Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Big Brother Riding Along With 'Pay-as-You-Drive'? - monitoring device to predict how likely a driver is to have an accident -

Big Brother Riding Along With 'Pay-as-You-Drive'? - monitoring device to predict how likely a driver is to have an accident - 

While there is a relatively slim chance that you’ll be sideswiped by a Buick on your way to work in the morning, it happens and can be expensive when it does.
But, as with any investment, you’re playing the odds when you pick an insurance plan and pay your premium. And so are the insurance companies. They spin the dice every time you start your car.
Now, a new survey suggests good drivers might be willing to stack the odds in their favor, even if it means having Big Brother on board every time they go for a spin.
UK-based insurance aggregator GoCompare.com found that 92 percent of drivers surveyed said insurance premiums should be based on how they drive; and 97 percent said good drivers should get better insurance.
This “pay-as-you-drive” model is already available in the United States through the Progressive Insurance SnapShot device and helps the insurance company hedge its bets, while rewarding good drivers for actually being good drivers, not just lucky ones.
The question is whether insurance companies will eventually require the devices for all policyholders, and if drivers will be ready to give up their privacy for a break on insurance. Several auto experts weighed in on the issue, and all agreed on one thing: vehicle tracking is here to stay.
Formally known as telematics-based insurance, the plans use a vehicle monitoring device that snaps into the OBD-II diagnostic port on your vehicle. Richard Hutchinson, the usage-based insurance manager at Progressive, says the SnapShot works on algorithms that use your driving style to predict how likely you are to have an accident, and how expensive it will be if it happens. Normal insurance plans use dozens of set variables like age and gender to calculate rates, but the SnapShot taps into literally thousands of dynamic inputs including how fast and what time of day you drive.
The device captures data in one-second intervals. One of the most revealing stats: how much you brake and how often. Over-braking is a key indicator of an accident-prone driver. Hutchinson says SnapShot is a voluntary program, customers can opt-out at any time, and it does not track the car’s location or whether or not you break the prevailing speed limit.
“Drivers who choose to drive less than average may be pre-disposed to a program like this,” says Hutchinson. “This program is still in its infancy, so we’re a long way from this being standard.”
Drivers on the Progressive plan can save up to 30 percent over traditional policies.
Ed Kim, an analyst with research consulting firm AutoPacific, says pay-as-you-drive is part of a growing tech trend, where many online can already track a customer’s habits and tailor their experience accordingly. He says US drivers, too, are becoming more accustomed to giving up their privacy if they can see the benefits.
“American consumers can be antsy about privacy, but in some ways are beginning to slowly accept companies tracking their whereabouts and habits,” says Kim.
While having the government track your driving might be too Orwellian, Kim says we’re more likely to let a private company access our driving data. He says one possible scenario is that the only way to get a much lower insurance rate in the future will be to agree to the tracking.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/04/24/are-drivers-ready-for-big-brother-car-insurance-plans/

Mystery Objects Spotted Piercing Saturn’s Ring - leaving a glittering trail of mini-jets behind -

Mystery Objects Spotted Piercing Saturn’s Ring - leaving a glittering trail of mini-jets behind - 
This set of six images obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows trails that were dragged out from Saturn's F ring by objects about 1 kilometer in diameter. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/QMUL ) (Click image for larger view)

A NASA space probe studying Saturn recently treated scientists to a bit of a surprise – rather odd little objects piercing in and out the planet’s F Ring, leaving a glittering trail of mini-jets behind.
The objects appear to travel in packs, producing multiple mini-jets which look like the barb of a harpoon.
Scientists already knew somewhat large objects can create channels, ripples and snowballs, or clumps of icy material, within the F ring.  What they didn’t know was what happened to these objects after they were created.  Scientists thought some of these “snowballs” were broken up into smaller pieces by collisions or tidal forces as they orbited in the F ring around Saturn.

These images, from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, show trails which were dragged out from Saturn's F ring by objects that are about one kilometer in diameter. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/QMUL ) (Click image for larger view)
Finding the mystery objects suggests scientists now have proof some of the smaller chunks of those collisions survived and, because they were set into varying orbits, these little objects went on to break through the F ring on their own.
To make their findings, scientists carefully went through about 20,000 images produced during the seven years the Cassini space probe has been at Saturn.  So far, about 500 of these weird little objects have been found.
“I think the F ring is Saturn’s weirdest ring, and these latest Cassini results go to show how the F ring is even more dynamic than we ever thought,” said Carl Murray, a Cassini imaging team member.
The F ring, Saturn’s outermost main ring, has a circumference of 881,000 kilometers and is considered the most active ring in the Solar System, since its features tend to change over a period of hours.
Saturn’s rings are mostly made of ice with an average thickness of  about 10 meters.  The pieces of ice that make up the main rings spread out some 140,000 kilometers from the center of the planet.
The Cassini space probe’s next notable encounter will be  a flyby past Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, on May 2.

Read more -

Teenagers drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk, doctors say - "It's essentially a shot of hard liquor" -

Teenagers drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk, doctors say - "It's essentially a shot of hard liquor" - 

Six teens were taken to emergency rooms in California after guzzling hand sanitizer to get drunk, prompting doctors to issue a warning to parents about a dangerous new trend, KTLA reported.
Dr. Bill Mallon, who works in the emergency room at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center, told KTLA he had seen too many young people come into the hospital with alcohol poisoning after drinking hand sanitizer.
“It doesn't sound appealing, but you have to remember that kids don't have access to alcohol so they're very creative," Mallon told KTLA.
Liquid hand sanitizer is inexpensive and  accessible to teenagers, and there are instructions for distillation online.  Sanitizer is 62 percent ethyl alcohol and 120-proof after distillation.
"It's essentially a shot of hard liquor," Cyrus Rangan, director of the toxicology bureau for the L.A. County Public Health Department and a medical toxicology consultant for Children's Hospital Los Angeles, told KTLA. "All it takes is just a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager."
According to doctors, this is only the latest over-the-counter product teenagers have used to get a quick high.  In the past, teenagers have been known to use mouthwash, cough syrup and vanilla extract.
Doctors recommended parents monitor their liquid hand sanitizer or buy the foam version instead because it is harder to extract alcohol.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/04/24/teenagers-drinking-hand-sanitizer-to-get-drunk-doctors-say/

For First Time Since Depression, More Mexicans Leave U.S. Than Enter -

For First Time Since Depression, More Mexicans Leave U.S. Than Enter - 

A four-decade tidal wave of Mexican immigration to the United States has receded, causing a historic shift in migration patterns as more Mexicans now leave the United States for Mexico than the other way around, according to a report from the Pew Hispanic Center.

It is the first reversal in the trend since the Depression, and experts say that a declining Mexican birthrate and other factors may make it permanent.

“I think the massive boom in Mexican immigration is over and I don’t think it will ever return to the numbers we saw in the 1990s and 2000s,” said Douglas Massey, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University and co-director of the Mexican Migration Project, which has been gathering data on the subject for 30 years.

Read more -