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Thursday, January 27, 2011

In the News: January 27, 2011

First ItN of the year, so clearly it's been a while.
Some of the stories might be a little old, but enjoy!

Year of the Rabbit: Deadly start for impulse pet buys

"Dead rabbits are showing up in Chinese mailboxes as pets ordered for the Year of the Rabbit aren’t surviving the shipping process, the Shanghai Daily reports.

The Year of the Rabbit commences on February 3 under the Chinese lunar calendar and bunnies are in demand to celebrate it. One online search showed more than 600 vendors selling rabbits at prices from 15 to 2,000 yuan ($2.25 to $300), Shanghai Daily reported.

But, the paper said, the rabbits can spend five days in shipment and many have suffocated or frozen to death in the small boxes in which they are sent.

You know, everyone's afraid of the strength of China's economy (I am included), but it's stories like these that make me second guess their assent to become the world's second superpower.
As dumb as the collective American public is sometimes, the Chinese collective reminds me a lot of Lennie, from 'Of Mice and Men'. Giant lumbering beast that just can't have nice things.

British Engineer Designs Own Heart Valve Implant, Saves Own Life
And this is why engineers are awesome.

"In 2000, Tal Golesworthy, a British engineer, was told that he suffers from Marfan syndrome, a disorder of the connective tissue that often causes rupturing of the aorta. The only solution then available was the pairing of a mechanical valve and a highly risky blood thinner. To an engineer like Golesworthy, that just wasn't good enough. So he constructed his own implant that does the job better than the existing solution--and became the first patient to try it.

The existing fix, called the Bentall surgery, requires a five-hour invasive slice-and-dice and a heart-lung bypass, after which the damaged part of the aorta is cut out and replaced with a graft and mechanical valve. But Golesworthy saw an opportunity instead of despair: Nobody had thought to use more modern technologies, namely combining MRI tests with computer-aided design tools and new rapid prototyping techniques. Golesworthy saw a chance to create an implant that would support itself and reduce the chance of blood clots, thus eliminating the need to take that dangerous blood thinner."

Senate approves Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, ensures a future for noise pollution
Hooray! More government intervention!

"If you've been lucky enough to occupy the driver's seat of a hybrid or electric vehicle you've surely enjoyed the bliss that comes from smoothly and silently pulling away from a stoplight. You've also, surely, run over at least a couple of pedestrians while doing it. (We hit at least eight of the poor souls during our latest Volt test drive.) Sadly, here comes John Kerry and the rest of the US Senate to ruin our Carmageddon-esque fun. The Senate has unanimously approved the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, which requires:
...minimum level of sound emitted from a motor vehicle that is necessary to provide blind and other pedestrians with the information needed to reasonably detect a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle operating at or below the cross-over speed
How much sound? Well, they haven't figured that out yet, nor have they figured out up to what speed it must be required, nor what sort of noise is required, but by golly there will be noise. Those answers will in theory be found through the course of a study that will take no more than 48 months to complete, leaving us wonder if current noisemaker options on the Volt, Leaf, and Prius will meet the need. Regardless, if you want a quiet car you'd better start your financing."


Injured Brazilian Wolf Is First Wild Animal Treated With Stem Cells
Way cool, but that thing scares the bejesus out of me...

"A maned wolf that had been left for dead after being hit by a truck was released back into the Brazilian wild this month, granted a speedy recovery through the use of stem cells. The female wolf is reportedly the first wild animal treated with stem-cell therapy, according to the Brazilian National Journal.

The wolf was in a pre-coma state when a passerby brought her to the Brazilian National Zoo in September, the National Journal said. She had broken bones and various other injuries.

Veterinarian Rafael Bonorino implanted stem cells near the site of the wolf’s broken bones, and the animal was back on its feet within hours, Brazilian media reported. After a few days, she no longer needed pain meds, and just eight days after her surgery, the wolf pried open her enclosure and escaped. Veterinarians found her about two miles away and brought her back for further treatment and monitoring.

The Last-Name Effect on Buying Behavior

W always gets screwed...

"Kurt Carlson of Georgetown University and Jacqueline Conard of Belmont University theorized that children with last names that start with letters toward the end of the alphabet often find themselves at the back of the line or the classroom. As a result, when they become adults, they're faster to respond to opportunities to get what they want, including things they want to buy. Early alphabet people are so used to being first that individual opportunities to make a purchase don't matter as much: They "buy late."

Carlson stumbled on the effect while monitoring a job market survey for newly minted marketing PhD students, which reported where they had found positions. "I noted which schools had hired, and about a month later a revised version of the report came out with the people who hadn't replied initially," says Carlson. "I looked at the new version and thought, 'that's silly, they put all the new people who hadn't replied earlier at top of the list.' Then I looked more carefully and noticed they were all early alphabet people. I thought it was an interesting coincidence. But then the next year the report came out in two waves and the same phenomenon was there. People with names late in the alphabet responded faster."
(Yahoo thanks to Chi-Fong)

Where Are the Inventive Girls?

"Invention and innovation are essential to remaining globally competitive, and a new survey shows an untapped group of potential inventors in the U.S.

The 2011 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, announced today, indicates that American women ages 16 – 25 possess many characteristics necessary to become inventors, such as creativity, interest in science and math, desire to develop altruistic inventions, and preference for working in groups or with mentors – yet they still do not see themselves as inventive.

Young men in the same age group echo these characteristics, highlighting the need to cultivate young adults' interest in science and math, while educating and inspiring them about the impact they can have on others through invention.

"Almost three in four young women (71 percent) indicate they are creative, the characteristic they most associate with inventors (63 percent); however, less than one in three (27 percent) describe themselves as inventive. Men also follow this trend; 66 percent say they are creative but only 39 percent describe themselves as inventive.

Further demonstrating inventive traits, young women show a strong affinity for math and science – two of every five female respondents (42 percent) rate these as their favorite subjects in school. More than half of male respondents (53 percent) agree. 35 percent of young women also say they have a family member working in a field related to science, technology, math or engineering.

North Korea campaigned for Eric Clapton performance, cable reveals
Oh NK...

They do know he's British, right?

"One of the diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks reveals that North Korean officials suggested the U.S. government make arrangements for rock icon Eric Clapton to perform in Pyongyang as a way of building "good will" between the countries.

The suggestion was relayed to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, through an intermediary whose name was redacted from the document.

"Arranging an Eric Clapton concert in Pyongyang could also be useful, [the intermediary] said, given Kim Jong-Il's second son's devotion to the rock legend," the cable begins. "As Kim Jong-Il's second son, Kim Jong-chol, is reported to be a great fan, the performance could be an opportunity to build good will."

Alien Hand Syndrome sees woman attacked by her own hand

"Imagine being attacked by one of your own hands, which repeatedly tries to slap and punch you. Or you go into a shop and when you try to turn right, one of your legs decides it wants to go left, leaving you walking round in circles.

Last summer I met 55-year-old Karen Byrne in New Jersey, who suffers from Alien Hand Syndrome.

Her left hand, and occasionally her left leg, behaves as if it were under the control of an alien intelligence.

Karen's condition is fascinating, not just because it is so strange but because it tells us something surprising about how our own brains work.

It started after Karen had surgery at 27 to control her epilepsy, which had dominated her life since she was 10.

Surgery to cure epilepsy usually involves identifying and then cutting out a small section of the brain, where the abnormal electrical signals originate.

When this does not work, or when the damaged area cannot be identified, patients may be offered something more radical. In Karen's case her surgeon cut her corpus callosum, a band of nervous fibres which keeps the two halves of the brain in constant contact.

Video: Evolutionary Robots Learn to Crawl Before They Walk
Can we please stop teaching robots things?!

When Judgment Day comes, don't say I didn't warn you.

"At the University of Vermont, roboticist Josh Bongard decided to take a page from organic evolution's book in the course of his research. Humans and amphibians, among others, move through stages before they move as they will in adulthood, whether it's a baby crawling or a tadpole swimming--why not a robot? Bongard's 'bots learn to crawl, then stagger, then walk upright--and are more efficient as a result.

Bongard built a genetic algorithm and put his virtual robot brains through five thousand simulations. That algorithm causes the virtual robot (represented in a three-dimensional space as a four-legged creature with a jointed spine) to experiment with different forms of movement, with the eventual aim of getting to a light without falling over. Mostly, the robots try three different forms of movement: crawling (like a snake or tadpole), skulking with splayed legs (like a lizard), or walking upright (like a four-legged mammal).

"As it turns out, those robots that began as crawlers and moved through the other stages of movement ended up much more steady and efficient than those thrust into upright walking from the beginning. That evolution prepared the robots for challenges even beyond merely walking--they responded much more effectively to impediments like, um, being poked with a stick (seriously). The evolved 'bots were able to remain upright while their non-evolved siblings toppled over."

FBI misconduct reveals sex, lies and videotape
Yay government!

Really? Why that voice CNN?

"An FBI employee shared confidential information with his girlfriend, who was a news reporter, then later threatened to release a sex tape the two had made.

A supervisor watched pornographic videos in his office during work hours while "satisfying himself."

And an employee in a "leadership position" misused a government database to check on two friends who were exotic dancers and allowed them into an FBI office after hours.

These are among confidential summaries of FBI disciplinary reports obtained by CNN, which describe misconduct by agency supervisors, agents and other employees over the last three years.

Financial crisis of 2008 avoidable, says US inquiry

And the least surprisng news ever:
"Regulators, politicians and bankers were to blame for the 2008 US financial meltdown, a report has claimed."

"The US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, tasked with establishing the causes of the crisis, said it was "avoidable".

Its report highlighted excessive risk-taking by banks and neglect by financial regulators.

Only the six Democrat members of the 10-strong commission, set up in May 2009, endorsed the report's findings.

1 comment:

Jacques L said...

Cool stuff. I would have loved to be an engineer so I could design things like MRIs (I work a an MR tech), but I never liked doing the math.