Friday, February 26, 2010

US court: Zombies have right to free speech.

The judicial system has once again doomed us all. From Raw Story:
They're said to utter little more than an occasional groan, but zombies -- the blood-drenched monsters of Hollywood "B" movies -- still have a right to free speech, a US court ruled this week.

An appeals court in the northern US city of Minneapolis, Minnesota on Wednesday allowed a group of zombies -- or rather, several protesters costumed as such -- to press ahead with their lawsuit against police who arrested them for disorderly conduct.

The appeals court overturned a lower court in finding that the group of seven "zombies" had been wrongfully detained during a 2006 shopping mall protest against consumerism.

The three-judge panel, by a two-to-one vote, ruled that Minneapolis police lacked probable cause to arrest the demonstrators for disorderly conduct.

At the time of the protest, the plaintiffs were wearing makeup that gave them a "living dead" look: white face powder, fake blood and black circles around their eyes.

They lurched stiff-legged through the halls of the mall urging shoppers to "get your brains here" and "brain cleanup in aisle five."

Study: Happy people are selfish assholes.

Jerks, all of them. From New Scientist:
The Founding Fathers liked happiness so much they considered pursuing it an inalienable right – but maybe that wasn't such a good idea. Happiness seems to make people more selfish, the latest in a series of revelations suggesting it changes how you think – and not in a good way.

Psychologist Joe Forgas at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, who has led many of these studies, suggests that happiness's negative effects all stem from a cheery mood's tendency to lull you into feeling secure. This makes you look inwards and behave both more selfishly and more carelessly.

"People in a positive mood generally rely more on their own thoughts and preferences, and pay less attention to the outside world and social norms," says Forgas.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Supreme Court: Police can adlib Miranda warnings.

Now cops can shout your rights in your face, filled with colorful expletives. From Christian Science Monitor:
Police officers are not required to use exact, cookie-cutter phrasing while advising criminal suspects of their right to have a lawyer present with them throughout a police interrogation, the US Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a 7-to-2 decision, the high court sought to clarify the rule requiring issuance of so-called Miranda warnings to suspects who are about to be questioned by police.

Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that police agencies need not repeat the precise wording used by federal agents in pre-interrogation warnings. The key, she said, is that the suspect be given adequate advice covering all the Miranda protections.

“The four warnings Miranda requires are invariable, but this court has not dictated the words in which the essential information must be conveyed,” Justice Ginsburg wrote.

She said that reviewing courts need not parse an officer’s Miranda warnings with the precision of construing a will or defining an easement. “The inquiry is simply whether the warnings reasonably convey to a suspect his rights as required by Miranda,” she wrote.

Wiimote robot drum circle makes hippies obsolete.

But can the robots emulate disappointing your parents by dropping out of school to live on Venice Beach? From PopSci:
A musician has harnessed the power of two Nintendo Wiimotes to become a cyborg percussionist with the robo-band Jazari. His playing of one drum machine can evoke an automated response from another, so that he can go around the drum circle in a beautiful display of human-robot improvisation.

The man behind the machine, Patrick Flanagan, is a composer who cites music theory, music cognition, and machine learning as the three "chin-stroking disciplines" that influence his work. He created Jazari with a nod to Al-Jazari, a polymath of the Arab world in the 13th century who supposedly created the world's first robot band.

Each of the Wiimote buttons can control higher or lower tones on certain drums, while tiling down or up controls volume. Tilting the Wiimote to the side and holding down a button can increase or decrease the repeating beat, ranging from quarter notes to 32nd notes.

Dually wielded Wiimotes also allows Flanagan to reverse the drum patterns on two drum machines, speed up one drum machine faster than the other, and do other neat tricks that alter the rhythm.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Star fattens planet and then devours it.

From New Scientist:
A Jupiter-like exoplanet is being fattened up by its star, which looks set to devour it.

Discovered in 2008, WASP-12b is a gas giant that is 1.4 times as massive as Jupiter, but is puffed up to about 1.8 times Jupiter's size. It orbits the host star in 26 hours.

Shu-lin Li of the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Beijing, China, and colleagues say that this bloat is caused by the star's gravity, which stirs up the planet's interior, generating heat that expands its gases (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature08715).

WASP-12b's bloated state means it can barely hold onto its outer atmosphere. This should allow the star to steal matter from the planet, consuming it completely in about 10 million years, the team estimates. "This may sound like a long time, but for astronomers it's nothing," says Li. Earth has been around for more than 4.5 billion years.

SeaWorld whale kills trainer during live show.

From Huffington Post:
A SeaWorld killer whale snatched a trainer from a poolside platform Wednesday in its jaws and thrashed the woman around underwater, killing her in front of a horrified audience. It marked the third time the animal had been involved in a human death.

Distraught audience members were hustled out of the stadium immediately, and the park was closed.

Trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, was one of the park's most experienced. Her sister said Brancheau wouldn't want anything done to the whale that killed her because she loved the animals like children.

Brancheau was rubbing Tilikum after a noontime show when the 12,000-pound whale grabbed her and pulled her in, said Chuck Tompkins, head of animal training at all SeaWorld parks. It was not clear if she drowned or died from the thrashing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Scientists distort laws of physics.

From last week, but just read it. Wowza! From NY Times:
Physicists said Monday that they had whacked a tiny region of space with enough energy to briefly distort the laws of physics, providing the first laboratory demonstration of the kind of process that scientists suspect has shaped cosmic history.

The blow was delivered in the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, or RHIC, at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, where, since 2000, physicists have been accelerating gold nuclei around a 2.4-mile underground ring to 99.995 percent of the speed of light and then colliding them in an effort to melt protons and neutrons and free their constituents — quarks and gluons. The goal has been a state of matter called a quark-gluon plasma, which theorists believe existed when the universe was only a microsecond old.

The departure from normal physics manifested itself in the apparent ability of the briefly freed quarks to tell right from left. That breaks one of the fundamental laws of nature, known as parity, which requires that the laws of physics remain unchanged if we view nature in a mirror.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Study: People will do anything to be fascinating.

From Open Forum:
I have just finished reading Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, by Sally Hogshead. Sally is an award-winning advertising executive turned brand innovation consultant. In this book, she covers a wide swath of disciplines to weave a story-driven narrative that draws on her original research, a Kelton Study conducted specifically for the book, to look deeply into what captures our attention, and how we can create fascination in our lives and livelihoods.

Her goal in conducting a study of 1,059 Americans over the age of 18 was to define the role of fascination in our lives, and measure it in tangible terms. “Without fascination,” Sally says, “we can't sell products, persuade shareholders to invest, teach students to read, or convince our own kids to stay off drugs.”

Some of the more interesting results are these:

* When asked how far they would go for a fascinating life, 60% of people said they’d be willing to bend their morals, standards, or loyalties.

* Only 9% of employees say their bosses are “extremely fascinating,” but 96% of parents say they’re fascinated by their own children.

* A fascinating brand can charge up to four times as much as an un-fascinating one.

* On average people will pay $288 per month to be the most fascinating person in the room. Five percent will pay more than $1000 per month. (Women will spend more to be fascinating than they spend on food. In fact, women will spend more to be fascinating than they spend on food and clothes combined.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chuck Norris is destroying computer networks.

From ComputerWorld:
If you haven't changed the default password on your home router, you may be in for an unwanted visit from Chuck Norris -- the Chuck Norris botnet, that is.

Discovered by Czech researchers, the botnet has been spreading by taking advantage of poorly configured routers and DSL modems, according to Jan Vykopal, the head of the network security department with Masaryk University's Institute of Computer Science in Brno, Czech Republic.

The malware got the Chuck Norris moniker from a programmer's Italian comment in its source code: "in nome di Chuck Norris," which means "in the name of Chuck Norris." Norris is a U.S. actor best known for his martial arts films such as "The Way of the Dragon" and "Missing in Action."

Security experts say that various types of botnets have infected millions of computers worldwide to date, but Chuck Norris is unusual in that it infects DSL modems and routers rather than PCs.

Canada accepts genetically mutated pig-mice in food supply.

Canadian bacon just got weird(er). From UPI:
A Canadian government department is poised to approve genetically modified pigs for the food supply, the Canwest News Service reported Friday.

Sources told the agency Environment Canada will announce approval of the strain known as "enviropigs" Saturday.

The strain would then need approval from Health Canada before the pigs enter the food market.

The Yorkshire pigs were developed by researchers in Ontario at the University of Guelph, who spliced in genes from mice to decrease the amount of phosphorus produced in the pigs' dung, the report said.

Study: More liquor stores mean more violence.

Wow, really, researchers? How's that cure for cancer coming? From LiveScience:
The more bars and liquor stores in an area, the more violence there will be, a new study finds.

Researchers compared crime statistics and listings of liquor licenses in Cincinnati to determine the connection. Convenience stores and carry-out sites that sold alcohol were the most strongly associated with assaults, but bars and restaurants that serve alcohol are also correlated with violence.

In fact, the statistics showed that adding one more liquor store per square mile would lead to 2.3 more simple assaults and 0.6 more aggravated assaults in the area.

California town charges $300 per 911 call.

Worst idea ever. It's hard enough to get someone to call 911 for you if you're in trouble.... Item here.
Tracy residents will now have to pay every time they call 9-1-1 for a medical emergency.

But there are a couple of options. Residents can pay a $48 voluntary fee for the year which allows them to call 9-1-1 as many times as necessary.

Or, there's the option of not signing up for the annual fee. Instead, they will be charged $300 if they make a call for help.

"A $300 fee and you don't even want to be thinking about that when somebody is in need of assistance," said Tracy resident Greg Bidlack.

Residents will soon receive the form in the mail where they'll be able to make their selection. No date has been set for when the charges will go into effect.