environment, were deposited by ancient comets and asteroids that collided with the moon.

Researchers have also expressed concerns about mercury found in the soil, which could be toxic and pose obstacles to space travel. "You know how volatile mercury is on earth," said Randy Gladstone of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, in a press conference on Thursday. "It's probably more volatile than other metals on the moon."

The lunar poles, which are very cold, create a sort of kitchen-sink effect, where these compounds accumulate and are stored. Further analysis of these materials could tell us more about how they got there, as well as the moon's history more broadly.

The next steps will be to analyze the water ice and other materials on smaller and smaller scales, and to better understand their potential as a resource, said Colaprete: "Is the water accessible underneath that dirt? And if I were an astronaut, how far would I have to walk to find water, and how extensive are these pockets of water?"

More from BBC about water resource:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pat Metheny’s Robot Orchestra Project (video)


Read the article here:

Japan's Pop Star Sells out Stadiums, is a 3D Hologram


3D Holographic singer performs with a live band.

(Scroll down for article below)

Visit the site of Hatsune Miku and hear song samples.

From the site:

What is the "HATSUNE MIKU movement" ?

"HATSUNE MIKU" is a computer music software that enables users to create synthesized singing of unprecedented quality and remarkable realism by just typing in lyrics and melody. Powered by YAMAHA's VOCALOID(= Vocal + Android) technology, HATSUNE MIKU was developed by Crypton Future Media,Inc. based in Sapporo,Japan, and released on August 31st, 2007. And since then, there have been more than 100,000 songs and movies about HATSUNE MIKU were posted on popular Video sharing websites such as YouTube and Nico-Nico-Douga(Japan).

From this "music software" with cute voice and an illustration of cartoon girl on the cover, not only lots of CGM(Consumer Generated Media) music, but also remarkable numbers of derivative illustrations and dedicated free software (including an amazing application tool to create 3D animation of HATSUNE MIKU, etc.) were created. Then, as the recognition and popularity of HATSUNE MIKU, more other related activities such as launching news site and SNS site featuring MIKU or organizing events for MIKU fans are taking place.

HATSUNE MIKU is not merely a music software anymore. It is turned into a source of inspiration to create its derivative works. With the increase of those mash-up and remix works by HATSUNE MIKU lovers, Crypton Future Media,Inc. has opened "" as a next step. PIAPRO is a CGM contents posting site for creators to collaborate and exchange ideas with others. To clear up some of the problems related to copyright issues, We have very unique license system called "Piapro Character License (PCL)"which is similar to Creative Commons license. PIAPRO with PCL makes it easier for creators to collaborate actively and energizes "peer production" more than ever.

The internet is such a big place that sometimes I stumble onto huge trends that I’ve never even heard of before. Case in point: Hatsune Miku. She’s a Japanese pop diva who’s just started to play massive stadium concerts to sold out crowds. Her hair is blue, she dresses like Sailor Moon, and she’ll only appear in concerts via a 3D ‘hologram’. Oh, and did I forget to mention that she’s completely fictional? Created by Crypton Future Media, Hatsune Miku is a virtual singing avatar that you can purchase for your PC and program to play any song you create. She and her virtual colleagues have gone on limited tours in Japan and virtual avatar song writing is a growing trend all over the world. Surprising? Perhaps, but the thing that really blows me away is that I actually like her songs. Check out Hatsune Miku’s performance of Stargazer in the video below. Not bad for JPop.

Watching Miku sing live is pretty amazing. The 3D ‘hologram’ isn’t that impressive, it looks to be a modern version of the pepper’s ghost illusion we’ve seen before, but the crowd reaction is intense. I’ve been to concerts where the band’s fan base was considerably less enthusiastic. How must it feel to be a musician and see this virtual character getting way more love than you? Hatsune Miku and her ‘friends’ may only have played a few tours, but there’s little doubt that these guys are rock stars:

In order to create a character that sounds believably human, Crypton uses a real person’s voice as the basis for the avatar’s distinct singing style. The adaptation of someone’s singing voice into a character that a user can program to sing anything has lead to controversy. Real musicians have been loathe to step forward and submit their voices for fear that they’ll be replaced by a virtual copy of themselves. Instead of professional singers, Crypton has hired cartoon voice actors to provide the basis for their avatars. Miku is reportedly created from the voice of Saki Fujita.

The technology for Crypton’s Hatsune Miku program comes from Yamaha’s Vocaloid software which provides the means to create a realistic synthesized singing voice. You can hear samples of the raw Vocaloid synthesizer (which hasn’t been styled to fit any particular character like Hatsune Miku) on its website here. Miku and other avatars retail for ¥15,750 (~$193) and allow users to compose music and connect it to vocals note by note. You can share the songs you create via sites like Piapro (JP). Writing music for virtual avatars has become so popular that Crypton has established a music label, KarenT, and you can see many of the associated music videos for these songs on their YouTube channel.

It’s hard to quantify how large of an impact Vocaloid software is having on popular music. Yamaha doesn’t directly market the software itself, instead relying on licensed developers like Crypton (in Japan) and Zero-G (in the UK) to sell various products based on the technology. There are many sites like Piapro where users can share their work, and many simply skip forums and go straight to YouTube. There are various blogs and sites dedicated to discussing the Vocaloid phenomenon (I recommend you start with Vocaloidism), and there are karoake and music-composing video games featuring some of the most popular avatars.

It seems clear that virtual characters like Hatsune Miku are on the upward swing of their popularity. Crypton’s avatars have played several live concerts in the past year. Miku’s first ’solo’ performance took place on March 9th, and was titled Miku no Hi Kanshasai 39’s Giving Day – this is where the Stargazer performance was recorded. DVD and Blu-ray copies of the performance are set to be released globally, and there have been screenings of the concert in San Francisco and New York. The tour coincides with the release of the Hatsune Miku Project Diva video game from Sega.

Having just been introduced to the Vocaloid scene, I’m sort of in awe. Not by the quality of music – some of it is good, but mostly it’s pretty generic mainstream stuff. No, I’m impressed by the possibilities created by such virtual avatars. YouTube is already full of videos where users mix and match songs to various pieces of art, and remixing/sampling is a global music phenomenon. Now, these secondary source musicians have a whole other tool in their belt. They can have high quality virtual characters sing whatever they want. Modern technology is merging producers and consumers of art into a new being – the prosumer. Avatars like Hatsune Miku are accelerating that process, allowing us to generate more quality content on our own, and share that content with anyone via the web. In the future we will all be a part of this exchange of creative prosumerism. Ask not for whom the 3D hologram pop star sings – it sings for thee.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

China Now Halting Shipments of Rare Earth Minerals To US


Following previous news of China blocking shipments of rare earth elements to Japan, China is now also preventing shipments to the U.S. in response to recent US promises to investigate China's green technology trade practices.


Submitted by Jeremy Hsu

A nasty trade dispute appears to have prompted Chinese customs officials to block shipments of rare earth minerals to the U.S.

The move underscores a deepening U.S. vulnerability because of its dependence upon China for tech-crucial rare earth minerals (also known as rare earth elements). Small but significant amounts of the minerals go into creating everything from PCs and cellphones to wind turbines and hybrid cars, as well as U.S. military technologies such as missile guidance systems.

This latest news came from three rare earth industry officials cited by the New York Times. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of backlash from China.

China currently controls about 97 percent of rare earth production, and has the only facilities capable of processing rare earth minerals after they have been mined. Rare earth minerals are not exactly rare, but the mining and refining processes can be costly and time-consuming.

Official Chinese plans have called for China to reduce rare earth mineral exports to meet its own rising industrial demands. That already indicated to many industry experts that countries such as the U.S. would have to find alternate supplies soon.

U.S. rare earth companies have begun looking to reopen old mines and search for new deposits, but industry experts say that relaunching an independent U.S. supply chain could take 15 years.

The latest Chinese action follows a similar move last month, when China halted shipments to Japan during a political dispute over Japan's arrest of Chinese fishermen. Among the affected Japanese companies was Toyota, maker of the popular Prius hybrid cars which incorporate the rare earth element neodymium, among others.

But Japanese companies such as Toyota are believed to keep larger stockpiles of rare earth minerals compared to most Western companies, according to the New York Times. The newspaper added that China's action comes after American officials announced an investigation last Friday into whether China was violating international trade rules by subsidizing its clean energy industries.

Industry experts have suggested that China hopes to attract Western companies to set up shop near its rare earth mineral supply. China may also be aiming to export finished products which use rare earth minerals, rather than just sell the minerals.

China has openly denied blocking any rare earth mineral shipments. But its recent actions may very well alarm other countries enough so that they will fast-track their own rare earth industries.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Microsoft's Project Natal (Kinect)

Possible Acquisition of Adobe by Microsoft

What Did Microsoft and Adobe Chiefs Talk About?

Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, recently showed up with a small entourage of deputies at Adobe’s offices to hold a secret meeting with Adobe’s chief executive, Shantanu Narayen.

The meeting, which lasted more than an hour, covered a number of topics, but one of the main thrusts of the discussion was Apple and its control of the mobile phone market and how the two companies could team up in the battle against Apple. A possible acquisition of Adobe by Microsoft were among the options.

The New York Times learned about the meetings through employees and consultants to the companies who were involved in the discussions that took place or familiar with their organization, all of whom asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly by Microsoft or Adobe. Those involved in the meeting, from its logistical set up to the discussion that took place, were instructed to stay quiet about the two companies holding council.

In the past, Adobe and Microsoft have been rivals with competing software and the companies became really combative in 2007 when Microsoft began promoting Silverlight, its software plug-in for the Web that directly competes with Adobe Flash.

Holly Campbell, senior director of Adobe’s corporate communications, did not deny the meeting took place when asked via e-mail. “Adobe and Microsoft share millions of customers around the world and the C.E.O.’s of the two companies do meet from time to time,” she said. “However, we do not publicly comment on the timing or topics of their private meetings.”

Microsoft said it did not “comment on rumors/speculation.”

One person familiar with the discussion said the two companies had talked about the blockade that Apple’s chief executive, Steven P. Jobs, had placed on Adobe’s Flash software for its hand-held devices and whether a partnership by Adobe and Microsoft could fend off Apple, which continues to grow at juggernaut speeds.

Another person with knowledge of the talks explained that Microsoft had courted Adobe several years ago. But the deal never moved past informal talks as Microsoft feared that the Justice Department would most likely block the acquisition on antitrust grounds.

This person noted that at the time, Microsoft was the dominant force in technology and Google and Apple were not the giants they are today.

Randal C. Picker, a professor of law of the University of Chicago, said in a telephone interview that the technology landscape was drastically different now and that an acquisition or partnership of this nature would likely not be halted.

“There’s not a question that the atmospherics of Microsoft are much more different that they were a decade ago,” he said. “I think you could imagine Microsoft being a more aggressive purchaser in a world where they are no longer an 800-pound gorilla.”

Professor Picker said the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission were focused on other large technology companies and consumer-related issues.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

CNN host Rick Sanchez fired after Jon Stewart rant

CNN anchor Rick Sanchez was fired Friday by the news network after he went on a tirade during a radio interview calling Jon Stewart a “bigot” and accusing the "elite, Northeast establishment liberals” of labeling him as “second-tier” because of his Cuban-American background, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company," the statement from CNN said. "We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well," it added.

The TV host, who was born in Cuba and raised outside Miami, said that racism in the media comes "not just [from] the right," but also at the hands of the "elite, Northeast establishment liberals," during a Thursday interview on the "Stand Up! with Pete Dominick" SiriusXM radio show.

"Deep down, when they look at a guy like me, they see a guy automatically who belongs in the second tier, and not the top tier," the 52-year-old said.

He then pointed out Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, calling him a bigot with “white, liberal establishment point of view" and accusing “The Daily Show” host of picking on Sanchez's on-air mistakes because of his race.

"Here's what they do. This is the game they play: 'I just picked on Fox News, because they just had a bold-faced [sic] lie about something -- dammit, that means I gotta find something on CNN. Oh, I know… wait, hold on, let me find, oh that Rick Sanchez, that little Puerto Rican guy. I'll make fun of him,’” Sanchez surmised.

During the radio interview, Sanchez was asked about Stewart being considered a minority since he was Jewish, but balked at the suggestion.

"Very powerless people," he laughed. "He's such a minority, I mean, you know… Please, what are you kidding?…I'm telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart...the people in this country who are Jewish -- are an oppressed minority? Yeah," he said.

Sanchez joined CNN in 2004 and became the host of his own show “Rick’s List” in January 2010.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Animal Farms Are Pumping Up Superbugs

By Joseph Picard | September 30, 2010 3:35 PM EDT

The philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once famously said, "That which does not kill me, makes me stronger."

That may or may not be true for human beings. It is certainly true for bacteria. The superbugs are among us and they are not leaving. Indeed, they are growing stronger.
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Chickens drink water next to calves on a farm near Poolesville, Maryland, October 19, 2005. Experts say the misuse of antibiotics for farm animals is helping to create superbugs.

"The incidence of drug-resistant infections is a national and global problem, in both the civilian and military world, and has grown dramatically over the past decade in civilian hospitals," said Rep. Vic Snyder, D-AK, at a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday on what the military is doing to deal with multi-drug resistant organisms, aka superbugs.

The military, according to the military physicians who testified to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, has ramped up anti-infection measures over the past few years in the areas of prevention through standardized practices, detection through screenings and surveillance, and control through isolation, sanitization and the targeted use of antibiotics.

The military has had some success.

"While considerable progress has been made in controlling infection, the problem has not been solved," Congressman Snyder said. "New outbreaks will be a continuing challenge."

In July of this year, Dr. Stuart Levy, director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at Tufts University School of Medicine, and a world-renowned expert on superbugs, appeared before another House subcommittee.

"We are not gaining ground in the struggle against antibiotic resistance," Levy said. "All of us - you, me and your constituents - are at ever greater risk of contracting a resistant bacterial infection and even one that is untreatable."

Levy explained to lawmakers "the paradoxical nature of human engagement with antibiotics."

"On the one hand, these miraculous drugs are pillars of modern medicine, helping us to manage and prevent dangerous bacterial infections and save lives. On the other hand, the widespread use - and misuse - of antibiotic drugs has spawned the evolution of life-threatening bacteria that render our current antibiotics useless," he said.

While the military physicians in their testimony this week, and the military branches in their efforts over the past several years, concentrated on prevention and control of superbugs, Levy took aim at the root cause of the problem - the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

"Some progress has been made in developing protocols and encouraging more judicious use of antibiotics in human medicine," Levy told lawmakers in July. "But there has been precious little progress with regard to stemming the spigot of antibiotics flowing into animal agriculture."

Kathleen Young is the executive director of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, a worldwide organization founded by Levy.

"The problem is that the animal agriculture industry makes massive use of low-dose antibiotics for growth promotion and in place of effective infection prevention methods," Young said, adding that the farm animal population is much larger than the human population.

The low-dose antibiotics do not kill the disease. They make the disease stronger, more resistant to those and other antibiotics. The animals - the cattle, pigs and chickens - thus treated become superbug factories. The diseases stay in them and they wash off them to infect the surrounding environment.

"The diseases are not only spread around. The superbugs propagate, making more superbugs," she said.

On the human side, antibiotics are still widely misused, Young said.

"Often, the diagnostics used to determine what bacteria is ailing a person are not precise," she said. "So the doctor, out of convenience, will use a broad spectrum antibiotic."

But a broad spectrum antibiotic - the popular Cipro, for example -- may not kill the specific bug, making it stronger.

Superbugs get into hospital settings, propagate and spread. When a patient actually needs an antibiotic in, say, a serious operation to stem infection, the antibiotic may not work. The physician goes to another type of antibiotic. That also may not work. The superbug is resisting. Another type of antibiotic is tried, if the patient is still alive for the trial.

Not only is there the threat to health and life, costs rise as more antibiotics are used to lesser and lesser effect, Young said.

Levy and Young say that the animal agriculture industry, and the pharmaceutical industry that supplies the antibiotics, have not responded to the outcry of professionals to curb non-therapeutic antibiotic use.

"The solution requires a multi-dimensional, multi-stakeholder approach," Young said. "The animal farming industry and Big Pharma do not want to cooperate."

Levy pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration has made plain to the animal farming industry that their use of antibiotics for growth promotion is dangerous to the public health. But FDA's guidance has no clout, and .the industry ignores it.

"Agribusiness has fought efforts to curtail overuse of antibiotics every step of the way," Levy said. "We've given moral suasion, medical urgency, scientific study and voluntary guidance its chance and the problem has only grown worse. We can't wait any longer. Congress must act."

Congress has at least begun to act. In July 2009, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-MA, sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

Slaughter's bill would phase out the use of the seven classes of medically significant antibiotics that are currently approved for nontherapeutic use in animal agriculture and, so people will better know what's in their chicken and burgers and pork chops, require producers of agricultural antibiotics to report the quantity of drugs they sell and information on the claimed purpose.

The bill is idle in a House committee. Young, however, said there is still interest in the bill and has hope that it will move in the future.

"Its provisions are similar to those of a law passed by the European Union that bans antibiotics for food animals and orders surveillance of the use of all antibiotics," she said. "We need to move in that direction."