home flickr
Your Ad Here

Monday, July 12, 2010

Family move into house to test latest low-energy gadgets

A family of three are moving into a green technology-packed home to test life in an energy-constrained future.

As the federal government puts the finishing touches to its new climate change policy, one Sydney family is embarking on a year-long experiment to live in an energy-constrained home of the future.

Clare Joyce, Michael Adams and their daughter Ava will live rent free for a year in a house in Newington crammed with solar technology and gadgets designed to slash greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

The garden has a semi-transparent solar pergola, which generates electricity and provides shade, rooftop photovoltaic panels, a miniature power plant and other energy- and water-saving devices, courtesy of EnergyAustralia and the state government's climate change fund.

"We have an ordinary family moving into an extraordinary house to put it to the test," said the Energy Minister, Paul Lynch.

The family would write a blog about their time in a high-tech fishbowl and the information would be used to help design energy policy, the government said. ''It will be a learn-as-we-go experience, testing different approaches and trying to understand exactly where all our energy is going,'' Ms Joyce said.

''We wanted to do something (about sustainability) on an individual level. There are lots of things in this world where you don't think you can have an impact but the individual has to contribute otherwise the collective never will.''

The family is moving to the new home week. Mr Adams said they did not know what to expect but Ava, 4, had been in training with copies of the futuristic 1960s cartoon The Jetsons.

''She watched pretty much all of the second series on DVD and she'll probably be disappointed that she doesn't get to have a flying car,'' Mr Adams said.

EnergyAustralia said the family was chosen from 160 applicants, including some from as far afield as New York and Sweden.

"We'll see warts and all what works and what doesn't,'' said the managing director of EnergyAustralia, George Maltabarow.

The company is awaiting news from the federal government this week, with cabinet examining options for an energy-efficiency plan that could include a scheme to encourage providers to cut consumption.

What makes this house low-energy?

Pergola with semi-transparent solar panels generates up to 0.5 kilowatts of electricity.
Kitchen bench top sand floor made from bamboo and recycled paper and rubber.
Meters for individual taps.
Recycled water for us in toilets and washing machine.
LED "chandelier" uses 25 per cent of energy needed by conventional downlights.
Garden with 20 types of native plants will never need watering once established.
Kitchen appliances can be turned of and off remotely via the internet.
Ceramic fuel cell generates electricity from natural gas.
Extra power from rooftop solar panels.
Energy-saving heat-exchange air-conditioner.
Heat pump clothes dryer.

.. from smh

Friday, July 09, 2010

Election 2010

Monkeys catapult to freedom over fence

TOKYO: Monkeys at a research institute in Japan have used the branches of trees to catapult themselves over an electric fence.

A group of 15 monkeys at Kyoto University's primate research institute in Aichi Prefecture escaped from their forest home, which is encased by a five-metre-high electric fence. The monkeys made their break for freedom by bending and releasing tree branches to fling themselves over the fence.

Despite the intelligence demonstrated by their great escape, the primates appeared unsure what to do with their freedom: they remained by the gates of the centre and were lured back by scientists with peanuts.

''We think that maybe there was some kind of dispute among the monkeys in the forest and so this group decided to leave,'' Hirohisa Hirai, the deputy head of the institute, said. ''Fortunately, they stayed by the fence after escaping as they probably wanted to stay near to the other monkeys.''

Scientists have cut the trees in order to prevent a repeat escape.

The Kyoto institution is one of the world's leading primate research centres, which has produced a series of studies exploring the social interaction, behaviour and evolution of primates.

Telegraph, London

Monday, June 07, 2010

Surry Hills is city's hot spot of creativity, GPS study reveals.

Surry Hills is a Mecca to Sydney's artists.

That's the preliminary findings of a study that ''tagged'' a group of designers with satellite technology and tracked their movements around Sydney, in an attempt to find out where the people who fuel Sydney's creative economy live, work and play.

Fifteen designers wore small GPS tracking devices, similar to the ones used in cars, for several days, which recorded their location every five seconds.

While the fact that almost everyone in the first group of 15 visited the inner-city artistic hub of Surry Hills will come as little surprise, the study found other areas like the lower north shore or south-west rated strongly, too.

The results, said the head of the study, Wollongong University's Professor Chris Gibson, suggest state and local governments may need to rethink where public galleries, artists' studios and other pieces of ''creative infrastructure'' are located in the future.

''The story that we're getting is that there is a more complex geography to their activities than you might expect,'' he said.

''It tells different councils that they're part of the creative economy … incubating the creative industry should not just be left to the City of Sydney or Marrickville Council.''

Designer Simeon King, who admitted he was probably ''a stereotype'' because he lives in Glebe and works in Surry Hills, was one of the participants in the study. He said he would consider moving further west in Sydney if the cultural activities and spaces were there to support the arts.

''You need to move some of the critical cultural infrastructure out there,'' he said. ''Otherwise there is always going to be this magnetism towards the inner city.''

The findings of the pilot study, called Catch and Release, were presented as part of the Creative Sydney program at the Vivid festival on Saturday.

Urban planner Rod Simpson told the audience former industrial areas such as Surry Hills and Newtown were once natural homes for the creative industries because of their mix of cheap, dense housing, small warehouses and bustling, cosmopolitan main streets.

The Catch and Release project will tag the movements of several other creative industries in the coming months.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pizza cooked with wood from coffins

Italian prosecutors believe pizza in the southern city of Naples may be baked in ovens lit with wood from coffins dug up in the local cemetery, Italian daily Il Giornale reports.

"Pizza, one of the few symbols of Naples that endures ... is hit by the concrete suspicion that it could be baked with wood from coffins," Il Giornale said on Monday.

Investigators in Naples are setting their sights on the thousands of small, lower-end pizza shops and bakeries that dot the city on suspicion that the owners may "use wood from caskets to keep ovens burning".

Naples's graveyard has long been a hunting ground for thieves: last year, 5000 flower pots were stolen from the cemetery.

"A gang might have set up a market for coffins sold to hard-hearted owners of bakeries and pizzerias looking to save money on wood," Il Giornale said.

According to tradition, Neapolitan pizza should be cooked in a stone oven with an oak-wood fire.

Neapolitan pizza was invented between 1715 and 1725, with the world-famous Margherita variant first cooked up in 1889.

Tradition has it that queen Margherita of Savoy asked one of Naples's famed pizzaioli to come up with a dish for the people.

The result, which provides the basis for most pizzas enjoyed around the world, represented the colours of recently unified Italy: green basil, white mozzarella and red tomatoes.

Italy's estimated 25,000 pizzerias employ about 150,000 people and account for a turnover of €5.3 billion (7.4 billion).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Starving yogi 'blessed by goddess' astounds doctors

An 83-year-old Indian holy man who says he has spent seven decades without food or water has astounded a team of military doctors who studied him during a two-week observation period.

Prahlad Jani spent a fortnight in a hospital in the western India state of Gujarat under constant surveillance from a team of 30 medics equipped with cameras and closed circuit television.

During the period, he neither ate nor drank and did not go to the toilet.

"We still do not know how he survives," neurologist Sudhir Shah told reporters after the end of the experiment.

"It is still a mystery what kind of phenomenon this is."

The long-haired and bearded yogi was sealed in a hospital in the city of Ahmedabad in a study initiated by India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the state defence and military research institute.

The DRDO hopes that the findings, set to be released in greater detail in several months, could help soldiers survive without food and drink, assist astronauts or even save the lives of people trapped in natural disasters.

"(Jani's) only contact with any kind of fluid was during gargling and bathing periodically during the period," G. Ilavazahagan, director of India's Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS), said in a statement.

Jani has since returned to his village near Ambaji in northern Gujarat where he will resume his routine of yoga and meditation. He says that he was blessed by a goddess at a young age, which gave him special powers.

During the 15-day observation, which ended on Thursday, the doctors took scans of Jani's organs, brain, and blood vessels, as well as doing tests on his heart, lungs and memory capacity.

"The reports were all in the pre-determined safety range through the observation period," Shah told reporters at a press conference last week.

Other results from DNA analysis, molecular biological studies and tests on his hormones, enzymes, energy metabolism and genes will take months to come through.

"If Jani does not derive energy from food and water, he must be doing that from energy sources around him, sunlight being one," said Shah.

"As medical practitioners we cannot shut our eyes to possibilities, to a source of energy other than calories."


Inedia (Latin: "fasting") is the alleged ability to live without food.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2020 vision: A day in your life in 10 years time

It Is 2020, iPhones appear ancient and Tweeting seems as old-fashioned as sending a fax.

As we start one new decade, the science experts at BBC Focus magazine have revealed how technological advances will be shaping our lives as the next one comes into play.

So sit back and prepare to be amazed by a day in your life in 10 years' time...

Your alarm clock goes off 15 minutes early because it is linked to the internet, and traffic reports predict delays due to a train strike.

The internet radio station streams the same music to every listener, but the HomeDJ service means that news, traffic and weather are local to you, and can be customised to provide the level of detail you want.

When you leave home, you carry on listening in your car - the first internet car radio was showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas back in 2009.

GPS data automatically selects the most relevant traffic news stream for you and updates your sat-nav.

For breakfast, you grab an apple from a FrootStore bag. This is a plastic bag from the supermarket impregnated with a compound that inhibits ethylene, the naturally produced gas compound that encourages fruit to ripen.

The FrootStore holds everything from apples to avocados in a preripe condition. When you want to eat them, you take them out and put them in a FrootRipe bag, which emits ethylene, for a few hours.

It means every apple is in perfect condition when you bite into it, so there is much less waste.

And the core goes into a back door composter. By opting for a two-thirds size wheelie bin, you have saved 20% on your council tax bill.

Your journey to work is by car - the public transport infrastructure hasn't improved much in the last decade.

It's now almost impossible to buy a new car that isn't a hybrid, uses regenerative braking (which charges the battery as you brake) and smart idling (it cuts the engine if you stop for more than a few seconds).

The hybrid revolution started with the Toyota Prius back in 1997. A report published in 2009 predicted that 35% of cars made in 2025 will be electric - 25% will be hybrids and 10% purely electric.

Service stations now have fastcharge points. But it's bad news if you still have an old gas-guzzler - rumour has it petrol could soon break the £4.50 per litre barrier.

Fewer people spend all their working day in an office now, with many companies ditching call centres for distributed Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems.

Calls are routed to individual operators around the country via internet data lines, meaning that many of us can work from home, with flexible working hours.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics in 2005 showed how workers had already started migrating out of the office.

Back then, 3.1 million Brits worked mainly from home, up from 2.3 million in 1997.

You've driven into town today for a meeting with your project team at a coffee shop - a venue that has become an increasingly important part of working life.

Many cafes are now making clever use of acoustic materials that make the music loud in the public areas but quieter in the discreet booths.

This makes it easier to talk in the booths, and harder for others to eavesdrop on confidential conversations.

You spend all afternoon trying to get a copy of a controversial biography of the Chinese premier, hard copies of which were banned outright in China.

The electronic version you downloaded won't play and the web filter in the cafe's Wi-Fi connection is blocking forums discussing China's censorship of the world wide web. As China's economy has grown over the past decade, its attempts to control the internet have become more sophisticated.

Filters that block content the superpower objects to are being installed in applications and even hardware.

Eventually you send a carefully-worded email that finds its way past the filters to a colleague in Finland who sends you a link to a file-sharing website. It might work - once you get home.

On the way home you stop off at a pharmacy to pick up a FluCheck which you use to swab the inside of your nose. The single-use device detects the pres-ence of antigens on flu virus particles.

It takes just 20 minutes for the "lab-on-a-chip" to give you a result.

Back in 2009, to diagnose something like swine flu required a sample being sent off to a lab. But in 2020 super-fast diagnoses are common for lots of conditions, including prostate cancer, hepatitis, TB and diabetes.

All the checkouts at your local supermarket are self-service, apart from one "assisted checkout", intended for customers with disabilities, which is manned on demand. Back in 2009, a Tesco store in Northampton became the first completely self-service supermarket.

Most food is now labelled with "food miles" - some products even have a "carbon foodprint" indicating the total carbon emitted during both production and transportation.

Dinner is Bosnian meatballs with kljukusa because Jamie Oliver is currently touring Central Europe for his latest video podcast.

Several broadcasters now transmit programmes simultaneously through the aerial and the internet. Commercial TV revenues continue to fall as fewer people are prepared to sit through live adverts any more.

The line between the internet and TV began to blur in 2009, when the number of videos watched online increased by 47% in a year.

You check your LifeSaver account, which has all the audio and video you uploaded today, recorded by a camera built into your glasses. LifeSaver picks out the most significant moments and sends out a video stream to everyone signed up to receive them.

Lord Stephen Fry has three hours of LifeSaver video for today - or you can catch the weekly summary on the Celebrity LifePeeks website. You also catch up on today's news on your e-reader.

As you snuggle down in bed, your iPillow plays the next chapter of your current audiobook through flat speakers embedded inside it. The pillow also adjusts the volume based on your activity and posture - it even switches to gentle music when it senses you are nearly asleep.

As you sleep, wind and wave power supply electricity to the National Grid. Some of this pumps water into reservoirs in the recently opened hydroelectric power stations in Scotland, proposed in 2009. Tomorrow, this water will feed electricity into the National Grid when everyone switches on their kettles and toasters.

Combined with the photovoltaic cells you installed on your roof three years ago, more than 15% of your electricity now comes from green sources.

Thanks to your smart meter you can keep tabs on your total electricity consumption - having the TV on standby is a thing of the past.

Life in 2020

The future of "ubiquitous computing" has been heralded for decades. It sounds grandiose-computing, everywhere!-but ironically, a future of ubiquitous computing is one where computers actually go unnoticed. That's 2020. It is when Nicholas Negroponte's assertion in 1995 of "being digital" switches to "been digital" because we will have been there and done that. Kids who have grown up stealing free views of recent movie releases online or regularly chatting with a friend in Bangalore or Atlanta will be working adults in a world where the notion of "work" has changed because of digital technology. But it's no longer "technology" in 2020 anymore-it's just how we get things done.

Consider attempts by schools to quell mobile phone usage in the classroom. In many parts of Asia, where the mobile phone took hold sooner than in the US, schools have given up. To a student in Hong Kong, their mobile phone is as vital as the beating of their heart. The word "mobile" means your world can all "go" with you, and by 2020 it will be too hard to imagine going without. We won't carry today's angst of feeling tied to our mobile devices in an apologetic sort of way. Instead, it will be the accepted norm, an innate part of daily life, and will vanish within our collective consciousness.

But if technology and the ability to be connected disappear further into the background, what will occupy our foreground? A bit of the humanity we've always valued in the "real world." Legislators who are currently fixated on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education as the key to innovation will realise that STEM needs some STEAM-some art in the equation. We'll witness a return to the integrity of craft, the humanity of authorship, and the rebalancing of our virtual and physical spaces. We'll see a 21st-century renaissance in arts- and design-centered approaches to making things, where you-the individual-will take centre stage in culture and commerce.

The software industry is poised to embrace its craft heritage. By 2020 software will return to a cottage industry, with bespoke applications made by many, rather than today's industrialised, Microsoft-esque mass-production and distribution model. It will be part of a larger world movement to make things by hand, infused with emotion and integrity. This phenomenon is already becoming visible in the rise of the "apps" market for mobile phones. With few dominant players and close-to-zero distribution costs, practically anyone can "ship" an app on the iPhone, Android or BlackBerry. These apps are often built with care and attention to the design that big companies' offerings lack. Look at the exquisite quality made by game companies like Iconfactory; or the many iPhone apps like ToonPaint that focus on letting users make "hand-crafted" creative content on their phones.

Rather than be content to accept corporate anonymity, we will rediscover the value of authorship. In 2020 technology will continue to enable individual makers to operate in the same way that once only large corporations could do. Witness the growth of individuals as "brands-of-one" in the social media space, broadcasting their news in the same fashion as major media outlets, or in software apps marketplaces, where "Bob Schula" can hawk his wares right next to "Adobe Systems," and it's just as easy to buy hand-stenciled napkins from a seller on Etsy as it is to buy them from Crate & Barrel. You might say it is a return to learning to trust individuals again, instead of relying on an indirect connection to a product through trust in its brand. Certainly our trust in those brands is already being tested right now.

Digital metaphors will reconnect to their original physical sources as a way to recapture what has been lost in translation. A creative director friend of mine recently commented how he noticed that younger designers were absolutely captivated when he used tracing paper in layers to develop a concept over an existing printed photograph. They commented to him, "Wow! That's so fast. I could never make those layers in Photoshop so quickly." Today we fill folders on our computer desktop to the brim with absolutely no sense of scale, no notion of what is a "full" or "less full" folder. They may be more easily searched, but there's a reason why paper-based systems comfort us so well with their tacit communication of what is more vs. what is less. Unable to let this go, we will see many new designs that best leverage what is good in virtual with what is good in the physical world. The subtleties and greyness that we can so easily grasp off the screen will make their way on to it.

The last 20 years have been so full of technological change that technology and the digital world has become the dominant narrative in our consumer culture. Educators, legislators, futurists and social scientists can't help but fixate on it. As we become more accustomed to it, happily, some breathing room will open up for a different conversation about what we want back in our lives.

So, what will take technology's place? It begins with art, design and you: Products and culture that are made by many individuals, made by hand, made well, made by people we trust, and made to capture some of the nuances and imperfections that we treasure in the physical world.

A British woman has suddenly started speaking with a Chinese accent after suffering a severe migraine, she said in comments quoted by British media on Tuesday.

Sarah Colwill believes she has Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) which has caused her distinctive West Country drawl to be replaced with a Chinese twang, even though she has never even visited the country.

The 35-year-old from Plymouth, southwest England, is now undergoing speech therapy following an acute form of migraine last month which reportedly left her with a form of brain damage.

"I moved to Plymouth when I was 18 months old so I have always spoken like a local. But following one attack, an ambulance crew arrived and they said I definitely sounded Chinese," she said.

"I spoke to my stepdaughter on the phone from hospital and she didn't recognise who I was. She said I sounded Chinese. Since then, I have had my friends hanging up on me because they think I'm a hoax caller."

Ms Colwill added: "The first few weeks of the accent was quite funny but to think I am stuck with this Chinese accent is getting me down. My voice has started to annoy me now. It is not my voice."

FAS has been documented around the world and is usually linked to a stroke or traumatic brain injury. It was first recorded in the early 20th century and there are thought to be only a couple of dozen sufferers around the world.

Croatian teenager wakes from coma speaking fluent German

A 13-year-old Croatian girl who fell into a coma woke up speaking fluent German.

This is not a picture of the girl.

The girl, from the southern town of Knin, had only just started studying German at school and had been reading German books and watching German TV to become better, but was by no means fluent, according to her parents.

Since waking up from her 24 hour coma however, she has been unable to speak Croatian, but is able to communicate perfectly in German.

Doctors at Split's KB Hospital claim that the case is so unusual, various experts have examined the girl as they try to find out what triggered the change.

Hospital director Dujomir Marasovic said: "You never know when recovering from such a trauma how the brain will react. Obviously we have some theories although at the moment we are limited in what we can say because we have to respect the privacy of the patient."

Psychiatric expert Dr Mijo Milas added: "In earlier times this would have been referred to as a miracle, we prefer to think that there must be a logical explanation – its just that we haven't found it yet.

"There are references to cases where people who have been seriously ill and perhaps in a coma have woken up being able to speak other languages – sometimes even the Biblical languages such as that spoken in old Babylon or Egypt – at the moment though any speculation would remain just that – speculation – so it's better to continue tests until we actually know something."

Thursday, April 08, 2010

World fashion follows Kim Jong-Il: Pyongyang

The trademark suit sported by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is now in fashion worldwide thanks to his greatness, Pyongyang's official website said on Wednesday.

Uriminzokkiri, quoting an article in communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun, said the modest-looking suits have gripped people's imagination and become a global vogue.

"The reason is that the august image of the Great General, who is always wearing the modest suit while working, leaves a deep impression on people's mind in the world," it said.

"To sum it up, that is because his image as a great man is so outstanding."

The article quoted an unidentified French fashion expert as saying world fashion follows Kim Jong-Il's style.

"Kim Jong-Il mode which is now spreading expeditiously worldwide is something unprecedented in the world's history," the stylist was quoted as saying.

The suits consist of an overall-style zipped-up tunic and matching trousers, usually in khaki or blueish-grey.

The 68-year-old leader wears them even when receiving foreign dignitaries.

During his outside "field guidance" trips in winter, he also dons a shapeless anorak and fur hat.

Kim and his deceased father Kim Il-Sung are at the heart of a personality cult that borders on religion, with near-magical powers ascribed to the younger Kim.

Rainbows supposedly appeared over sacred Mount Paekdu where Kim Jong-Il was allegedly born, and he is said once to have scored 11 holes-in-one in a single round of golf.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Strange ‘Oriental Yeti’ creature found in China’s Sichuan province

Hunters in the Sichuan province of China are reported to have trapped the strange animal in the picture above, but no one seems to know what it might be. The news has dubbed the creature an “Oriental Yeti”.

Hunter Lu Chin spoke about the “yeti’s” behavior to press:

“It looks a bit like a bear but it doesn’t have any fur and it has a tail like a kangaroo.”

“It also does not sound like a bear – it has a voice more like a cat and it is calling all the time – perhaps it is looking for the rest of its kind or maybe it’s the last one?

“There are local legends of a bear that used to be a man and some people think that’s what we caught.”

The Oriental Yeti is now en route to Beijing so scientists can DNA test it and try to determine its origin.

When wombats attack...

A SURVIVOR of the Black Saturday bushfires feared for his life yesterday during a wombat mauling that lasted up to half an hour and ended only when a neighbour saved him.
Bruce Kringle, who lost his house in the deadly blaze in Victoria last year, was in hospital last night recovering from bites and lacerations sustained in the attack.

Mr Kringle, 60, a painter, is living in a caravan until his house in Flowerdale is rebuilt. He was walking down the caravan steps yesterday when the wombat appeared out of nowhere and attacked his legs, bringing him to the ground.

The animal continued to bite and scratch Mr Kringle as he tried to escape.

Terrified that it would tear his throat out, he eventually lay on the wombat until a neighbour, known only as ''Rob'', heard his cries for help.

Rob told Mr Kringle to get off the animal, then killed it with a blow from the back of an axe.

Yvonne Kringle said the family, who have lived in the area for 28 years, was shocked a wombat could inflict so much damage.

She said her husband, who is believed to take medication after suffering an unrelated heart attack, thought he might die.

''He was too scared to get up,'' she said. ''Every time he tried to run away initially it kept running after him. It kept on going him.

''Obviously it was quite angry or very sick. He's got bites all over him. The doctors said they can't believe how many bites he's got.''

She said the wombat had been seen headbutting a glass door at another property before it was chased away minutes before the attack.

One neighbour said the wombat was about 60 centimetres long, meaning it would be at least two years old, according to a wildlife expert. Experts were divided about why a wombat, which are herbivores and usually docile, would attack a human. A wildlife officer at the state Department of Sustainability and Environment, Geoff McClure, said in 34 years he had never heard a story like this, saying the most aggressive he had seen a wombat was when they were cornered.

He said the animal had probably been hand reared and might have been bumping the glass to draw attention to itself.

But Phillipa Mason, a veterinarian at Healesville Sanctuary, said the animal probably had the skin condition mange which could cause blindness, leaving it scared and defensive. But a neighbour, Don Dawson, said: ''It looked quite healthy apart from the fact it was dead.''

Saturday, March 27, 2010

World's hottest chilli: the new weapon against terrorism

Hottest in the world ... the ghost chilli is being used in hand grenades.

The Indian military has a new weapon against terrorism: the world's hottest chilli.

After conducting tests, the military has decided to use the thumb-sized "bhut jolokia", or "ghost chilli", to make tear gas-like hand grenades to immobilise suspects, defence officials said on Tuesday.

The bhut jolokia was accepted by Guinness World Records in 2007 as the world's spiciest chilli. It is grown and eaten in India's northeast for its taste, as a cure for stomach troubles and a way to fight the crippling summer heat.

It has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chilli's spiciness. Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2500 to 5000 Scoville units, while jalapeno peppers measure anywhere from 2500 to 8000.

"The chilli grenade has been found fit for use after trials in Indian defence laboratories, a fact confirmed by scientists at the Defence Research and Development Organisation," Colonel R. Kalia, a defence spokesman in the northeastern state of Assam, said.

"This is definitely going to be an effective nontoxic weapon because its pungent smell can choke terrorists and force them out of their hide-outs," R. B. Srivastava, the director of the Life Sciences Department at the New Delhi headquarters of the DRDO, said.

Srivastava, who led a defence research laboratory in Assam, said trials are also on to produce bhut jolokia-based aerosol sprays to be used by women against attackers and for the police to control and disperse mobs.

The television show host of “Man Vs. Food”, Adam Richman, was almost put out of the four horseman challenge (which is a burger covered in the top four hottest peppers in the world) after the first bite.

A native of India, where the chili is grown, has been eating the chili his entire life and grows it.

He said that eating the chili is “so hot you can’t even imagine, when you eat it, it’s like dying”.

The pepper gets its name from native superstition that eating the chili could turn you into an apparition.

Adam Savage and the Quest for the Dodo Bird

Awesome video of Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame detailing his preoccupations.
.. Highly enjoyable.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Beware of the chair

The science is in and it's scary. Sitting down is bad for you - very bad. So much so that some workplaces are starting to act.

The time has come for office chairs to come with a health warning and ''upholstered, height-adjustable weapons of mass destruction'' might not be too much an exaggeration.

Sitting for prolonged periods - and, let's face it, few places compete with the office when it comes to opportunities to park one's behind - is now linked to increased risk of premature death, particularly from cardiovascular disease. It is also associated with increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cancer.

What's more, these risks are not necessarily mitigated by those few hours a week you might spend running, swimming or pumping weights at the gym. That kind of exercise is still important, so don't stop, but sitting for prolonged periods appears to be a health hazard itself, much as smoking is a health hazard even if you also happen to be a devoted jogger.

The science is scary and has prompted some bosses to re-think how they make their office staff work.

Some of the most recent findings come from an Australian study published in the journal Circulation in January. It found that for every hour that a person spends sitting in front of the television, their individual risk of death from all causes rose 11 per cent, their risk of death from cardiovascular disease rose 18 per cent and their risk of dying from cancer, 9 per cent.

Professor David Dunstan, of Melbourne's Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and the paper's lead author, is keen to emphasise that the research is not about TV watching per se but about sitting, wherever it might be. ''Television viewing time is a reasonable indicator of a person's overall sedentary pattern,'' he says. "Modern society has come to mean a lot of us simply shift from chair to chair throughout the day: seat in the car, the office, the couch at home.''

Several medical research bodies - including Sweden's Karolinska Institute and, in the US, the University of Missouri-Columbia and the Mayo Clinic - have been looking into the specific mechanisms that link time spent on one's bum with poor health. One is obvious and well-known: fewer calories are burnt, you get fatter and there are health consequences.

The other is more insidious. It seems that muscle contractions - even very small ones such as those required to keep us standing upright - trigger important processes to do with the breakdown of fats and sugars. When we sit down, those muscle contractions cease and the processing stalls. The good news is they restart shortly after we stand up again.

"You increase your metabolic rate between 10 and 20 per cent above resting simply by getting up off your bottom - not walking anywhere, but simply standing up,'' says says Dr James Levine, professor of medicine with the Mayo Clinic.

''And there is a whole cascade of metabolic [phenomena] that are activated within two minutes, perhaps sooner, of getting up and bearing your own weight. That cascade involves insulin receptor activation, lipo protein lipase [an enzyme that helps break down fat] activity and more. And these things are deactivated within several minutes of getting down off your legs."

The value to human health of prolonged but low-level movement is vastly underestimated, he says.

Last year, Baker IDI and the cancer prevention research centre at the University of Sydney measured the amount of time people with sedentary jobs spent sitting and found that office, call centre and retail employees spent 77 per cent of the day seated. That's 31 hours a week planted on a chair for an employee working a 38-hour week; 46 if working a 60-hour week.

In a booklet titled Stand Up Australia, published with Medibank Private, they recommended that employers: consider sedentary time in their occupational health and safety policies just as they do seating posture; audit levels of sitting among staff; and "explore opportunities to reduce sitting in the workplace". And there is the challenge: reducing office sitting time while maintaining productivity.

Professor Dunstan could easily spend far too many hours on chair each week himself but he doesn't.

"I've introduced a stand-up desk into my work routine,'' he says, ''and I have become conditioned to being able to stand for a predominant part of the day. And I don't stand still.''

Professor Levine has taken on the movement challenge in ways both big and small. ''I have a two-metre-long curly cord between the telephone and the handset, so I'm able to just pace around as I talk to you, looking out at the freezing snow of Minnesota,'' he tells the Herald.

He has also been heavily involved with the design of the Steelcase Walkstation, a treadmill desk at which one can use a computer, talk on the phone, read etc, all the while strolling at a sedate two-or-so kilometres an hour. Levine uses one himself and has introduced them (and stationary bicycle desks, too) to a range of workplaces, mostly in the US.

Roger Highfield, the editor of British New Scientist, trialled a Levine-style treadmill desk when he was science editor for London's Telegraph newspaper. He was, he says, ribbed mercilessly by colleagues but after six weeks had lost 1.5 kilograms, having made no other lifestyle changes. After 12 weeks, his "sense of wellbeing had surged and energy levels were at an all-time high''.

Unfortunately, he had to get rid of it once he had written his story about the experience. There just wasn't enough space in the office.

''A treadmill is a relatively big and expensive piece of kit,'' Highfield says. ''And there's a certain amount of aggro to be endured in adding a PC and a phone, plus headset. So, unless the management buys into the idea, it is not really going to happen, alas. And health and safety would probably come up with a reason to ban treadmill-cum-offices, too - eek, you might fall off treadmill with phone wrapped around your neck etc.''

Dr Mary Wyatt, an occupational physician, shares a treadmill with colleagues at her Melbourne consulting rooms. They don't have a computer rigged up over it, Levine-style, but use it while making phone calls or dictating reports or just to take a break. Wyatt thinks it's great but understands why some employers might hesitate.

''If you're talking about a substantial number in the workplace then you're talking about a decent cost. You're walking at a pretty slow speed but people can still fall off. Employers are very fearful of work injuries … and, I don't mean to be cynical, but I can see some employers wondering what's the benefit for them of preventing heart attacks that might only arise in 20 years.''

Even Levine agrees that treadmill desks and their ilk are not the only way to approach the issue. ''Some people simply won't use one, just as some people will not go to the gym,'' he says. ''What you need to do is to create an overall environment of health.'' Levine is now in the midst of a research project involving four large US companies that will attempt, among other things, to quantify the dollar value to employers of these sorts of movement and health interventions. A pilot study has indicated that there would be indirect savings in terms of preventing future health problems but also direct productivity and profit increases, thanks to increased staff energy, reduced absenteeism and the like.

If a solid return on investment can be proven, then perhaps more of us will wind up strolling through our days at the office on a treadmill desk rather than perched, static on the outside and stagnating on the inside, on an upholstered, height-adjustable health hazard.

.. from smh

Hmmm .. Perhaps it's time for some Office Chair Yoga.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year

Kung Hei Fatt Choy

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Funny engrish signs

These were doing the rounds of the office yesterday..

Mullet Man: hair follicle unlocks secrets of the ancients

Nuka Godfredsen's impression of 'Inuk', a 4000-year-old man from Greenland whose genome has been sequenced.

He had brown eyes, dark skin, thick blackish hair and type A blood. This Eskimo, who lived about 4000 years ago in Greenland, also had dry earwax, an increased risk of going bald and the metabolism of a person who could survive in a cold climate.

And his ancestors were, to the surprise of scientists, ancient people in east Siberia rather than neighbouring Native Americans or Inuit.

All this detailed information about the long-dead man comes from a study of a clump of his hair, which was preserved for thousands of years in the Arctic permafrost. Given the name Inuk, he will go down in history as the first ancient person to have had his full DNA code, or genome, sequenced.

Inuk, who was also inbred, is thought to have belonged to the extinct Saqqaq culture, the first group of people known to have settled in Greenland.

A team led by Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen sequenced the DNA preserved in his frozen hair and compared it with the DNA of modern humans. The results are published in the journal Nature.

The team looked at more than 350,000 tiny differences in the DNA code which are associated with characteristics such as physical appearance and ancestry.

Inuk's ancestry suggests that a previously unknown human migration occurred about 5500 years ago. It appears a large group of his ancestors from eastern Siberia crossed the Bering Strait and travelled through North America to Greenland.

The researchers said the next technical challenge would be to try to sequence ancient DNA from human remains found outside the permafrost region.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

fortune error

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Festival to curry favour with India

PARRAMATTA will host a new festival, Parramasala, to celebrate the colour and flair of India in November.

The Australian Festival of South Asian Arts will be held from November 4 to 10.

Western Sydney Minister and Granville MP David Borger said Parramatta and the northern district had the biggest population of Indian and South Asian communities and was the perfect location for a colourful Bollywood-style festival.

The festival will offer a diverse multi-arts and cultural event with the highest quality of professional content, curated by the festival’s inaugural chief executive officer and artistic director, Philip Rolfe.

Premier Kristina Keneally said Parramasala would demonstrate NSW’s rich cultural heritage and be a premier arts event for Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

“It embraces the cultural diversity of western Sydney and sends a clear message about the importance of Indian culture to the state,” she said.

The festival announcement followed the government’s plan to establish a round-table meeting of ministers, agencies and Indian leaders to address the safety concerns of international students and the Indian community.

The first meeting with Indian community leaders will be held on Wednesday, February 10.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2009, the year in fail

Pedapod on the streets of Sydney

We were in the city on Saturday and saw this Pedapod zipping along Macquarie street. It's the Aussie version of a trishaw.

How awesome.
.. Next time I see one, I plan to be in it.

Odd Search