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Thursday, May 26, 2011

In the News: May 26, 2011

No time to delay, let's just get it going:

New Zealand trucker 'blown up like balloon' by air hose

"A New Zealand truck driver who fell on a compressed air hose that pierced his buttock has survived being blown up like a balloon.

Steven McCormack had fallen between the cab and the trailer of his truck, breaking the air hose.

The nozzle pierced his buttock and began pumping air into his body, which expanded dramatically.

As he screamed, Mr McCormack's colleagues turned the air off and laid him on his side, saving his life.

"He said that doctors had told him they were surprised that his skin had not burst, as the compressed air - pumping into his body at 100lb/sq in - had separated fat from muscle."

"Mr McCormack confided that the air was gradually escaping his body in the way that air usually does."

You had us all worried for him til that last bit, BBC...

Citizens in Flood Zone Build Homemade Levees to Protect Their Homes

"All of that water pouring out of spillways and topping levees up and down the Mississippi River has to go somewhere, and many living in those areas prone to flooding have taken drastic action to keep from being inundated. In what could be called a testament to the human instinct to protect hearth and home, some in the disaster zone are holding out by taking civil engineering into their own hands, building makeshift levees to keep the rising waters at bay."

This guy didn't quite make it...


Robots develop language to 'talk' to each other
OK, we really need to stop developing robots... Does no one else see where this is going?

The robots play word games to learn and test their geographic knowledge

"Robots are developing their own language to help them navigate and improve their intellectual ability.

The Lingodroid research project lets robots generate random sounds for the places they visit in both simulations and a real office.

The "words" are shared and the robots play games to establish which sound represents which location.

The lexicon has proved so sophisticated that it can be used to help robots find places other robots direct them to.

""Robot-robot languages take the human out of the loop," she said. "This is important because the robots demonstrate that they understand the meaning of the words they invent independent of humans.""

"One set of the trials with Lingodroids sees wheeled robots fitted with a camera, laser-range finder, and sonar used to map their world - roaming around at an office at the University. The robots also have a microphone and speakers onboard so they can communicate with each other.

The wheeled robots travel about and, when they reach a place that does not have a name, they generate a random combination of syllables that represent that place.

When that robot meets another robot it tells it about the places it has been. Slowly, as the robots travel and talk, they narrow down their lexicon of place names until a mutual gazeteer of their world has been generated.

The robots generated place names such as "kuzo", "jaro" and "fexo".

Each location was broadly tied to the sensory horizon of the sonar and laser-range finder they have on board, said Dr Schulz. Each chunk of territory was typically a couple of metres in diameter, she said.

Barry Bonds Will Pay To Send Beaten Giants Fan’s Kids To College

"This is actually great: Barry Bonds, the star of Bob Costas's nightmares, will provide scholarships for Bryan Stow's two grade-school-age children. Stow was brutally beaten at Dodger Stadium in March for wearing a Giants jersey. His condition is slowly improving, and police recently arrested a suspect in his beating."

"It's kind of noteworthy, too, that Bonds did this over a month ago—shortly after the verdict came down in his stupid trial—and that he didn't say anything about it to the press. Stow's lawyer mentions it here only because the family was so excited to have such a gift AND from a Giants icon, to boot.

So, please, a moment of thanks for Bonds's generosity, before you return to cursing him for eternity.

Vuvuzelas 'may spread diseases'
Is there anything good about these things?

"Vuvuzelas - the horns used by football fans celebrating last year's World Cup - not only cause noise pollution but may also spread diseases, say experts.

A short burst on the instrument creates a spittle shower similar to a sneeze, travelling at a four million droplets a second, a PLoS One journal study shows.

In crowded venues one person blowing a vuvuzela could infect many others with airborne illness like the flu or TB.

Controversial Ideas: Does Semen Act As an Antidepressant to the Recipient?
I remember hearing about this... is there actually some truth to it?

"Back in 2002, psychologists at the State University of New York at Albany published a study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior looking at the potential role of semen in alleviating depression in women. The researchers presented evidence supporting an earlier hypothesis that the hormones in semen have a mood-boosting effect on women. For any woman who has had sex -- and enjoyed it -- this may not come as a huge surprise.

Cut to this past February. Lazar Greenfield, the incoming president of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), wrote a short Valentine's Day-themed editorial about mating in Surgery News. In it, he discussed the sex lives of fruit flies, rotifers and humans. He cited the SUNY Albany study before concluding: "So there's a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there's a better gift for that day than chocolates." That gift, of course, being semen.

Greenfield's editorial sparked a controversy among ACS members, many of whom felt it was blatantly sexist. In response to the flap, Greenfield -- a highly respected retired professor at the University of Michigan with a reputation for supporting women in surgery -- apologized and stepped down from his post as editor of Surgery News; two weeks ago, as the controversy continued, he also resigned from his position at the College. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press Greenfield said, "The editorial was a review of what I thought was some fascinating new findings related to semen, and the way in which nature is trying to promote a stronger bond between men and women."

What 'Situation Room Photo' reveals about us
Old news, but I thought it was funny because after all of the over-analysis of the picture, Hilary Clinton revealed that she was covering her mouth because of allergies.

"By now, the photo is a classic. It's become one of the most viewed images on Flickr -- a mesmerizing picture that suggests as much as it reveals.

You may know it simply as the "Situation Room Photo," but you may not be aware of what some say are three subliminal messages that make it so powerful and unusual.

The photo captures President Barack Obama huddled with his national security team in the White House Situation Room as they monitor via live video the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.

Most commentators have focused on the historic nature of the photo: Obama staring at the screen with a grim intensity; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, covering her mouth to repress her reaction -- the epicenter of U.S. military power hunting down its most hated foe.

But look deeper and that photo becomes historic in a more subtle way. It's a snapshot of how much this nation's attitudes about race, women and presidential swagger are changing, several scholars and historians say.

Chrysler Turns First Profit Since Bankruptcy

Found this image online... If sales are tanking in reverse, does that mean you're making money?

"For the first time in nearly seven years, Detroit's car companies are all making money again.

Chrysler, the last of the three to return to profitability, said Monday it made a $116 million net profit in the first quarter on revenues of $13.1 billion.

The company, which emerged from bankruptcy protection a little less than two years ago, hadn't reported a net profit since 2006.

The announcement marked another chapter in the Detroit auto industry's long comeback.

And in case you missed it the first time...
Rapture: Harold Camping issues new apocalypse date

*phew* Thought I missed out!

"The evangelical broadcaster who left followers crestfallen by his failed prediction that last Saturday would be Judgement Day says he miscalculated.

Harold Camping said it had "dawned" on him that God would spare humanity "hell on Earth for five months" and the apocalypse would happen on 21 October.

Mr Camping said he felt "terrible" about his mistake.

But he said he could not give financial advice to those who spent their life savings in the belief the end was nigh.

Mr Camping had predicted that on 21 May, true believers would be swept up to heaven while a giant earthquake would bring destruction for those left behind.

"He said that when his prediction had failed to materialise he felt so terrible that he took refuge in a motel with his wife.

He said sorry for not having the dates "worked out as accurately as I could have".

Over the weekend, he said, he had returned to the scripture and it had "dawned" on him that a "merciful and compassionate God" would spare humanity by compressing the apocalyptic destruction into a shorter time frame.

But he insisted 21 October had always been the end-point of his own chronology - or at least his own latest chronology, as a previous prophecy that the apocalypse would strike in 1994 also failed to come to pass.

Eventually he has to get it right.... right?

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