Friday, May 29, 2009

Holy Craps! How a Gambling Grandma Broke the Craps World Record

TIME:"It sounds like a homework problem out of a high school math book: What is the probability of rolling a pair of dice 154 times continuously at a craps table, without throwing a seven?
The answer is roughly 1 in 1.56 trillion, and on May 23, Patricia Demauro, a New Jersey grandmother, beat those odds at Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa. Demauro's 154-roll lucky streak, which lasted four hours and 18 minutes, broke the world records for the longest craps roll and the most successive dice rolls without "sevening out." According to Stanford University statistics professor Thomas Cover, the chances of that happening are smaller than getting struck by lightning (one in a million), being hit by an errant ball at a baseball game (one in 1.5 million) or winning the lottery (one in 100 million, depending on the game). (Read "When Gambling Becomes Obsessive.")"

Target Woman: The Cougar

Went Walkabout. Brought back Google Wave.

Back in early 2004, Google took an interest in a tiny mapping startup called Where 2 Tech, founded by my brother Jens and me. We were excited to join Google and help create what would become Google Maps. But we also started thinking about what might come next for us after maps.

As always, Jens came up with the answer: communication. He pointed out that two of the most spectacular successes in digital communication, email and instant messaging, were originally designed in the '60s to imitate analog formats — email mimicked snail mail, and IM mimicked phone calls. Since then, so many different forms of communication had been invented — blogs, wikis, collaborative documents, etc. — and computers and networks had dramatically improved. So Jens proposed a new communications model that presumed all these advances as a starting point, and I was immediately sold. (Jens insists it took him hours to convince me, but I like my version better.)

We had a blast the next couple years turning Where 2's prototype mapping site into Google Maps. But finally we decided it was time to leave the Maps team and turn Jens' new idea into a project, which we codenamed "Walkabout." We started with a set of tough questions:
Why do we have to live with divides between different types of communication — email versus chat, or conversations versus documents?
Could a single communications model span all or most of the systems in use on the web today, in one smooth continuum? How simple could we make it?
What if we tried designing a communications system that took advantage of computers' current abilities, rather than imitating non-electronic forms?
After months holed up in a conference room in the Sydney office, our five-person "startup" team emerged with a prototype. And now, after more than two years of expanding our ideas, our team, and technology, we're very eager to return and see what the world might think. Today we're giving developers an early preview of Google Wave.

A "wave" is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

Here's how it works: In Google Wave you create a wave and add people to it. Everyone on your wave can use richly formatted text, photos, gadgets, and even feeds from other sources on the web. They can insert a reply or edit the wave directly. It's concurrent rich-text editing, where you see on your screen nearly instantly what your fellow collaborators are typing in your wave. That means Google Wave is just as well suited for quick messages as for persistent content — it allows for both collaboration and communication. You can also use "playback" to rewind the wave and see how it evolved.

As with Android, Google Chrome, and many other Google efforts, we plan to make the code open source as a way to encourage the developer community to get involved. Google Wave is very open and extensible, and we're inviting developers to add all kinds of cool stuff before our public launch. Google Wave has three layers: the product, the platform, and the protocol:
The Google Wave product (available as a developer preview) is the web application people will use to access and edit waves. It's an HTML 5 app, built on Google Web Toolkit. It includes a rich text editor and other functions like desktop drag-and-drop (which, for example, lets you drag a set of photos right into a wave).
Google Wave can also be considered a platform with a rich set of open APIs that allow developers to embed waves in other web services, and to build new extensions that work inside waves.
The Google Wave protocol is the underlying format for storing and the means of sharing waves, and includes the "live" concurrency control, which allows edits to be reflected instantly across users and services. The protocol is designed for open federation, such that anyone's Wave services can interoperate with each other and with the Google Wave service. To encourage adoption of the protocol, we intend to open source the code behind Google Wave.
So, this leaves one big question we need your help answering: What else can we do with this?

If you're a developer and you'd like to roll up your sleeves and start working on Google Wave with us, you can read more on the Google Wave Developer blog about the Google Wave APIs, and check out the Google Code blog to learn more about the Google Wave Federation Protocol.

If you'd like to be notified when we launch Google Wave as a public product, you can sign up at We don't have a specific timeframe for public release, but we're planning to continue working on Google Wave for a number of months more as a developer preview. We're excited to see what feedback we get from our early tinkerers, and we'll undoubtedly make lots of changes to the Google Wave product, platform, and protocol as we go.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The smelly dog stays -- the anchorwoman goes.

A Housing Court judge has curbed Soledad O'Brien's attempt to evict a family from her swanky Chelsea co-op building because their mutt is messy.

O'Brien, a CNN correspondent, was secretary of the West 26th Street co-op board when it claimed in a 20-page affidavit that Steven Lyon's Neapolitan Mastiff, Ugo, violated the terms of their co-op lease because of his "size, slobbering, shedding, drooling, gassiness and odors."

She signed a notice ending the Lyons family's lease and began eviction proceedings in January. Manhattan Housing Court Judge Arlene Hahn dismissed the case Monday, ruling the dog's owners were not properly served in the suit.

"The board is trying to evict a family, and it can't even serve the initial papers correctly," said Michael Schwartz, the lawyer for the family. "Maybe the board should be put on a leash."

After The Post broke the story in January, the backlash against the TV newswoman was so strong, she was forced to resign from the board.

"After discussions with neighbors and others, [my husband] and I have become increasingly concerned about my personal safety," O'Brien wrote in a Feb. 16 e-mail to the co-op.

Lyons said neighbors welcomed him after he bought his $3 million apartment in 2003.

But that changed in March 2007, when he obtained Ugo, bred from an award-winning bloodline, in Turin, Italy. By that summer, a new board had begun complaining, despite a co-op agreement allowing pets.

Lyons said he began taking Ugo to a grooming salon three times a month and spritzing him with an orange-scented deodorizer. He also offered to use the freight elevator to walk the dog, but the board was set on eviction.

O'Brien did not respond to requests for comment. Jerry Montag, the co-op's lawyer, declined to comment.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to survive in a world ruled by robots

required reading for our apocalypse farm

MSNBC: Just how realistic is the robotics technology seen in "Terminator Salvation?" We chatted with honest-to-god roboticist Daniel H. Wilson to find out.
By Winda Benedetti

"Let’s pretend it’s the not-so-distant future. There you are, standing in the pile of rubble that used to be your home, minding your own business, when suddenly you’re confronted by a hulking humanoid robot with glowing red eyes.
While this robot may not be shouting “Kill! Kill! Kill!” — thanks to its body language and the whirring saws it has where its hands should be, you’re about 99.999 percent sure that’s precisely what it has in mind.
The question then becomes, should you:

A) Punch the robot with your mighty human fists
B) Call it hurtful names like “lug-nuts-for-brains” or “rusty arse” or "inferior cybernetic unit with outdated software"
C) Throw mud in its eyes

If you chose answer C, then give yourself a pat on the back. You’re well on your way to surviving a robot uprising.
With the new “Terminator Salvation” film in theaters, robots running amok seem to be on everyone’s minds (or at least on my mind). And so I consulted one of humanity’s foremost experts on the subject — Daniel H. Wilson, an honest-to-god roboticist (who got his Ph.D. from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University no less) and the author of the book “ How to Survive a Robot Uprising.”
If the apocalyptic future depicted in “Terminator Salvation” were to actually come true, Wilson’s book contains all sorts of helpful advice — advice you'll find in sections titled “How to Spot a Robot Mimicking a Human” and “How to Fool a Thermal Imaging Target Tracker” and “How to Treat a Laser Wound.”
Surely John Connor and the crew from "Terminator Salvation" could have used a copy of "How to Survive a Robot Uprising." The book offers tips on how to do things like stop a giant walking robot.
While Wilson takes a cheeky approach to talking about robots overthrowing their meatbag masters, he does believe that humanoid robots will one day be used to fight our wars and his book offers an approachable look at real-world robotics through the looking glass of popular culture."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Red Bull's New Cola: A Kick from Cocaine?

TIME:''About a year ago, the makers of Red Bull, the famous caffeine-loaded energy drink, decided to come out with a soda, unsurprisingly named Red Bull Cola. The shared name implied the same big kick. But could the cola's boost — supposedly "100% natural" — come from something else? Officials in Germany worry that they've found the answer — cocaine. And now they have prohibited the soda's sale in six states across the country and may recommend a nation-wide ban.
"The [Health Institute in the state of North Rhine Westphalia] examined Red Bull Cola in an elaborate chemical process and found traces of cocaine," Bernhard Kuehnle, head of the food safety department at Germany's federal ministry for consumer protection, told the German press on Sunday. According to this analysis, the 0.13 micrograms of cocaine per can of the drink does not pose a serious health threat — you'd have to drink 12,000 liters of Red Bull Cola for negative affects to be felt — but it was enough to cause concern. Kuehnle's agency is due to give its final verdict on Wednesday when experts publish their report.
Red Bull has always been upfront about the recipe for its new cola. Its website boasts colorful pictures of coca, cardamom and Kola nuts, along with other key "natural" ingredients. The company insists, however, that coca leaves are used as a flavoring agent only after removing the illegal cocaine alkaloid. "De-cocainized extract of coca leaf is used worldwide in foods as a natural flavoring," said a Red Bull spokesman in response to the German government's announcement. Though the cocaine alkaloid is one of 10 alkaloids in coca leaves and represents only 0.8% of the chemical make-up of the plant, it's removal is mandated by international anti-narcotics agencies when used outside the Andean region.'

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dogs have souls, but you already knew that

Seattle Times Newspaper: "DENVER — For centuries, humans have imagined they are the only animals with morals. But humans are not alone in the moral arena, a new breed of behavior experts says.
Natural historian Jake Page said some scientists are acknowledging what pet owners have told their canines all along: "Good dog."
Dogs are full of natural goodness and have rich emotional lives, said animal behaviorist Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
A dog's code of ethics is on display daily in parks, backyards and family rooms.
"We're not trying to elevate animals," Bekoff said. "We're not trying to reduce humans. We're not saying we're better or worse or the same. We're saying we're not alone in having a nuanced moral system."
Page, author of "Do Dogs Smile?," said biology no longer dismisses dogs and other animals as "furry automatons" driven by instinct and food.
"People like Bekoff have figured out how to measure these things," Page said. "It's a whole new ballgame for studying dog personalities and emotions."
Bekoff, co-author of "Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals," spent thousands of hours observing coyotes, wolves and dogs. He analyzed videotapes frame by frame. The work convinced him these animals possess empathy and compassion, the emotions upon which moral sense is built.
While much the same can be said of monkeys, wolves, elephants, dolphins, whales and other social animals, dogs are special cases; they share in human lives, he said.
"Dogs know they are dependent. They learn to read us," Bekoff said. "Dogs develop this great sense of trust. We're tightly linked, and there is something spiritual about that unity."
This intimacy and mutual influence prompted Harvard University to open a Canine Cognition Lab, where researchers attempt to gain insight into the psychology of humans and dogs.
"I'm convinced many animals can distinguish right from wrong," Bekoff said."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

43 stun-gunned at prisons' Take Your Kids to Work Day

TALLAHASSEE -- A total of 43 children were directly and indirectly shocked by electric stun guns during simultaneous ''Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day'' events gone wrong at three state prisons, according to new information provided Friday by the Florida Department of Corrections.

Also, a group of kids was exposed to tear gas during a demonstration at another lockup.

Three prison guards have been fired, two have resigned and 16 more employees -- from corrections officers to a warden -- will be disciplined due to the incidents that unfolded April 23, said DOC Secretary Walt McNeil. An investigation is ongoing.

None of the children in any of the incidents required medical attention or was notably harmed, McNeil said. He said the children, who ranged in age from 5 to 17, were all children of prison officials.

In nearly every case, the guards had permission from parents or grandparents to administer the ''electronic immobilization devices,'' McNeil said.

''I can't imagine what these officers were thinking to administer this device to children, nor can I imagine why any parent would allow them to do so,'' McNeil said. ``This must not happen again.''

McNeil called the episode ''embarrassing'' for the nation's fourth-largest prison system. It has been rocked by far more serious scandal.

A McNeil predecessor, Jimmy Crosby, is incarcerated in a federal prison for taking bribes. Other guards were busted in a steroid ring, rampant pilfering, misusing inmate labor, and beer-soaked brawls stemming from a cutthroat culture of interprison softball games, in which a semi-pro baseball player was given a no-show job to help one institution win on the diamond.

The prison chief who cleaned up the mess left by Crosby, Jim McDonough, repeatedly said his mission was to end the ''culture of brutality'' that permeated the prison system.

McNeil repeatedly stressed that the stun-gunning only happened at three of the 55 institutions and that it wasn't part of a widespread practice. Still, he acknowledged that it was ''logical'' to assume other children had been shocked on other take-your-kids-to-work days.

One of the fired guards said the practice had occurred before, but so far prison officials have found no evidence that it has happened elsewhere. McNeil noted that the stun guns used differ from ''Tasers,'' which shoot electrified wires at their targets and deliver a far more powerful dose of amperage.

So far this year, none of the devices have been used on the 100,000 prison inmates -- only the children of DOC workers. McNeil said the use of the guns violated DOC policies. Of the children exposed to the stun guns, 14 were directly shocked at Franklin, Martin, and Indian River correctional institutions.

Twenty-nine others were indirectly exposed when they held hands with a person who was shocked. By circling up, the electricity could flow from one child's hands to the next. After hearing of the incident at Franklin, McNeil said, he conducted an investigation that revealed the stun-gunning at the other institutions.

During the investigation, officials also learned that officials at Lake Correctional Institution demonstrated the use of tear gas, which endangered some of the kids.

Asked if he had ever seen anything like this in his 30 years in law enforcement, McNeil paused before saying ``I've never seen anything like this.''

Friday, May 15, 2009

Scouts Train to Fight Terrorists, and More

IMPERIAL, Calif. — Ten minutes into arrant mayhem in this town near the Mexican border, and the gunman, a disgruntled Iraq war veteran, has already taken out two people, one slumped in his desk, the other covered in blood on the floor.

The responding officers — eight teenage boys and girls, the youngest 14 — face tripwire, a thin cloud of poisonous gas and loud shots — BAM! BAM! — fired from behind a flimsy wall. They move quickly, pellet guns drawn and masks affixed.

“United States Border Patrol! Put your hands up!” screams one in a voice cracking with adolescent determination as the suspect is subdued.

It is all quite a step up from the square knot.

The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.

“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.”

The training, which leaders say is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting, can involve chasing down illegal border crossers as well as more dangerous situations that include facing down terrorists and taking out “active shooters,” like those who bring gunfire and death to college campuses. In a simulation here of a raid on a marijuana field, several Explorers were instructed on how to quiet an obstreperous lookout.

“Put him on his face and put a knee in his back,” a Border Patrol agent explained. “I guarantee that he’ll shut up.”

One participant, Felix Arce, 16, said he liked “the discipline of the program,” which was something he said his life was lacking. “I want to be a lawyer, and this teaches you about how crimes are committed,” he said.

Cathy Noriego, also 16, said she was attracted by the guns. The group uses compressed-air guns — known as airsoft guns, which fire tiny plastic pellets — in the training exercises, and sometimes they shoot real guns on a closed range.

“I like shooting them,” Cathy said. “I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.”

If there are critics of the content or purpose of the law enforcement training, they have not made themselves known to the Explorers’ national organization in Irving, Tex., or to the volunteers here on the ground, national officials and local leaders said. That said, the Explorers have faced problems over the years. There have been numerous cases over the last three decades in which police officers supervising Explorers have been charged, in civil and criminal cases, with sexually abusing them.

Several years ago, two University of Nebraska criminal justice professors published a study that found at least a dozen cases of sexual abuse involving police officers over the last decade. Adult Explorer leaders are now required to take an online training program on sexual misconduct.

Many law enforcement officials, particularly those who work for the rapidly growing Border Patrol, part of the Homeland Security Department, have helped shape the program’s focus and see it as preparing the Explorers as potential employees. The Explorer posts are attached to various agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police and fire departments, that sponsor them much the way churches sponsor Boy Scout troops.

“Our end goal is to create more agents,” said April McKee, a senior Border Patrol agent and mentor at the session here.
Membership in the Explorers has been overseen since 1998 by an affiliate of the Boy Scouts called Learning for Life, which offers 12 career-related programs, including those focused on aviation, medicine and the sciences.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Confused by SPF? Take a Number

NY Times: "LAST year, Coppertone rolled out two easy-to-use sprays with its highest-ever sun protection factor: SPF 70+. Not to be outdone, Neutrogena offered its Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch lotion in SPF 85 strength, that year’s big gun.
This sun season, Banana Boat is retaliating with a pair of SPF 85 sprays, which it trumpets on its Web site as “our highest SPF level in a continuous spray formula.”
But now, SPF creep has hit the triple digits with Neutrogena’s SPF 100+ sunblock, leading some dermatologists to complain that this is merely a numbers game that confuses consumers.
The parade of stratospheric SPFs is “crazy,” said Dr. Barbara A. Gilchrest, a dermatology professor at Boston University School of Medicine. “For a normal person who is fair-skinned and concerned about skin damage and photoaging,” Dr. Gilchrest said, “it’s really in my opinion tremendous overkill.”
A sunscreen’s SPF, or sun protection factor, measures how much the product shields the sun’s shorter-wave ultraviolet B rays, known as UVB radiation, which can cause sunburn. It used to be that SPF topped out at 30. No more. These days, a race is on among sunscreen makers to create the highest SPF that R&D can buy.
If adequately applied, sunscreens with sky-high SPFs offer slightly better protection against lobster-red burns than an SPF 30. But they don’t necessarily offer stellar protection against the more deeply penetrating ultraviolet A radiation, or so-called aging rays.
In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration proposed capping SPF at 50+, but it still isn’t set in stone. So in the cap’s absence, a marketing battle is raging, fought on the turf best understood by beachgoers.
“It captures the consumers’ attention, the high SPF,” said Dr. Elma D. Baron, an assistant professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University who sees patients at hospitals in Cleveland. “Just walking down the drugstore aisle and seeing a SPF 90 or 95, they assume, ‘This is what I need.’ ”"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Space Zen: Will Humans' Brains Change During Travel in Outer Space? -A Galaxy Insight

Daily Galaxy: "In February, 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell experienced the little understood phenomenon sometimes called the “Overview Effect”. He describes being completely engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectedness. Without warning, he says, a feeing of bliss, timelessness, and connectedness began to overwhelm him. He describes becoming instantly and profoundly aware that each of his constituent atoms were connected to the fragile planet he saw in the window and to every other atom in the Universe. He described experiencing an intense awareness that Earth, with its humans, other animal species, and systems were all one synergistic whole. He says the feeling that rushed over him was a sense of interconnected euphoria. He was not the first—nor the last—to experience this strange “cosmic connection”.
Rusty Schweikart experienced it on March 6th 1969 during a spacewalk outside his Apollo 9 vehicle: “When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing. That makes a change…it comes through to you so powerfully that you’re the sensing element for Man.” Schweikart, similar to what Mitchell experienced, describes intuitively sensing that everything is profoundly connected.
Their experiences, along with dozens of other similar experiences described by other astronauts, intrigue scientists who study the brain. This “Overview Effect”, or acute awareness of all matter as synergistically connected, sounds somewhat similar to certain religious experiences described by Buddhist monks, for example. Where does it come from and why?
Andy Newberg, a neuroscientist/physician with a background in spacemedicine, is learning how to identify the markers of someone who hasexperienced space travel. He says there is a palpable difference in someone who has been in space, and he wants to know why. Newberg
specializes in finding the neurological markers of brains in states of altered consciousness: Praying nuns, transcendental mediators, and others in focused or "transcendent" states."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vitamins Found to Curb Exercise Benefits "If you exercise to improve your metabolism and prevent diabetes, you may want to avoid antioxidants like vitamins C and E.
That is the message of a surprising new look at the body’s reaction to exercise, reported on Monday by researchers in Germany and Boston.
Exercise is known to have many beneficial effects on health, including on the body’s sensitivity to insulin. “Get more exercise” is often among the first recommendations given by doctors to people at risk of diabetes.
But exercise makes the muscle cells metabolize glucose, by combining its carbon atoms with oxygen and extracting the energy that is released. In the process, some highly reactive oxygen molecules escape and make chemical attacks on anything in sight.
These reactive oxygen compounds are known to damage the body’s tissues. The amount of oxidative damage increases with age, and according to one theory of aging it is a major cause of the body’s decline.
The body has its own defense system for combating oxidative damage, but it does not always do enough. So antioxidants, which mop up the reactive oxygen compounds, may seem like a logical solution.
The researchers, led by Dr. Michael Ristow, a nutritionist at the University of Jena in Germany, tested this proposition by having young men exercise, giving half of them moderate doses of vitamins C and E and measuring sensitivity to insulin as well as indicators of the body’s natural defenses to oxidative damage.
The Jena team found that in the group taking the vitamins there was no improvement in insulin sensitivity and almost no activation of the body’s natural defense mechanism against oxidative damage.
The reason, they suggest, is that the reactive oxygen compounds, inevitable byproducts of exercise, are a natural trigger for both of these responses. The vitamins, by efficiently destroying the reactive oxygen, short-circuit the body’s natural response to exercise.
“If you exercise to promote health, you shouldn’t take large amounts of antioxidants,” Dr. Ristow said. A second message of the study, he said, “is that antioxidants in general cause certain effects that inhibit otherwise positive effects of exercise, dieting and other interventions.” The findings appear in this week’s issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Race to the Beginning of Time "Monday, April 27, 2009 | Several crates containing what will be one of the most powerful radio telescopes in the world are now en route from Bergamo, Italy to the Port of Long Beach. Its ultimate destination is the Atacama Desert in Chile, one of the driest places on earth, and one of the best for astronomical observations.
The telescope will be fully functional in about a year. And when that time comes University of California, San Diego cosmologist Brian Keating and his colleagues will have the inside track in the race to become the first to discover what happened in the first billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second after the universe was formed.
If Keating's group, which includes UCSD's Hans Paar, and researchers from UC Berkeley, as well as some from Canada, France and Japan, was to achieve this insight into what he calls the "embryonic universe," they would not only be able to more precisely explain the origin of the universe, but also its future. Their reputations would be cemented in annals of astrophysics, and they'd be in the running for a Nobel Prize.
With the telescope, dubbed POLARBEAR (short for Polarization of Background Radiation), the scientists are trying to detect primordial gravitational waves. The existence of these waves would support the theory of inflation, which holds that right after the Big Bang, there was an incredibly rapid and violent expansion of the universe.
"It is the holy grail of cosmology," said Keating, who works at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at UCSD. "We don't know if we'll be able to do it -- but if nature is kind to us and provides a signal that our instruments can detect, than this will have as revolutionary impact on cosmology as the discovery of the Big Bang.""

YouTube Censors the Alex Jones Channel

To counter such egregious censorship, we are encouraging everyone to subscribe to and bookmark the new Infowarrior channel and alert people to the fact that this will be the new home for Alex Jones on You Tube (at least until they invent a reason to pull that one too).

Paul Joseph Watson and Kurt Nimmo: YouTube has once again proven itself to be a corporate gatekeeper working to destroy free speech and the alternative media after it suspended the popular ‘Alex Jones Channel’ — primarily because Alex Jones showed a print out of a news article during a live show.

The Alex Jones Channel, started by a fan but since embraced as the “official” Alex Jones microsite on YouTube, has routinely featured in the website’s most popular ranking charts and has collectively attracted millions of views for videos painstakingly catalogued and uploaded over the past two years.

Those videos are now completely gone after YouTube bosses deleted the channel, primarily because the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette complained that Alex Jones had shown a computer print out of one of their articles about the Poplawski cop killer..

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Autotune the news

Rachel Maddow:

Truth and Consequences

Now we can trace the real environmental impact of the stuff we buy. How to raise your own eco-IQ.

A while ago I bought my grandson, a toddler, a bright yellow wooden racing car, for just 99 cents. But then I happened to read that lead in paint makes colors (particularly yellow and red) brighter and last longer; because lead costs less than alternates, cheaper toys are more likely to contain it. I have no idea if the sparkling yellow paint on this toy car harbors lead or not—but now, months later, that sporty racer sits atop my desk. I never gave it to my grandson.

Every item we buy has a hidden price tag: a toll on the planet, on our health and on the people whose labor provides those goods. Each man-made thing has its own web of impacts left along the way from the extraction or concoction of its ingredients, during its manufacture and transport, through its use in our homes and workplaces, to the day we dispose of it. These unseen impacts are incredibly important. For instance, an ingredient in sunscreen primes the growth of a deadly virus in coral reef. Four thousand to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers each year worldwide. The dangers are greatest, of course, where the most swimmers are drawn to the beauty of coral reefs.

Our inability to instinctively recognize the connections between our actions and the problems that result from them leaves us wide open to creating the dangers we decry. Our brains are exquisitely attuned to pinpoint and instantly react to a fixed range of dangers, such as snarling animals. But our perceptual system misses the signals when the threat comes in the form of gradual rises in planetary temperature, or minuscule chemicals that build up in our body over time.

Fortunately, the past decade has witnessed the emergence of industrial ecology, a discipline that uses Life-Cycle Assessment (or LCA) to deconstruct any manufactured item into its subsidiary industrial processes and their myriad ecological impacts with great precision. An LCA tracks, say, a glass jar from the initial extraction of the silica from sand through the 48 hours of cooking at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit all the way through its final disposal. That LCA tells us that heating the furnace accounts for 16 percent of glassmaking's negative impacts; the chemicals released into the air from the glass factory run from relatively high levels of carbon dioxide to trace amounts of toxic metals like cadmium.

LCAs can provide the raw data that let us be ecologically intelligent about what we buy, whether what we care about is the impact on polar bears, or on that especially prized part of nature, our bodies. But LCAs are highly technical, the terrain of industrial engineers. Here's the good news: if I were shopping for kid-safe toys now, I could use GoodGuide, a neat piece of free software that I downloaded the other day on my iPhone. GoodGuide analyzes the results from about 200 technical databases, several of them industrial LCAs, and offers them in an easy-to-use summary.

GoodGuide rates toy cars not just on whether they contain lead, but also other toxic ingredients like mercury, PVC and a list of heavy metals. It also rates them on their environmental impact and the company's social performance, such as whether suppliers use sweatshops.

As shoppers, we finally have sound ways to gauge the hidden consequences of what we buy. By switching to brands that have better profiles, we can shift market share toward ecological benefits. As we tell our family, Twitter our friends and post on Facebook what we have learned, the power of our individual decision multiplies.

Friday, May 01, 2009

What Can Adorable Robots Teach Us About Altruism?"Kacie Kinzer’s robots have always depended on the kindness of strangers. They can only drive in one direction, can’t right themselves if they tip over, and can’t sense anything about the world around them. The only thing these “Tweenbots” do have is a cute smiley face and a note asking passersby to please help them get where they want to go. And that simple software works. In a series of trials, Kacie’s Tweenbots were safely directed by the strangers they met from one corner of New York’s busy Washington Square Park to the other. Not a single one was lost, damaged, or stolen. To everyone’s relief, the bomb squad wasn’t called once.
Kacie secretly followed her robots on their merry little ways, filming their encounters with people who crossed their paths."

Watch the video at the link

Swine Flu Ancestor Born on U.S. Factory Farms

Wired Science: "Scientists have traced the genetic lineage of the new H1N1 swine flu to a strain that emerged in 1998 in U.S. factory farms, where it spread and mutated at an alarming rate. Experts warned then that a pocket of the virus would someday evolve to infect humans, perhaps setting off a global pandemic.
The new findings challenge recent protests by pork industry leaders and U.S., Mexican and United Nations agriculture officials that industrial farms shouldn’t be implicated in the new swine flu, which has killed 176 people and on Thursday was formally declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
“Industrial farms are super-incubators for viruses,” said Bob Martin, former executive director of the Pew Commission on Industrial Animal Farm Production, and a long-time critic of the so-called “contained animal feeding operations.”
As reported on Tuesday, geneticists studying the composition of viruses taken from swine flu victims described it as the product of a DNA swap between North American and Eurasian swine flu strains.
On Wednesday, Columbia University biomedical informaticist Raul Rabadan added new information on the virus’ family history in a posting to ProMed, a public health mailing list. His description paralleled that of other researchers who had analyzed the new strains, but with an extra bit of detail. Six of the genes in swine flu looked to be descended from “H1N2 and H3N2 swine viruses isolated since 1998.”
Experts contacted by agreed with Rabadan’s analysis. For researchers who track the evolution of influenza viruses, the news was chilling.
H3N2 — the letters denote specific gene variants that code for replication-enhancing enzymes — is the name of a hybrid first identified in North Carolina in 1998, the tail end of a decade which saw the state’s hog production rise from two million to 10 million, even as the number of farms dropped. H3N2 originated in a relatively benign swine flu strain first identified in 1918, but had absorbed new genes from bird and human flus."

The taste of dog food? It's harder than you think to identify

Los Angeles Times: "Researchers gave 18 volunteers five food samples to try in a blind taste test -- and only three were able to identify the canine fodder, according to a paper by the American Assn. of Wine Economists.
By Jerry Hirsch
May 1, 2009
Pâté or dog food? Either could be yummy.
That's because you probably wouldn't be able to differentiate which is which in a blind tasting, according to a study scheduled to be released today by the American Assn. of Wine Economists.
Researchers provided 18 volunteers five food samples to try in a blind taste test. Only three were able to identify the canine fodder.
"We have this idea in our head that dog food won't taste good and that we would be able to identify it, but it turns out that is not the case," said Robin Goldstein, a co-author of the study that is expected to be published online today.
Goldstein said the tasting demonstrated that "context plays a huge role in taste and value judgment," even though researchers warned the participants that one of the five foods they were going to taste was dog food.
The five samples came from a wide price range and were processed to have a similar consistency. The foods were duck liver mousse, pork liver pâté, two imitation pâtés -- pureed liverwurst and Spam -- and Newman's Own dog food."