Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Internet Court Fight Coming in 2013

A case involving Internet traffic rules, the "Open Interest" FCC order is being prepared for court.  This case is Verizon v. FCC, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, case No. 11-1355 (and consolidated cases). Final briefs will be filed by November 21, with oral arguments likely to be heard in 2013. The dispute involves several issues.
  • The 2010 "net neutrality" rules do not allow the internet provider to block material that the provider opposes for political or other reasons.
  • The neutrality rules affect restrictions on content as well as site, platforms and the types of equipment that can be attached. These limits caused Verizon Communications to file the suit in September of 2011. Verizon called the regulation "arbitrary" as well as "capricious" in addition to acting beyond its statutory authority.
  • Public interest groups have criticize the rules as too week. Separately, Free Press, a public interest group from Boston, filed suit in the federal circuit court of appeals in Boston in a challenge to provisions granting wireless broadband providers more discretion in managing their networks.
Tuesday, the FCC named the members of an oversight panel to monitor the net neutrality rules and make recommendations on preserving the openness of the Internet. The FCC has expressed confidence in the legal foundation of the "Open Interest" order several times. The rule took effect on November 20, 2011.

Summarized from a Jasmin Melvin Reuters story online at:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

40,000 Year Old Musical Instruments

Paleolithic Flutes

A number of flutes dating to the European Upper Paleolithic have been discovered. The undisputed claims are all products of the Aurignacian archaeological culture, beginning about 43,000 to 35,000 years ago, and have been found in the Swabian Alb region of Germany. These flutes represent the earliest known musical instruments and provide valuable evidence of prehistoric music. The presence of these flutes demonstrates that a developed musical tradition existed from the earliest period of modern human presence in Europe.
Early flutes

The artifact known as the Divie Babe flute, discovered in Slovenia in 1995, has been claimed as the oldest flute, though this is disputed. The artifact is a caved bear femur, approximately 43,000 years old, that has been pierced with spaced holes. Its discoverer suggested the holes were man made and that there may have been four originally before the item was damaged. However, other scientists have argued that the holes are the result of chewing by a carnivore rather than by human design.

Until 2012 the oldest undisputed musical instrument was the flute discovered in the Hohle Fels cave in Germany's Swabian Alb in 2008. The flute is made from a vulture's wing bone perforated with five finger holes, and dates to approximately 35,000 years ago. Several years before, two flutes made of muter swan bone and one made of wooly mammoth ivory were found in the nearby Geißenklösterle cave. The team that made the Hohle Fels discovery wrote that these finds are the earliest evidence of humans being engaged in musical culture. They suggested music may have helped to maintain bonds between larger groups of humans, and that this may have helped the species to expand both in numbers and in geographical range. In 2012, a fresh high-resolution carbon dating examination revealed an age of 42,000 to 43,000 years for the flutes from the Geißenklösterle cave, suggesting that they rather than the one from the Hohle Fels cave could be the oldest known musical instruments.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Copyrights versus Internet Free Speech


Google Hit With Huge Number of Copyright Claims

by Sean Captain, Managing Editor, TechNewsDaily

Google yesterday (May 24) issued its latest "transparency report" showing how often it receives requests from copyright holders to remove links to infringing material. And the numbers are huge. Updated this morning, they show that in the last month 1,314 copyright owners and 1,099 organizations sent 1,255,402 requests to take down search results pointing to copyright violating sites.

Google says that most of the requests are legit, acting on 97 percent of them. But Google deemed the remainder to be "clearly invalid copyright removal requests, "it said in the report, such as movie studios asking to take down links to articles in the Internet Movie Database, or IMDB (which also covers TV programs), and links to "the official trailer posted on a major authorized online media service." It also received two requests from the same studio to remove the link to the same newspaper movie review.

In another case, a U.S. company requested removal of search results that link to an employee's blog posts about unjust and unfair treatment.

In a blog post yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation advocacy group wrote, "Each of those are (sic) instances of legitimate speech that would have otherwise been shut down. Google deserves to be commended for that behavior."

Note from the Blog Author

I think Google has taken a responsible approach to this so far. However, expect an eventual major federal court case on this issue of copyright protection versus free speech.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Huge Number of Disability Claims

Nearly Half of New Vets Seek Disability

America's newest veterans are filing for disability benefits at a historic rate, claiming to be the most medically and mentally troubled generation of former troops the nation has ever seen.

A staggering 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service-related. That is more than double the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s, top government officials told The Associated Press.

AP reporter Marilyn Machione filed a story May 27th with some startling figures. Nearly half of new veterans are seeking disability.
  • Over 4,500 military personnel have died in the conflicts since September 9, 2001.
  • Forty-five percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are seeking compensation for service-related injuries. This is more than double the percentage who filed for such claims after the Gulf War of the 1990s.
  • Veterans are claiming eight to nine ailments on average. Claims over the past year have averaged 11 to 14 ailments per claimant. (Vietnam veterans averaged four ailments, and Korean and World War II veterans averaged two ailments).
  • The economy is weak. Veterans who can’t find work or who have lost jobs appear more likely to apply for disability status
  • More military personnel are surviving wounds than ever before. Ninety-five percent of wounds are not fatal in the current military environment.
  • Concussions and post-traumatic-stress-syndrome (PTSD) are better understood than before
  • Nearly one-third of claimants have been granted disability so far. There is no special fund set aside for these payments. Outside experts have calculated that over the lifetime of these veterans, the claims may reach $800 or even $900 billion.
  • Many claims are backlogged.
Link to the full article:;_ylt=AjbDBms3QUMoqy7zj7RgqHms0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNscWk1NDI5BG1pdANUb3BTdG9yeSBGUARwa2cDMzA5YWIxNjgtNDJmNC0zY2M2LWFkMjctM2ExYmJlNjJkZTRhBHBvcwM3BHNlYwN0b3Bfc3RvcnkEdmVyAzYzMTVjYjgwLWE4MjMtMTFlMS1hMmFkLTEzNzY3NzY5YWY3OQ--;_ylg=X3oDMTFlamZvM2ZlBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdAMEcHQDc2VjdGlvbnM-;_ylv=3

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Is Reality a Universe or a Multiverse?

Brian Greene, a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, has an article in the May 21, 2012, Newsweek about whether the universe is alone or merely one of multiple universes (a "multiverse"). He writes,

"It’s a striking prospect. If correct, it would provide the capstone on a long series of cosmic reappraisals. We once thought our planet was the center of it all, only to realize that we’re one of many planets orbiting the sun, only then to learn that the sun, parked in a suburb of the Milky Way, is one of hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy, only then to find that the Milky Way is one of hundreds of billions of galaxies inhabiting the universe. Now, inflationary cosmology was suggesting that our universe, filled with those billions of galaxies, stars, and planets, might merely be one of many occupying a vast multiverse."But the universe is expanding, as if it were being pulled apart. This may be due to a mist of dark energy that is repulsive to ordinary gravity – forcing all galaxies away from each other.

String theory suggests multiple universes (a "multiverse"). This area of theoretical physics has partisans on both sides.

"By combining inflationary cosmology and string theory, however, the stock room of universes overflows: in the hands of inflation, string theory’s enormously diverse collection of possible universes become actual universes, brought to life by one big bang after another. Our universe is then virtually guaranteed to be among them. And because of the special features necessary for our form of life, that’s the universe we inhabit."The way to prove or disprove the multiverse theory is through scientific observation. "But string theory remains hypothetical, largely because its primary distinguishing features become manifest at scales billions of times smaller than we can probe even with today’s most powerful accelerators," writes Greene.

So we are stuck for a while, knowing that we don’t know whether this is the universe or one of many multiverses.

A thorough discussion by Greene is online at:

Friday, May 25, 2012

College Educated -- and Jobless

Most unemployed Americans attended at least some college, for the first time ever

By Liz Goodwin, The Lookout, May 25, 2012

For the first time in history, there are now more unemployed Americans who attended at least some college than people who only graduated high school or dropped out of high school, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show.

Seasonally unadjusted BLS data from April show that about 4.7 million of the nation's 9 million unemployed either graduated from a four-year or a two-year college program or attended college for some time before dropping out. A smaller 4.3 million share of America's unemployed graduated only from high school or didn't finish high school. Jed Graham from Investor's Business Daily graphed the change.

This isn't necessarily bad news for college-bound kids, however. First of all, less educated people are more likely to not be counted as officially unemployed because they've dropped out of the labor force and stopped looking for work altogether. (Millions of these people are referred to as "discouraged workers," and they don't show up in monthly unemployment reports.) Secondly, less than 4 percent of college graduates over the age of 25 were unemployed in April, a far smaller share than the 7.9 percent unemployment rate for high school grads. High school drop outs, meanwhile, faced 12.5 percent unemployment.

But what the surprising statistic does show is that attending some college without attaining either an associates degree or a bachelors can leave people saddled with debt but facing similar jobless rates as those with only a high school diploma. The unemployment rate in April for people who attended some college but did not receive a degree was 8 percent, nearly the same rate high school graduates faced.

Many American colleges do a fairly dismal job of getting their students to graduate, especially for-profit schools and community colleges, which tend to serve poorer and part-time students. At for profits, only 22 percent of students will get a bachelors in six years, compared to a 55 percent graduation rate at four-year public colleges, writes The Education Trust in a November 2010 report. And fewer than 10 percent of community college students graduate with an associates degree in three years, according to a 2009 study from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

Lastly, this sea change also reflects the big increase in the share of Americans who at least try to get a college degree. According to the Census Bureau, 58 percent of Americans have attended some college, with about 30 percent of people overall attaining a bachelor's degree. Twenty years earlier, only 43 percent Americans had attended some college or had graduated.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In Defense of Criticism and Skepticism

By Massimo Pigliucci, Science2000, May 23rd 2012

My friend Benny (who produces the Rationally Speaking podcast) really hates the word "skepticism." He understands and appreciates its meaning and long intellectual pedigree (heck, we even did a show on that!), but he also thinks — based on anecdotal evidence — that too many people apply a negative connotation to the term, often confusing it with cynicism. (And notice, to make things even more confusing, that neither modern term has the philosophical connotations that characterized the ancient skeptics and the ancient cynics!).

On the contrary, I really like the word, and persist in using it in the positive sense adopted by David Hume (and, later, Carl Sagan): skepticism is a critical stance, especially toward notions that are either poorly supported by evidence or based on poor reasoning. As Hume famously put it, "A wise man ... proportions his belief to the evidence" (from which Carl Sagan’s famous "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence").

Now, why on earth would skeptics be associated with (the modern sense of) cynicism, an entirely negative attitude typical of people who take delight in criticism for the sake of criticism, negativity for the sake of negativity? I blame — at least in part — Francis Bacon. Let me explain.

Bacon was one of the earliest philosophers of science, and his main contribution was a book called The New Organon, in purposeful and daring contrast with Aristotle’s Organon. The latter is a collection of the ancient Greek’s works on logic, and essentially set down the parameters for science — such as it was — all the way to the onset of the scientific revolution in the 16th century. Bacon, however, would have none of Aristotle’s insistence on the superiority of deductive logic (which is, among other things, the basis of all mathematics). New knowledge is the result of reduction (explaining a complex phenomenon in terms of a simpler one) and induction (generalization from known cases). Bacon thought of his inductive method as having two components, which he called the pars destruens (the negative part) and the pars construens (the positive one). The first was concerned with eliminating — as far as possible — error, the second with the business of actually acquiring new knowledge.

It’s a nice idea, as long as one understands that the two partes are logically distinct and need not always come as a package (they did in Bacon’s treatise). Think of it in terms of the concept of division of cognitive labor in science. This is an idea famously discussed by Philip Kitcher, who explored the relevance of the social structure of science to its progress, arguing that such structure — once properly understood — can be improved upon to further the scientific enterprise. The basic idea, however, is familiar enough, even in everyday life: some people are good at X, others at Y, and we don’t ask everyone to be good at both, especially if X and Y are very different kinds of activities.

The same goes, I think, for Bacon’s partes destruens and construens: he may have pulled both off in the New Organon, but the more human knowledge progresses, the more it requires specialization. We have physicists and biologists, geologists and astronomers. Not only that: we have theoretical physicists and experimental ones, and even those are far too broad categories in the modern academy (e.g., theoretical atmospheric physics requires approaches that are very different from those deployed in, say, theoretical quantum mechanics). Why not, then, happily acknowledge that some people are better at constructing new knowledge (theoretical or empirical) and others at finding problems with what we think we know, or with how we currently proceed in attempting to know (Bacon’s correction of "errors")? Indeed, this division of cognitive labor may even reflect different people’s temperaments, just like personal preference and style may lead one to pick a particular musical instrument rather than another one when playing in an orchestra (or to become a theoretical or experimental physicist, as the case may be).

What does any of the above have to do with the perception problem from which skepticism (allegedly) suffers? Well, skeptics (and, hum, philosophers!) are in the criticism business, and nobody likes to be criticized (including skeptics and philosophers). But we may cut some slack to critics if they also propose ways forward, constructive solutions to the problems they identify. This, I think, is a mistake. Criticism is valuable per se, as a way to engage our notions, show where they may go wrong, and help (other) people see ways forward. Criticism — pace Bacon — is inherently constructive, even when negative, because it allows us to make progress by identifying our errors and their causes. And it can be highly entertaining: just read a good (negative) movie, book or art review, or perhaps watch an episode of the (now ended) Bullshit! series.

This under-appreciated role of criticism, incidentally, may also be responsible (in part, i.e. egos and turf wars aside) for the continuing diatribes between philosophers and physicists, where too often the latter do not appreciate that the role of philosophy is a critical one, with the discipline making progress by eliminating mistaken notions rather than by discovering new facts (we’ve got science for the latter task, and it’s very good at it!).

So, my dear Benny and other fellow skeptics, let’s reclaim the term skepticism as one that encapsulates a fundamental attitude that all human beings interested in knowledge and truth should embrace: the idea that mistakes can be found and eliminated. It’s not at all a dirty job, and we are able and ready to do it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Barack Obama's Strength: Rhetoric

May 23, 2012

Diagnosing Obama's Rhetoric

By Matt K. Lewis, The Daily Beast
My latest podcast features Sam Leith, the author of "Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama."

Leith has analyzed President Obama‘s use of rhetorical style to explain why he is such an effective public speaker. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:
Obama is completely addicted to what we technical rhetoricians call anaphora, which is what politicians always do. It’s where you repeat a word or a phrase at the beginning of the sentence, so you build up a whole rhythm. He says, "I’m going to be a President who’s going to do this, a President who’s going to do that…"
He also builds very musical sentences. He never says something in one term when he can say it in two. And that’s called syntheton, which goes: We’re talking about homes and jobs, people and places, fish and chips…
He also does — which I wish I knew why it was so effective, neurologically — but he does what’s called the group of three, which is called the trichodon. "Blood, sweat, and tears," which is actually a misquote from [Winston] Churchill … The human brain wants things to go into groups of three for some reason. It’s hugely rhetorically effective to use groups of three, and Obama does it all the time.
… If you just look for grouping of three phrases that rise up in import and significance as you get to the end. So things fall into groups of three, balanced pairs, the syntheton thing. There are a lot of parallelisms, lot of antithesis, one thing and the other.
He’s very conscious, actually, of the noise, the rhythms and cadences of a speech are really important. One of the things that hasn’t been much discussed about "Yes We Can" is that the reason it sounds so forceful and determined, and has so much resonance with people, is that it is … three stressed syllables in a row. That’s quite rare in speech. Yes. We Can. It’s forceful.
Those forms of words sound solid. "I Like Ike" was as well. It’s something to throw in the mix, this idea of euphony. It’s not necessarily a coincidence that, "We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident" is in iambic pentameter.

Read more:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Another Facebook Problem: Malware

Scary New Facebook Bugs Steal

Money, Evade Anti-Virus Software

Paul Wagenseil, SecurityNewsDaily Managing Editor
Also published on TechNewsDaily on May 22, 2012
Most pieces of Facebook malware are mere annoyances — survey scams that generate pennies at a time for the operators, or "like"-jacks that promote dubious products.

However, two new bugs may be harbingers of more serious malware to come.

The more immediately dangerous of the two uses a classic phishing email to direct users to rigged Facebook pages that harbor the SpyEye banking Trojan, a long-lived and very effective information stealer that infects Web browsers to hijack online banking sessions.

The other is a sophisticated clickjacker called LilyJade, which is spreading through Facebook as a worm and substitutes its own online ads in the place of legitimate ads on Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube, Google and other popular sites in order to generate cash for small-time cybercrooks.

The Flashback malware that infected 600,000 Macs in March made money through clickjacking, and a different piece of malware discovered last week that places ads on Wikipedia pages seems to operate the same way.

Working hard for your money

The SpyEye phishing email, forwarded to Sophos' Naked Security blog by a reader, pretends to be an official notification from Facebook telling the recipient that "we have received an account cancellation request from you." The email then asks the recipient to "follow the link below to confirm or cancel this request."

The link does go to a page, but not an official one. Instead, the visitor is asked to install an unknown Java-based application, and not given an option to decline.

Once the applet is installed, the user is then asked to "update" the Adobe Flash Player — which, in this case, is really a variant of the SpyEye banking Trojan.

Good anti-virus software will block the installation of SpyEye, as will common sense that tells users not to allow installation of unwanted applications.

Today clickjacking, tomorrow who knows?

LilyJade uses similar social-engineering tactics, claiming to be news about Justin Bieber being in a car crash. Once a user clicks the link, it uses a drive-by download to infect browsers.

At the moment, LilyJade is harmless to infected computers. But it's installed using a cybercriminal exploit kit and is written in a new programming framework called Crossrider that works equally well in Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.

LilyJade's rapid spread and ease of infection won't go unnoticed for long by other malware creators.

"It is quite rare to analyze a malicious file written in the form of a cross-platform browser plugin. It is, however, even rarer to come across plugins created using cross-browser engines," wrote Kaspersky Lab security expert Sergey Golovanov in an English-language blog post today (May 21.) (The Russian-language version was posted May 5.)

What's unusual about LilyJade, according to independent security researcher Brian Krebs, is that its creator, an Arizona hacker named Dru Mundorff, is openly selling it for $1,000 a copy on hacking forums, using his real name.

On the hacking forum, Mundorff claimed that LilyJade is invisible to anti-virus software, since in some cases it's just two lines of code pointing to an external site.

Facebook told Krebs it had already sent Mundorff a cease-and-desist letter, which Mundorff ignored.
Mundorff told Krebs that LilyJade is in fact perfectly legal, thanks to a creative end-user license agreement.

"We're not forcing any users to be bypassed, exploited or anything like that," Mundorff told Krebs. "At that point, if they do agree, it will allow us to make posts on their wall through our system."

This story was provided by SecurityNewsDaily, a sister site to TechNewsDaily


Monday, May 21, 2012

Nations Ranked for Safeguarding Nuclear Materials

By Ross Toro, LiveScience

Safeguarding Nuclear Materials by Rank

Thirty-two countries that have 1 kilogram or more of weapons-usable nuclear materials are ranked based on their core activities directly related to the protection and accounting of nuclear materials.

Rank Country Score

 1 Australia 94
 2 Hungary 89
 3 Czeck Republic 87
 4 Switzerland 86
 5 Austria 85
 6 Netherlands 84
 7 Sweden 83
 8 Poland 82
 9 Norway 81
10 Canada 79
10 Germany 79
10 United Kingdom 79
13 Belgium 78
13 United States 78
15 Ukraine 76
16 Argentina 74
16 Belarus 74
16 Italy 74
19 France 73
19 Mexico 73
19 South Africa 73
22 Kazakhstan 71
23 Japan 68
24 Russia 65
25 Israel 56
26 Uzbekistan 55
27 China 52
28 India 49
29 Vietnam 48
30 Iran 46
31 Pakistan 41
32 North Korea 37

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Plutonium Has a Signature

Hidden Fingerprint of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Finally Found

By Jesse Emspak, LiveScience Contributor

After 50 years of searching, physicists have spotted the fingerprint of radioactive plutonium, revealing the secrets of this complex molecule behind nuclear weapons.

The researchers found the "plutonium signal" using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which is often used to peer into the electronic structure of atoms and molecules.

Their findings, detailed in the May 18 issue of the journal Science, could help scientists and others figure out the relative amounts of different types of plutonium (and its many compounds) in nuclear reactors, for instance.

"When someone has a nuclear reactor, with plutonium sitting there for a long time, you don't really know how much is in there," said study researcher Georgios Koutroulakis of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The researchers also suggest the findings may benefit more exotic undertakings, such as power generation for interplanetary exploration, and earthly ones, such as long-term storage of nuclear waste.

Powerful plutonium
Plutonium-239 was discovered in 1941, but its "signature" had never been seen. That meant that the way plutonium reacted with other elements around it wasn't entirely clear. When analyzing nuclear waste or fuel it's sometimes important to know, for example, how much actual plutonium there is in the sample.

Now after decades of searching, scientists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Japan's Advanced Science Research Center have cracked it. Koutroulakis and Hirsohi Yasuoka led a group that used plutonium dioxide cooled to near absolute zero to find the telltale signal of plutonium.

"You can probe plutonium compounds that you couldn't do before," said Thomas Albrecht-Schmitt, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame, who reviewed the journal article but wasn't involved in the current study. "I saw the title of this and my jaw hit the floor; I was one of the people who wanted to do this. The really great thing here is they got it to work."

Finding a plutonium fingerprint

Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy works by putting a sample in a strong magnetic field that ultimately flips the spins of charged particles in the sample. When the magnetic field is turned off the atoms "relax" and the spins start pointing in random directions again. As they relax, they give off signals that are characteristic of specific atoms.

These characteristic signals are called "chemical shifts," as the frequency shifts relative to a reference frequency. Scientists can use the known structure of one molecule to figure out the structure of other similar ones.

But plutonium is harder to measure that way. First off, plutonium-239 is hard to handle, being highly radioactive. Then there's the signal that the element gives off in the NMR machine. Plutonium's chemical shift is thousands of times larger than that of lighter elements, meaning the space you're looking in for that "spike" of radio energy is bigger. On top of that, plutonium relaxes very quickly, in just nanoseconds, when the magnetic field is shut off. For comparison, most elements relax in the space of microseconds.

To solve these problems, Yasuoka and Koutroulakis used plutonium dioxide and ran the NMR apparatus through a wide range of signal frequencies that might reveal plutonium's NMR signature. To slow the relaxation to 100 seconds, they cooled the sample to 4 degrees Kelvin — cold enough to liquefy helium.

The method could help scientists figure out how to dispose of nuclear waste, Albrecht-Schmitt said. "There's a lot of plutonium scrap, and it ages in weird ways," he said.

However, further work is needed to test the method on other plutonium compounds, though this method will make detecting plutonium much easier, the researcher said.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Unwise Camp David G8 Communique

A Reuters article today by Jeff Mason and Laura MacInnis reported on the Camp David Group of Eight (G8) summit at Camp David.
  • The G8 agreed to keep Greece in the Euro zone
  • The group agreed to "combat financial turmoil" while "revitalizing a global economy"
  • Thew group favors mixing German-style austerity with (Euro government and bank) stimulation, though these two opposite approaches have unresolved differences. A fuzzy statement was issued which stated, "We commit to take all necessary steps to strengthen and reinvigorate our economies and combat financial stresses, recognizing that the right measures are not the same for each of us,"
  • President Obama wanted a growth-oriented approach as the fragile U.S. recovery and his changes of re-election might be affected by an austerity approach. "Growth and jobs must be our top priority," he said. The push for a growth-oriented approach seems to have come particularly from the French. German chancellor Angela Merkel stated oxymoronically, "Solid finances and growth belong inseparably together and should not be put into contrast."
  • G8 leaders stated the oil markets would be monitored and that they stand ready to increase supplies if needed.
  • The communiqué at the close of the meeting was not aligned with the emphasis on austerity clearly championed by Merkel of Germany and British Prime Minister David Cameron as the proper path to prosperity for the European Union.
  • European leaders stressed that they would stand firm to protect the banks, the Reuters article noted.
  • Iran’s nuclear capacity, oil prices and Afghanistan were issues that were also raised at the G8 meeting at Camp David. NATO members of the meeting went on to Chicago for a NATO meeting that would address issues of that military alliance, including the on-going commitment to Afghanistan.
Summarized from:

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Notes from the Blog Author
The winner from this conference was Vladimir Putin and the Russian Republic. Putin didn’t attend this meeting, so he didn’t have to answer questions about guarantees of Russian natural gas or oil at steady prices to be paid in Euros. He didn’t have to clarify his government’s separate negotiations with Iran. He gave himself a free pass on these important issues through non-attendance.

The short-term political losers appear to be David Cameron of the UK and Angela Merkel of Germany. They realize that only austerity will staunch the blood of a bankrupt member, Greece, and significantly encourage thrift on the part of Spain and Italy. Now they know that isn’t going to happen.
The short-term political winners but long term flirtation with disaster has been engendered by France, Greece (though not present), Italy and Spain. They think they have been cut some slack. If they use that slack they will finish digging the graves of their own bankruptcy.

The United States may be a short-term and a long-term political and economic loser here. Failing to side with the common sense of the UK and Germany has been the ugly feat done by Obama with an eye to his own re-election. But if there are private treasury guarantees by Geithner (who was present) to the Euro member banks, that could prove money down a rat hole that will haunt Obama in the future.

Assumption by the blog author: there is no other answer, Greece must leave the Euro and re-establish the drachma or a new unstable local currency. It is too late for it to enjoy membership in the single currency. Even The Economist realizes this. Greece must be cut loose "pour encourager les autres," such as Italy, Spain, France and the irresponsible debt of the U.S. itself.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Likely Agenda for Current G8 Summit

Mark Trumbull, a staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor, had an interesting article today about the G8 meeting that opened today at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. Today’s blog entry is a summary of his piece.

The heads of state will discuss Syria, nuclear proliferation, and worldwide famine issues. But the dominant issue will be the eurozone debt crisis. The recent elections in France (where a socialist won) and Greece (where no party could form a majority) have added urgency to the debt crisis, especially since the Eurozone austerity measures have left the eurozone stagnant or in a recession. Greece may leave the common currency, the Euro. European stocks are down 15 percent in the last two months. Stock markets in emerging market countries are also down.

The American markets have skidded down in May as the Greek parliament has failed to form a majority, but American and German bonds are up as part of a "flight to safety." British Prime Minister David Cameron has given a major speech on the European economy, saying yesterday that the member nations need to work toward both debt reduction and growth.

Vladimir Putin of the Russian Republic will not be at the meeting, but the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Canada and Japan will join the host nation, the USA, for two days of meetings. German leader Angela Merkel favors austerity, yet France’s new President Francois Hollande would prefer growth. The leaders need a game plan for Greece’s possible exit from the Euro. Easier lending policies by the European Central Bank or the issuance of new Eurobonds are possible steps that may be considered. British Prime Minister Cameron has also brought up the problem of economic sluggishness: "We all need to address Europe’s overall low productivity and lack of economic dynamism, which remains its Achilles' Heel. Most EU member states are becoming less competitive compared to the rest of the world, not more."

The economies of Italy and Spain are also delicate. China’s economy is slowing. And there is a G20 meeting coming up in another month.

Summarized from:
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Below: a summary of graphs and
statistics printed with the article
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Debt as a percentage of GDP

Greece 165%
Italy 121%
Portugal 106%
United States 100%
France 86%
Germany 82%
Spain 67%
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Deficit spending as a percentage of GDP

Highest deficit percentage to lowest
United States

None of these nations a running a balanced budget – they are all borrowing
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Interest rates on ten-year government bonds

This figure provides a warning of a possible default if those bonds are paying above 7%. In the last year, Greece has moved from 13.5% to 17.78%. Portugal was at 8.7% in 2011, when Ireland was at 9.6%. At that time, Spain was about 5.5%. Three months ago, Germany was paying 1.83% interest on ten year bonds.
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The Shadow Economy

The shadow economy is the marketplace that eludes government management and regulation. It is also called the "underground economy." It includes the black market as well as unrecorded cash transactions, for example, domestic help paid in cash. Here is a list of the percentage of a nation’s economy that consists of the shadow economy:

Greece 24.3%
Italy 21.2%
Portugal 19.4%
Spain 19.2%
Germany 13.7%
France 11%
USA 7%
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Exports as a Percentage of the Economy

"Does this country have anything that the world wants to buy?" Only Germany does well at this measure.

Germany 41%
Portugal 28%
Italy 24%
Spain 23%
France 23%
Greece 19%
USA 11%

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Accurate Estimate of Dangerous Asteroids

May 16, 2012 (NASA): Observations from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have led to the best assessment yet of our solar system's population of potentially hazardous asteroids. Also known as "PHAs," these asteroids have orbits that come within five million miles (about eight million kilometers) of Earth, and they are big enough to survive passing through Earth's atmosphere and cause damage on a regional, or greater, scale.

The asteroid-hunting portion of the WISE mission, called NEOWISE, sampled 107 PHAs to make predictions about the population as a whole. Findings indicate there are roughly 4,700 PHAs, plus or minus 1,500, with diameters larger than 330 feet (about 100 meters). So far, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of these objects have been found.

While previous estimates of PHAs predicted similar numbers, they were rough approximations. NEOWISE has generated a more credible estimate of the objects' total numbers and sizes. Because the WISE space telescope detected the infrared light, or heat, of asteroids, it was able to pick up both light and dark objects, resulting in a more representative look at the entire population.

"The NEOWISE analysis shows us we've made a good start at finding those objects that truly represent an impact hazard to Earth," said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Object Observation Program at NASA Headquarters. "But we've many more to find, and it will take a concerted effort during the next couple of decades to find all of them that could do serious damage or be a mission destination in the future."
The new analysis suggests that about twice as many PHAs as previously thought reside in low-inclination orbits, which are roughly aligned with the plane of Earth's orbit.

"Our team was surprised to find the overabundance of low-inclination PHAs," said Amy Mainzer, NEOWISE principal investigator, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Because they will tend to make more close approaches to Earth, these targets can provide the best opportunities for the next generation of human and robotic exploration."

The NEOWISE analysis suggests a possible origin for the low-inclinaton PHAs: Many of them could have originated from a collision between two asteroids in the main belt lying between Mars and Jupiter. A larger body with a low-inclination orbit may have broken up in the main belt, causing some of the fragments to drift into orbits closer to Earth and eventually become PHAs.

The lower-inclination PHAs appear to be somewhat brighter and smaller than other near-Earth asteroids.

The discovery that PHAs tend to be bright says something about their composition; they are more likely to be either stony, like granite, or metallic. This type of information is important in assessing the space rocks' potential hazards to Earth. The composition of the bodies would affect how quickly they might burn up in our atmosphere if an encounter were to take place.

"The NEOWISE project, which wasn't originally planned as part of WISE, has turned out to be a huge bonus," said Mainzer. "Everything we can learn about these objects helps us understand their origins and fate."

The NEOWISE results have been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Huge Oil Boom in North Dakota

Although North Dakota was the ninth largest oil producing state six years ago, it is now in second place, edging Alaska and exceeded only by oil production in Texas. James MacPherson of the Associated Press notes that March oil production in Alaska was 17.5 million barrels, just behind the 17.9 million produced in North Dakota that month. Improved horizontal drilling techniques in the Bakken shale and Three Forks formations in the western part of North Dakota account for the increased production.

With this boom, North Dakota is growing in population to a record level, and its unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation.

Records show that Texas, North Dakota, Alaska and California, in that order, produced 45.7 percent of U.S. oil production in February.  North Dakota produces about nine percent of U.S. oil. It would need to nearly double production to reach the level produced in Texas.

North Dakota is also producing natural gas at a record rate of 620.8 million cubic feet in March, but a third of it is burned off ("flared") since there are insufficient p;ipelines and collecting systems to move it to market. This compares to less than one percent of natural gas being flared from oil fields overall in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration, located in Washington, D.C. Significant infrastructure improvements are planned in North Dakota to process natural gas and move it to market.

Summarized from:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Biggest American Banks Are Too Big

JP Morgan's $2 Billion Loss Shows The Need to Break Up the Big Banks

David Rohde filed a Reuters report about the biggest banks.  This story was picked up May 11th by The Atlantic. He notes:

  • JPMorgan’s $2 billion trading loss is not alone among problems with big banks.
  • HSBC failed to review thousands of internal alerts about money laundering. Required suspicious activity reports were not filed with American law enforcement agencies. It put the worst people it could find in charge of the monitoring of money laundering.
  • Citigroup has also been accused of lax efforts against money laundering. The bank agreed with the Comnptroller of the Currency to improve the monitoring, but no monetary penalty was paid nor did Citgroup admit to wrongdoing.
  • Last month, a former Nigerian governor pleaded guilty to stealing $79 million in government money and funneling it offshore to buy American and British property. The banks used were HSBC, Citibank, Barclays and Shroeders.
  • Bloomberg Businessweek reported last month that four Federal Reserve presidents argue that Dodd-Frank reforms do not end the "too big to fail" status of large banks. There are measures in the law banning future bailouts, but "traders, analysts and bankers simply don’t buy it."
  • The biggest US banks are getting bigger. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that five American banks (JPMorgan, Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo as well as Goldman Sachs) held $8.5 trillion in assets at the close of 2011, 56 percent of the nation’s economy. But five years earlier, prior to the financial meltdown, they held 43 percent of U.S. output. Today those big banks are twice as large as a decade ago relative to the economy.

"The four Federal Reserve presidents -- Richard Fisher of Dallas, Esther George of Kansas City, Jeffrey Lacker of Richmond and Charles Plosser of Philadelphia -- have expressed concern that such a concentration of assets in the banking industry threatens the financial system.

"In a scathing essay published in March in the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas' 2012 annual report, Harvey Rosenblum, the bank's head of research, called for the government to break up the country's largest banks. Rosenblum argued that only smaller banks - not the increased capital requirements, stress tests and other measures in Dodd-Frank - will prevent another crisis."

  • Rosenblum wrote that more banks, enough to ensure competition but small enough not to endanger the overal economy, ""will give the United States a better chance of navigating through future financial potholes and precipices."
  • The public is uneasy about the existing reforms. Last month a Rasmussen poll showed 48 percent of Americans lack confidence in banking stability, with 47 percent "somewhat confident" in the system.
  • Both presidential candidates have avoided calls to break up the big banks. Romney has said, "I am not looking to break apart financial institutions." Obama states the new regulations would force banks into orderly bankruptcy proceedings, but under his administration, federal fraud prosecutions in the finance area have dropped to 20-year lows, as Peter Boyer and James Schwizer wrote last week in The Daily Beast. Prosecutions are down 39 percent from 2003.
Summarized from The Atlantic at:

The article also appeared on, an Atlantic partner site.

David Rohde is a columnist for Reuters, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and a former reporter for The New York Times.

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From the Blog Author:  "Oops!"

After The Atlantic picked up this news, JPMorganChase revised the derivatives loss upward to $3 billion.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A List of Nearly Obsolete Technology

15 Current Technologies A Child Born Today Will Never Use

By Avram Piltch, |, May 13, 2012

From the moment that I found out my wife was pregnant with our first child, a son, I’ve thought of his development in terms of tech. When pregnancy sites described our six-week-old fetus as the size of a "lentil," I referred to him as the length of an RFID chip. When the doctor said he had reached 1.3 pounds, I told all my friends that my son was the size of an iPad. When he was born this week, he was about the size of an HP Envy 15, though unfortunately his cries did not use Beats Audio.

As my newborn son grows to match the size of a mid-tower desktop, a large-screen TV and eventually a server rack, I can’t help but think about all the gadgets he won’t even remember using that were so important to his dad. I’m not talking about long dead-and-buried technologies such as the VHS recorder or the 35mm camera. Rather, I’m thinking about devices and concepts most of us use today that will fall out of mainstream use so soon that he either won’t remember them, or will only have very hazy memories of
having lived with them.

Wired Home Internet

I was surprised when a 23-year-old co-worker told me she didn't remember a time before broadband Internet. At some point, her parents must have had dial-up, but she was so young that she doesn't even remember back that far. Wireless broadband won't dominate the home market until he's 8 to 10, but my son won't remember a world where consumers pay for wired Internet connections.

Even today, 4G LTE provides comparable download speeds and better upload speeds than cable Internet, but the cost of using mobile broadband all the time is prohibitive. At some point in the next few years, broadband providers are going to realize that giving everyone home antennas is more scalable than wiring and maintaining each street's network of fiber-optic cables. At that point, the paradigm will shift and it will be cheaper to purchase wireless than wired Internet. Clear already offers a 4G WiMax home Internet hub with unlimited service, though it's not fast enough to compete with cable Internet.

Dedicated Cameras and Camcorders

Smartphone cameras are already killing the consumer point-and-shoot and the family camcorder. Unlike cameras, which most of us carry only when we think we might need to take pictures, smartphones are always with us. They offer all kinds of apps and filters for adjusting pictures on the fly and they allow us to share our photos and videos online as soon as we take them. DSLRs and micro four-thirds cameras will
remain with us, but within a few years, the average consumer won't own a dedicated camera at all.

Landline Phones

As of 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 26 percent of U.S. homes had wireless phones only. By the time my son turns 5 in 2017, only a handful of old people and Luddites will continue to own house phones while everyone will likely use cellphones exclusively. By the time my son is 10, most businesses will have done away with their desk phones and saved a lot of money and hassle in the process.

Slow-Booting Computers

Waiting for one's computer to boot is one of the great tech frustrations of the PC era, but my son will never know that pain. With the move toward always-on computing, future users will almost never turn their computers off, instead waking them from sleep in a second or less. New operating systems will be able to install updates and patches without requiring a reboot. However, if for some reason, you do need to restart the computer, boots will take only a couple of seconds because of SSDs and fast-starting operating systems like Windows 8. "When I was your age, we had to wait up to two minutes for a computer to power on, and we liked it," I'll tell him.

Windowed Operating Systems

When my son is ready for his own computer, the windows will be gone from Windows. Microsoft 's PC operating system will still exist, as will Mac OS X. But, in the next few years, we'll say good bye to the window metaphor where each application you run is displayed in a draggable box that has a title bar and widgets.

Microsoft has already signaled its intent to kill the window metaphor by making the tile-based Metro UI the default screen for Windows 8. How long before Mac OS and even Ubuntu also default to touch-friendly UIs that don't have tiny widgets?

Hard Drives

My first computer, a TI 99, used cassette tapes to store data. My second computer used 5.25-inch floppy disks, and the third system had a combination of a 3.5-inch floppy drive and a small IDE hard drive. The next PC had a zip drive and a tape backup unit. However, as different as these disks were, they all used the same magnetic platter technology that's been popular since reel-to-reel tapes ruled the earth.

Today, solid state drives finally allow us to end the ancient practice of storing our data on spinning magnetic platters. Because they have no moving parts, SSDs are infinitely faster than hard drives and more durable, too. Today, the cost of solid-state storage is significantly higher than magnetic media, but expect that delta to shrink significantly over the years while users come to expect SSD speeds from even low-end computers.

By the time my son gets his first new laptop, you won't be able to buy one without an SSD. Hard drives and their cheap storage will only remain useful for servers, where space is more important than speed.

Movie Theaters

Pundits have been predicting the death of the movie theater since the first televisions hit the market, but this time, it's really going to happen for a number of reasons. First, with large HD televisions going mainstream and 3D sets becoming more affordable, the average home theater is almost as good as the average multiplex theater. Second, studios and their cable partners have begun releasing some movies for on-demand viewing on the same day they debut in theaters, a trend which is likely to continue.

Finally, the cost of going to a movie theater is so out of control — movie tickets in New York cost around $13 each — that nobody is going to keep paying it. In a world where an on-demand film that's still in theaters costs $7 to rent and one that just left the theater streams for $2.99 from Amazon, who will spend more than $50 for a family of four to go see the same movie surrounded by annoying patrons, dirty seats and overpriced popcorn? Art house theaters that offer specialized films and a sense of community may remain, but the average multiplex will be gone before my son notices it was ever there.

The Mouse

Within five years, the cost of adding capacitive touch capability to screens will be so small that every display, from large-screen TVs to laptops, will have it. More precise pointing devices such as the mouse and touchpad won't disappear overnight, but they'll likely fade away or become secondary input methods within the next several years. Already with Windows 8, the user interface will support touch even if you don't necessarily need to use it all the time.

3D Glasses

Ever since the first 3D films hit theaters in the 1950s, viewers have been forced to wear some kind of glasses in order to experience three-dimensional effects. However, in the past year or so, we've started seeing a number of glasses-free solutions hit the market.

In 2011, Toshiba released the Qosmio F755 notebook, which uses its webcam to track your eye movements and serve up really compelling 3D images, though these are only optimized for a single viewer.

Last year, phone vendors HTC and LG both launched handsets with glasses-free, stereoscopic 3D screens that weren't home theater quality, but were good enough for some three-dimensional fun. By the time my son is 10, large-screened devices like TVs will be able to offer a compelling glasses-free 3D experience to many viewers at the same time.

Remote Controls

When I was a child, the family TV didn't even have a remote control. We had to actually get up and walk across the room to change the channel. By the time my son enters grade school, most of us will have moved on to either using our smartphones or a combination of gestures and voice commands to change channels.


By the time my son is in elementary school, PC vendors will have stopped producing most desktop computers, though all-in-ones with large screens, high-end workstations for people who do industrial-strength computations, and servers (probably in blade form) will remain. As someone who loves to build desktops from parts, I hope the market for PC components remains intact so my son and I will still be able
to custom build a computer together, but I fear that option may disappear too.

Phone Numbers

I still remember my parents' phone number, which hasn't changed in more than 30 years, but how many of us dial numbers rather than just tapping a name in our contacts menu? With the advent of VoIP chat services like Skype, Google Talk and even Facebook audio chat, you can just dial someone by username. When my son is in high school, he'll be asking the pretty girl on the bus for her user ID, not her phone number.

Prime-time Television

In ancient times, people had to gather around their TVs at a set time each week to watch "Starsky and Hutch." Then VCRs arrived and you could find out whether the Duke boys outsmarted Boss Hogg any time you wanted. DVRs now let us tape shows without using tapes, but because most TV networks make their shows available for free either via Web streaming or cable on-demand, we don't even have to record shows.

Fax Machines

In the age of email, instant messaging and 4G connections, there's only one lame excuse for the continued existence of the fax machine, a gadget that had its heyday in the 1970s, and that excuse has to do with signatures. Some companies and their lawyers will only accept a scribbled signature as valid on contracts and forms, so if you want to file that loan application or send in your insurance claim form with your signature on it, fax may still be your best option.

'However, three things will finally slay the fax. First, more companies will start accepting online forms with electronic signatures as valid, so someone's illegible signature on a hard copy isn't needed. Second, for those who just can't let go of the signature requirement, touch devices will allow people to scribble their John Hancocks into digital forms. Finally, the death of landlines will also mean death for fax machines.

Optical Discs

I still remember the first DVD I bought, because it was a copy of "Hard Boiled" that I ordered from a now-defunct website called Urban Fetch. It may take until my son turns 10 for the major entertainment companies to stop publishing in DVD and Blu-ray format, but make no mistake, discs aren’t long for this world.

Optical discs will last another decade or so because consumers aren't eager to repurchase films they already own on disc and because there are still a number of old or rare titles you can't find on cloud services like iTunes or Amazon. Yet with the growth in downloadable and streaming video services, all physical media is on the fast track to extinction.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Quick and Correct Stroke Diagnosis

STROKE: Remember The 1st Three Letters, which are S and T and R

If everyone can remember something this simple, we could save some folks.


During a party, a friend stumbled and took a little fall - she assured everyone that she was fine and just tripped over a brick because of her new shoes. (they offered to call an ambulance)

They got her cleaned up and got her a new plate of food - while she appeared a bit shaken up, Ingrid went about enjoying herself the rest of the evening. Ingrid's husband called later telling everyone that his wife had been taken to the hospital - (at 6:00pm, Ingrid passed away.)

She had suffered a stroke at the party . Had they known how to identify the signs of a stroke, perhaps Ingrid would be with us today.

Some don't die. They end up in a helpless, hopeless condition instead. Every second counts at the outset of a stroke, and it only takes a minute to read this.


A neurologist says that if he can get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a stroke, totally. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough.


Remember the '3' steps, STR . Read and Learn!
Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster.

The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

S * = Ask the individual to SMILE.
T * = TALK. Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE (Coherently) (eg 'It is sunny out today').
R * = Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

If he or she has trouble with ANY ONE of these tasks, call the ambulance and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

NOTE : Another 'sign' of a stroke is to:

1. Ask the person to 'stick' out their tongue.
2. If the tongue is 'crooked', if it goes to one side or the other that is also an indication of a stroke.

A prominent cardiologist says if everyone who gets this status shares it; you can bet that at least one life will be saved.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Digital Image Breakthrough

The next digital image revolution?

TechItUp, from Yahoo News, May 9, 2012
By Ryan Derousseau

It's hard to overstate the impact of digital photography. Over the last two decades, virtually every aspect of how we take, keep and share photos has been transformed. But despite the explosive innovation around digital picture-taking, the end result has actually changed very little. A photo is still a photo. And a poorly focused photo is still as bad as ever.

Ren Ng aims to fix that.

Ng is the founder of Lytro, a Mountain View, CA start-up that has been lauded by tech-obsessed first-adopters and photo enthusiasts alike. The product that has everyone so excited? A compact "plenoptic" digital camera. The camera, a short square-edged tube, uses a unique sensor resembling an insect's multi-faceted eye to capture "all the light traveling in every direction in every point in space." Pair the camera with Lytro's proprietary software, and the result is an image that can be focused and refocused after it's taken.

Use Lytro's special Flash widget to post that photo on your blog or site and everyone who sees it can focus and refocus on any point in the image. In the words of Wired's John Bradley -- it's "addictive."

….we spoke to Ng, asking him to explain the camera's technology in simple terms and to describe what he sees as the next evolutionary step for his company's light field technology.

Tech it Up!:  So how does the camera actually work?

Ng: Unlike traditional cameras, which only capture the color and intensity of light, the light field sensor also records the angle and direction of light.

With powerful software and sophisticated algorithms, the pictures are processed by the Lytro Light Field Engine to create living pictures that can be refocused after they're snapped, shifting the perspective view, and that can switch between 2D and 3D views. People can interact with pictures directly on the camera, as well as on the desktop, the Web and on mobile devices without having to download special software.

Tech it Up!: Living pictures?

Ng: Unlike traditional cameras, you can shoot now and focus later. Pictures can be focused days, weeks, even years after they're taken.

These days, most people take digital pictures not to print them out, but to share them online with their friends and family. Not only can you share these moments, but people can also interact with them. It brings an entirely new creative approach to visual storytelling.

Tech it Up!: How hard is it to unlock that creativity?

Ng: If you are interested in getting a picture with dramatic refocus and a strong sensation of discovery within the picture, you do need to experiment with putting multiple objects in the foreground and background. We're seeing tremendous creativity from our early customers already, and we are excited to see more.

Creative Mode [an advanced setting on the camera] is great for shooting extreme macro shots, for dramatic portraiture or for amazing shots across large landscapes. We're seeing both professional photographers and serious hobbyists using Creative Mode in really fun ways.

Tech it Up!: So what's next? What else will light field technology let the photographer do?

Ng: Light field sensors will become increasingly more sophisticated, capturing even more light rays to be useful for more advanced scientific, medical, commercial or industrial applications. Light field videography is also possible, creating entirely new production capabilities for filmmakers.

How to get your hands on one
At this point, the Lytro camera is only available through the company's website --  There are two versions, one with 8GB of memory for $399 and another with 16GB of memory for $499.

Link to article:;_ylt=AuSw8kdtNFIutauag8rhAIWs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTRpY3FhaWJtBG1pdANFZGl0b3JzUGljayBCcmVha2luZyBOZXdzIEZQBHBrZwNmZmQyMWViMi0yYjlmLTMwMDAtYmFiMy0yY2JjYTc5MTk1YTQEcG9zAzYEc2VjA01lZGlhQnJlYWtpbmdOZXdzVGVtcAR2ZXIDZmYwNjYwOTEtOWFiZC0xMWUxLWFiNmUtODM3OGVjY2Q5MmMw;_ylg=X3oDMTFlamZvM2ZlBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdAMEcHQDc2VjdGlvbnM-;_ylv=3 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Certain Infections Invite Cancers

By Tiffany Kaiser, DailyTech, May 10, 2012
The four infections, including human papillomavirus, Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis B and C, are responsible for about 1.9 million cases of gut, cervical and liver cancers

It has been discovered that four specific infections can be largely responsible for one in six cancers around the globe.

Dr. Catherine de Martel and Dr. Martyn Plummer, both from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France, have found that four infections can be tied to certain cancers in men and women.

The four infections, including human papillomavirus (HPV), Helicobacter pylori and hepatitis B and C, are responsible for about 1.9 million cases of gut, cervical and liver cancers.

According to the study, the relationship between these infections and cancers are three times more likely in the developing world like east Asia (22.9 percent) versus the developed world like the United Kingdom (7.4 percent).

The study also found individual results for women and men. For instance, 50 percent of cancers related to infection in women were of the cervix while 80 percent of cancers related to infection in men were liver and gastric cancers.

"Infections with certain viruses, bacteria and parasites are some of the biggest and preventable causes of cancer worldwide," said de Martel and Plummer. "Application of existing public health methods for infection prevention, such as vaccination, safer injection practice, or antimicrobial treatments, could have a substantial effect on the future burden of cancer worldwide."

The study discovered that about a third of the infection-related cases affected people under the age of 50 years old.

This study examined incidence rates for 27 different types of cancers in 184 countries around the world. HPV was linked to cancer of the cervix, hepatitis B was linked to liver cancer, and H. pylori was linked to stomach cancer.

Source: BBC News


Thursday, May 10, 2012

New Brain Neuron Techniques

New Automated Process
Dissects Inner Mechanics

of Neurons in the Brain
By Tiffany Kiser, DailyTech, May 9, 2012

The new automated process is faster than traditional method while delivering comparable results

MIT and Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have created a new automated method that pinpoints certain characteristics of neurons in the brain.

The research was conducted by Ed Boyden, associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at MIT; Craig Forest, an assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, and Suhasa Kodandaramaiah, a graduate student. The three developed the new automated process for dissecting the inner mechanics of neurons in the brain.

The researchers based their new automated technique off of a 30-year-old method called whole-cell patch clamping. Whole-cell patch clamping involved a hollow glass pipette, which touches the cell membrane of a neuron. Upon contact the pipette opens up a small pore in the membrane. Then electrical activity within the cell is recorded.

The problem with traditional whole-cell patch clamping is that it isn't an easy process. It takes researchers months to learn. While Kodandaramaiah was learning the difficult process, he said he was thinking of a process where robots take over the painstaking method for a more accurate and faster way of learning about neurons.

To automate the process, the three researchers built a robotic arm capable of directing the glass pipette into a mouse brain. The system works by using the robotic arm to move the pipette through cells in the brain as it measures electrical impedance, which is a measure of how challenging it is for electricity to flow out of the pipette. When there are no cells near the pipette, electricity flows and impedance is low, but when the pipette encounters a cell, electricity cannot flow and and imedance increases.

The pipette takes two-micrometer steps and measures impedance 10 times per second. When it encounters a cell, it stops itself from poking the membrane. However, it does use suction to form a seal with the membrane. It then uses an electrode to penetrate the membrane, and begins recording the cell's internal electrical activity.

According to the research team, the automated process is capable of detecting cells with 90 percent accuracy, and can establish a connection with these cells 40 percent of the time.

This process can also be used to identify the shape of a cell by injecting dyes. The researchers are also looking to use the process with a larger number of electrodes so that they can record activity from several neurons at once.

The next step is to commercialize the device. The three researchers are already working on this by creating their own startup company called Neuromatic Devices.

"Our team has been interdisciplinary from the beginning, and this has enabled us to bring the principles of precision machine design to bear upon the study of the living brain," said Forest. "If you really want to know what a neuron is, you can look at the shape, and you can look at how it fires. Then if you pull out the genetic information, you can really know what's going on. Now you know everything. That's the whole picture."

This automated process could potentially help those with brain disorders like schizophrenia, autism and Parkinson's disease because the technique could allow researchers to distinguish between abnormal and normal cells.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Five Health Benefits of Music

By Linda Wasmer Andrews
Yahoo Health, Apr 27, 2012

Music not only has charms to soothe the savage beast. It also may help ease pain, relieve stress, and improve overall well-being. Here’s what science says about the health benefits of listening to music.

Managing Pain

One way to manage pain is by diverting your attention elsewhere—and music can be a pleasant diversion. It has been used to help manage the pain associated with surgery, physical rehab, childbirth, cancer, burn treatment, and other conditions.

In a study from the University of Utah Pain Research Center, healthy volunteers were asked to listen to music, follow the melodies, and pick out sour notes. At the same time, they were given safe but uncomfortable shocks with fingertip electrodes.

As the demands of the music task increased, their pain decreased. And people who were most anxious about pain got the most benefit. The researchers noted that anxiety-prone people tend to be easily absorbed in their thoughts, so anxious volunteers may have been more caught up in the music.

Reducing Stress

Music can calm your mind as it soothes your soul. In a study from Tzu Chi University in Taiwan, new nurses with high stress levels were randomly assigned to either listen to slow, soothing music or simply rest quietly.
Those in the music group reported feeling less stressed, and they also had lower blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormone levels.

Boosting Immune Health

Some studies have suggested that music may give your immune system a boost. And it doesn’t only affect humans. Mice are susceptible as well.

In a study published in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Japanese researchers played music for mice which had undergone heart transplants. Opera music by Verdi and classical music by Mozart reduced rejection of the heart transplants, but single-frequency monotones and new age music by Enya did not. (Draw your own conclusions, music critics.)

The benefits seemed to be due to music’s influence on the immune system. Among other changes, mice exposed to opera had increased numbers of certain cells that regulate peripheral immune function.

Encouraging Exercise

Music at the gym or on a run can motivate you to work out longer and harder. In research presented at the 2012 meeting of the British Psychological Society, music psychologist Alexandra Lamont found that competitive athletes felt more in the zone when they listened to their favorite music during workouts. They also reported lower levels of perceived exertion.

Promoting Sleep

Mom had the right idea when she sang you a lullaby. One common use of music is to promote sedation and sleep. And it seems to really help, even for people with chronic insomnia and those who have undergone stressful medical procedures. Among other effects, soothing music at bedtime may prolong REM sleep, the stage during which dreaming occurs.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

First Alien Planet Is Viewed Directly

NASA Space Telescope Sees the
Light from an Alien Super-Earth

May 8, 2012: NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected light emanating from a "super-Earth" beyond our solar system for the first time. While the planet is not habitable, the detection is a historic step toward the eventual search for signs of life on other planets.

"Spitzer has amazed us yet again," said Bill Danchi, Spitzer program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The spacecraft is pioneering the study of atmospheres of distant planets and paving the way for NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to apply a similar technique on potentially habitable planets."

The planet, called 55 Cancri e, falls into a class of planets termed super Earths, which are more massive than our home world but lighter than giant planets like Neptune. The planet is about twice as big and eight times as massive as Earth. It orbits a bright star, called 55 Cancri, in a mere 18 hours.

Previously, Spitzer and other telescopes were able to study the planet by analyzing how the light from 55
Cancri changed as the planet passed in front of the star. In the new study, Spitzer measured how much infrared light comes from the planet itself. The results reveal the planet is likely dark, and its sun-facing side is more than 2,000 Kelvin (3,140 degrees Fahrenheit), hot enough to melt metal.

The new information is consistent with a prior theory that 55 Cancri e is a water world: a rocky core surrounded by a layer of water in a "supercritical" state where it is both liquid and gas, and topped by a blanket of steam: video.

"It could be very similar to Neptune, if you pulled Neptune in toward our sun and watched its atmosphere boil away," said Michaël Gillon of Université de Liège in Belgium, principal investigator of the research, which appears in the Astrophysical Journal. The lead author is Brice-Olivier Demory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

The 55 Cancri system is relatively close to Earth, at 41 light-years away. It has five planets, with 55 Cancri e the closest to the star and tidally locked, so one side always faces the star. Spitzer discovered the sun-facing side is extremely hot, indicating the planet probably does not have a substantial atmosphere to carry the sun's heat to the unlit side.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018, likely will be able to learn even more about the planet's composition. The telescope might be able to use a similar infrared method to Spitzer to search other potentially habitable planets for signs of molecules possibly related to life.

"When we conceived of Spitzer more than 40 years ago, exoplanets hadn't even been discovered," said Michael Werner, Spitzer project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory ["JPL"] in Pasadena, Calif. "Because Spitzer was built very well, it's been able to adapt to this new field and make historic advances such as this."

In 2005, Spitzer became the first telescope to detect light from a planet beyond our solar system. To the surprise of many, the observatory saw the infrared light of a "hot Jupiter," a gaseous planet much larger than the solid 55 Cancri e. Since then, other telescopes, including NASA's Hubble and Kepler space telescopes, have performed similar feats with gas giants using the same method. This marks the first time, however, that light from a super-Earth has been detected.


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More Information
During Spitzer's ongoing extended mission, steps were taken to enhance its unique ability to see exoplanets, including 55 Cancri e. Those steps, which included changing the cycling of a heater and using an instrument in a new way, led to improvements in how precisely the telescope points at targets.

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about Spitzer, visit: and .

Monday, May 7, 2012

Scientists arrest brain cell death in mice

British researchers writing in the journal Nature said they had found a major pathway leading to brain cell death in mice with prion disease, the mouse equivalent of Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (CJD).

They then worked out how to block it, and were able to prevent brain cells from dying, helping the mice live longer. Kate Kelland of Reuters filed a story May 6 about a story in Nature. Pravin Char edited it. The journal article stated that a prion disease in mice causes premature death of brain cells. A way has been discovered to block the process that kills these cells, an approach that may become effective in fighting diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The mice themselves had a disease equivalent to
Creutzfeld-Jacob disease (CJD).

The research, conducted in Britain at the University of Leicester, shows a common mechanism through which Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and CJD inflict damage to the nerve cells.

For these neurodegenerative diseases, certain proteins fold themselves incorrectly, which creates a buildup of misshapen proteins, creating plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients or the Lewy bodies of brains stricken with Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers were able to manipulate the mechanism of the prion disease to protect brain cells from destruction, a success that may eventually lead to treatment of certain brain diseases. About 18 million people in the world have Alzheimer’s, and about one person in 100 over the age of 60 is afflicted with Parkinson’s. These are illnesses in which neurons in the brain die, a mysterious process that has not been solved before this research.
The researchers found that the buildup of misshapen proteins in mice brains with prion disease stimulated a natural defense of the cells, one that switches off any projection of new proteins. This feature would normally switch on again, but continued buildup of misshapen proteins keeps the production of new cells switched off.

This results in brain cell death, since critical proteins needed for cell survival are not made.
Researchers injected a protein that blocks the "off" switch, restoring production of important proteins, stopping the neurodegeneration by protecting the brain celkls, restoring protein levels and re-establishing synaptic transmissions.

'Though the triggers for various neurodegenerative diseases are distinct, they may act through a common mechanism, leading to a target for treating the illnesses.
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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Obama Quietly Killing “Medicare Advantage”

Obama to Eliminate Popular Free-Market Competition Medicare Advantage, but
Doesn’t Want America’s Seniors to Know
 until After November Election

ATLANTA – American Seniors Association (ASA) CEO Phil Kent today called it "outrageous" that Medicare Advantage, a private program with premium assistance for seniors and some disabled people, is being deceptively protected from Obamacare for a year in order to hide its eventual termination. "America’s seniors need to know the truth about the government’s plans for Medicare Advantage without being obscured by funding tricks and financial shenanigans," said Kent.

The popular Medicare Advantage allows private healthcare companies to compete in providing care based on a negotiated price. Potential enrollees have the freedom to choose from a number of different plans administered by private companies. Yet the Obamacare law slashed $145 billion from Medicare Advantage so it could die on the vine to make way for a government-run program that denies America’s seniors health care choices.

"There is no question that Medicare needs to be modernized and reformed," said Kent. "But Obama’s sleight-of-hand scheme is designed to fool seniors and mask the true intentions of his actions."

ASA is on record supporting the bi-partisan Ryan-Wyden premium support model proposed by U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.), and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden,(D-Ore.). Under the Ryan-Wyden premium support model, seniors would be able to pick from an array of private insurance options similar to the benefit choices made in the private sector. These plans would be subsidized by a defined contribution, roughly equal to what the government now spends per person. This $15,000 subsidy would grow over time, but seniors who want more expensive plans would still be allowed to do so by paying with personal funds.

"The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicated that, since the inception of Medicare Advantage plans, seniors saved an average of $100 per month by switching to these plans. Obamacare seeks to eliminate free market competition to help a select few financed on the backs of many— especially fixed-income seniors," said Kent.

"But the president doesn’t want America’s seniors to realize they’ve been hit until after the November election."

"America’s seniors need choices, information and services that allow them to live healthier, wealthier lives," said Kent. "Meanwhile, President Obama is intent on destroying any semblance of choice while using budget tricks to hide it. America’s seniors deserve better from their President."

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