Wednesday, March 30, 2005

NASA tests shape-shifting robot pyramid for nanotech swarms

Progress toward creating the gray goo that will eat the entire known universe. Very cool technology.

Like new and protective parents, engineers watched as the TETWalker robot successfully traveled across the floor at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Robots of this type will eventually be miniaturized and joined together to form "autonomous nanotechnology swarms" (ANTS) that alter their shape to flow over rocky terrain or to create useful structures like communications antennae and solar sails.

The robot is called "TETwalker" for tetrahedral walker, because it resembles a tetrahedron (a pyramid with 3 sides and a base). In the prototype, electric motors are located at the corners of the pyramid called nodes. The nodes are connected to struts which form the sides of the pyramid. The struts telescope like the legs of a camera tripod, and the motors expand and retract the struts. This allows the pyramid to move: changing the length of its sides alters the pyramid's center of gravity, causing it to topple over. The nodes also pivot, giving the robot great flexibility.


The team anticipates TETwalkers can be made much smaller by replacing their motors with Micro- and Nano-Electro-Mechanical Systems. Replacement of the struts with metal tape or carbon nanotubes will not only reduce the size of the robots, it will also greatly increase the number that can be packed into a rocket because tape and nanotube struts are fully retractable, allowing the pyramid to shrink to the point where all its nodes touch.

These miniature TETwalkers, when joined together in "swarms," will have great advantages over current systems. The swarm has abundant flexibility so it can change its shape to accomplish highly diverse goals. For example, while traveling through a planet's atmosphere, the swarm might flatten itself to form an aerodynamic shield. Upon landing, it can shift its shape to form a snake-like swarm and slither away over difficult terrain. If it finds something interesting, it can grow an antenna and transmit data to Earth.

Extensive research in artificial intelligence is underway to get the robots to move, navigate, and work together in swarms autonomously. The research includes development of a novel interface that integrates high-level decision-making with lower-level functions typically handled intuitively by living organisms, like walking and swarming behavior. All systems are being designed to adapt and evolve in response to the environment.

Other Links:


NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA tests shape-shifting robot pyramid for nanotech swarms | SpaceRef - Your Space Reference for ANTS, SWARMS and SMART Assembly

Trying to escape from captivity

I will be away

I will be away at the Association of Professional Futurists meeting in Miami for a few days so I may not be posting.

I have had trouble posting the past two days. It turns out Blogger has had problems. I have a backlog of links that I will try to get posted today.

Keep checking back in case I have the need to post this weekend. Otherwise I will be back on Monday.

Museum of Online Museums

This is from the New York Times. Surprisingly they are not calling for congressional action to regulate the industry.
In the article they pick out a few of the online museums to mention. You can read the article or just go to the site and explore.

The Museum of Online Museums MoOM

Online, Anything and Everything Can Be a Museum Piece
Published: March 30, 2005

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ethnologue, Languages of the World

The number of languages listed for USA is 231. Of those, 176 are living languages, 3 are second languages without mother tongue speakers, and 52 are extinct.

From Afro-Asiatic to Zaparoan, the Ethnologue can show where and how many people speak each language in the world.

Full of language info, maps and history. Searchable on line.

Language Map

Ethnologue, Languages of the World

Monday, March 28, 2005

Do you know where you are? Body and self not the same

Duck, jab, back flip, shoot! If you've ever played an intensely engaging video game, you know that it can seem like your "self" has been transposed onto the game character--you might even find yourself acting out the character's movements while you are playing.

Normally, we think of our selves as being located in our bodies. Hugging a child brings the child both closer to one's body and closer to one's representation of self. But is it in fact possible to separate our selves from our bodies and, for instance, become part of a video game?

Researchers Arthur B. Markman of the University of Texas, Austin and C. Miguel Brendl of INSEAD in France examined that question. Their findings confirm what any avid video-gamer might guess: "people's representations of self are distinct from their representation of particular aspects of their body."

This finding suggests that "when people are playing with computer games on a screen, that they temporarily locate their self at their location on the screen rather than within their physical body."

It suggests that video-game players' perceptions and actions are affected by having this external representation of self; they might be more likely to perceive and act as if both their body and self are in the game.

So, here's a test. See how long you can keep your drunk ass off the pavement.

Do you know where you are? Body and self not the same

Why can't you pay attention anymore?

An interview with Dr. E Hallowell, a psychiatrist who studies Atention Deficit Disorder. He says that he has identified a closely related disorder, Attention Deficit Trait. The disorder is caused by

what was I saying?
Oh yeah,
disorder caused by our mental focus spread over too many tasks.
All our techno-info-support device thingies are wearing us out.

The symptoms:

Hallowell: When people find that they're not working to their full potential; when they know that they could be producing more but in fact they're producing less; when they know they're smarter than their output shows; when they start answering questions in ways that are more superficial, more hurried than they usually would; when their reservoir of new ideas starts to run dry; when they find themselves working ever-longer hours and sleeping less, exercising less, spending free time with friends less and in general putting in more hours but getting less production overall.

Haven't people always had distractions at work? Is this really anything new?
Hallowell: It's new because never before have we been so able to overload the brain circuitry. We've been able to overload manual labor. But never before have we so routinely been able to overload brain labor.

Who gets the disorder?
Hallowell: I'm guessing now, because I haven't done surveys. But I've done informal surveys at seminars I give. If we're talking about the working population as sort of managers and executives in corporations as opposed to people working at Burger King or something, then I think you're talking 30, 35, 40 percent.

What about McD's drive-thru workers? Or drive-thru order-takers?

I think in general, why some people can do well at what they call multitasking is because the effort to do it is so stimulating. You get adrenaline pumping that helps focus your mind. What you're really doing is focusing better at brief spurts on each stimulus. So you don't get bored with either one.

Read all about it:
Why can't you pay attention anymore? | Newsmakers | CNET

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Flying windmills


Flying windmills by Lawrence Solomon
Don't like fossil fuels? Nuclear power? Hydro dams? Go fly a kite. Really. The next great energy technology may well involve implausible-sounding machines called Flying Electric Generators, windmills 30,000 feet high and tethered to the ground by power lines. These windmills would capture the plentiful power in the strong, steady winds that blow in the jet stream.

No pollution. No greenhouse gases. No hazard to birds. Enough energy to meet the world's needs many times over. And costs that are projected at one to two cents a kilowatt hour, far less than that of existing fuels.

Flying Power Plant

The visionaries floating these ideas are no crackpots. Inventor Bryan Roberts, an Australian engineer.
David Shepard, co-CEO with Roberts of Sky WindPower Corporation, the machine's corporate developer

Urban Renaissance Institute - Flying windmills

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Dawn of the Aluminum Economy

Here's a new idea for a battery which, if true, could render hydrogen fuel cells obsolete before they even get off the ground.

The web page is a bit suspicious because it really does not give any of the details of how the aluminum battery works. It refers to Swedish patent applications which are in Finnish.
It appears like the purpose of the web page is raise money for further development.

If it is a battery with twenty times the capacity of current technology then it would be a real discontinuity.

This colorful graphic shows a comparison of battery technologies:
Watt-hr per weight along the y-axis, Whatt-hr per volume along the x-axis. Unfortunately it does not show hydrogen fuel cell.

Battery Technology Comparison

Judge for yourself...
Ab Europositron Oy
Ab Europositron Oy

Chinese Satellite Hijacked

I find this interesting. It shows how valuable the media is: dissidents hijacking it to get their message to the people. I also applaud the tactics of the outlaw group - this is so much better than car bombs.

Falungong sabotages Chinese satellite TV
By Florence Chan

HONG KONG - Falungong, which Beijing outlawed as an "evil cult" in 1999, disrupted television broadcast signals in most parts of China last week for about five minutes by jamming signal transmission via the satellite of Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co Ltd (AsiaSat).

his is the second assault after November 20, when an unidentified hacker intruded into the transmission of a transponder on the 3S satellite. But "the interruption proves much more vicious this time, affecting six transponders", said AsiaSat marketing manager Sabrina Cubbon.

As a result of the intrusion, regular programs were replaced by Falungong propaganda on several provincial-level TV channels that broadcast to all cable TV subscribers in the country via the AsiaSat 3C satellite. TV stations in northeastern China's Heilongjiang province, Jiangsu province in the east, Hunan province in central China and Sichuan province were among those disrupted, to name a few. "We were informed by the clients when the Falungong stuff had gone to air. But our service was back to normal a few minutes later," Liu said.

Dajiyuan or Epoch Times, an overseas Chinese-language news website, said the disruptions were not Falungong images but slogans urging people to leave the Chinese Communist Party (CCP); it included a harangue against the party's flaws and alleged indifference and injustice toward the Chinese people.

Asia Times Online :: China News, China Business News, Taiwan and Hong Kong News and Business.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Formula for a happy relationship


Formula for a happy relationship

A German scientist has calculated a formula for a happy relationship where criticism needs to be cancelled out by five compliments.

Dr Hans-Werner Bierhoff, from the social psychology department at the Ruhr University Bochum, claims that couples should ideally compliment their partners five times for each time they criticise them.

He said:"Then people feel good in their relationship. Goodwill increases your potential to be happy."

Professor Bierhoff and his colleague Elke Rohmann conducted tests on thousands of individuals and couples and used the results to write a book called "What makes love strong" that provides advice on how relationships can be made to last.

The book also addresses problems that relationships can face as circumstances change.

He said that unemployment, infidelity or "stressful experiences" like diseases, depression or child birth can upset the balance and lead to a break-up.
Ananova - Formula for a happy relationship

Robot Snake

For those hazardous robotic missions that do not require arms, hands or legs.

University of Michigan News Service
Snake-like robot conquers obstacles
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—A virtually unstoppable "snakebot" developed by a University of Michigan team that resembles a high-tech slinky as it climbs pipes and stairs, rolls over rough terrain and spans wide gaps to reach the other side.
The robot is ideal for hazardous inspections or surveillance in industrial or military applications Borenstein said.

Robot Snake

More on EXPO and Robots

I recently posted links to EXPO 2005 in Aichi, Japan. The theme is man and the environment but it will also showcase the latest robot technology. Robots will greet guests in their native language (the guests' native language not the robots'). Robots will also help with the security patrols.
Here are some clips from article:

AICHI PREFECTURE, Japan : Japan will officially kick off the World Exposition on Friday. To be held in Nagoya's Aichi Prefecture, it will be the biggest in its 150-year history.

Some of the expo's must-sees include Japan's much talked about robotic technology.
On top of the 3,000 police personnel, mingling among the crowds will be eight security robots.
Apart from its security robot contingent, visitors can also get up front and friendly with other robots.

In fact some observers have pointed out that robots can practically replace the human being, should the day ever come that the world faces an acute labour shortage.

One robot for example, cleans up where you mess up and another is able to talk to you in four languages.
And for entertainment, you have a full band of robots playing musical instruments.

Then there is an amazing robot which can carry a person.

A robot week is expected to be set up from June 9 to 19. During that period, if you visit this site, you'll be able to enjoy the company of 65 varieties of robots. - CNA

[ I assume that robots get a discount on the entry fee during robot week.]

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

HomeSeer RFID Starter Kit

I recently posted a link to a RFID zapper, meant to block the signals from the devices.
Well, if you can't beat'm, join'm.
This kit allows you to set up a monitoring system at home so you can put RFID tags on things and monitor them.
The web page suggests using them to track your pets, kids, or yourself around the house and yard.
The tags can be read from up to 450 feet away. You can use multiple receivers to locate the tags.
You could monitor the location of the tags through the web.

RFID at home

Some of the suggested uses:

# Arm or Disarm Security by individual tag.
# Automatically open a "pet" door when your pet approaches the door.
# Track the location of domestic help or children by logging in to your HomeSeer system from anywhere in the world.
# Get notified by email or phone* when a child gets home from school.
# Use an alarm tag with loved ones needing assistance and provide them with both the means of alerting you when they are in trouble and for you to monitor them for normal, uninhibited activity.
Get reminders to take out the trash if the garbage can is still detected at the house on garbage night.

HomeSeer RFID Starter Kit

Monday, March 21, 2005


Maybe I am the last person on Earth to hear of this. But it is new to me. A worlds fair is a crystalization of the values of the world at the time.

The 2005 World Exposition, Aichi, Japan
Nagoya Eastern Hills(Nagakute Town, Toyota City and Seto City)
25 March - 25 September, 2005 (total of 185 days)
Expected number of visitors
approx.15 million


The time has come for the people who make up the global society of the 21st century to work together in the pursuit of a sustainable and harmonious coexistence for all life on Earth. Paramount to this is a global perspective.

EXPO 2005 Aichi, Japan, is the perspective we need.

EXPO 2005 represents a determined effort by Japan to develop new modalities of life for the 21st century. It is an ambitious attempt to rediscover “Nature's Wisdom” - science and technology inherent in our surroundings that together foster a sound balance between human life and the environment. It is also an amazing showcase of cutting-edge technologies, which give us solutions to myriad global issues and enable the sustainable development of the world economy.

[Just a side note: It seems like Japanese have cute mascots for everything.]


Ancient Observatories from Space

Website that has satellite images of twelve ancient observatories:
# Abu Simbel, Egypt
# Angkor Wat, Cambodia
# Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico

Chichen Itza
# Casa Rinconada, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
# Dzibilchaltun, Yucatan, Mexico
# Easter Island, Chile
# Hovenweep National Monument, Utah
# Machu Picchu, Peru
# Mayapan, Yucatan, Mexico
# Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
# Stonehenge, Great Britain

# Teotihuacan, Mexico

You can zoom in and out on the satellite photos.
The site is in celebration of Sun Earth Day 2005, usually celebrated on the spring equinox, March 20 this year.
There is also a NASA site with stories and videos.

Space Imaging Ancient Observatories

Deposit ten cents, puh-leeze. Pay to Play win

From the Wired article:
A Little Moolah Goes a Long Way

Welcome to the online store of the future -- the one embedded in your favorite video game. When Microsoft releases the new version of its video game console -- presumably this year -- it plans to include a storefront that will offer "microtransactions."
The idea is that everyone wins: players with disposable income can spend a few cents here and there to enhance their gameplay, and publishers get a way to create a continuing revenue stream.
[This would be a convinient way to dispose of annoying income.]

"Not only do you have to sweep away the distinction between virtual and real, you have to stop looking at video games as a toy and start looking at them as an entertainment service," said Edward Castronova, an associate professor at Indiana University who studies video game economics and is the author of the forthcoming book Synthetic Worlds.
[Of course! Children shouldn't be playing games! Why should children play games when they could be interacting with an entertainment service?]

But Microsoft executives suggest those who do not take part will hear from unhappy fans.

"If you don't believe in the self-expression thing, so be it," said J. Allard, a Microsoft corporate vice president who has a key role in building the services in the next version of Xbox. "Let's let it play out in the market."
[I guess for some people that "self-expression thing" means giving away money.]

"We believe that an online marketplace will provide varying high-margin incremental revenue opportunities for all of the major video-game publishers with the Xbox 2 over the next five years," American Technology Research analyst P.J. McNealy said in a recent note.

That plan could be a drop in the bucket, though. Ferroni said it was conceivable that someday, the Xbox marketplace would let users trade and sell among themselves.

"What they're saying to developers is if you don't design this into the game the fan site community, these external people, will capture this money stream," Castronova said.
[Just think what a disaster to that "self-expression thing" that would be!]

Wired News: A Little Moolah Goes a Long Way

Friday, March 18, 2005

NEC Realizes Enhanced Version of its PaPeRo Robots

NEC has enhanced their PaPeRo childcare robots to look more like the Southpark gang.
In addition, Childcare PaPeRo, which will be presented at the EXPO 2005 AICHI, has been developed to specialize in interactions with children who have strong needs for robots. NEC will continue to improve the robot's interaction capabilities with children throughout the period of the EXPO.

The improvements include
1. Enhanced communication capabilities through improvements in various cognitive abilities.

Get away from me dumbass!

2. Enhanced entertainment skills


3. Enhanced links among robots and with other remote terminals via a network

4. Performance improvement with new hardware

PhysOrg: NEC Realizes Enhanced Version of its PaPeRo Robots

Cooking For Engineers - Additives

A good list of things you may find in the food in your grocery store. You can memorize it to impress your friends at dinner." Very tastie dinner - just of hint of Butylated Hydroxytoluene to balance the sweetness of the Propylene glycol."

Cooking For Engineers - Kitchen Notes: Additives

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Oh Baby! What's your name?

Now here's something to spend alot of time on.
This web page shows the distribution of baby names for the past hundred years or so. You can look up your name and see when it was most popular - like when you were born.
You can type in letters to narrow your search to a particular name...
A...B... hypnotizing.
I did not know that Abraham was becoming such a popular name lately... what about the Q's?

The Baby Name Wizard's NameVoyager

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Big Tree-eating Ant

Flying Lumberjack

Walking Lumberjack

These pictures are from Plustech, a subsidiary of John Deere. The website also has videos of the walking machine in action. It looks like a giant ant, except it weighs twenty tons and sounds like a deisel truck, and it is really slow and it eats trees whole.

A Universe of Dark Energy

A supercomputer-produced cross-section of part of the universe shows galaxies as brighter dots along filaments of matter, with a sea of dark energy filling in between the galactic islands. (Credit James Wadsley, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Yahoo Buzz Game

Yahoo Research Labs has started a simulated market game for tech gizmos.
You start with $10,000 to buy 'shares' of competing types or brands of tech toys.
There are a bunch of different categories under the headings of Entertainment, Gadgets and Networks.
Some of the choices to make are just between brands but others are between standards of the technologies.
The prices change based on the demand for the shares but also they are adjusted weekly based on the popularity of the 'brand' in Yahoo searches.

Sort of like betting on American Idols of techie stuff.

I first read about this in the Makeblog.

See for yourself...
Buzz Game: Home

What are we talking about?

GAP - Global Attention Profiles

I guess this website has been around for a few years but I have never seen it before.
It plots the attention paid to each country in the world each day. You can select maps for a bunch of different sources: BBC, NYTimes, GoogleNews, etc.
It also has maps showing the ratio of the number of references to the national GDP or population of each country.
Dark red shows the most attention to dark blue is least.

GAP for Google News Mar 15, 2005

Their words:
GAP - the Global Attention Profiles project - tracks the attention that selected news media outlets pay to different nations of the world. A set of automated programs performs 1700 web searches every day to determine what nations news media outlets are paying the most attention to and presents this information in table and map form. GAP also correlates media attention to different development statistics, including national GDP and population. GAP maps of media attention include maps of the relationship between attention and GDP or population.

GAP - Global Attention Profiles


Here is another story on weapons in space.


For some reason, there have been questions in Defense Department circles about whether or not it's a good idea to fund a "giant, kevlar fly swatter that is supposed to whack satellites out of the orbit."

Luckily, the Arms Control Wonk tells us, the pro-swatter crowd seems to have gained the upper hand. The Kinetic Energy Anti-Satellite (KE-ASAT) program is still getting Pentagon cash.

The KE-ASAT has spooked some in U.S. Strategic Command, because of the debris it might generate from a mid-orbit smackdown. "As of mid-2001 three prototypes had been built, and all three remained in storage at a Boeing facility in Anaheim, CA," notes. Defense Department higher-ups haven't funded the program in a few years.
But the Army and the Missile Defense Agency have continued to slip KE-ASAT a few million annually. And now, the Army's Space and Missile Command is thinking about dropping $15 mil to start flight testing parts of the system. If all works according to plan, a swatter prototype could take off some time in 2007.

Defense Tech: Space Swatter

Reminder: Time to spend more money

Here is an article about software recently patented by Amazon. Based on your buying patterns the software can figure out why you are buying. Then it can predict what and when you need to buy again. The software can 'help' you buy.

Shopping can be such drudgery. All that deciding when to buy and what to buy. That's something we should get a computer to do for us.

How convenient! Amazon's software can do that for us! We should give it our credit card number and let it do the hard part of spending our money. They should also have a service to automatically send thank you notes from the people to whom we send gifts.

Maybe we should outsource the whole holiday and gift-giving process to Amazon.
"Thank you. Based on your profile we have shipped a fine array of Presidents Day gifts to all your friends and family. The spring equinox season is coming. Update your profile before the gifting fun begins!"

Online purchase could give you away
13:16 15 March 2005 news service
Celeste Biever

Retailers could guess your age, sex, birthday and wedding anniversary simply from the types of gifts purchased for you online and their timing, according to a patent granted to online retail giant, Amazon.

The information could be used to remind your loved ones of an impending special occasion and offer gift suggestions.

The patent describes software that automatically guesses when a gift is being purchased by extracting key words such as "birthday" or "anniversary" from an attached message.

"Customers may be provided with reminders of important events, thereby avoiding the embarrassment that ensues when one forgets such events," the patent declares.

See more...
New Scientist Breaking News - Online purchase could give you away

Monday, March 14, 2005

Talking Bacteria, and How to Shut Them Up

From Livescience:

Bacteria are more gregarious than previously thought. Not only do they routinely engage in small talk among themselves, but research is showing that many are also multilingual and can communicate with members of other species.

Bacteria are able to communicate with one another through a process known as quorum sensing.

Here's how it works: Individual bacteria secrete signaling molecules called autoinducers into their environments, and as the number of bacteria in a colony increases, so does the concentration of the signaling molecule.
Once a critical mass, or quorum, of bacteria and auto inducers are reached, specific behaviors can be initiated.

Quorum sensing allows bacteria to coordinate their behaviors on a global scale and to act like enormous multicellular organisms.

Many scientists believe the discovery of AI-2 could lead to the development of a new class of antibiotics.

"If we could keep the bacteria from talking or listening, we might be able to develop new kinds of therapeutics," Bassler said.

Talking Bacteria, and How to Shut Them Up

New blog every 2.2 seconds

David Sifry, founder of Technorati, has been watching the growth of the blogosphere. In this update he looks at the growth and rate of growth in the number of blogs.

Weblog Growth

Some findings:

Technorati is now tracking over 7.8 million weblogs, and 937 million links.
That's just about double the number of weblogs tracked in October 2004.
The blogosphere is doubling in size about once every 5 months.

In the last 20 months, the blogosphere has increased in size by over 16 times.

We are currently seeing about 30,000 - 40,000 new weblogs being created each day, depending on the day. This is well over double the rate of change in October, when there were about 15,000 new weblogs created each day.

Part of the growth of new weblogs created each day is due to an increase in spam blogs - fake blogs that are created by robots in order to foster link farms.

Sifry's Alerts: State of The Blogosphere, March 2005, Part 1: Growth of Blogs

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Rich Get Richer

This New Scientist article describes an economic model developed by physicists that shows there may be a systemic division between the very rich and the not so rich.
While the model is not proof by any means, it does show that ‘some things may never change.’
Injustice may be part of the system.

Wealth Distribution


It is well known that wealth is shared out unfairly. "People on the whole have normally distributed attributes, talents and motivations, yet we finish up with wealth distributions that are much more unequal than that," says Robin Marris, emeritus professor of economics at Birkbeck, University of London.

They found that while the income distribution among the super-wealthy - about 3% of the population - does follow Pareto's law, incomes for the remaining 97% fitted a different curve - one that also describes the spread of energies of atoms in a gas

This, along with research data from other countries, suggests that there are two economic classes. In one, the rich grow richer while in the other the poor stay poor. Yakovenko explains this by going back to the analogy of atoms in a gas.

"It suggests that any kind of policy will be very inefficient," says Yakovenko. It would be very difficult to impose a policy to redistribute wealth "short of getting Stalin", says Yakovenko, who will talk in Kolkata next week.

New Scientist Breaking News - Why it is hard to share the wealth

Friday, March 11, 2005

robogrover - The Six Million Dollar Muppet

Grover. Can he be saved?

I check hackaday regularly. They have alot of fun stuff. Most of it falls into the technology-is-really-fun category.
Robogrover is especially uplifting.
Robogrover is a retrofit of a stuffed Grover so that it can turn its head to follow light.
An exemplary use of technology for just-because.

So that's what happened to Grover.

robogrover - hack a day -

Figure and Ground Exercise


As a first step to understanding Marshall McLuhan’s Laws of Media, the tetrad, one should understand the concepts of “figure” and “Ground”.
Later, the tetrad will be used to illuminate and prospect personal mobile media (PMM).

The assignment is to waste a few hours, at least, looking at pictures in Flickr. Search on tags that you cannot imagine what the picture could look like. What is the figure and what is the ground?

‘Figure’ and ‘ground’ entered Gestalt psychology from the work of Edgar Rubin, 1915, to discuss aspects of visual perception.
They have been broadened to embrace the whole structure of perception and consciousness.
All situations comprise an area of attention – figure – and a very much larger area of inattention – ground.
They define one another.
Figures rise out of and recede back into ground.
Each new figure displaces all others into ground.
The ground comes first and figures come later.
“Coming events cast their shadows before them.”

Thursday, March 10, 2005

RFIDwasher - Be free of RFID

RFID Washer

RFID has hardly been implemented and there is already a device to detect and defeat the tags.
According to this webpage it wil be available soon.

RFIDwasher - Be free of RFID

MSNBC - McDonald's may outsource drive-thru orders

What could be worse than working at a McDonalds drive thru?
Working at a McDonalds drive thru call center.

LOS ANGELES - McDonald's Corp. wants to outsource your neighborhood drive-thru.

The world's largest fast-food chain said on Thursday it is looking into using remote call centers to take customer orders in an effort to improve service at its drive-thrus.

"If you're in L.A.... and you hear a person with a North Dakota accent taking your order, you'll know what we're up to," McDonald's Chief Executive Jim Skinner told analysts at the Bear Stearns Retail, Restaurants & Apparel Conference in New York.

Call center professionals with "very strong communication skills" could help boost order accuracy and ultimately speed up the time it takes customers to get in and out of the drive-thrus, the company said.

MSNBC - McDonald's may outsource drive-thru orders

Got Game

From Slashdot

Eli Singer writes "Are gamer employees different? This is the question John Beck and Mitchell Wade answer in Got Game, How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever. They argue that yes, employees who grew up with Nintendo, TurboGrafix and Genesis approach their work in fundamentally different ways than non-gaming workers. If you grew up with games, you can use this book to teach your boss how to appreciate your gaming abilities in the workplace."

At its core, Got Game is a guide for senior managers stumped at how to manage their gamer employees. Its purpose is to teach them that they must treat video games as serious preparation for the workforce, and that gamers possess a unique set of skills necessary in the modern business world...

Slashdot | Got Game

NEO News (03/10/05) Impact Hazard Summary for UN

I posted a graphic of the Torino Impact scale recently.
Here are excerpts from a presentation in Vienna at a meeting in Vienna of the UN Committee of the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space:

Comet/Asteroid impacts have played a major role in shaping the planets and satellites in the Solar System. Moreover, it has become clear that such events are not confined to the distant past, but are an ongoing phenomenon. They represent a natural hazard that is unique in that, with existing techniques, the comets and asteroids can be detected and their possible impact can in many cases be predicted decades in advance. Thus, measures can be designed and implemented to mitigate the consequences of a impact -- perhaps even prevent it altogether. Governments are therefore being faced with the issue of assigning priorities to this task among the many that claim a share of society's limited resources.

However, concerns over the comet/asteroid threat are not limited to the physical effects of an actual impact.
What are the psychological effects on individuals of a perceived apocalypse? What are the moral implications of warning versus not warning society of a pending global or local disaster?

Society's vulnerability to impacts was found to have increased, both in developed countries that are increasingly dependent on complex information networks and economic linkages, and in developing countries where people often live under marginal conditions and disaster preparedness tends to be poor.

NEO News (03/10/05) Impact Hazard Summary for UN | SpaceRef

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

SF Citations for OED

Oxford English Dictionary Science Fiction Citations

The linked pages will display tables, generated dynamically from our working database, listing our words in the three categories of general science fiction, science fiction fandom, and science fiction criticism. Any OED-needed dates will be given, along with a basic definition for the term.

SF Citations for OED

Mobile Phones and Development


The BBC reports about a new study, undertaken by Vodafone and a group called the Center for Economic Policy Research, which claims that mobile phone use is growing faster in Africa than anywhere else in the world, and that those countries in Africa with the greatest use of mobile phone also saw higher growth rates. The Vodafone report is available here (PDF); fair warning, it's full of fairly dense academic economics prose. Read on for some of its observations and some discussion of its conclusions.

The report suggests -- but, at least in my once-over, doesn't prove -- that the higher mobile phone usage rates helped to cause the higher economic growth rates, not vice-versa. It is possible, and there's some logic to the notion: as more businesses rely on information and communication, access to information/communication technology would help trigger economic growth.

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Mobile Phones and Development

The Medium is The Massage

"As the audience becomes a participant in the total electric drama, the classroom can become a scene in which the audience performs an enormous amount of work."


Boing Boing: North Korea promotes vacations with wacky Flash movie

Boing Boing: North Korea promotes vacations with wacky Flash movie

How will mobile games change us?

I am going to think about this problem. I will post more later.

How mobile can -- and should -- change the way we think about entertaining ourselves and each other.

Conventional wisdom has it that entertainment applications will be the key to unleashing the next great wave of handheld mobile activity. If only handset manufacturers and mobile operators could figure out just what games people want to play, music they want to listen to or content they want to access, the industry will get through its current doldrums and escalate to the next level.

Handheld devices, in particular, have trouble holding our attention in quite the same way as IMAX screens and immersive environments, but they weren't really meant to.

The mobile intertainment device depends not on captivation, but on introduction, orientation, and interconnection.

And this means developing new approaches to mobile experiences, and finally evolving a two-thousand-year-old understanding of showing people a good time. The new rule of thumb, so to speak, may be to create experiences that do not contain the user but rather give the user a way out.

From Wired:
Wireless Gaming Held Hostage

The consensus at the conference is that a lot is falling into place in the U.S. market, and one reason is that, unlike most other gaming platforms, wireless gaming is attractive to men and women.

Already, wireless gaming is a substantial business. In a talk Tuesday, Robert Tercek, co-chairman of GDC Mobile, said 6 million people download games to their mobile devices each month, and 18 million Americans play wireless games. Worldwide, he said, there are 170 million wireless gamers.

But some see several significant factors holding back the emergence of wireless games in the United States. First and foremost is a lack of easy integration between game publishers and wireless carriers' billing systems, a particular worry for those selling multiplayer games.

Another problem, Brookler explained, is that developers who want to create wireless games are constrained by the fact that most carriers only trust brand-name publishers. Thus, an independent game developer faces an almost impenetrable barrier to getting its games out to the public.

"You can't just build a game," Brookler said. "You have to submit it to carriers, and they don't want anything non-branded."

The common wisdom is that the market is being held back by the difficulties of developing and launching mobile games without a common wireless platform. And, Tercek said, there is no prospect of any such common platform anytime soon.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Launch site secured for space tourists

From New Scientist:

The race to launch the first commercial passenger spacecraft is gaining pace as one of the Ansari X Prize competitors, AERA Corporation, signed an agreement with the US Air Force on Monday to use the launch services at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is the first space tourism company to do so and claims it may be ready to offer tourist flights as early as 2006.

The US company - which competed in the 2004 contest to fly the first commercial craft to the brink of space under the name American Astronautics - says it could be as close as 18 months away from offering sub-orbital rides to space tourists aboard its Altairis rocket. The space vehicle is scheduled to be unveiled in New York City, US, in April 2005.

The Altairis rocket would enable six paying tourists to look out of their own windows as the rocket ascends vertically to 120 kilometres above Earth. But the craft would land horizontally, probably at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Reynolds says that the first spacecraft to come out of the factory will not be a prototype - it will be ready to fly

More than a dozen companies are vying for what they see as a ripe market. A 2002 report by the Futron Corporation predicted that by 2021, the number of sub-orbital space tourists could surpass 15,000 per year.

New Scientist Breaking News - Launch site secured for space tourists

Monday, March 07, 2005

Laughing helps arteries and boosts blood flow

Laughing appears to be almost as beneficial as a workout in boosting the health of blood vessels, a new study suggests.

"Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week and 15 minutes of hearty laughter each day should be part of a healthy lifestyle," says Michael Miller of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, US, whose team has shown that laughter relaxes arteries and boosts blood flow.

New Scientist Breaking News - Laughing helps arteries and boosts blood flow

Limits of Round the World Travel

Log Scale

Linear Scale

I ran across an interesting website,, with the history of around the world travel.
Just for fun, I plotted the times of various milestone flights over the years.
My conclusion: We really have not made any significant advance in flight speed technology since the 1930's. The world speed records have really not changed significantly since Howard Hughes 1938 speed record of 91 hours. There are two graphs shown here: one is linear scale, the other is log scale so you can see the more recent values.
I have left out the speed of orbital flights. John Glenn broke the RTW speed record in 1962 of 4 Hrs and 55 mins. It seems that orbital travel is the only way to get another major improvement in speeds.

Have we reached the 'Human' limit of earth atmospheric travel?


Saturday, March 05, 2005

I can see my house from here!

I just added another weblog flashy java toy. This one shows a world map of where you and other webpage viewers are in the world.
I think it's pretty cool.
I'm a little worried. It was free but the web source was all in french so I'm not exactly sure what I signed up for.

Good News about beer and BBQ

Food for Thought: Beer's Well Done Benefit, Science News Online, March 5, 2005

Good news for those who enjoy barbeque.
You may have been worried about the risk of eating meat cooked at high temperature. The heterocyclic amines (HCAs) created have been shown to be carcinogenic. The good news is that beer, both lagers and stout have been found to reduce the effects by up to 75%.
So enjoy your barbeque - as long as you include beer on the menu.

Food for Thought: Beer's Well Done Benefit, Science News Online, March 5, 2005

Friday, March 04, 2005

Test Your ESP - Again

Zener Cards

Another highly addictive ESP test.

Test Your ESP

Britain's Superbug superinfection - March 4, 2005

Superbug infections are a well known trend. This is an interesting article because it points out that the issue has become an election issue in Britain.


Both were victims of the hospital 'superbug' - Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) - now so common in Britain's hospitals that it has become an election issue.

Official figures released last week revealed that nearly 1,000 people in England and Wales are now killed each year by MRSA, twice the number recorded four years ago. There were 487 recorded deaths in 1999 and 955 in 2003.

At the launch of his party's health manifesto, opposition Conservative Party leader Michael Howard called it 'a scandal unique in Europe', and has made MRSA a key plank in the party's campaign for the yet-to-be announced general election.

Britain's Superbug superinfection - March 4, 2005

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Pokemon teaches NASA science

NASA and Pokemon team up to teach science

Telemedicine revolution is 'disappearing' from the NHS

Emphasises the need to take care in overly optimistic forecasts of the future.

Despite high expectations, telemedicine and telehealthcare systems, which enable doctors to interact with patients many miles away via video, digital imaging and electronic data transmission, have had only limited impact on the National Health Service, according to a study sponsored by the ESRC.

The expected revolution in medicine, overcoming problems of access to specialist care and speeding up referrals and diagnosis, has simply not happened, say researchers led by Professor Carl May, of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

"Telemedicine" is disappearing, in stark contrast to the apparent success of telephone services on which clinical staff decide the urgency of patients' injuries or illnesses, and advice lines such as NHS Direct.

Resistance from professionals is often blamed, but the real reason is often a failure to think through the organisational problems involved in integrating new technology into everyday NHS activity.

Professor May said: "We were struck by the strong claims made about the promise of telemedicine. But we found that despite significant support in policy documents and very active champions of the cause in the clinical world, these systems have largely failed to become integrated in routine healthcare delivery."

Professor May said: "Instead of involvement, we found abundant studies - often very poorly designed - of patient satisfaction. These show high levels of support for new systems, but often represent highly selected patient groups. They often focus on 'hotel' aspects of care rather than important questions concerning patients' confidence about the diagnosis and quality of life. Concerns about security and confidentiality are rarely addressed."

Telemedicine revolution is 'disappearing' from the NHS

More money, more risk in the new economic order |

file under effects of globalization...

from the March 03, 2005 edition CSM

More money, more risk in the new economic order
By David R. Francis

If money makes the world go round, the globe must really be spinning. Asia, Europe, and both North and South America are awash with bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. The world's financial assets now exceed $118 trillion - more than double the amount in 1993, 10 times the total in 1980.

That phenomenal growth is fueling the forces reshaping the global economy. The result is far more liquidity but also more risk. And who owns and manages those assets is also undergoing significant change, which means the balance of economic power in the world is shifting.

On Monday, the central bank of South Korea noted in a usually obscure report to the National Assembly that it might diversify its "investment targets." Currency traders figured that meant it would sell off some American dollars in its international reserves.

With the dollar in seeming peril, the Bank of Korea quickly moved to ease fears, which had pushed its currency, the won, to a seven-year high. It stated it plans only to diversify a portion of its $200 billion in reserves from US Treasury bonds into better-yielding, nongovernment bonds. These would still be denominated in dollars, not in some other international currency. The Japanese finance ministry made similar assurances it would not dump dollars. The markets rapidly calmed on Wednesday.

The McKinsey report finds that financial markets "are becoming deeper, more liquid, and increasingly integrated."

Deeper is shown by the fact that since 1980, the value of global financial assets has grown from an amount roughly equaling the world's gross domestic product - that is, its total output of goods and services - to three times its size.

That trend is usually beneficial, the study notes. It gives households and businesses more choices for investing their savings and raising capital that can be put into homes or into plant and equipment, or other investments. It promotes more efficient allocation of the money into investments that produce results, and, presumably, at less risk.

One reason for the growth in markets: the spread of capitalism in Asia and in the former Soviet bloc after the cold war. Since Asians account for 2 of every 3 people on the globe, the spread of capitalism in the East in the last 20 or so years has lifted more men and women out of poverty than ever before in history - more than the industrial revolution did.

Another benefit from the growth in capital markets is that investments in "emerging" markets in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America have grown enormously. Last year, 29 nations got $279 billion of private financing from abroad, estimates the Institute of International Finance in Washington. That far exceeds the $56 billion or so the world spends each year on foreign aid.

More money, more risk in the new economic order |

New research opens a window on the minds of plants

New research opens a window on the minds of plants
By Patrik Jonsson | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

RALEIGH, N.C. – Hardly articulate, the tiny strangleweed, a pale parasitic plant, can sense the presence of friends, foes, and food, and make adroit decisions on how to approach them.

As trowel-wielding scientists dig up a trove of new findings, even those skeptical of the evolving paradigm of "plant intelligence" acknowledge that, down to the simplest magnolia or fern, flora have the smarts of the forest. Some scientists say they carefully consider their environment, speculate on the future, conquer territory and enemies, and are often capable of forethought - revelations that could affect everyone from gardeners to philosophers.

biochemist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and a prominent scholar of plant intelligence. "The idea of intelligence is going from the very narrow view that it's just human to something that's much more generally found in life."

But the late Nobel Prize-winning plant geneticist Barbara McClintock called plant cells "thoughtful." Darwin wrote about root-tip "brains." Not only can plants communicate with each other and with insects by coded gas exhalations, scientists say now, they can perform Euclidean geometry calculations through cellular computations and, like a peeved boss, remember the tiniest transgression for months.

he debate is rapidly moving past the theoretical. In space, "smart plants" can provide not only food, oxygen, and clean air, but also valuable companionship for lonely space travelers, say some - a boon for astronauts if America is to go to Mars.

Some Earth-bound farmers, meanwhile, see the possibility of communicating with plants to time waterings for ultimate growth. A new gene, Bypass-1, found by University of Utah researchers, may make that possible.

New research opens a window on the minds of plants | "statolith"

Growth in nuclear energy industry forecast by UN

2 March 2005 – Signalling a more favourable outlook for nuclear power than predicted five years ago, the United Nations atomic watchdog agency is projecting that at least 60 more plants will come online over the next 15 years to help meet global electricity demands, reversing a previous downward trend in the percentage of such generation.

Based on the most conservative assumption, the latest report on the subject forecasts around 430 gigawatts of global nuclear capacity in 2020, up from 367 gigawatts today, translating into just over 500 nuclear power plants worldwide by then.

This represents a slight rise in nuclear power's share in the world electricity market, to 17 per cent from 16 per cent, reversing previous downward estimates. Today, some 30 countries produce electricity using nuclear power. Worldwide 441 nuclear plants are in operation and 27 are being built.

“In many cases – despite the acute need for energy that are central to these countries’ development – the prospects for using nuclear energy have been hampered because the large size of nuclear plants makes them unsuitable for lower capacity electricity grids,” he said. “For this reason the IAEA has maintained a focus on the potential for innovative small and medium-sized reactor design, and a few projects are moving toward implementation.”

Growth in nuclear energy industry forecast by UN

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Weaponizing Space

An excellent article in IEEE Spectrum online about weaponizing space.
One idea that it did not address is that once one nation starts putting weapons in space then others would follow quickly. There would probably be a race to gain an advantage in space. The hyper development would attract much more money and science and would probably lead to significant imprvements in technology and reductions in cost.
It may actually help to accelerate commercial use of space, including space tourism.

Here are some quotes:
(This may be long. The article is over 6000 words)
From orbiting lasers to metal rods that strike from the heavens, the potential to wage war from space raises startling possibilities—and serious problems

By Bruce M. DeBlois, Richard L. Garwin, R. Scott Kemp & Jeremy C. Marwell

No country today is known to have weapons deployed in space, and many countries oppose their development. However, at least some U.S. Pentagon officials have been arguing that the United States must now, after decades of debate, develop and deploy offensive space weapons. In fact, over the past 10 years, the U.S. government has spent billions of dollars researching and testing such weapons. If deployment became official U.S. policy, such a step would have profound--and, we feel, profoundly negative--implications for the balance of global power.

Realizing the growing strategic value of space, in January 2001 a congressionally mandated space commission headed by incoming Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld urged the United States to maintain the option of weaponizing space, identifying three potential missions for space weapons:

* Protecting existing U.S. systems in space.

* Denying the use of space and space assets to adversaries.

* Attacking from space a target anywhere on land, at sea, or in the air.

WHAT IS A SPACE WEAPON? As commonly defined, it is a system designed to project destructive force between Earth and outer space or within space itself. Antisatellite weapons, space-based lasers, space-based platforms that fire projectiles, and ground-based lasers that rely on orbiting mirrors to reflect beams to space or back down to Earth--all fit the definition. On the other hand, intercontinental ballistic missiles, ground-based electromagnetic jammers aimed at satellite signals, and explosives used to attack satellite ground stations are not considered space weapons.
For the most part, space weapons can be classified into four categories: directed-energy weapons, kinetic-energy weapons, conventional warheads delivered to or from space, and microsatellites.

The last objective is perhaps the most alluring: the prompt and deadly projection of force anywhere on the globe. The psychological impact of such a blow might rival that of such devastating attacks as Hiroshima. But just as the unleashing of nuclear weapons had unforeseen consequences, so, too, would the weaponization of space. What's more, each of the leading proposed space weapons systems has significant physical limitations that make alternatives more effective and affordable by comparison.

How easy would it be to detect and track such space mines, and thereby thwart their attack? The U.S. Air Force Space Command, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, indicates that it "is responsible for tracking objects larger than 10 centimeters orbiting Earth" and currently tracks some 9000 such objects.

Even without space weapons, the United States could respond to an attack on its satellites with its unmatched terrestrial military capabilities. Adversaries would expect a heavy toll to be exacted as a result of any attack on U.S. satellites; that expectation alone would almost certainly suffice to deter any such attack.

In an all-out shooting war on Earth, we cannot expect that space would be a sanctuary for military systems supporting the weapons of that war. But the scenario sketched here, with the United States leading an urgent effort to ban space weapons and antisatellite tests or use, would help ensure that a shooting war on Earth would not be provoked by weapons in space.

Feature Article

Comfort is a bacteria chair

This article describes a method of making a sort of wood composite out of the sludge from waste water plants. A good idea. One of those that may turn out to be more expensive than it is worth. Even though there are some spot crisis areas where tree harvesting is a problem, wood is still awfully cheap.
However, this is another support in the trend of new materials. In a few years we will not be able to recognize what some stuff is even made from.
Also, a nice green technology. Good for cities.


Wastewater purification uses microbes to form unwanted carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus into a cell mass that settles out, but the disposal of the material can cause greenhouse gases.

The team has found a way to prompt the bacteria to grow small granules of plastic within the cell mass, a substance that can then be mixed with natural fibres like straw, wood or hemp to create a wood-composite.

Dr Frank Loge, leading the research at University of California at Davis said the wood-composite has identical properties to conventional materials made using oil-based plastics. ‘The cell mass does make the wood-composite a little bit more flexible however,’ he said. ‘It’s a property we’re not used to getting out of these materials.’ The material would also be biodegradable, thus restricting it to indoor applications such as furniture, doors or interior building structures.

The Engineer Online - Comfort is a bacteria chair

Tropical juice - Power from the sea

This is an interesting project. It may be a scam. The principles are sound. In my Thermodynamics class in college in the 1970's we designed one of these as a team project. It could work.
I would worry about adverse environmental problems not adressed in this article.

Published: 25 February 2005 12:00
Source: The Engineer

A contract to build and operate a floating 100MW power plant that uses tropical seawater to generate electricity could be announced within the next two months, its developer has claimed.

Designed by Baltimore-based Sea Solar Power, the system is based on technology known as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), a principle by which solar energy trapped in the warm waters of tropical oceans is converted into useable energy.

The technology works by exploiting the temperature differential between surface water, typically around 27°C, and the 4°C water 900m below. This temperature difference is used to operate vapour turbines, which drive generators and produce electricity.

As well as generating electricity, the technology is made doubly attractive by the fact that one of its by-products is a huge amount of fresh water. Indeed, a 100MW plant ship could produce 320 million gallons of fresh water a day claimed Nicholson.

And if fresh water and electricity are not enough, the system could also provide a valuable food source. Nicholson claimed that the nutrient-rich, pathogen-free water drawn from the deep sea would enable each floating plant to support an estimated $100m worth of fish per year. ‘It’s precisely what the world’s most populated region needs — electricity, fresh water and food.’

The Engineer Online - Tropical juice

Ending the Grid Lock

Grid computing most certainly will allow a huge jump in corporate computing power. In most companies now almost every employee is needing a computer to do their job - but maybe just to update a data entry form. Think of , for example, of all the cash registers at all the Walmart stores. They probably can be used to make a huge parallel processor. Once the software is refined I think it will be a normal part of the operating system to be connected to other computers.
Whbat are some of the implications of this?
Maybe people will be able to sell time on their pc at home to grid aggregators who sell out the time in bulk to large users.
Maybe you would be able to join a grid "club" to share your computer with others who let you share theirs.
Some companies get stingy with buying computers for employees that only use them for specific tasks. They may have ten workers on an assembly line share one unit to input time cards for example. Well, if they knew that the computing power would be put to good use all the time they may not be so reluctant to buy more pc's.

There are many possibilities. I will keep my eye on this one.

Article in Technology Review:
Ending the Grid Lock
Karen Epper Hoffman March 2, 2005

Ending the Grid Lock

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Breaking through Gridlock with Technology - Panelists look at methods, technology to help break through traffic gridlock
by Jeff Switzer
Journal Reporter

Microsoft wants to get into the traffic control business. At this recent conference, Breaking through Gridlock with Technology, microsoft and government groups showed off their latest ideas in driver-auto-highway interaction.
Microsoft showed their automobile entertainment innovations including GPS direction devices, entertainment systems and communications systems. They also envision a connection to toll roads and traffic control systems. - Panelists look at methods, technology to help break through traffic gridlock

The Hydrogen Economy - Energy and Economic Black Hole

This article rants against hydrogen powered cars. I dispute many of the arguments but it does contain alot of good information. There are also pretty good references.

I have a particular problem with the author's calculation of efficiency of wind energy to hydrogen:
Current wind turbines can generate electricity at 30-40% efficiency, producing hydrogen at an overall 25% efficiency (.35 wind electricity * .70 electrolysis of water), or 3 units of wind energy to get 1 unit of hydrogen energy.

This is a specious calculation because the "units of wind energy" are currently not used at all so it would still be an improvement in the use of wind for power.

In other cases her arguments are more reasoned even though the whole article trounces the idea of hydrogen powered cars.


The Hydrogen Economy - Energy and Economic Black Hole
2.25.05 Alice Friedemann, Freelance Journal

You will discover that hydrogen is the least likely of all the alternative energies to solve our transportation problems. Hydrogen uses more energy than you get out of it. The only winners in the hydrogen scam are large auto companies receiving billions of dollars via the FreedomCAR Initiative to build hydrogen vehicles. And most importantly, the real problem that needs to be solved is how to build hydrogen trucks, so we can plant, harvest, and deliver food and other goods.

EnergyPulse - Insight Analysis and Commentary on the Global Power Industry

Set to pull a pitcher? Stop yelling at the TV, start voting online.

Set to pull a pitcher? Stop yelling at the TV, start voting online.
By Bennett Richardson | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

Selected Quotes:

TOKYO – In Japan, baseball fans may soon get a way to tell a struggling pitcher to hit the shower that is far more effective than yelling at the TV.

Devotees of the Fukuoka Hawks could soon decide whether to dump a pitcher through an online voting system that would display results on a stadium's center screen.

And the Rakuten Golden Eagles - which debut this year as the first new team to join Japan's pro leagues since 1954 - may allow viewers to watch players off-field in the dugout, the bullpen, or the locker room, simply through a click of the mouse as part of plans to webcast games live.

Professor Yoshikazu Nagai, an expert on the sociology of baseball fans at Kansai University in Osaka, is also skeptical. "While new ideas are effective as an advertisement" for the game, he says, viewer voting to replace pitchers would be extremely difficult to regulate properly.

Purists say that an opportunity for fans to alter game play via the Internet not only flies in the face of tradition, but raises philosophical questions about the nature of sport in general.

One key element that would be lost, they say, is the idea that athletes must face their opponents alone, acting in the arena according to their own wits, without help from outsiders.

"This interesting facet of sports would be destroyed" if viewers were so directly involved, says Kazuaki Sawada, a professor of education at Shiga University in western Japan.

Set to pull a pitcher? Stop yelling at the TV, start voting online. |