Monday, October 31, 2011

Ma Liang and His Magical Brush


Posted 2/2/13:

I found my book!


Posted 10/31/11:

Searching for a beautifully illustrated book I had as a child which told the story of Ma Liang and His Magic Paintbrush.

I found a link here with images that look correct - excerpts from this page below:

Ma Liang and His Magic Paintbrush

The Story of Ma Liang and his magical brush is very popular among Chinese children and is a typical example of traditional Chinese folk stories. China has a long history of being a Feudalistic society where the rich owned the land and stayed rich by passing their wealth to their children; and the poor stayed poor no matter how hard they worked. Chinese folk stories typically depicted the rich as greedy, mean and foolish, and the poor as diligent and intelligent. In the stories, the poor could always outwit the rich and eventually bring justice to their lives.

In this story, Ma Liang is generous, brave and kind. Even though he was just a child, he wasn't intimidated by adults with great powers; nor was he tempted by money. He could use his magical brush to get everything he wanted yet he only used it to help the poor. His story filled Chinese children of many generations with joy -- and dreams to have their own magical brush one day.

another image that also looks familiar:

Niu Lang and Zhi Nu

The story of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu is known to every house-hold in China. The story has been recorded as far back as the Jin Dynasty (256-420 AD). The story was also adapted to operas, TV series and even TV commercials.

Niu Lang literally means the man of ox, and Zhi Nu means the woman that embroiders, which explains why Niu Lang's best friend is a bull and that Zhi Nu embroiders at home when Niu Lang worked in the field.

Today the names of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu are nicknames for couples separated by distance. For instance, if a soldier is sent to patrol the border of China and his/her spouse stays at home, they would be called Niu Lang and Zhi Nu.

The reason Zhi Nu was able to live with Niu Lang for several years before she was summoned back to the HeavenlyNiu Lang and Zhi Nu Court is that, according to popular Chinese myths, one day in the Heavenly Court is seven years on the earth. It didn't take long for the Emperess to find out her granddaughter was missing, but long enough for Zhi Nu to build a family on earth!

In the story, Zhi Nu flew away on a cloud. Chinese legends always have it that godly creatures ride clouds when they fly.

Every year on July 7th of Chinese Lunar Calendar, grannies tell children that they wouldn't find many sparrows that day because they fly to form the bridge for Niu Lang and Zhi Nu. The image on the right shows how Niu Lang and Zhi Nu meet on the Sparrow Bridge (que qiao). (Image courtesy of China Radio International)

The Heavenly Court is a mythical place in many Chinese legends where the gods live.

Moglue Lets Anyone Make A Children’s Book For Tablets

The rise of the iPad (and, to a lesser degree, other tablets) has led to myriad new kinds of apps that are flourishing. And, as someone who still enjoys flipping through a good Dr. Seuss book from time to time, there are few trends I enjoy more than the rich, interactive children’s books that are catching on.

These books typically feature music, sound effects, some animation, and other nifty niceties that make books more fun for kids to play with (and can also supplement learning). And there are plenty of people out there who can pen and illustrate a good book, but don’t know much about programming in Objective C. That’s where TC Disrupt finalist Moglue comes in: it lets just about anyone create children’s books, using a simple and straightforward UI.

Obviously your book isn’t going to look amazing if you’re not so good at drawing, but for all of those artists looking to make the jump to the tablet — or anyone who wants to craft a custom story book with family photos for their kids — this seems perfect. Text and images can be dragged and dropped onto the screen, then animated using one of many different effects.

These apps are built using clients available for Mac and Windows, and can be ‘one-click’ published to iOS and Android. The builder is free to use, and Moglue will make money via a rev-share for users who publish their books.

For a look at how the app works, check out the video above.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

New hybrid technology could bring 'quantum information systems'

Structures called "metamaterials" and the merging of two technologies under development are promising the emergence of new "quantum information systems" far more powerful than today's computers. The concept hinges on using single photons – the tiny particles that make up light – for switching and routing in future computers that might harness the exotic principles of quantum mechanics. The image at left depicts a "spherical dispersion" of light in a conventional material, and the image at right shows the design of a metamaterial that has a "hyperbolic dispersion" not found in any conventional material, potentially producing quantum-optical applications. (Zubin Jacob)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The merging of two technologies under development - plasmonics and nanophotonics - is promising the emergence of new "quantum information systems" far more powerful than today's computers.

The technology hinges on using single photons – the tiny particles that make up light – for switching and routing in future computers that might harness the exotic principles of quantum mechanics.

The quantum information processing technology would use structures called "metamaterials," artificial nanostructured media with exotic properties.

The metamaterials, when combined with tiny "optical emitters," could make possible a new hybrid technology that uses "quantum light" in future computers, said Vladimir Shalaev, scientific director of nanophotonics at Purdue University's Birck Nanotechnology Center and a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The concept is described in an article to be published Friday (Oct. 28) in the journal Science. The article will appear in the magazine's Perspectives section and was written by Shalaev and Zubin Jacob, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Alberta, Canada.

"A seamless interface between plasmonics and nanophotonics could guarantee the use of light to overcome limitations in the operational speed of conventional integrated circuits," Shalaev said.

Researchers are proposing the use of "plasmon-mediated interactions," or devices that manipulate individual photons and quasiparticles called plasmons that combine electrons and photons.

One of the approaches, pioneered at Harvard University, is a tiny nanowire that couples individual photons and plasmons. Another approach is to use hyperbolic metamaterials, suggested by Jacob; Igor Smolyaninov, a visiting research scientist at the University of Maryland; and Evgenii Narimanov, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue. Quantum-device applications using building blocks for such hyperbolic metamaterials have been demonstrated in Shalaev's group.

"We would like to record and read information with single photons, but we need a very efficient source of single photons," Shalaev said. "The challenge here is to increase the efficiency of generation of single photons in a broad spectrum, and that is where plasmonics and metamaterials come in."

Today's computers work by representing information as a series of ones and zeros, or binary digits called "bits."

Computers based on quantum physics would have quantum bits, or "qubits," that exist in both the on and off states simultaneously, dramatically increasing the computer's power and memory. Quantum computers would take advantage of a strange phenomenon described by quantum theory called "entanglement." Instead of only the states of one and zero, there are many possible "entangled quantum states" in between one and zero.

An obstacle in developing quantum information systems is finding a way to preserve the quantum information long enough to read and record it. One possible solution might be to use diamond with "nitrogen vacancies," defects that often occur naturally in the crystal lattice of diamonds but can also be produced by exposure to high-energy particles and heat.

"The nitrogen vacancy in diamond operates in a very broad spectral range and at room temperature, which is very important," Shalaev said.

The work is part of a new research field, called diamond photonics. Hyperbolic metamaterials integrated with nitrogen vacancies in diamond are expected to work as efficient "guns" of single photons generated in a broad spectral range, which could bring quantum information systems, he said.

Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709,

Sources: Vladimir Shalaev, 765-494-9855,

Zubin Jacob,

Note to Journalists: A copy of the research paper is available by contacting the Science Press Package team at 202-326-6440,

Friday, October 28, 2011

Man Steals Sandwich, Uses Stolen Forklift As Getaway


it was a reuben:

ROSS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — A man is accused of stealing a takeout sandwich and using a stolen forklift as his getaway vehicle.

This happened in Ross Township. The suspect is 38-year-old Sean Faulkner of Bloomfield.

Police say he stole the forklift from a construction site on Babcock Road near McKnight.

Why did he steal it? He wasn’t just tired lugging a case of beer – he was hungry too.

That’s apparently why he drove the forklift about a mile down Babcock to Sieb’s Restaurant. He ordered a Reuben sandwich, but he didn’t pay for it.

“He said he was gonna go eat it in the corner and he ended up running out the front door, down the parking lot with the sandwich,” said Kelly Donatelli, who served him. “Just very bizarre. It was weird.”

That’s when he tried to make his getaway in a forklift. Ross Township police caught him.

“Apparently he was tired of walking and he saw the forklift with the keys in it and seemed like a good idea at the time,” Detective Brian Kohlhepp said.

Faulkner is facing a felony theft charge for stealing the $45,000 forklift and misdemeanor theft for stealing the $8 sandwich.

Monday, October 24, 2011

List of companies that control most of the global economy


"Researchers at the Swiss Federal Technology Institute in Zurich have identified a 'Capitalist Network' of well-connected companies that control most of the global economy (.PDF)"

147 'super-connected' companies that control forty percent or more of the global financial network.

The top 50 of the 147 superconnected companies

1. Barclays plc
2. Capital Group Companies Inc
3. FMR Corporation
4. AXA
5. State Street Corporation
6. JP Morgan Chase & Co
7. Legal & General Group plc
8. Vanguard Group Inc
10. Merrill Lynch & Co Inc
11. Wellington Management Co LLP
12. Deutsche Bank AG
13. Franklin Resources Inc
14. Credit Suisse Group
15. Walton Enterprises LLC
16. Bank of New York Mellon Corp
17. Natixis
18. Goldman Sachs Group Inc
19. T Rowe Price Group Inc
20. Legg Mason Inc
21. Morgan Stanley
22. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc
23. Northern Trust Corporation
24. Société Générale
25. Bank of America Corporation
26. Lloyds TSB Group plc
27. Invesco plc
28. Allianz SE 29. TIAA
30. Old Mutual Public Limited Company
31. Aviva plc
32. Schroders plc
33. Dodge & Cox
34. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc*
35. Sun Life Financial Inc
36. Standard Life plc
37. CNCE
38. Nomura Holdings Inc
39. The Depository Trust Company
40. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance
41. ING Groep NV
42. Brandes Investment Partners LP
43. Unicredito Italiano SPA
44. Deposit Insurance Corporation of Japan
45. Vereniging Aegon
46. BNP Paribas
47. Affiliated Managers Group Inc
48. Resona Holdings Inc
49. Capital Group International Inc
50. China Petrochemical Group Company

* Lehman still existed in the 2007 dataset used

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Email money


PayPal launches Facebook app for sending money
Facebook members can use it to send monetary gifts to one another

Juan Carlos Perez (IDG News Service)

PayPal has launched a Facebook application designed to let users of the social networking site send money to each other.

The application, named Send Money, features a greeting card component for accompanying the money transfer with an e-card containing a message, photos and videos to mark occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.

"In a world that's turning increasingly to social media, we are giving our customers the flexibility to send their money to whoever they want, whenever they want and for whatever 'occasion' they want," wrote JB Coutinho, a senior product marketing manager at PayPal, in a blog post on Thursday.

Cards are posted to recipients' Facebook Walls, although the message is kept private. Users can also opt to just send someone money, without posting an e-card to their Wall. Almost 80 percent of active PayPal users are on Facebook.

This move by PayPal reinforces the growing link between social media and e-commerce, in which the social graph is being used for a variety of shopping-related activities, such as product recommendations from friends and special-offer targeting by merchants.

"THREE MAJOR banks are making money transfers just a click or a call away with a new PayPal-like payment service."

What Does Email Money Transfer - EMT Mean?

"A retail banking service that allows users to transfer funds between personal accounts using email and their online banking service. Email money transfers are considered secure because only the notification of transfer is done through email. The actual funds are settled through the existing funds transfer networks that banks have used for years. "

"An Email Money Transfer resembles an e-check in many respects. The money is not actually transferred by e-mail. Only the instructions to retrieve the funds are."


Pop Money


Trap It: AI aggregator learns what users like


"Virtually overnight, Siri, the personal assistant technology in Apple's new iPhone 4S, has brought state-of-the-art AI to the consumer mainstream. Well, it turns out there's more where that came from. Trapit, a second spinoff of SRI International's groundbreaking CALO project (Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes), is preparing for a public beta launch this fall. The Web-based news aggregator lets users set up persistent 'traps' or filters on specific topics. Over time, the traps learn to include more articles that match users' interests and exclude those that don't. Philosophically, it's the exact opposite of social-curation news apps like Flipboard or Pulse, since it uses adaptive learning and sense-making technologies to learn what users like, not what their friends like. 'Just as Siri is revolutionizing the human-computer interaction on the mobile device, Trapit will revolutionize Web search as we know it today,' the company asserts."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hologram Table

Microsoft HoloDesk


from article:

FORTUNE -- If you think today's 3-D technology in movies and TV shows is cool, wait until you see your first hologram table. Funded by DARPA, the Defense Department's research arm, for battle planning, the Urban Photonic Sandtable Display produces a 360°, 3-D image (no glasses needed). Zebra Imaging, the company that is developing the technology, says it'll take at least another three years before this table is set for business applications like surgical planning or even gaming, but that won't stop us from thinking about the possibilities now. Here's how it works.

Virtual models: Detailed 3-D renderings are created from standard design software or Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) devices that sweep real-world buildings and objects with invisible lasers.

Prepping the hologram: A proprietary software plug-in loaded onto a standard computer converts the 3-D image into a hologram-friendly format. During this stage, users can zoom in or out, rotate, or change the lighting.

The display: Processors and graphics-processing units inside the display crunch the data and send it through a light modulator and a set of lenses to create an image made up of millions of "hogels," the 3-D equivalent of pixels.

This article is from the October 17, 2011 issue of Fortune.

World's most relaxing music

MARCONI UNION - "WEIGHTLESS" (right click this link to download, 'save link as')

...OR Listen here:

From the article:

The music that's more relaxing than a massage or Mozart‏
The one chart that Adele hasn’t topped this year Ambient track relaxes women more than massage, Mozart or Adele
October 16, 2011

The music that's more relaxing than a massage or Mozart‏
‘Weightless’ a specially-designed ambient track by Marconi Union is scientifically proven to be more relaxing than having a massage or listening to tunes by Adele, Mozart, Coldplay and more*.

In just 48 hours, almost 5000 cash-strapped British women have turned to ‘Weightless’ in a bid to save money on expensive spa treatments that help them unwind.

Weightless uses specific rhythms, tones, frequencies and intervals to relax the listener. A continuous rhythm of 60 BPM causes the brainwaves and heart rate to synchronise with the rhythm: a process known as ‘entrainment’. Low underlying bass tones relax the listener and a low whooshing sound with a trance-like quality takes the listener into an even deeper state of calm.

The eight-minute track is free to download at and was created for Radox Spa by ambient musicians Marconi Union in consultation with the UK’s Lyz Cooper, founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy. The track forms part of the Spa Therapy album, which includes exclusive tracks by Honeyroot, Echaskech, Laki Mera and Digitonal and is free to download from the Facebook page.

Richard Talbot from Marconi Union said: “We were really interested in this project because of the scientific nature of it. Our music tends to be very relaxing but working with Lyz, the sound therapist, helped us to understand the science behind some of the techniques that we intuitively use when making music. It was fascinating to have the physiological responses to the music tested in a laboratory.”

Scientists at Mindlab International, an independent research consultancy based at the Sussex Innovation Centre, tested subjects to record the subconscious physical responses to listening to Weightless versus other music and having massages.

The effect of the activities on heart rate, respiration and skin conduction concluded that listening to Weightless had a much more relaxing effect than listening to conventionally ‘relaxing’ music by Adele, Enya, Coldplay, Moby and Mozart.

Top ten most relaxing tracks

1. Marconi Union – Weightless
2. Airstream – Electra
3. DJ Shah – Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix)
4. Enya – Watermark
5. Coldplay – Strawberry Swing
6. Barcelona – Please Don’t Go
7. All Saints – Pure Shores
8. Adele – Someone Like You
9. Mozart – Canzonetta Sull’aria
10. Café Del Mar – We Can Fly

Mindlab’s Dr David Lewis, one of the UK’s leading stress specialists and author of the best selling One Minute Stress Manager, said: “Brain imaging studies have shown that music works at a very deep level within the brain, stimulating not only those regions responsible for processing sound but also ones associated with emotions.The results clearly show that the track ‘Weightless’ induced the greatest relaxation – higher than the massage or any of the other music tested. The study confirmed that the Radox Spa track Weightless has the power to soothe frazzled minds and relax stressed bodies.”

Lyz Cooper, the UK’s leading therapeutic sound practitioner, who collaborated with Marconi Union on the track said: “What distinguishes Weightless from other music is the use of therapeutic sound. Many musicians and composers intuitively use therapeutic elements in their music every day, but when you put many of these elements together it is possible to create music that has an extremely relaxing effect on people – as confirmed in the tests.”

Cassie Shuttlewood, brand manager for Radox Spa said: “Most of us feel stressed every day, but Radox understands that it’s not necessary to spend hundreds of pounds on massages, spa weekends and yoga retreats in order to relax, which is why we designed Radox Spa, a way to get that Spa feeling at home. As the research shows, just spending eight minutes listening to Weightless can have a profound effect on our stress levels. We created the track and the Radox Spa range to give everyone a little bit of ‘spa’ in their day.” The Radox Spa range is available to purchase nationwide in Tesco, Sainsbury’s and selected supermarkets with a RRP of £2.21.

OmniTouch: Wearable Multitouch Interaction Everywhere

2013 Electric DeLorean

from the article:

The iconic DeLorean Motor Company has weathered a stormy past, but is coming back with a vengeance by introducing an electric version of it gull-winged masterpiece. The company just rolled out a prototype DMC-12 Ev at the DMC Texas Open House – and it’s a retro-future dream machine. While it doesn’t run on fusion power (yet) it still has some sweet performance statistics like a top speed of 125 mph driven by a 260 horsepower electric motor. Hang on tight, because the first production model is due out in 2013.

Read more: All-Electric DeLorean Car To Hit the Streets in 2013! | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World

Electric exotic cars are all the rage, as they’ve proven they can outperform their gas-powered rivals. The all-electric production DMC-12 is the latest EV to prove this trend, and it’s adding some real style to the mix. Lithium-ion batteries will energize the central rear-mounted motor, which is placed as low as possible to help the car hug the road. There’s no announcement on the vehicle’s range, but cost is projected to be in the $90-100K range. The interior looks to be wrapped in leather and it comes complete all the latest high-tech systems – a decidedly non-retro approach.

The relaunched DeLorean Motor Company (which has been restoring cars and just began building new stainless steel beauts) will collaborate with Epic EV to make this dream car possible.

Read more: All-Electric DeLorean Car To Hit the Streets in 2013! | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Some U.S. officials question response to Iran plot

from the article:


But Paul Pillar, a former top CIA analyst, said the strong words from Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also reflect the coming election.

"They're in a re-election mode and making sure that they sound ... tough on Iran," said Pillar, now a Georgetown University professor. "It just gives additional red meat for those who would like to push us toward even more confrontation, especially in the use of military force."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

social network tool for data sharing

"Micah Sifry, co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, writes that Barack Obama may be struggling in the polls and even losing support among his core boosters, but when it comes to the modern mechanics of identifying, connecting with and mobilizing voters, as well as the challenge of integrating voter information with the complex internal workings of a national campaign, Obama's data analysis team is way ahead of the Republican pack. Alone among the major candidates running for president, the Obama campaign not only has a Facebook page with 23 million 'likes' (roughly 10 times the total of all the Republicans running), it has a Facebook app that is scooping up all kinds of juicy facts about his supporters and inside the Obama operation, his staff members are using a powerful social networking tool called NationalField, which enables everyone to share what they are working on. 'The holy grail of data analysis is data harmonization, or master data management,' says Alex Lundry, a Republican data-mining expert at TargetPoint Consulting. 'To have political talking to finance and finance talking to field, and data is flowing back and forth and informing the actions of each other — it sounds easy, but it's incredibly hard to implement.' Sifry writes that if the 2012 election comes down to a battle of inches, where a few percentage points change in turnout in a few key states making all the difference, we may come to see Obama's investment in predictive modelers and data scientists as the key to victory."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rare earth: One of the world's largest scandium deposits found in Queensland

By Karen Hunt

Monday, 10/10/2011

A north Queensland mining company has discovered one of the world's largest deposits of the rare earth, scandium.

Scandium is used to make solid oxide fuel cells, which are used generating electricity from natural gas and renewable fuels..

This discovery has been made at a former nickel mine at Greenvale, just out of Townsville.

With scadnium selling currently selling for $5,000 a kilo, owner Metallica Metals says it will double the size of a planned cobalt and nickel mine at the site.

Metallica managing director Andrew Gillies says the deposit's quality and purity are outstanding, and very unusual.

"Scandium is found probably in most rocks, typically perhaps five to 15 parts per million; we've got sometimes a thousand times that," he said.

"We would think that we've got something unique. There's only three resources in the world and we've got two of them."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Early flying machines

Ancient Greek city digitally recreated

BBC Documentary:

By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent

A submerged ancient Greek city, from the heroic era portrayed in Homer’s Iliad, is being ‘raised’ from the bottom of the Aegean.

Using cutting edge underwater survey equipment and site reconstruction software, archaeologists and computer scientists have joined forces to map and digitally recreate a Bronze Age port which was swallowed by the waves up to 3000 years ago.

It’s the first time that a submerged city has ever been fully mapped in photo-realistic 3D.

The entire city – covering 20 acres – has been surveyed in ultra-high definition, with error margins of less than three centimetres.

The survey – carried out by an archaeological team from the University of Nottingham – is the subject of a special BBC Two documentary, tomorrow Sunday evening.

The original name and political status of the site is a complete mystery. The evidence so far suggests that it flourished between 2000 and 1100 BC, peaking in size in the two century period, 1700-1500BC, and being abandoned about a century before the end of the millennium.

It’s conceivable that, at its peak, the city was a commercial or political satellite of the ancient Minoan Civilization which flourished on the island of Crete 80 miles across the sea to the south.

For most of its final few centuries, it probably functioned as a major port of the Mycenaean civilization – and may well have been one of the more important population centres of the Kingdom of Laconia (Mycenaean era Sparta), the state associated in Homeric legend with King Menelaus and his adulterous Queen, Helen, whose famous decision to run away to Troy with her Trojan lover is said to have triggered the Trojan War.

Certainly the site would have been a flourishing town with around 2000 inhabitants at the time traditionally associated with Menelaus and the war (said to be around 1200BC).

It would almost certainly not have been Bronze Age Laconia’s major political centre which is thought to have been 60 miles further north. But it may well have been that Kingdom’s premier port for trade with Crete, the Aegean islands and Anatolia.

Led by marine archaeologist, Jon Henderson of the University of Nottingham’s Underwater Archaeology Research Centre, the survey team has so far located scores of buildings, half a dozen major streets and even religious shrines and tombs.

The entire drowned city lies four metres below the surface of the Aegean, immediately off the coast of the eastern peninsula of southern Greece’s Peloponnese region .

At the heart of the city was a 40 metre long 20 metre wide plaza. Most of the houses had up to a dozen rooms. One larger building also had substantial storage facilities for imported foodstuffs.

The city sunk beneath the waves during a series of earthquakes which caused land in that immediate area to subside relative to sea level, probably in the earlier first millennium BC.

“Surveying the city has been a unique operation. It’s one of the few places on earth where, as a marine archaeologist, you can quite literally swim along a drowned street of an ancient city or look inside a submerged tomb,” said Dr. Henderson.

“The detailed information we’ve been able to obtain through the survey is giving us an unprecedentedly detailed view of what a Bronze Age Mycenaean era city looked like,” he said.

City Beneath the Waves: Pavlopetri, BBC Two, Sunday, 9 October, 8pm

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Monkeys' brain waves operate virtual arm

Monkeys' brain waves offer paraplegics hope
By Matt McGrath Science reporter, BBC World Service
Artist's conception of monkey experiment (Katie Zhuang) The experiment shows both control by the monkeys and sensory feedback to them
Continue reading the main story
Related Stories

'Robot legs' for stroke patients
Bionic revolution gathers pace
Man swaps hand for bionic one

Monkeys have been trained to control a virtual arm on a computer screen using only their brain waves.

Scientists say the animals were also able use the arm to sense the texture of different virtual objects.

Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers say their work could speed up the development of wearable exoskeletons.

This technology could help quadriplegic patients not only regain movement but a sense of touch as well.

In the experiments, a pair of rhesus monkeys was trained to control a virtual arm on a screen solely by the electrical activity generated in their brains.

Thanks to feedback from the experimental setup, the monkeys were also able to feel texture differences of objects on the screen.

The researchers involved say that just like a normal functioning limb, the monkeys were able to do both actions at the same time, sending out signals to control the arm while simultaneously getting electrical feedback to understand the texture of the objects that were touched.
Wireless future

Prof Miguel Nicolelis from the Duke University Centre for Neuroengineering in North Carolina was the senior author of the study. He believes it is a significant step in this field.

"It provides us with the demonstration that we can establish a bi-directional link between the brain and an artificial device without any interference from the subject's body," he said.

The researchers trained the monkeys, Mango and Tangerine, to play a video game using a joystick to move the virtual arm and capture three identical targets. Each target was associated with a different vibration of the joystick.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

In terms of rehabilitation of patients that suffer from severe neurological disorders this is a major step forward”

Prof Miguel Nicolelis Duke University Centre for Neuroengineering

Multiple electrodes were implanted in the brains of the monkeys and connected to the computer screen. The joystick was removed and motor signals from the monkey's brains then controlled the arm.

At the same time, signals from the virtual fingers as they touched the targets were transmitted directly back into the brain.

The monkeys had to search for a target with a specific texture to gain a reward of fruit juice. It only took four attempts for one of the monkeys to figure out how to make the system work.

According to Prof Nicolelis, the system has now been developed so the monkeys can control the arm wirelessly.

"We have an interface for 600 channels of brain signal transmission, so we can transmit 600 channels of brain activity wirelessly as if you had 600 cell phones broadcasting this activity.

"For patients this will be very important because there will be no cables whatsoever connecting the patient to any equipment."

The scientists say that this work represents a major step on the road to developing robotic exoskeletons - wearable technology would allow patients afflicted by paralysis to regain some movement.

Prof Nicolelis and his colleagues are already working with a team in Munich to develop a whole body exoskeleton, a device that can be controlled by the brain activity of the patient.

"When the patient commands this vest to move, it will not only carry their body it will provide the sensory feedback so that they know if they are stepping or walking or grabbing objects," he explained.

"In terms of rehabilitation of patients that suffer from severe neurological disorders this is a major step forward, I think."

The Duke University team is leading the Walk Again project, which hopes to carry out a public demonstration of a wearable exoskeleton at the opening game of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Google Helicopter view


Install the google earth plug in, then reopen your browser:

Then add a location in google maps for a helicopter view (press the 3d button) - you can toggle to a straight over top view as well.

Google's tour of destinations:


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mexico City plans 'renewable' marriage

Couples in Mexico City could soon use "renewable" marriage contracts to try living with their other half before making a lifetime commitment.

Newlyweds would take a minimum of two years before deciding whether to cement their relationship or split up, under plans to alter the city's civil code.

If approved, the contracts would set out in advance marital duties, such as in childcare, schooling and budgeting.

Lizbeth Rosas Montero, who drew up the bill, hopes it will cut divorce rates.

Half of all marriages in Mexico City currently end in a split.

She believes the contracts, allowing couples to "renew or dissolve" the marital link after a pre-arranged term, would lead to more harmonious relationships and reduce the workload on family judges.

Terms governing healthcare provision, the way children are educated, how much money was needed to support the family, and how dependents would be looked after in the case of a break-up would be set out in advance.
'Throwaway marriages'

Ms Rosas says families would then avoid the usual wrangling and emotional upset if they did break up.

"If within the two years the spouses decide the marriage isn't working, they can divorce in the traditional way. No-one can make them stay together," said Ms Rosas, a social worker.

However, the bill has attracted criticism from families campaigner Consuelo Mendoza.

She attacked the initiative as contributing to a "throwaway culture" in respect of society's institutions and said it would put children through the anguish of wondering whether their parents would stay together.

BBC Mundo's Ignacio De Los Reyes says the bill, which also sets out rights for common law couples, is likely to go before legislators in December. Its backers are members of Mexico City's governing PRD party, which has a clear majority.

However, the party is divided and - as the plan requires complex reform of the civil code - it would be difficult to convince all PRD legislators to vote together, he adds.

The Fantastic Flying Animated Adventure of William Joyce


Find out how Moonbot Studios made their first project fly as a short and E-book.
By Bill Desowitz | Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm
Posted In | Site Categories: CG, Short Films
Having won SIGGRAPH, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a top contender for the Oscars. All images courtesy of Moonbot.

William Joyce and Brandon Oldenberg are obviously onto something special with their award-winning short, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. It creatively coalesces low and high-tech in a silent ode to the curative power of reading, telling the story of a Keatonesque book lover displaced by a twister and hurled into an alternate world ruled by books.

The maiden project of their Moonbot Studios in Shreveport, Louisiana, The Fantastic Flying Books utilizes nearly every animated technique: CG for the protagonist and anything that moved; 2D for Humpty Dumpty like a flip book; miniatures for the library coupled with stop-motion camera moves; matte paintings on top of miniature environments when they're still; and practical shots of dust and debris. There's even a Zoetrope effect. They used Maya, Nuke, boujou, and Photoshop.
Directors William Joyce (l) and Brandon Oldenberg on set.

They wanted a tactile look so they also created their own miniature sets (principally the library topped off with matte paintings and filled with thousands of books that were rapid prototyped as brick models), and shot live-action elements for dust and debris.

Joyce, who has two adaptations coming to the big screen: Rise of the Guardians from DreamWorks in 2012 and Leaf Men from Blue Sky in 2013, said the idea sprang eight years ago on a flight to New York to visit his dying mentor, Bill Morris, a children's book advocate at HarperCollins. Morris was one of the last of the grand old gentlemen of old publishing. "I wrote this funny, little parable on lined notebook paper and by the time I landed, I pretty much had done it, and I read it to him in our last visit and he seemed very pleased," adds Joyce.
The illustration and literary influences are drawn all over the film.

The love of books certainly shines through in this Oz-like phantasmagoria (fittingly composed in both color and black-and-white) along with the sense of displacement and hopelessness from Hurricane Katrina, which also impacted Joyce.

He got a grant to chronicle the aftermath, in which 45,000 were displaced in Shreveport. After taking photos of people in shelters and getting them to describe their experiences and hopelessness, the mere act of telling their stories brought a light to their faces. "But there were organizations that brought books for them to read and that was great for the kids, who were surrounded by strangers yet completely absorbed in their books," Joyce recalls, emphasizing the power of printed media.

Humpty Dumpty was one of the most challenging characters in the film.

It just so happened that in the aftermath of Katrina, Louisiana also wanted to shore up its animation production. So Joyce hooked up with pal Oldenberg (co-founder of Reel FX) and they created Moonbot with limited financing.

"We developed a simple pipeline but with a little more sense of spontaneity than the industry normally allows," Oldenberg suggests. The most challenging part was Humpty Dumpty. "There are two performances going on with Humpty Dumpty," Oldenberg continues. "The person who is riding the horse and the horse, meaning Humpty is the rider and the book is the horse and finding that balance was an interesting challenge because it was mixing mediums. We had to fit the 2D animation of Humpty to fit the 3D animation of the book. And on top of that, we were paying homage to the flip book tradition of animation."
Character designs.

Still, Joyce was aching to do a book and it seemed like a natural to make an interactive one, so with some extra effort at Moonbot, they launched the iPad version of Flying Books last May and it's been a resounding success.

"The whole story is told through an iPad experience in different way but they complement each other," Joyce explains. "You get the written word and have the ability to have it narrated, but beyond that, you actually get to interact with the illustrations and parts of the story. So I guess the pleasing thing is we put in all the yummies that we love and it somehow feel like it belongs."

Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and editor of VFXWorld. He has a new blog, Immersed in Movies (, and is currently writing a book about the evolution of James Bond from Connery to Craig, scheduled for publication next year, which is the 50th anniversary of the franchise.