Friday, October 31, 2008

Wal-Mart Cake

It took me a second, but make sure you read the story under the picture. 

Keep in mind this actually really did happen. This is someone who was leaving from an insurance claims office.
Okay, so this is how I imagine this conversation went:

Walmart Employee:   'Hello 'dis be Walmarts, how can I help you?'

Customer: ' I would like to order a c ake for a going away party this week.'

Walmart  Employee:  'What you want on the cake?'

Customer:  'Best Wishes Suzanne' and underneath that 'We will miss you'.

You can't fix stupid!

Negative Cues From Appearance Alone Matter For Real Elections

ScienceDaily (Oct. 31, 2008) — Brain-imaging studies reveal that voting decisions are more associated with the brain's response to negative aspects of a politician's appearance than to positive ones, says a team of researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Scripps College, Princeton University, and the University of Iowa. This appears to be particularly true when voters have little or no information about a politician aside from their physical appearance.

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High-fat Diet Could Promote Development Of Alzheimer's Diseas

ScienceDaily (Oct. 31, 2008) — A team of Université Laval researchers has shown that the main neurological markers for Alzheimer's disease are exacerbated in the brains of mice fed a diet rich in animal fat and poor in omega-3s. Details of the study — which suggests that diets typical of most industrialized countries promote the development of Alzheimer's — are outlined in the latest online edition of Neurobiology of Aging.

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Mathematician Cracks Mystery Beatles Chord

ScienceDaily (Oct. 31, 2008) — It’s the most famous chord in rock 'n' roll, an instantly recognizable twang rolling through the open strings on George Harrison’s 12-string Rickenbacker. It evokes a Pavlovian response from music fans as they sing along to the refrain that follows:

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Grapes May Aid A Bunch Of Heart Risk Factors, Animal Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Oct. 31, 2008) — Could eating grapes help fight high blood pressure related to a salty diet? And could grapes calm other factors that are also related to heart diseases such as heart failure? A new University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center study suggests so.

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Game Makers Accusing Innocent People of Piracy in the UK

Posted by timothy on Friday October 31, @03:49AM

from the type-I-errors-v.-type-II-errors dept.
The Almighty BuckThe CourtsGames
eldavojohn writes"It's a topic that a lot of game makers like Atari don't want the public hearing. Game makers wrongfully accusing clearly innocent people of piracy. From the article, 'According to Michael Coyle, an intellectual property solicitor with law firm Lawdit, more and more people are being wrongly identified as file-sharers. He is pursuing 70 cases of people who claim to be wrongly accused of piracy and has spoken to hundreds of others, he told the BBC.' If only a few are coming forward after receiving extortion letters ('Pay £500 OR ELSE!'), what's the actual number of those out there being wrongfully accused?"

EA Forum Ban Will Now Mean EA Game Ban

Posted by timothy on Thursday October 30, @09:55PM

from the being-nice-is-actually-an-option dept.
An anonymous reader writes"A post on the EA Support Forums from APOC, online community manager for Electronic Arts, outlines a new policy for their new forums, saying users who earn a ban based on their behavior in the forums will be locked out of all of the EA games tied to that account: 'Well, its actually going to be a bit nastier for those who get banned. Your forum account will be directly tied to your Master EA Account, so if we ban you on the forums, you would be banned from the game as well since the login process is the same. And you'd actually be banned from your other EA games as well since it's all tied to your account. So if you have SPORE and Red Alert 3 and you get yourself banned on our forums or in-game, well, your SPORE account would be banned to. It's all one in the same, so I strongly recommend people play nice and act mature. All in all, we expect people to come on here and abide by our ToS. We hate banning people, it makes our lives a lot tougher, but it's what we have to do.'"

MTV Bleeps Filesharing Software Names In Weird Al Video

Posted by timothy on Thursday October 30, @07:40PM

from the he-probably-kidnapped-himself dept.
The MediaCensorshipIt's funny.  Laugh.Music
An anonymous reader writes"We've all heard Weird Al Yankovic's 'Don't Download This Song,' which came out a couple years ago, but did you know that MTV is apparently so afraid that kids listening to the song will discover for the first time that file sharing offerings exist that in its video of the song, MTV bleeps out their names? There's a line in the song that lists out Morpheus, Grokster, Kazaa and Limewire (most of whom don't really exist any more), but for some reason MTV considers those names to be bleep worthy."Unless this is all one grand inside joke from Weird Al.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Methane levels in the atmosphere go way up last year

skyScientists can't totally explain it, but levels of greenhouse-causing methane has jumped in a short period of time.

Even if science wasn't your best subject, we all know that carbon dioxide, or CO2, is the stuff causing climate-change. But other gases also contribute to the problem. Methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times stronger than CO2, adds to global warming. Even without humans, methane gets released naturally by stuff like cows and wetlands, but humans increase methane-levels by producing coal and gas.

As the world went industrial, we doubled the amount of methane in the atmosphere. But then, for the last 10 years or so, methane levels pretty much stabilized. Last year, however, methane levels suddenly increased, according to scientists writing in Geophysical Research Letters.

While scientists don't really understand the increase, an unusually warm year in Siberia could have caused wetlands to release more methane than usual. That would, however, only explain an increase in the northern hemisphere -- the higher levels of methane has, surprisingly, been found in atmospheres all over the planet.

REI's Green Footprint

Do you ever go into REI thinking you'll just pick up a camp stove, or a nice warm fleece, and come out with enough stuff to fill your trunk? I can always excuse buying a little more because I know I'll get some money back with the the end-of-year dividend. That's not the only advantage of REI's Co-op system. Just as many REI members practice leave-no-trace hiking, REI has been recognized for its responsible waste disposal practices.

This week, REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) was awarded theEnviroStars Recognized Leader Award. Enviro Stars is an environmental certification program that rates companies' management and reduction of hazardous waste, awarding ratings according to environmentally responsible practices. REI was recognized for recycling 78.8 percent of its operational waste by weight, instituting recycling programs at all REI stores and facilities, and testing green building technology with a retail store prototype initiative, among a number of other initiatives.Those awarded Recognized Leaders program are large businesses that serve as mentors and models for the broader community. REI was chosen for this award, according to program manager Laurel Tomchick, for "comprehensive examination of the organization's environmental impacts" and their efforts to address these impacts broadly. 

I spoke with Kirk Myers, REI's manager of corporate social responsibility, who said "We really see that every environmental problem has social aspects, and every social problem has environmental aspects." REI has partnered with several other companies to improve the paper supply chain, by considering the origins of wood fiber, using materials efficiently, and working with supply partners who have high standards for environmental and social performance.

"It is quite an honor. We're proud to receive this award; it's a great acknowledgement that our peers and partners recognize our work towards a critical mass of environmental responsibility" says Myers.

Duplicating Your Housekeys, From a Distance

Posted by timothy on Thursday October 30, @02:51PM

from the keep-your-key-up-your-sleeve dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes"Some clever computer scientists at UC San Diego (UCSD) have developed a software that can perform key duplication with just a picture of the key — taken from up to 200 feet. One of the researchers said 'we built our key duplication software system to show people that their keys are not inherently secret.' He added that on sites like Flickr, you can find many photos of people's keys that can be used to easily make duplicates. Apparently, some people are blurring 'numbers on their credit cards and driver's licenses before putting those photos on-line,' but not their keys. This software project is quite interesting, but don't be too afraid. I don't think that many of you put a photo of their keys online — with their addresses."I wonder when I'll be able to order more ordinary duplicate keys by emailing in a couple of photos.

Daylight Saving Time: Clock-shifts Affect Risk Of Heart Attack

ScienceDaily (Oct. 30, 2008) — Adjusting the clocks to summer time on the last Sunday in March increases the risk of myocardial infarction in the following week. In return, putting the clocks back in the autumn reduces the risk, albeit to a lesser extent. This according to a new Swedish study.

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Office Workers Given Blue Light To Help Alertness

ScienceDaily (Oct. 30, 2008) — Research carried out at the Surrey Sleep Centre at the University of Surrey in partnership with Philips Lighting has revealed that changing traditional white-light lighting to blue-enriched white light helped office workers stay more alert and less sleepy during the day.

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Amateur Sports Can Lead to Unexpected Health Problems Later in Life

ScienceDaily (Oct. 30, 2008) — Taking up bowling or tennis is an excellent way to stay fit. But if you're not careful, you might find that these amateur sports can have unexpected long-term health risks.

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by Tim Stevens, posted Oct 30th 2008 at 7:16AM

Chevy Volt to make sci-fi sound effects, buyers to look for mute button
While gear-head environmentalists prepare to forego the internally combusted symphonies that get their hearts pumping for the sake of a greener and quieter planet of electric cars, some folks at GM are thinking up some... interesting ways to bring new, "highly technical" sounds back into the picture. The Volt, which is intended to run silently much of the time, will apparently be the recipient of some sci-fi-sourced effects; GM's E-Flex Global Vehicle Line Executive Frank Weber saying to expect noises like "when on Spaceship Enterprise you hear the doors close, or use the transporter." That he didn't know it's actually the Starship Enterprise doesn't give us much hope for anything more than what happens when a 10-year-old figures out how to customize sounds in their computers -- random, irritating blats from the speakers whenever you touch anything. 

[Via Autoblog]

Allergies May Protect Against Certain Types Of Cancer

ScienceDaily (Oct. 30, 2008) — A new article provides strong evidence that allergies are much more than just an annoying immune malfunction. They may protect against certain types of cancer.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Video: Jules the robot makes convincing argument to destroy humanity

by Thomas Ricker, posted Oct 29th 2008 at 7:43AM

Besides rarely showering, Robotic engineers and researchers also possess a peculiar sense of humor. Trip with us through the uncanny valley as we take a look at the animatronic head developed by David Hanson. Software, developed by the University of Bristol with some help by a professional animator, controls 34 tiny servo motors to mimic facial expressions picked up by Jules' camera. Watch Jules make an ecologically sound case to "destroy humanity" in the video after the break. Indeed, if only Maggie was still in power.

The Assistant Robot cleans almost all that you soil

by Thomas Ricker, posted Oct 29th 2008 at 4:55AM

Sure, it looks like a friendly robot strapped to a mobile toilet, but this robo-maid developed by Tokyo University's Information and Robot Technology (IRT) center won't be assisting with the after birth of your Turducken dinner. Assistant Robot is domestic enough to do the laundry, sweep, and clean up the kitchen... but there are limits what its 3D sensors will respond to. Its creators claim that it can recognize when there's more laundry to do and won't be distracted from completing its task by the roar of the crowd from the television. That gives men about 10 - 20 years to get their act together before this robot could conceivably go production. Hot domestic cleaning action in the video posted after the break.

Undecided Voters May Already Have Decided, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Oct. 29, 2008) — Do "undecided" voters actually make their choices before they realize? That is a question University of Virginia psychology professor Brian Nosek and his colleagues are trying to answer.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pregnant Women Consuming Flaxseed Oil Have High Risk Of Premature Birth

ScienceDaily (Oct. 29, 2008) — A study has found that the risks of a premature birth quadruple if flaxseed oil is consumed in the last two trimesters of pregnancy. The research was conducted by Professor Anick Bérard of the Université de Montréal's Faculty of Pharmacy and the Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center and Master's student Krystel Moussally.

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NASA Orbiter Reveals Details of a Moister Mars

Posted by CmdrTaco on Tuesday October 28, @03:30PM

from the alliteration-makes-me-happy dept.
Matt_dk writes"NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has observed a new category of minerals spread across large regions of Mars. This discovery suggests that liquid water remained on the planet's surface a billion years later than scientists believed, and it played an important role in shaping the planet's surface and possibly hosting life."
    • science
    • mars
    • story

    Sand thieves in the Caribbean

    We've all picked up a seashell and slipped it in a pocket as a memento of a beach vacation. But someone in the Caribbean is taking this a giant step further and stealing truckfuls of sand from the beaches that are the islands' primary tourist attraction. 

    Ironically, it's tourism and a building boom that are creating the underlying market for the fine sand, which is used to create smooth surfaces on construction projects.

    There is an ecological cost to the sand thievery. So much sand has been removed from beaches on islands like Grenada that there's no buffer zone from rough seas. 

    In Jamaica protected mangroves and a limestone forest no longer have protection from the elements. And on other islands over-excavation has damaged water supplies and left towns vulnerable to flooding. 

    One more thing to think about when you're selecting a vacation destination. And definitely don't take home any sand!

    Windows 7 details galore: interface tweaks, netbook builds, Media Center enhancements

    by Nilay Patel, posted Oct 28th 2008 at 1:58PM

    Microsoft's Windows 7 announcement earlier today was followed up by an extensive demo of the new features during the PDC keynote, and since then even more info about the new OS has flooded out, so we thought we'd try to wrap up some of the more important bits here for you. Microsoft seems to have done an impressive job at this early pre-beta stage, folding in next-gen interface ideas like multitouch into the same OS that apparently runs fine on a 1GHz netbook with 1GB of RAM, but we'll see how development goes -- there's still a ways to go. Some notes:
    • Obviously, the big news is the new taskbar, which forgoes text for icons and has new "jump lists" of app controls and options you can access with a right-click. You can select playlists in Media Player, for example. Super cool: when you scrub over the icons, all the other app windows go transparent so you can "peek" at the windows you're pointing at.
    • Gadgets now appear on the desktop -- the sidebar has been killed. That makes more sense for all those laptop owners out there with limited screen space, and you can still see gadgets anytime by peeking at the desktop, rendering all other windows transparent.
    • Window resizing and management now happens semi-automatically: dragging a window to the top of the screen maximizes it, pulling it down restores; dragging a window to the edges auto-resizes it to 50% for quick tiling. Nifty.
    • The system tray now only displays what you explicitly say it should -- everything else is hidden, and the controls have been streamlined.
    • User Account Control settings are now much more fine-grained -- you can set them by app and by level of access.
    • They demoed multitouch features on an HP TouchSmart PC -- it was pretty cool, although the usual nagging "what is this good for / that'll get old fast" concerns weren't really addressed. The Start menu gets 25 percent bigger when using touch to make it easier to handle, and apps will all get scroll support automatically. There's also a giant on-screen predictive keyboard. Again -- could be amazing, but we won't know until it's out in the wild.
    • We've always known Microsoft intends Windows 7 to run on netbooks, and we got a small taste during the PDC keynote: Windows SVP Steve Sinofsky held up his "personal" laptop running Windows 7, an unnamed 1GHz netbook with 1GB of RAM that looked a lot like an Eee PC, and said that it still had about half its memory free after boot. (We're guessing it was running a VIA Nano, since most Atoms run at 1.6GHz.)
    • At the other end of the scale, Windows 7 supports machines with up to 256 CPUs.
    • Multiple-monitor management is much-improved, as is setting up projectors -- it's a hotkey away. Remote Desktop now works with multiple monitors as well.
    • Media Center has been tweaked as well -- it looks a lot more like the Zune interface. There's also a new Mini Guide when watching video, and a new Music Wall album artwork screensaver that kicks in when you're playing music.
    • Devs got a pre-beta today; a "pretty good" feature complete beta is due early next year. No word at all on when it'll be released to market apart from that "three years from Vista" date we've known forever.
    That's just the good bits -- hit the read links for piles of more info and screenshots, and we'll keep our eyes out for anything else interesting. Exciting times!

    Read - Keynote videos on the PDC site
    Read - Technologizer Windows 7 hands-on
    Read - Ars Technica Windows 7 interface walkthrough
    Read - Laptop Windows 7 hands-on
    Read - Windows 7 Media Center revealed

    Melamine contamination spreads to eggs

    First pet food, then the tragic milk and baby formula contamination. Next up on the list of Chinese food products contaminated with melamine? Eggs. Over the weekend, eggs imported into Hong Kong have been found to be contaminated with high levels of melamine, the culprit in the recent milk and baby formula tragedies. 

    According to a report in the NY Times, this discovery raises new concerns that a far wider range of China-produced food could be contaminated with melamine than previously thought.

    The melamine probably got into the eggs through tainted animal feed fed to chickens, who then passed the melamine into their eggs. The discovery was announced Saturday by a Hong Kong government agency. The agency said that the eggs had been imported from a farm in the northeast section of China. The melamine level found in the eggs was almost double the legal limit for food sold in Hong Kong.

    According to the report, scientists in China are also worried that tainted animal feed could result in poisonous meat and seafood.

    Funny guitar playing motivational speaker

    I thought he was pretty talented when we saw him yesterday.

    $125 Million Settlement In Authors Guild v. Google

    Posted by timothy on Tuesday October 28, @10:12AM

    from the something-had-to-give dept.
    The CourtsBooksGoogleThe Almighty Buck
    James Gleick writes"Authors, publishers, and Google are announcing a huge settlement deal today in their lawsuits over the scanning of millions of copyrighted books in library collections. Google has agreed to a huge payout for books that were scanned without permission, but now they'll be allowed to scan the books legitimately. Most important, they'll be able to put millions of books online, including those still in copyright--not just for searching and not just in snippets. There is a groundbreaking new licensing system meant to make the books as widely available as possible while protecting the authors' copyrights and enabling them to share in the revenue. Some will differ, but personally I think this is a wonderful outcome, for readers and for authors alike."