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Thursday, September 27, 2007

See through Frogs

Japanese researchers have succeeded in producing see-through frogs, letting them observe organs, blood vessels and eggs under the skin without performing dissections.

"You can see through the skin how organs grow, how cancer starts and develops," said the lead researcher Masayuki Sumida, professor at the Institute for Amphibian Biology of state-run Hiroshima University.

"You can watch organs of the same frog over its entire life as you don't have to dissect it. The researcher can also observe how toxins affect bones, livers and other organs at lower costs," he said.

Dissections have become increasingly controversial in much of the world, particularly in schools where animal rights activists have pressed for humane alternatives such as using computer simulations.

Sumida said his team, which announced the research last week at an academic conference, had created the first transparent four-legged creature, although some small fish are also see-through.

The researchers produced the creature from rare mutants of the Japanese brown frog, or Rena japonica, whose backs are usually ochre or brown.

Two kinds of recessive genes have been known to cause the frog to be pale.

Sumida's team crossed two frogs with recessive genes through artificial insemination and the offspring looked normal due to the presence of more powerful genes. But crossing the offspring led to a frog whose skin is transparent from the tadpole stage.

"You can see dramatic changes of organs when tadpoles mutate into frogs," said Sumida, whose team is seeking a patent.

Such frogs could theoretically exist in the wild but it is "virtually impossible" they would naturally inherit so many recessive genes, Sumida said.

The transparent frogs can also reproduce, with their offspring inheriting their parents' traits, but their grandchildren die shortly after birth.

"As they have two sets of recessive genes, something wrong must kick in and kill them," Sumida said.

While the researchers relied on artificial insemination, they said that genetic engineering could also produce transparent and even illuminating frogs.

Sumida said researchers could also inject into the transparent frogs an illuminating protein attached to a gene, which would light up the gene once it manifests -- for example, showing at what stage cancer starts.

Sumida said it would be unrealistic to apply the same method to mammals such as mice as their skin structure is different.

..stolen from smh

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Plan to DNA barcode world's species

Canadian scientists are working on an ambitious project to create a global database of up to half a million of the world's species using DNA barcoding technology.

The scientists are hoping to raise $US150 million ($176 million) to fund an initial five-year stage of what they describe as the biodiversity equivalent of launching a rocket to the moon.

DNA barcoding, a technique for characterising a species using only a short DNA sequence, has wide-ranging implications for health and the environment.

It could help remove illegal fish and timber supplies from global markets, get rid of pests such as mosquitoes and even reduce the numbers of collisions between birds and aircraft.

Paul Hebert, head of the Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding, is spearheading the plan.

This week's conference is being held by the Washington-based Consortium for the Barcode of Life, which was set up in 2003 in response to Hebert's initiative and now includes 160 organisations.

Among them are the CSIRO and other organisations in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

"We're now trying to launch in Canada the International Barcode of Life Project, which has a five-year life span," Hebert said at a three day seminar on DNA in Taipei.

"We hope to put $US150 million into this through a 25 nation alliance."

"The idea is collectively we would gather 5 million specimens and 500,000 species within that five-year period," Hebert added, saying the entire project could take 15 years.

The seminar in Taipei has brought together 350 scientists from 45 countries to debate the "barcoding of life" concept.

Scientists estimate that, while nearly 1.8 million species have already been identified, there might be another 10 million that are not known.

But DNA barcoding technology has progressed so rapidly that scientists predict science fiction-style powers to recognise previously unfamiliar creatures could become reality in a decade.

"Like in the film of Star Trek, anything scanned by such devices could display its image, name and function," said Allen Chen from Taiwan's Academia Sinica.

"This could be done 10 years from now after a global barcoding data bank is set up," said Chen, an expert in corals.

Scientists are already working on hand-held barcoders that would enable users to access a barcode data bank using a global positioning system, said Taiwan's Shao Kwang-tsao, one of the conference chairmen.

Hebert said the alliance would invest heavily in the development of such technology.

Among them is Taiwan's top academic body, Academia Sinica, one of three chief organisers of the conference.

At its first conference in London in 2005, the consortium's data banks collected about 33,000 DNA references belonging to about 12,700 species.

Today it counts more than 290,000 DNA samples from about 31,000 species, including about 20 per cent of the world's estimated 10,000 bird species and 10 per cent of the 35,000 estimated marine and freshwater fish species.

The "barcoding of life" projects have drawn increasing attention, particularly from the US, Canada and Europe, as scientists explore the technique's applications, which range from food safety and consumer protection to the identification of herbal plants.

One British scientist is working on a project to barcode 2800 species of mosquito, or 80 per cent of those known to the world, within two years.

The project is aimed at reducing the scourge of malaria, which infects some 500 million people a year and is spread by some mosquitoes.

The IT Crowd - Piracy

The IT Crowd - New Emergency Number

.. that number again..

Monday, September 17, 2007

Festival of lots of drumming
impaled cheeks

A week or so ago I went for a walk to buy some orange juice.. this is what I encountered on the road outside my apartment block:

[Apologies for the quality, these videos were captured using my Nokia 6630.]

A while ago, scientists at the National University of Singapore created transgenic, fluorescent zebra fish by injecting red, green, and orange fluorescence genes from a jellyfish into the fish eggs. They did this so the fish could help detect environmental pollutants.

Now, you can actually have them for pets! They are marketed under the name GloFish, and look very cool under a black light.

Ham dressed as Mutton?

MEET the world’s first sheep-hog — a PIG with its own FLEECE.

Scientists are baffled by the strange swine — which they say is a pig “at heart” but with a woolly hide.

The one-year-old is being raised on a ranch near the town of Esquina, 400 miles north of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It was a gift to owner Felipe Olivetti from a neighbouring farm.

He admitted: “Experts have told us it is unique.

“It is a pig but has a thick fleece which needs shearing in summer with the other sheep because it suffers in the heat. Other pigs do not trust it.”

Local farmers claim it could be the perfect animal. Neighbour Catriona Martez said: “Bacon and fleece all in one animal! If only there were more like it.”

Livestock expert Prof Hector Rebechisi said: “I examined it and if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t believe it. Hopefully we can do some tests to find out why it has a fleece.”


hmmm... it looks like these pigs aren't as rare and unusual as initially thought:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

HTC TyTN II P4550 (HTC Kaiser 120)

Furoshiki-shiki Wallet

The "furoshiki shiki" (furoshiki style) is made out of one sheet of semi-transparent vinyl "film."

This sheet is turned into a bag by folding it and making use of the adhesive qualities of the material.

It is a practical material: easy to clean and when washed with soap the material regains its adhesive qualities.

.. available via compactImpact

New permanent water restrictions
for NSW

THE NSW Government will today announce new permanent water restrictions designed to conserve the state's reserves for decades.

The long-term water saving measures will underpin the current regime of restrictions temporarily brought in during times of drought. The measures would be less severe than the level three restrictions now in effect. They will remain in place even if the drought breaks.

The spokesman said the rules would include banning daytime use of sprinklers and irrigation systems and permits for hosing down driveways and filling new swimming pools.

Residents across Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains are now only allowed to hose lawns and gardens and operate drip irrigation on Wednesdays and Sundays before 10am and after 4pm.

No other watering systems or sprinklers are to be used at any time.

Dam levels across Sydney, the Illawarra and the Blue Mountains stand at 59.1 per cent, up 0.2 per cent on last week. Since mandatory water restrictions came into force four years ago, water use has dropped by more than 13 per cent.

Water consumption has fallen from 500 litres per capita a day in 1991 to about 340 litres. Greater Sydney is using the same amount of water now as in 1974, despite an extra 1 million residents.

In April less water was used than in any month over the past eight years. "If we are in a position to ease water restrictions, which looks likely given all the good rain we've had, these rules will remain."

Level 3 restrictions

■ Hosing of lawns and gardens and drip irrigation allowed only on Wednesdays and Sundays before 10am and after 4 pm.

■ No other watering systems or sprinklers are to be used.

■ A permit from Sydney Water is required to fill new or renovated pools bigger than 10,000 litres.

■ No hosing of hard surfaces, including vehicles, at any time.

■ No hoses or taps to be left running unattended, except when filling pools or containers.

Rise of the Smart Bra

Women could soon be wearing bras embedded with electronics and capable of changing shape to provide better support after a study found conventional undergarments were seriously failing them.

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth in Britain studied the movement of women's breasts during a range of activities, including running and jogging, and found bra designers had underestimated the pressures they were subjected to.

They also found breast pain due to exercise was not just restricted to large-breasted women, with many A-cup women forced to restrict their sporting activities due to underperforming bras.

Researcher Dr Joanna Scurr said scientific principles needed to applied to bras to improve their design.

``It is only recently that bra design has turned to science,'' she said in a statement.

``There was no research.

``It's like designing a car or kitchen equipment without first thinking `what is the purpose of this?'

``We need to think why do we need bras? What do we need them to do?''

To look at the relationship between breasts and undergarments, Scurr signed up 70 women with breast sizes ranging from A to JJ and studied them over two years.

Participants were asked to undertake a range of activities including walking, jogging and running while biomechanical measurements were made of their bodies.

While it was previously accepted the maximum bounce for a breast during exercise was 16 cm, Scurr's study found breasts could move up to 21 cm, proving conventional bras were woefully inadequate.

Scurr also found that breasts move as much during slow jogging as they do at maximum sprint speed.

``This makes wearing a sports bra as important if you jog slowly as if you sprint,'' she said.

``There really are women who want to do exercise but who don't have the bras to cope.''

It was estimated 50 per cent of women experienced breast pain during exercise, including many smaller-breasted women.

This was, in part, because breasts have very limited natural support.

The research found brought into question the previously held belief that compression bras are better for reducing movement in smaller-breasted women and encapsulation bras better for larger-breasted women.

Scurr found instead that encapsulation bars are better at reducing breast movement in women of all cup sizes.

She hopes to use the data from her study to design new generation bras that would offer more support and take into account true movement levels.

One option would be to use smart fabric - cloth embedded with sensors, actuators and electronics.

When a smart bra sensed additional stresses being applied to a woman's breasts it could respond by offering greater support.

``We are building up a database on breast biomechanics which we believe is the largest in the world,'' Scurr said.

``This information could be used to inform bra design, for clinical support, fundamental breast health research and to broaden understanding in this important area.''

.. from smh

Digital Sound Bag

Remember when people carried huge boomboxes on their shoulders before walkmans were invented?

You don't see that too often and now it's all about how small your mobile music device can get.

The Digital Sound Bag lets you slip your personal music player into a clear acetate pocket and plug it into built in speakers if you ever get the urge to make your personal music public while you're out and about.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Weave Mirror & Peg Mirror

The Bibliochaise is book storage with a difference. Apart from the fact that it has a higher than average creativity quotient, the Italian designers, nobody&co have thrown in an added utility factor by creating a literal “arm-chair library.” With the Bibliochaise, you can pick off your books right from where you are seated. This chair-library is designed to hold 5 linear metres of books and a book-lover as well.

Pic of the week!

.. if you don't get it, ask the closest geek


Is it a rug, or is it a lounge?

.. Whatever it is, I want one.

.. from bltd

Meowlingual: Japanese Cat Translation Device

Meowlingual, much like the dog version Bowlingual, allows a cat owner to finally learn what their cat is trying to say to them.

Basically you take the Takara Tomy’s Meowlingual cat-language electronic interpretation device and hold it next to your cat as it meows.

The palm-sized gadget will then interpret what your cats meows and purrs really mean.

Amazing stuff. Now if we can just get it to work the other way round... I want to be able to summon my feline army with one of these things.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I'm off to Microsoft Tech Ed for the next few days.

While I'm not really expecting to return with too many good bloggable stories, I am still really looking fwd to it.

I am currently writing this blog in Firefox 2 running on Ubuntu Linux, and I will continues to do so ;)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Archaeologists have published a new map showing an extensive ancient settlement surrounding Cambodia's Angkor Wat that supported large numbers of inhabitants before and after the famous temple was built.

Ancient urban sprawl surrounded Cambodia's Angkor

Now obscured by vegetation and low-lying clouds, the ruins spread over 1,000 sq km and were made up of thousands of houses, roads, manmade ponds and canals, researchers from Australia, Cambodia and France said in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We now know that instead of being just (a collection of) temples, Angkor was actually a continuous and interconnected network of temples and small scale residential features like small village ponds, small village temples as well," Damien Evans of the Archaeological Computing Laboratory at the University of Sydney told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Very little remains now, they are just piles of brick ... a thousand years ago (it) would have been a huge and popular city, full of life, rather than this image of temples in a jungle."

Angkor Wat was built in the early 12th century, while the settlement existed between 500 AD and 1500 AD, Evans said.

"What we can see, even on a preliminary basis, is that several hundred thousand people must have lived in the Angkor area ... which is defined by the infrastructure, the roads, the canals, huge embankments," he added.

Using hand-drawn maps, ground surveys, satellite imagery, aerial photography and ground-sensing radar provided by NASA, the researchers identified what they believed to be more than a thousand former manmade ponds, temples and moats -- all of which were now replaced by vegetation.

Ranging from 20 metres to 8 km long, the ponds were used for drinking, irrigation, livestock and other domestic purposes and were especially crucial for the dry season.

"The slightly lower elevations of the rice fields in the former moats and reservoirs ... result in different stages of rice maturity and in differential levels of soil moisture content, which strongly affect the returned radar signal," Evans said. "You get more mature rice in these wetter areas."

The researchers believe the settlement was abandoned around 1500 AD because of overexploitation and deforestation.

"What our work proved for the first time was that Angkor certainly was large enough and its water management system was complex and extensive enough to have created very serious environmental problems," Evans said.

"In such situations, infrastructure becomes very important and increasingly complex and difficult to maintain."

Future studies will look at how serious these problems were and if the inhabitants were able to deal with them.

Friday, September 07, 2007

I'm a Team Lead!

I've been made a Development team lead at work with 5 developers reporting to me.
Exciting, scary stuff.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The long-outstanding Thailand post


On the 18th August, my lovely girlfriend Pei Lin and I, and our friends Chris and Ronnie went on a week long jaunt around the tropical (and shopping) paradise known as Thailand.


We stayed in Bangkok (thanks Trang Hotel!) for 3 nights, then flew to Phuket (staying at the lovely Deevana Patong) for a further 5 nights of relaxation, massage, cocktails & sunburn.


We were meant to stay in Bangkok for four nights, but I stuffed up the flight booking, but anyway.

Thailand is gorgeous. We rode elephants, visited ancient cities and temples and of course shopped extensively. For me, the floating markets was a real highlight.


Bangkok is crazy enough to be exciting, but relaxed and friendly enough to be thoroughly enjoyable. On the first day in Phuket Chris and I proved our already obvious manliness by getting royally sunburnt. Sunburnt feet and ankles sucks. Don't do it.

Luckily there was enough aloe vera gel and Mai Tai's available to successfully stem any discomfort. Well.. ok.. some discomfort. For me. Chris got TOASTED ;).


Phuket was so relaxing. Pei Lin can now swim, which is awesome. The food was so fresh, and not as oily as I find it can be here in KL. I think I could eat the seafood fried rice from there for years without getting bored.

I also had a squid curry which was probably close to being the hottest thing I've eaten. It was like magma, seriously. Well, not seriously, but it was really, really hot.

A lovely place to holiday. I can't wait to get back there soon.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Life of a Yakuza's Daughter

With her dyed-brown long hair and tight designer jeans, Shoko Tendo looks like any other stylish young Japanese woman - until she removes her shirt to reveal the vivid tattoos covering her back and most of her body.

The elaborate dragons, phoenixes and a medieval courtesan with one breast bared and a knife between her teeth are a symbol of Tendo's childhood as the daughter of a "yakuza" gangster and her youth as a drug-using gang member.

The author of Yakuza Moon, a best-selling memoir just out in English, the 39-year-old Tendo says that police efforts to eradicate the gangsters have merely made them harder to track.

"The more the police push, the more the yakuza are simply going underground, making their activities harder to follow than they ever were before," she said.

Police say full-fledged membership in yakuza groups fell to 41,500 last year, down from 43,000 in 2005, a decline they attribute to tighter laws against organised crime.

The number of yakuza hangers-on, including thugs and members of motorcycle gangs, who are willing to do their dirty work, though, rose marginally to 43,200.

More shocking for many in Japan, where gun-related crime is rare, were a handful of fatal shootings by yakuza earlier this year, including the killing of the mayor of Nagasaki.

Tendo said the shootings were a result of the legal crackdown on yakuza, which has made it harder for them to ply their traditional trades of prostitution, drugs and bid-rigging.

"They're being forced into a corner, their humanity taken away," she said. "All the things they used to do for a living have been made illegal, so life has become very hard."

Experts say this is especially true for gangsters in less affluent parts of Japan, a reflection of the same sort of income gaps that increasingly plague the nation as a whole.

"Yakuza need a lot of money, but depending on where they are, business isn't going so well," said Nobuo Komiya, a criminology professor at Tokyo's Rissho University. "So they turn to guns."

Descended from medieval gamblers and outlaws, yakuza were long portrayed as latter-day samurai, bound by traditions of honor and duty and living extravagant lives.

Tendo's father, the leader of a gang linked to the Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest yakuza group, led a "classic" yakuza life replete with Italian suits, imported cars and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Raised with strict ideas of honour, she was both spoiled and scolded by the tattooed men who frequented her family home.

But she also faced prejudice and bullying because of her father. In response, she joined a gang, took drugs and become the lover of several gangsters before near-fatal beatings and drug overdoses convinced her to change her life.

Now a writer and mother, Tendo has distanced herself from the yakuza world, which she feels is rapidly losing its traditions.

Being a gang member is not illegal in Japan, and until recently the gangs were known for openness. Their offices even posted signs with their names and membership lists inside.

Gangs cooperated with police, handing over suspects in return for police turning a blind eye to yakuza misdemeanors, but this broke down after organized crime laws were toughened in 1992.

The largest part of yakuza income now comes from pursuits involving stocks, property and finance.

"What we're going to see from here on is the yakuza becoming more structured, like the US Mafia, and dividing itself between business experts and violence experts," said Manabu Miyazaki, a writer whose father was also a yakuza.

"As the world becomes more borderless, they'll need experts who can deal with this too, speaking Chinese and English."

Like Japan as a whole, gangsters are also ageing, and fewer young people look to organized crime as a career option.

Police figures showed fewer than 20 per cent of yakuza were in their 20s in 2005, a trend both Tendo and Miyazaki attributed to young people's dislike for the tough life involved.

"They think being a yakuza is like joining a company," Miyazaki said. "There's a joke about a young man going to a gang office and asking what the salary was, and would he get insurance."

But while today's yakuza are eschewing tattoos and amputated fingers - cut off to atone for mistakes - in favour of more mainstream lifestyles, they are unlikely to disappear altogether.

"Fewer people want to become yakuza," Miyazaki said. "But those who do will be very logical, very scary - and much, much more dangerous."

Monday, September 03, 2007

A different Cuckoo Clock

The traditional Black Forrest Cuckoo Clock is creatively crucified by German artist and product designer, Michael Sans. This clock, simply titled "Cuckoo Clock", with materials consisting of; digital clock, metal housing, chromed nails and chain, cuckoo (died of natural causes in 1958). One of a kind-Not for sale.

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