August 13, 2004

LinkNews Digest [8/13/2004]

Scientists Find Procrastination Gene, Promise to Map It Tomorrow

Using a new molecular genetic technique, scientists have turned procrastinating primates into workaholics by temporarily suppressing a gene in a brain circuit involved in reward learning. Without the gene, the monkeys lost their sense of balance between reward and the work required to get it. Like many of us, monkeys normally slack off initially in working toward a distant goal. They work more efficiently -- make fewer errors -- as they get closer to being rewarded. But without the dopamine receptor, they consistently stayed on-task and made few errors, because they could no longer learn to use visual cues to predict how their work was going to get them a reward.''
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) interested in this study, and its possible applications to mental disorders like OCD and Manias:
''This could lead to important discoveries that impact public health. In this case, it's worth noting that the ability to associate work with reward is disturbed in mental disorders, including schizophrenia, mood disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, so our finding of the pivotal role played by this gene and circuit may be of clinical interest,'' suggested Richmond.

''For example, people who are depressed often feel nothing is worth the work. People with OCD work incessantly; even when they get rewarded they feel they must repeat the task. In mania, people will work feverishly for rewards that aren't worth the trouble to most of us.''
Link (ScienceBlog)

We all remember the National Institute of Mental Health, of course, for the great successes of intelligence augmentation expariments done on rats that was recorded in the documentary "The Secret of NIMH"

Flaming Hare Gets Even

LONDON (Reuters) - A rabbit set alight by a bonfire at a British cricket club got its revenge when it ran burning into a hut and set it ablaze destroying costly equipment, the club said on Friday.

Members of Devizes cricket club in Wiltshire, western England, were burning dead branches when a rabbit caught up in the waste sped burning from the flames spreading a fire which destroyed lawnmowers and tools worth 60,000 pounds ($110,000).

"After it had been going 5 minutes, the rabbit shot out of the bonfire on fire and went into the hut which is our equipment store," club chairman John Bedbrook told Reuters.

Two fire engines were called to extinguish the blaze. The rabbit's skeleton was discovered in the charred hut. "The firemen were certainly concerned about the rabbit. They felt sorry for it," said Bedbrook.
Link (Yahoo)

The Flip-Side of Athletic Sponsorship

Strict regulations published by Athens 2004 last week dictate that spectators may be refused admission to events if they are carrying food or drinks made by companies that did not see fit to sponsor the games.

Sweltering sports fans who seek refuge from the soaring temperatures with a soft drink other than one made by Coca-Cola will be told to leave the banned refreshment at the gates or be shut out. High on the list of blacklisted beverages is Pepsi, but even the wrong bottle of water could land spectators in trouble.

Fans will be allowed into the Olympic complex if they are drinking Avra, a Greek mineral water owned by Coca-Cola, which paid $60 million US for the privilege of being one of the main sponsors. Officials are under orders not to let in rival brands' bottles unless the labels are removed.

Staff will also be on the lookout for T-shirts, hats and bags displaying the unwelcome logos of non-sponsors. Stewards have been trained to detect people who may be wearing merchandise from the sponsors' rivals in the hope of catching the eyes of television audiences. Those arousing suspicion will be required to wear their T-shirts inside out.

Known as the "clean venue policy," the rules were drawn up by the Greeks and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to shield sponsors from so-called "ambush marketing" - an attempt to advertise items during the games without paying sponsorship fees.

The restrictions on food and drink are intended to ensure that only items made by official sponsors such as McDonald's and two Greek dairy firms are consumed at Olympic venues.

The main sponsors of the games have paid more than $1 billion in total for exclusive advertising rights and privileges, including the use of the Olympic logo under their brand names. It is not even possible to buy a ticket to the Olympics using a credit card other than Visa, which paid more than $30 million for its exclusive rights.

German Engineers Develop Screen-Correcting Projector

Smart projectors are able to display correct images onto arbitrary existing screen surfaces, like wallpapered walls or window curtains. Thus it can function without an artificial canvas and consequently leaves a bit more freedom to us in the decision on how to arrange our living space. Our smart projectors combine camera feedback with structured light projection to gain information about the screen surface and the environment. The calibration of such a device is fast, fully automatic and robust, and the correction of video signals can be achieved in real-time. Neither geometry information nor projector or camera parameters need to be known. Instead, the entire calibration and correction (geometry and color) is done on a per-pixel level – supported by modern pixel shader hardware. Such devices might make it possible to convert your bookshelf into a TV screen, or your kid’s closet into an interactive virtual playground.
Link (via BoingBoing)

Check out the screenshots, this projector tweaks the color of the pixels, even the shape of the screen, in order to provide a consistent picture. Incredible.

The New Anti-Piracy Weapon: Ferrets

Just when you thought software licensing enforcement couldn't get any more fun, the copyright cops at the Business Software Alliance have enlivened the process with a spunky cartoon ferret.

The BSA--a trade group supported by Microsoft, Adobe Systems and other major software makers to enforce software licenses and copyrights--revealed the new mascot Tuesday as part of a national campaign to scare kids out of using peer-to-peer networks.

The "Play It Safe in Cyber Space" campaign will culminate with a four-page comic book, distributed in conjunction with tot journal the Weekly Reader, meant to impress kids with the idea that it's not OK to freely swap software, games, music and other copyrighted content.

The comic will feature the droopy-drawers ferret, who for now is referred to as the "Copyright Crusader." Kids are urged to help select his final name by submitting votes next month through the BSA's Web site.

The ferret, by the way, does seem to be an odd mascot choice for an organization devoted to strict legal adherence, given that the weasel-like mammals are outlawed in California and several other states.

The Most Dangerous Food in Britain

GLASGOW, Scotland, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- "The Stonner", a 1,000-calorie, deep fried pork sausage kebab has been dubbed the most dangerous fast food in Britain. Sky News reported Monday the kebab contains 46 grams of fat and is double the calories of a Big Mac hamburger.

However, the Ruby Chip Shop in Glasgow, Scotland, that sells the kebab has provided a health warning to customers: "Due to the severe health damage of this fine dish, we can only supply one Stonner supper per customer per week," reads the sign provided by the restaurant's owner, Saei Sangag.

Neither the calories nor the health warning seems to be limiting the Stonner's sales. "They are flying out of the fryers," Sangag said. "Everyone loves going to the chippy and I was trying to think of something new."

Health officials, however, are not amused."This type of thing leads to poor health," said Michael Lean of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. "It doesn't take a lot of common sense to see that it is a stupid thing to be producing."
Link (Washington Times)

For us Americans, note the second "n" in the name. It's probably called "the Stonner" after a "Stone", which is a measure of weight in the UK. Whereas a "stoner" is a pot smoker who might find this... "food"... almost palletable after a finishing a joint or two.

College Men Get Keg Research Grant

CLEVELAND (AP) - A trio of college fraternity buddies hopes to make it big with an idea that might appeal to a party host who winds up with a half-keg of warm, leftover beer and no ice.

"I've had people come up to me and say, 'That's a great idea. I'll buy one,'" said Adam Hunnell, 22, who pioneered the idea of inventing a portable cooling wrap to keep beer kegs cold on the beach, backyard or pickup truck.

Hunnell and two fellow West Virginia Wesleyan alumni and fraternity brothers, Aaron Noland and Nathan Slavin, both 23, are using a $20,000 entrepreneur grant to develop the "Keg Wrap," using their collective engineering, marketing and beer-drinking knowledge.

Hunnell, a graduate student at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University, compared the Keg Wrap under development to a heating blanket which chills instead of warms. It would be powered with a plug that can be used with an electric socket or a car battery power source.

"It makes things a lot more convenient," said Hunnell, a native of Marianna, Pa., who is designing motor-home parts in Macon, Ga., while completing his physics entrepreneur program thesis requirement at Case.

Hunnell got the grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance to build a prototype at the urging of his Case mentor, Cyrus Taylor. Hunnell hopes to have a working prototype by year's end and hopes to price it at about $150. The target audience: beer distributors who would rent the Keg Wrap to keg buyers.

Rocky Kreutzer, who works for a suburban Maple Heights distributor that sells 40 to 50 kegs on a summer Saturday and 80 or 90 a day at graduation party time, thinks the Keg Wrap has potential, especially if the rental cost beats the estimated $15 ice expense.
Link (Yahoo)

Age Limit For Topless Bathers To Be Enforced

The Romanian police desperately want a ban to be imposed on women over 60 going topless on a stretch of beach because they feel that it could deter tourists from visiting the spot.

Constanta County is home to one of the Black Sea's top stretches of beach, and police say they have received several complaints about old women stripping off their clothes and basking in the sun.

"Going topless has its age limit and old women going topless should understand this," Ananova quoted police chief Victor Popescu as saying.

Moreover, the policemen patrolling the beach have admitted that the sight of old topless woman sickens them. (ANI)

Who Wants To Be A Legal Citizen?

The contestants on "Gana la Verde" (Win the Green), a Spanish-language reality show that airs nightly on KRCA-TV Channel 62 in Los Angeles, jump through extraordinary hoops, eat disgusting "delicacies" and perform odd jobs, all in pursuit of the American dream.

No, that does not mean a cushy Trump Tower position or a nifty recording contract. The winner of this unscripted show walks away with a set of immigration lawyers, who for one year work to expedite the residency process. No guarantee of "la verde," though.

Since "Gana la Verde" premiered here on July 1, it has consistently reached an average of 1 million Hispanic households. Last week, the show was No. 2 among 18- to 49-year-old Hispanic viewers, the station's target audience, in its 7 p.m. time slot. Thus far, the show has gone unnoticed by immigration advocates, and the producers say they've have received no complaints.

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