Saturday, July 18, 2009

Airport travelators actually slow passengers down.

I never use them. From New Scientist:
Your flight leaves in 10 minutes and you've only just made it through security. As you run to your gate you come to a corridor with a moving walkway. Should you hop on?

Maybe not. People on travelators actually tend to slow their pace, making time-savings minimal, and a new study helps to explain why.

Manoj Srinivasan, a locomotion researcher at Princeton University, created two mathematical models of how people travel on such walkways. In the first, he assumed people walk in a way that minimises the energy they expend, a standard theory in locomotion research. In the second, he assumed people walk in a way that best makes sense of the signals relayed from their eyes and legs.

Srinivasan's models predict that when a person steps onto a moving walkway, they slow their foot speed by about half the speed of the walkway. This suggests that our desires to conserve energy and to resolve the conflict between visual cues and leg muscle signals - your eyes tell you that you are going faster than your legs are taking you - slow us down so that our total speed is only slightly greater than it would have been on regular ground.

This may save energy, but even under ideal conditions of no congestion and no baggage a walkway only makes a small difference in travel time - about 11 seconds for a 100-metre stretch.

Woman teaches dog to read.

Meanwhile, my cat likes to lick paper. From Ananova:
New York animal trainer Lyssa Rosenberg has taught her terrier to obey simple written commands.

Willow plays dead when she sees the word 'bang', stretches a paw in the air when she sees 'wave' and gets up on her back feet to beg when she sees the words 'sit up'.

"She's an unbelievably quick learner," said Ms Rosenberg, who has trained other dogs to appear in TV adverts and pose on photo shoots.

"She can do 250 different things and I used to joke that I would teach her how to pour me a martini. Then for a bet I told a friend I would teach her to read. He promised me a free trip to Mexico if I could do it.

"It took her just six weeks to recognise words and respond to them. And it isn't just my handwriting she understands. My friend printed the words Willow learned off the computer and she reacted to them.

"Well I won the bet and Willow came with me to Mexico."

Willow has her own pet passport and regularly flies transatlantic to visit Ms Rosenberg's husband Gareth Howells, in Guildford, Surrey.

Willow was also the second witness at the couple's wedding at New York City Hall in March - signing the marriage certificate with an inky paw print.

Soccer manager shot dead in front of players.

Sad. More here.
A football manager was shot dead in front of horrified children after being ambushed by a masked gunman.

Ryan Musgrove, 36, was blasted six times by his attacker, who hid in bushes waiting for him at playing fields on Thursday night as children played nearby.

The killer, wearing a white mask and skiing goggles, fled on a mountain bike leaving his victim in a pool of blood.
Teammates chased the gunman but he disappeared into nearby fields at West Wickham, north Kent.

Mr Musgrove, a divorced electrician with a teenage son and daughter, died at the scene before medics arrived, despite frantic attempts to save him.

Last night forensic experts searched woodland as police investigated if there was any link to gang violence.

Detective Chief Inspector John McFarlane said: 'It was obviously a planned, callous attack. The victim was a family man, he was a father and an innocent victim.'

Wienermobile crashes into house.

Here's some news you might relish:
One southern Wisconsin homeowner is probably not in love with the Oscar Mayer wiener. The famed hot dog's Wienermobile crashed Friday into the deck and garage of a home in Mount Pleasant, about 35 miles south of Milwaukee.

Police said the driver was trying to turn the Wienermobile around in the driveway and thought she was moving in reverse. But she instead went forward and hit the home. It sat in the driveway as if it were stuck in the garage Friday afternoon.

No one was home and no one was injured. No citations were immediately issued.

Both the home and vehicle suffered moderate damage, which Oscar Mayer spokeswoman Sydney Lindner says insurance will cover.
More here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Giant jellyfish attacking Scotland.

They're everywhere!! From Daily Mail:
Jellyfish up to half a metre long have been appearing on beaches in Scotland following a rise in sea temperature.

Holidaymakers playing on the sands around Banff in the Moray Firth north of Aberdeen have been warned to beware giant stinging jellyfish which have been washed up in their thousands this summer.

'It's very rare to see 40cm plus common jellyfish but the waters have been full of them over the last few weeks,' said Dr Kevin Robertson, of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit.

'The temperatures are very much higher in the coastal waters this year. Normally at this time of year we measure maximum temperatures of about 14 or maybe 15 degrees, but we are well into higher figures at the moment - around 17 degrees at least.

'It's created ideal conditions for a jellyfish boom and we are seeing much larger specimens than usual as they fulfil their full growth potential.'

Swarms of carnivorous, giant, flying squid terrorize San Diego coast.

The children of Cthulhu have risen! (Thanks Louie D!) More here:
Jumbo flying squid have invaded the shallow waters off San Diego, California, spooking scuba divers and beachgoers after washing up dead on the beaches.

The carnivorous cephalopods, which weigh up to 45kg (100lb), came up from the depths last week, with swarms of them roughing up unsuspecting divers. Some reported tentacles enveloping their masks and yanking at their cameras and gear.

Stories of close encounters with the squid have chased many divers out of the water and created a whirlwind of excitement among those torn between their personal safety and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to swim with the deep-sea giants.

The so-called Humboldt squid, named after the current in the eastern Pacific, have been known to attack humans and are nicknamed "red devils" for their rust-red colouring and mean streak. Divers wanting to observe the creatures often bait the water, use a metal viewing cage or wear chainmail to avoid being lashed by the creature's tentacles.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Canada and Mexico squabbling over visas.

And of course, the US is caught in the middle (geographically). From Yahoo! Canada:
Mexico on Thursday retaliated against Canada for imposing new visa requirements on Mexicans wishing to visit Canada, saying Canadian officials and diplomats would now need visas to enter Mexico.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa announced the move at the State Department in Washington where she held talks with Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She said Mexico would not force Canadian tourists - who number 1.3 million a year and are vital to the Mexican economy - to get visas to visit.

She and Cannon both said they were hopeful that a resolution to the diplomatic spat could be reached quickly. Canada on Tuesday began requiring visas from travellers from Mexico and the Czech Republic after Canadian authorities determined that the number of false refugee claims from those two countries was inordinantly high.

Ned's Atomic Dustbin reunited this year!


Well, kinda cool I guess. More here.

British police who practice witchcraft to get 8 paid holidays.

This rules. I guarantee you they'll recognize the Jedi faith soon within 3-5 years. From Daily Mail:
Policemen who have admitted using witchcraft to gain promotions at work have persuaded the Home Office to allow them to set up a Pagan Police Association.

The officers are even given special dispensation to take eight pagan holidays a year, including Halloween and the summer solstice.

PC Andy Pardy, of Hertfordshire Police, met with Home Office chiefs this week to push for the creation of an officially sanctioned pagan support group for police officers around the UK.

Pagans worship nature and believe in many gods, and practices include witchcraft and druidism.

PC Pardy, who has been an officer for the past seven years, is a heathen - which means he worships Norse gods, including hammer-wielding Thor, the one-eyed Odin and the god of fertility, complete with huge phallus, Freyr.

New military robots could feed on corpses.

I don't even have words for this. I can only quiver in fear. From Raw Story:
Wonderful: your most horrible military-death-cyborg-synergy dreams come true.

A Maryland company under contract with the Pentagon is developing a robot that can burn organic material and use collected debris as fuel -- including, but not limited to, things like sticks, grass, debris -- and dead bodies. Fox News reports:

"Robotic Technology Inc.'s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot — that's right, "EATR" — "can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable," reads the company's Web site.

"That "biomass" and "other organically-based energy sources" wouldn't necessarily be limited to plant material — animal and human corpses contain plenty of energy, and they'd be plentiful in a war zone.

"EATR will be powered by the Waste Heat Engine developed by Cyclone Power Technology of Pompano Beach, Fla., which uses an "external combustion chamber" burning up fuel to heat up water in a closed loop, generating electricity.

"The advantages to the military are that the robot would be extremely flexible in fuel sources and could roam on its own for months, even years, without having to be refueled or serviced.

"Upon the EATR platform, the Pentagon could build all sorts of things — a transport, an ambulance, a communications center, even a mobile gunship."

The article notes that the Pentagon could use the EATR as the foundation for any number of battlefield vehicles, be they ambulances, transports or actual weapons-oriented machines.

Robotic Technology, Inc. provides more palatable details about their project -- which they describe as simply a foraging robot. Cadavers aren't mentioned.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Man charged $23 quadrillion for cigarettes.

That's about how much a pack costs in NYC... From FOX News:
A New Hampshire man says he swiped his debit card at a gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes and was charged over 23 quadrillion dollars.

Josh Muszynski checked his account online a few hours after the purchase and saw the 17-digit number — a stunning $23,148,855,308,184,500 (twenty-three quadrillion, one hundred forty-eight trillion, eight hundred fifty-five billion, three hundred eight million, one hundred eighty-four thousand, five hundred dollars).

Muszynski told WMUR-TV that he spent two hours on the phone with Bank of America trying to sort out the string of numbers — and the $15 overdraft fee.

The bank corrected the error the next day.

Bank of America said the card issuer, Visa, could answer questions. Visa, in turn, referred questions to the bank.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Goldblum "touched" by death reports.

So philosophical and incapable of anger! The Goldblum is truly benevolent.
Jeff Goldblum says he was "touched" by false reports that he had died during a trip to New Zealand last month.

The rumours, which began spreading on June 26, suggested Goldblum had fallen to his death while filming in New Zealand.

"Reports that Jeff Goldblum has passed away are completely untrue. He is fine and in Los Angeles," Goldblum's publicist Evelyn Karamanos told on the day the rumours started spreading.

The viral spread of the Goldblum story triggered a flood of calls to New Zealand police, and Inspector Kerry Watson issued a statement: "Police at Kerikeri are receiving phone calls regarding a person falling from a cliff at Kauri Cliff. There is no such incident and police have no information to provide''.

Goldblum said he wasn't angry about the rumours and he thought they were "touching".

"This was a rare opportunity to experience your own death," reported the Jurassic Park star as saying.

"(Fans) still run into me on the street (and say), 'Glad to see you're alive!' I reconnected with people I hadn't seen in a long time.

"I wasn't angry, I was touched."
More here.

300,000 Tamil civilians languishing in detainee camps.

This is terrible. From the Toronto Star:
CHEDDIKULAM, Sri Lanka – Hundreds of thousands of Tamils remain locked in camps almost entirely off-limits to journalists, human rights investigators and political leaders. The Sri Lankan government says that the people in the camps are a security risk because Tamil Tiger fighters are hiding among them.

But diplomats, analysts, aid workers and many Sri Lankans worry that the historic chance to finally bring to a close one of the world's most enduring ethnic conflicts is slipping away, as the government curtails the rights of Tamil civilians in its efforts to stamp out the last remnants of the Tigers.

"The government told these people it would look after them,'' said Veerasingham Anandasangaree, a prominent Tamil politician who has been a staunch supporter of the government's fight against the Tamil Tigers. "But instead they have locked them up like animals with no date certain of when they will be released. This is simply asking for another conflict later on down the road.''

The Sri Lankan government has portrayed its final battle against the 26-year insurgency by the Tamil Tigers, which ended in late May with the killing of the group's leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, as a rescue mission to liberate civilians held hostage by one of the world's richest and most ruthless armed groups, branded terrorists by governments across the globe.

Taller people earn more money.

From Science Daily:
Taller men are able to earn more money than their shorter counterparts simply because taller people are perceived to be more intelligent and powerful, this according to a study published in The Economic Record by Wiley-Blackwell.

The study entitled "Does Size Matter in Australia?" uses newly available data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey to estimate the relationship between hourly wages and two aspects of body size: height and BMI.

It finds that taller people, particularly men, earn more money - with every five centimetres of height being worth about $950 per annum.

"Our estimates suggest that if the average man of about 178 centimetres gains an additional five centimetres in height, he would be able to earn an extra $950 per year - which is approximately equal to the wage gain from one extra year of labour market experience", explained co-author Professor Andrew Leigh.

Turtles have shells due to embryo origami.

This is neat! From National Geographic:
Turtles develop their upper shells thanks to a unique feat of "origami" with their muscles and bones that occurs while the reptiles are still in their eggs, a new study has found.

In most other animals with backbones, the shoulder blade lies outside the ribs, explained study team leader Shigeru Kuratani of Japan's RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology.

But in turtles, the ribs grow over the shoulder blades and fuse to form the upper shell.

To figure out when exactly turtles start to develop differently, Kuratani and his team examined various stages of embryos of Chinese soft-shelled turtles, chickens, and mice.

Initially, turtle embryos develop like the birds and mammals do, the team found.

But as turtles mature, their bodies undergo an unusual folding process during which certain portions of their skeletons and muscles tuck in on themselves.

This folding causes some bones and muscles to connect in ways that they don't in other animals.

Legions of Japanese robots are being laid off.

This may be how the Great Robot Uprising begins. Perhaps they won't be envious of our squishy flesh, but of our jobs. From the NY Times:
They may be the most efficient workers in the world. But in the global downturn, they are having a tough time finding jobs.

Japan’s legions of robots, the world’s largest fleet of mechanized workers, are being idled as the country suffers its deepest recession in more than a generation as consumers worldwide cut spending on cars and gadgets.

At a large Yaskawa Electric factory on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, where robots once churned out more robots, a lone robotic worker with steely arms twisted and turned, testing its motors for the day new orders return. Its immobile co-workers stood silent in rows, many with arms frozen in midair.

They could be out of work for a long time. Japanese industrial production has plummeted almost 40 percent and with it, the demand for robots.

California to shut down 80% of its state parks.

From The Guardian:
It is hard to envisage a no-entry sign tagged to a towering redwood tree. But the recession – writ on an epic scale in California's proposal to close 220 state parks – is forcing the American public to confront the closure of the great outdoors.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's governor, is trying to make up a $26bn (£16bn) budget shortfall, and has suggested that California can no longer afford to run its parks.

Conservationists are meanwhile arguing that California cannot afford not to. And this week the federal government appeared to partly agree, with the National Parks Service threatening to seize some of the sites if Schwarzenegger goes ahead with the closures.

The proposed shutdown of the parks would affect 80% of California's nature reserves, historic sites and recreation areas, and restrict access to 30% of the state's coastline. Affected areas would stretch from the mountains of the Sierra Nevadas to the beaches and wetlands of Big Sur, and to the deserts of San Diego, where some of the last peninsular bighorn sheep roam.

DC checkpoints ruled unconstitutional in civil rights victory.

Yeah, this was crazy. DC police wouldn't let people drive on their own streets. From the Partnership for Civil Justice:
In an unanimous and strongly worded ruling, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has declared the District of Columbia’s so-called Neighborhood Safety Zone checkpoint program to be unconstitutional, reversing a lower court ruling in favor of the municipality.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund filed the lawsuit challenging the military style checkpoint program whereby police may surround a targeted neighborhood, interrogate people without suspicion, and prohibit entry to those persons who lack a police-defined “legitimate reason” for driving into the neighborhood.

"This decision constitutes a major victory for civil rights and civil liberties for people in the District of Columbia and throughout the country," stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney and co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of four D.C. residents. Verheyden-Hilliard continued: "We asserted in our lawsuit that the military-style checkpoints were blatantly unconstitutional and we sought a preliminary injunction in a U.S. federal district court. The lower court ruled in favor of the District of Columbia and the police, and determined that the checkpoint program was legal and constitutional. Today's U.S. Court of Appeals statement overturned the lower court decision. This decision is extremely significant because if the government had succeeded in establishing military-style checkpoints in D.C., it would have been a model used in urban areas around the country."

Pain in childbirth "a good thing."

Why am I not surprised that this expert opinion came from a guy?
The pain of childbirth may have benefits on which women who opt for painkilling epidurals miss out, a senior male midwife has said.

Dr Denis Walsh, associate professor in midwifery at Nottingham University, said pain was a "rite of passage" which often helped regulate childbirth.

He said it helped strengthen a mother's bond with her baby, and prepared her for the responsibility of motherhood.

But an obstetrician said epidurals were an important option for some women.
More here.

Sudanese women lashed for wearing pants.

From BBC:
Several Sudanese women have been flogged as a punishment for dressing "indecently", according to a local journalist who was arrested with them.

Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, who says she is facing 40 lashes, said she and 12 other women wearing trousers were arrested in a restaurant in the capital, Khartoum.

She told the BBC several of the women had pleaded guilty to the charges and had 10 lashes immediately.

Khartoum, unlike South Sudan, is governed by Sharia law.

Several of those punished were from the mainly Christian and animist south, Ms Hussein said.

Non-Muslims are not supposed to be subject to Islamic law, even in Khartoum and other parts of the mainly Muslim north.

She said that a group of about 20 or 30 police officers entered the popular Khartoum restaurant and arrested all the women wearing trousers.

"I was wearing trousers and a blouse and the 10 girls who were lashed were wearing like me, there was no difference," she told the BBC's Arabic service.

Family sues genie.

From Ananova:
A family in Saudi Arabia is taking a genie to court for throwing stones at them and stealing their mobile phones.

The family say they have been forced to move out of their home of 15 years in Medina, reports the Al Watan newspaper.

A local court is investigating. In Islamic theology, genies are spirits that can harass or possess humans.

"We began to hear strange sounds," the head of the family told the Saudi daily. He did not want to be named.

"At first we did not take it seriously, but then stranger things started to happen and the children got particularly scared when the genie started throwing stones.

Shooting starts at party, continues at hospital.

From Newsday:
Shooters determined to kill a man they had shot at an already-deadly Canarsie house party Sunday morning followed him to a hospital, where they continued shooting as he pulled up to the emergency room, leaving him in critical condition with wounds to the groin and leg, police said.

Three people were shot, including a 17-year-old who was killed, when a party in the basement of 712 E. 93rd St. turned into a shootout following a dispute, NYPD said.

Police got calls of shots fired at 1:17 a.m. and found that two of the victims had been driven to nearby hospitals and a third had flagged down a responding ambulance.

Police said the 17-year-old, Linton Williams, was driven to Kings County Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead with gunshot wounds to the head and torso.

A 32-year-old, whose name has not been released, was driven to nearby Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, police said. As he was getting out of the vehicle, a car that had been following him drove by and an occupant fired several shots, striking him. An ambulance then took him to Kings County Hospital.

The third victim, a 22-year-old man who flagged down a passing ambulance, was taken to Brookdale, where he was listed in stable condition with a gunshot wound to the left leg.


Yipes: 9-year-old shoots 6-year-old with shotgun.

Creepy: Japanese salarymen driving demand for man bras.

D'oh: Random Act of Kindness backfires.

Duh: CIGNA executive admits Michael Moore's Sicko was right all along.

World: South Korea reports that Kim Jong Il has life-threatening cancer.

Hero: Mayor Daley's private security guard captures escaped convict.

Biz: Behind Amazon's Kindle price drop.

Yipes: Pentagon unleashes competing flying lasers.

Creepy: Researchers hunt mythic giant earthworm.

Lame: 50% of Israeli factories fail pollution check.

Duh: Swearing makes pain more tolerable.

Tech: Microsoft begins testing Office 2010. (Please fix mail merges!)

Lame: British soldiers forced Iraqi prisoners and civilians to dance like Michael Jackson, among other torture.

Plums beat blueberries in nutritional value.

More here.
Move over blueberries: scientists have found that plums have high levels of disease-fighting nutrients, too.

Investigators at Texas AgriLife Research evaluated the nutritional content and associated health benefits of more than 100 varieties of plums, nectarines, and peaches. The plum emerged superior to the other two stone fruits, and also matched or exceeded blueberries in nutritional value.

Britain's National Health Service encourages underage teens to have sex for their health.

From Daily Mail:
The National Health Service of Britain has sparked controversy with their controversial sex education campaign promoting an orgasm a day:

A National Health Service leaflet is advising school pupils that they have a "right" to an enjoyable sex life and that regular intercourse can be good for their cardiovascular health...

...Alongside the slogan "an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away", it says: "Health promotion experts advocate five portions of fruit and veg a day and 30 minutes' physical activity three times a week. What about sex or masturbation twice a week?"

[...] But family groups condemned the guidance last night, saying it would encourage children to have underage sex and could lead to rising rates of sexually-transmitted diseases.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Texting teen falls into open manhole.

From the NY Daily News:
A Staten Island teen trying to text while walking fell into an open manhole - and city officials have launched an investigation.

Alexa Longueira, 15, was walking with a friend along Victory Blvd. on Wednesday when she suddenly dropped underground.

"She's all scraped up on her back, under her arms and her shoulders," her mother, Kim Longueira, said.

The schoolgirl had just been passed the phone by her friend and was opening it to send a text message when the ground beneath her feet disappeared.

The manhole had been opened by a Department of Environmental Protection team flushing a high-pressure sewer line, officials said.

DEP has said an investigation is underway.