Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 31 May 2013

Burger King introduces a burger holder for people on-the-go - the Hands Free Whopper Holder -

Burger King introduces a burger holder for people on-the-go - the Hands Free Whopper Holder - 

Burger King has introduced a burger holder for people on-the-go.  It's called the Hands Free Whopper Holder and it's been introduced in Puerto Rico.

The contraption looks similar to the harmonica holder you might see Bob Dylan wearing but this one is designed to hold a hamburger.

The device is apparently part of the celebration for the company's 50th anniversary in Puerto Rico.

Burger King has its own site for the holder, complete with a video showing how the holder it made.

It gave out 50 of the holders to members of BK's loyalty program with the highest scores.

A tongue-in-cheek video for the gimmick shows a boxer, a dancer and even a tattoo artist using the hands-free whopper holder.

Read more: - 

NASA Radar Shows Near-Earth Asteroid Bringing Its Own Moon -

NASA Radar Shows Near-Earth Asteroid Bringing Its Own Moon - 

First radar images of asteroid 1998 QE2 were obtained when the asteroid was about 3.75 million miles (6 million kilometers) from Earth. (Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR)

A mile-long asteroid set to pass safely by Earth on Friday appears to be bringing along a companion.

Radar imagery showed that asteroid “1998 QE2″ is a binary asteroid, according to researchers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena.

About 16 percent of asteroids that are about 655 feet or larger are binary or triple systems, according to JPL.

Data shows the main body of the asteroid is approximately 1.7 miles in diameter and has a rotation period of less than four hours. Radar imagery also shows the space rock has several dark surface features that suggest large concavities.

The preliminary estimate for the size of the asteroid’s satellite, or moon, is approximately 2,000 feet wide, researchers said. The moon appears in JPL images as a small, bright object orbiting 1998 QE2.

The radar observations were led by JPL scientist Marina Brozovic using a sequence of radar images captured by the agency’s 230-foot Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, Calif.

1998 QE2 is expected to pass safely by Earth at its closest distance of more 3 million miles — about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon — before heading back out to deep space, where it isn’t expected to pass this close for another 200 years.

The fly-by comes just over three months after the football field-sized asteroid 2012 DA14 flew by just 17,000 miles past Earth.


Latest Kinect sensors allow games to feed off your fear - bring emotional gaming to your living room -

Latest Kinect sensors allow games to feed off your fear - bring emotional gaming to your living room - 

YOU’RE cornered and wounded. Cowering behind a crate, all you can do is hide and wait for the acid-spraying alien to move on. You desperately look for a pattern in its movements, hoping for a chance to sneak past to safety.

So far, so scripted. But the chance still doesn’t come. As you’re stuck in your corner, heart rate rising and a sheen of perspiration forming on your face, a camera by the TV feeds data to the game. The system is constantly judging. How much longer can you take the tension? Is this still fun?

The latest game spawned from the Alien film franchise is being made by Creative Assembly, a game studio in Horsham, UK. It is likely to be one of the first games to explore the potential of Microsoft’s next-generation Kinect sensors for the Xbox One games console. Announced at the same time as the unveiling of the Xbox One last week, the new Kinect is a huge improvement on its predecessor (see “New wave“). It will have HD colour and infrared cameras that can see if your eyes are open or closed in the dark. It will be able to detect your pulse from fluctuations in skin tone and, by measuring how light reflects off your face, it will know when you start to sweat.

This will allow the new Kinect to bring emotional gaming to your living room. Games can use the biological data to orchestrate your experience by adjusting the difficulty or intensity in real time, depending on how excited the system thinks you currently are.


California Fish Contaminated with Fukushima Radiation - Bluefin Tuna “Absolutely Every One” -

California Fish Contaminated with Fukushima Radiation - Bluefin Tuna “Absolutely Every One” - 

We noted more than a year ago:

The ocean currents head from Japan to the West Coast of the U.S.

Of course, fish don’t necessarily stay still, either. For example, the Telegraph notes that scientists tagged a bluefin tuna and found that it crossed between Japan and the West Coast three times in 600 days:

news graphics 2005  607819a FDA Refuses to Test Fish for Radioactivity ... Government Pretends Radioactive Fish Is Safe

That might be extreme, but the point is that fish exposed to radiation somewhere out in the ocean might end up in U.S. waters.

And see this.

CNN reports today:

Low levels of radioactive cesium from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident turned up in fish caught off California in 2011, researchers reported Monday.

The bluefin spawn off Japan, and many migrate across the Pacific Ocean. Tissue samples taken from 15 bluefin caught in August, five months after the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, all contained reactor byproducts cesium-134 and cesium-137 at levels that produced radiation about 3% higher than natural background sources

The Wall Street Journal quotes the studies’ authors:

“The tuna packaged it up and brought it across the world’s largest ocean,” said marine ecologist Daniel Madigan at Stanford University, who led the study team. “We were definitely surprised to see it at all and even more surprised to see it in every one we measured.”


“We found that absolutely every one of them had comparable concentrations of cesium-134 and cesium-137,” said marine biologist Nicholas Fisher at Stony Brook University in New York state, who was part of the study group.

The bad news is that it is only going to get worse.

As Reuters points out:

Unlike some other compounds, radioactive cesium does not quickly sink to the sea bottom but remains dispersed in the water column, from the surface to the ocean floor.

Fish can swim right through it, ingesting it through their gills, by taking in seawater or by eating organisms that have already taken it in ….

As CNN notes:

Neither [of the scientists who tested the fish] thought they were likely to find cesium at all, they said. And since the fish tested were born about a year before the disaster, “This year’s fish are going to be really interesting,” Madigan said.

“There were fish born around the time of the accident, and those are the ones showing up in California right now,” he said. “Those have been, for the most part, swimming around in those contaminated waters their whole lives.”

In other words, the 15 fish tested were only exposed to radiation for a short time. But bluefin arriving in California now will have been exposed to the Fukushima radiation for much longer.

As KGTV San Diego explains:

The real test of how radioactivity affects tuna populations comes this summer when researchers planned to repeat the study with a larger number of samples. Bluefin tuna that journeyed last year were exposed to radiation for about a month. The upcoming travelers have been swimming in radioactive waters for a longer period. How this will affect concentrations of contamination remains to be seen.

One of the studies’ authors told the BBC:

The fish that will be arriving around now, and in the coming months, to California waters may be carrying considerably more radioactivity and if so they may possibly be a public health hazard.

Japanese and U.S. officials – of course – are pretending that the amount of radiation found in the bluefin is safe. But the overwhelming scientific consensus is that there is no safe level of radiation … and radiation consumed and taken into the body is much more dangerous than background radiation.


Newest Trend: Well-To-Do Hamptons Residents Go ‘Glamping’ In A Trailer Park -

Newest Trend: Well-To-Do Hamptons Residents Go ‘Glamping’ In A Trailer Park - 

As summer approaches, some families are trading their year-round homes in East Hampton, for “trailers.” And it’s all to make some serious cash.

“It’s a piece of paradise. That we live here [is] a blessing to me,” Montauk resident Jeanette Esposito told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan on Thursday.

Esposito was talking about the Ditch Plains Trailer Park at Montauk Shores sitting at ocean’s edge — for 200 lucky families, complete with swimming pools and playgrounds.

Some call it “glamping” — or glamour camping.

“We don’t like to refer to them as trailers. Some people have the connotation it is rundown. I would say 90 percent of our residents live elsewhere for most of the year and they spend their summers here,” said Hugh Herbert of Montauk.

And some savvy Hamptonites are taking full advantage, squeezing in for the summer and renting out their sought after luxury million-dollar digs for the season.

Even owners of more modest homes are collecting $50,000 in rent for July and August. They will pay $1,400 a month to lease trailer space at Montauk Shores – quite a profit.

Hamptons realtors said the new trend makes financial sense.

“We are finding a lot more homeowners are putting their houses up for rent, due to paying for college, or economic distress,” said Jacqueline Dunphy of Corcoran Group Real Estate. “We have a place in Montauk called Ditch Plains is a very trendy trailer park. The homeowners go and live in that for whatever time period they’ve rented for.”

The Roupells from England are renting a trendy Hamptons home. Its owner went on a cruise with the cash collected. When asked if they feel they are getting bang for the buck, one said, “We definitely feel we are getting warmer weather than we ever have in London.”

Matthew Bergman lives full time in East Hampton and said he plans to rent his home for the month of August

“It’s just too much money to refuse,” Bergman said.

But the trailer park in Montauk is full and there’s a waiting list for interviews. The trailer park in Montauk has been around for more than 50 years. The people who run the place said this is the first time they remember seeing Hamptons families moving in for the summer.


Catholic Church's Top Exorcist Claims He Rid World of 160,000 Demons -

Catholic Church's Top Exorcist Claims He Rid World of 160,000 Demons - 

Gabriele Amorth

The Catholic Church's top exorcist, who claims to have sent 160,000 demons back to hell, says he wants Pope Francis to allow all priests to start performing the ritual to deal with a rising demand for exorcisms from the faithful.
Father Gabriele Amorth, 88, who also heads the International Association of Exorcists, told The Sunday Times that he will ask Pope Francis to allow all priests the right to do exorcisms without the church's approval. According to the report, priests currently need special approval from their bishop to perform the rite and it is rarely granted.
"I will ask the pope to give all priests the power to carry out exorcisms, and to ensure priests are properly trained for these starting with the seminary. There's a huge demand for them," said Father Amorth.
He explained that he was inspired to make the request after watching Pope Francis perform what he insists was an exorcism on a man "possessed by four demons" in St. Peter's Square.
"The pope is also the Bishop of Rome, and like any bishop he is also an exorcist," Amorth reportedly told La Repubblica newspaper. "It was a real exorcism. If the Vatican has denied this, it shows that they understand nothing."
"There was now, more than ever, a need for exorcists to combat people possessed by 'sorcerers' and 'Satanists,'" he noted in that report.

Read more -

Snakes fall from trees in DC park... -

Snakes fall from trees in DC park... - 


They're not on a plane, but snakes in a tree could still be scary -- especially when they're spotted in D.C.

DCist says an email in an Adams Morgan Yahoo Group by a D.C. police sergeant discussed snakes falling out of trees at Walter Pierce Park in Northwest.

The posting was reported by the website PoPville and reads:

"On Thursday, May 23, 2013 around 11:40am a call came in about a couple of snakes that fell out of the trees. When the snakes fell they scared the children, and everyone fled. This was in the playground area. I responded but found no snakes. I caught one small enough to fit inside an empty water bottle I had. It was probably a black rat snake. They are indigenous to trees and the warm weather is drawing them out."

Albimar Cuadrasleal, a painter who sometimes does work at a building near the park, tells WTOP the snake sighting occurred around the time when he was parking his car last Thursday.

He says he heard a commotion at the park, and helped remove about six children from the area. He says women at the park said the snake came out of a tree, and he took cellphone video of a snake in a playground at the park which is posted at the bottom of the page.

Cuadrasleal estimates the snake was about 4 feet long, and says he saw a smaller snake come out of a tree at the park about a week earlier.

The police officer who responded to the park for the snake sighting also tells WTOP he took the smaller snake he found to the National Zoo, where it was identified as a northern brown snake.

PoPville notes that the National Zoo says black rat snakes tend to be shy and will avoid confrontation if possible. They are not venomous, kill their prey by constriction and often will climb trees.

The zoo says some of the adult snakes also will "attempt to protect themselves."

"They coil their body and vibrate their tails in dead leaves to simulate a rattle," the zoo says. "If the snakes continue to be provoked, they will strike."

The Northern brown snake, meanwhile, also is non-venomous. Its prey includes worms and slugs.

Read more -

STUDY: Twelve minutes of exercise a week 'enough to stay fit'... -

STUDY: Twelve minutes of exercise a week 'enough to stay fit'... - 

Twelve minutes' exercise per week 'enough to stay fit'
Just 12 minutes of intensive exercise per week is enough to improve your health if you are overweight, a study has found.

Four-minute bursts of high-intensity exercise such as running on a treadmill, three times a week are enough to increase fitness, researchers found.
Overweight volunteers who undertook the regime for 10 weeks increased their body's oxygen uptake – a measure of fitness – by 10 per cent and saw small decreases in their blood pressure and glucose levels.
Health guidelines generally state that we should undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 20 minutes of vigorous exercise per week in order to stay healthy.
But the new study suggests that just 12 minutes of high-intensity exercise, spread out across three sessions, could be enough to keep us fit and healthy, researchers said.
The team from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim studied the effects of different exercise regimes on 24 men who were overweight but otherwise healthy.

Three times a week for 10 weeks, the men undertook bouts of "vigorous" exercise, which involved running on a treadmill at a speed which raised their heart rate to 90 per cent of its maximum capacity.
For half of the men the regime involved simple four-minute sessions, three times a week, while the other half completed three sixteen-minute sessions, each of which was divided into four-minute segments.
Despite carrying out different amounts of exercise, the results for the two groups were strikingly similar.
Oxygen uptake – the amount of oxygen the body can use during exercise – increased by 10 per cent in the four-minute group, and by 13 per cent in the sixteen-minute group.
Blood pressure and glucose levels lowered by similar amounts in both groups, but the more intensive sixteen-minute sessions was more effective at lowering cholesterol and body fat.


Thursday, 30 May 2013

U.S. urges states not to allow general use of self-driving cars -

U.S. urges states not to allow general use of self-driving cars  - 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration unveiled new recommendations to states for self-driving cars, urging them to be used only for testing and to require safeguards to ensure they can be taken over by a driver in the case of a malfunction.

NHTSA also said it was embarking on a four-year research effort on self-driving or autonomous vehicles as it considers requiring features like automatic braking, in which the car takes action to prevent crashes.

“We believe there are a number of technological issues as well as human performance issues that must be addressed before self-driving vehicles can be made widely available,” NHTSA said in its 14-page automated driving policy statement. “Self-driving vehicle technology is not yet at the stage of sophistication or demonstrated safety capability that it should be authorized for use by members of the public for general driving purposes. Should a state nevertheless decide to permit such non-testing operation of self-driving vehicles, at a minimum, the state should require that a properly licensed driver (i.e., one licensed to drive self-driving vehicles) be seated in the driver’s seat and be available at all times in order to operate the vehicle in situations in which the automated technology is not able to safely control the vehicle.”

NHTSA says as self-driving cars improve, they will reconsider. NHTSA says self-driving cars being tested in California, Florida and Nevada by Google and Audi of America should have the capability of detecting that their automated vehicle technologies have malfunctioned “and informing the driver in a way that enables the driver to regain proper control of the vehicle.” The Michigan Legislature is also considering allowing self-driving car testing.

Self-driving cars have drawn enormous media attention in recent months, including being featured on the cover of the Economist and in hundreds of articles.

In a telephone interview from Seoul, Korea, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said the current companies testing vehicles are complying with their recommendations — but the agency wants to ensure that new players also adopt best practices. He still believes full autonomous vehicles are a long way from being ready for consumer adoption.

NHTSA’s policy will provide states interested in passing similar laws with assistance “to ensure that their legislation does not inadvertently impact current vehicle technology and that the testing of self-driving vehicles is conducted safely,” the agency said.

“We’re encouraged by the new automated vehicle technologies being developed and implemented today, but want to ensure that motor vehicle safety is considered in the development of these advances,” Strickland said. “As additional states consider similar legislation, our recommendations provide lawmakers with the tools they need to encourage the safe development and implementation of automated vehicle technology.”

NHTSA says self-driving test vehicles should have the capability of recording malfunctions or failures in order to understand the causes.

“Any regulation that allows for the operation of self-driving vehicles on public roads should ensure that entities installing automated technology in vehicles do not disable federally required safety systems,” NHTSA said.

NHTSA’s research on self-driving vehicles is also in order for the agency to establish safety standards for these vehicles, if they become commercially available.

Driverless cars use video cameras, radar sensors, laser rangefinders and detailed maps to monitor road and driving conditions. Automated systems make corrections to keep the car in the lane, brake and accelerate to avoid accidents, and navigate.

Google has logged more than 300,000 miles on U.S. roads with self-driving cars. Earlier this year, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said the nation eventually is “going to have vehicles that may not even have people in them. I am not suggesting that now, so don’t get nervous, but California, Florida and Nevada have already passed legislation on autonomous vehicles. They’re ahead of us, and aren’t we the automotive capital of the world?”

Under the proposed Michigan state law, a manufacturer license plate would include an “M” designation. The measure would permit manufacturers and suppliers to use the M plate for automated vehicle testing. “Upfitters” of automated vehicles, such as Google, would be included.

Automakers already offer safety systems that are stepping stones to self-driving cars: lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist systems, blind-spot warnings, forward-collision warning and prevention, and adaptive cruise control.

But NHTSA says the technology could help reduce thousands of car deaths, save millions of gallons of fuel in reduced congestion -- since self-driving cars wouldn’t get into traffic jams -- and save the U.S. potentially tens of billions of dollars.

“America is at a historic turning point for automotive travel. Motor vehicles and drivers’ relationships with them are likely to change significantly in the next ten to twenty years, perhaps more than they have changed in the last one hundred years,” NHTSA says. “Recent and continuing advances in automotive technology and current research on and testing of exciting vehicle innovations have created completely new possibilities for improving highway safety, increasing environmental benefits, expanding mobility, and creating new economic opportunities for jobs and investment. The United States is on the threshold of a period of dramatic change in the capabilities of, and expectations for, the vehicles we drive. In fact, many are inspired by the vision that the vehicles will do the driving for us.”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the agency is focused on safety.

“Whether we’re talking about automated features in cars today or fully automated vehicles of the future, our top priority is to ensure these vehicles — and their occupants — are safe,” LaHood said. “Our research covers all levels of automation, including advances like automatic braking that may save lives in the near term, while the recommendations to states help them better oversee self-driving vehicle development, which holds promising long-term safety benefits.”


Asteroid fly-by on Friday sparks debate over readiness for ‘Armageddon’-style event -

Asteroid fly-by on Friday sparks debate over readiness for ‘Armageddon’-style event - 

The passage close to Earth of a mountain-sized asteroid expected Friday has reignited discussions among scientists about how to deal with the improbable — but definitely possible — circumstance of an asteroid predicted to hit the planet.
1998 QE2, as the asteroid is designated, will pass Earth at what NASA calls a “safe distance” of about 3.6 million miles — 15 times the distance to the moon, but nonetheless a near miss in astronomical terms — at just before 5 p.m. Eastern on Friday.
The asteroid is not named for the Cunard cruise line’s famous transatlantic ship the Queen Elizabeth II, but rather according to a naming convention based on the year it was discovered.
The asteroid, which is estimated to be 1.7 miles long, but whose shape is still undetectable, will be closely examined by radar telescopes as it passes, NASA said in a statement.
The agency is planning a variety of social media events to mark the passage, and allow the public to listen in to scientists as they debate and discuss what they are learning from the fly-by.
NASA says it “places a high priority on tracking asteroids and protecting our home planet from them” through its Near-Earth Object program.
For more than a decade the program has run Sentry — a computer system that automatically analyses constantly updated astronomical data, looking for asteroids or other objects that might be on a collision course with Earth.
In 2016, NASA will launch a robotic space-probe to one of the most potentially dangerous of the objects in the Sentry database — asteroid (101955) Bennu. The OSIRIS REx probe will enable scientists to study the asteroid and even bring a small sample of it back to Earth for study.
Without years of observation and exact knowledge of an asteroid’s size and shape, it is hard to predict the exact future course they will take as their orbits are erratic, but (101955) Bennu is one of a group of such bodies known as Apollo asteroids which have an orbit that intersects with the Earth’s — creating a small but hard to calculate risk of a collision.
Recent calculations by NASA scientists show a 1 in 1,800 chance that Bennu will collide with Earth in the year 2182.


Oldest dinosaur embryos ever discovered? -

Oldest dinosaur embryos ever discovered? - 

A dinosaur nest discovery has revealed the most primitive known dinosaur embryos, which are among the oldest ever found.
The eggs belong to Torvosaurus, a T. rex-like predator that stalked the late Jurassic some 150 million years ago. Torvosaurus grew to be around 30 feet long, but the fragmented embryos discovered in Portugal were probably only about 6 inches in length.
'He just stumbled across some eggshells [and found] there was also an entire nest up there.'
- Ricardo Arajo, a doctoral candidate in paleontology at Southern Methodist University
"This is shedding some light on the early stages of the development of these types of dinosaurs," said Ricardo Arajo, a doctoral candidate in paleontology at Southern Methodist University in Texas. [See Photos of Dinosaur Embryos and Hatchlings]
A surprising find
The crushed clutch of eggs was found in 2005 by amateur fossil-hunter and fossil cast-maker Art Walen, who was on an annual vacation to the fossil-rich Lourinh Formation in western Portugal.
"He just stumbled across some eggshells, and he traced the eggshells up the cliffs and he found there were not only isolated eggshells, there was also an entire nest up there," Arajo told LiveScience.
Paleontologists from the Museu da Lourinh excavated the nest, which researchers first assumed belonged to a long-necked sauropod dinosaur. Even in the field, however, the paleontologists began to think they might have something very different on their hands. The eggs' surfaces were ornamented with a strange, almost honeycomb-like pattern that was quite distinct from anything the researchers had ever seen, Arajo said.
Once the specimen was excavated and brought to the museum for preparation, the researchers got another surprise: There were embryo bones mixed in with the crushed eggs.
Such a find is "extremely rare," Arajo said. "There's probably a handful of situations like this in the world."

Read more: - 

STUDY: Companies Reject 1 in 10 Job Seekers Based on Social Media Posts... -

STUDY: Companies Reject 1 in 10 Job Seekers Based on Social Media Posts... - 

Little did Ashley Payne know that the festive photo of her holding both a pint of beer and a glass of red wine would lead to her losing her high school teaching job.
The 24-year-old educator posted the image to her Facebook profile, and after a parent complained, school officials told Payne she'd have to choose between resigning and suspension, according to IOL News. She resigned.
If those same school officials were hiring and found a candidate with a similar photo shared on the social Web, it's most likely that person wouldn't even get an interview.
According to a new report, turning down young job candidates because of what they post on social media has become commonplace. The report, by On Device Research, states that 1 in 10 people between ages 16 and 34 have been turned down for a new job because of photos or comments on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social networking sites.
"If getting a job wasn't hard enough in this tough economic climate, young people are getting rejected from employment because of their social media profiles and they are not concerned about it," On Device Research's marketing manager Sarah Quinn said in a statement.
Ten percent of young people said they knew they were rejected from a job because of their social media profiles, yet 66 percent of young people still don't seem to care that these profiles may affect their career prospects. The majority of young people cater their social media presence to friends rather than potential employers, according to On Device Research.
Quinn says that better education on how social media can affect employment is needed to ensure young people aren't making it even harder to excel in their careers.

Several U.S. states have created laws to protect employees from being fired because of what they post on social media. In January, six states officially made it illegal for employers to ask their workers for passwords to their social media accounts.
It's unclear how many employers have demanded access to workers' online accounts, but some cases have surfaced publicly and inspired lively debate over the past year. In one instance last year, a teacher's aide in Michigan was suspended after refusing to provide access to her Facebook account following complaints over a picture she posted.
As for Payne, even though she ultimately resigned, she since has sued the school to get her job back or receive monetary damages, according to IOL News.
On Device Research surveyed 17,657 people, ages 16 to 34, in China, India, Nigeria, Brazil, the U.S., and U.K.


STUDY: Best Way to Win Argument -- Shout Louder... -

STUDY: Best Way to Win Argument -- Shout Louder... - 

Being confident and loud is the best way to win an argument - even if you are wrong, a new study suggests.
Researchers from Washington State University drew this conclusion after studying the activity of Twitter users. The more opinionated they were, the more influential and trustworthy they were perceived to be. 
They analysed more than a billion tweets posted during various American sporting events, including the 2013 Super Bowl, to the test whether being accurate or being confident made Twitter users more popular. 
Despite professional pundits and amateur fans making a similar amount of correct and incorrect predictions, the tweeters who 'yelled' louder were seen as more trustworthy and had more followers.

To test the theory, two economic students from the university studied the language used by sports pundits who often 'yell' for attention.
Jadrien Wooten and Ben Smith compared the tweets of professional pundits - celebrities with verified Twitter accounts - with amateur tweeters that claimed to have some sports expertise in their bio.
The pair then developed a software program to sort through more than a billion tweets looking for predictions for major sporting events in the US, such as the 2013 Super Bowl in February.
The program pulled out tweets with team names, nicknames and expressions commonly associated with predictions, such as 'beat' and 'win'.
Words like 'vanquish,' 'destroy' and 'annihilate' posted in Tweets were considered to be confident words.
The researchers used these confident words in place of being able to measure loudness online.

The researchers developed a software program and formula for analysing how confident tweets were. They compared this to how accurate the tweets were, how many tweets a user posted each year, how many people favorited their tweets and the number of followers each one had. From this they were able to find a mean average and compare professional and amateur tweeters to each other
The research found that the professionals were correct with their predictions 47 per cent of the time. 
Whereas the amateurs made accurate predictions in 45 per cent of cases. 
However, the professionals were more confident, scoring a .480 confidence rating compared to the amateurs' .313. 
If a professional pundit accurately predicted every game of the baseball playoffs and series, the authors estimated his or her Twitter following would increase 3.4 per centr
While an amateur would get 7.3 per cent more followers.
A confident professional would increase his or her following by nearly 17 per cent, whereas a 'loud' amateur would get 20 per cent more followers.

Read more: - 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Toxic waste from Greek yogurt poses danger to waterways -

Toxic waste from Greek yogurt poses danger to waterways  - 

Greek yogurt has become an increasingly popular low-calorie treat in the United States, as it is thicker and contains more protein than regular yogurt.  In fact, the yogurt is in such high demand that total yogurt production has nearly tripled in New York state over the last five years.
But the new diet fad harbors a dark secret. When Greek yogurt is strained, a thin, runny waste product known as acid (sour) whey is left over.  According to a new report from Modern Farmer, whey acid – a liquid containing mostly water, lactose (sugar), protein and yogurt cultures – is extremely toxic to the environment, making it illegal to dump.  The substance is so detrimental to the environment that if it enters nearby streams and rivers, it robs the water of so much oxygen that fish and other aquatic life start to die off over potentially large areas.
The Modern Farmer report stated that for every 3 to 4 ounces of milk used, Chobani and other manufacturers can only make 1 ounce of Greek yogurt – the rest becoming acid whey.  Chobani is so desperate to get rid of the whey, the report maintained, they pay nearby farmers to haul the whey somewhere else.  They claim that 70 percent of their excess whey winds up in livestock feed.
But the yogurt industry has remained relatively secretive on the issue, as there are currently no industry-wide statistics regarding where all of this excess whey is going..
Fortunately, the Modern Farmer report noted a possible consumer of excess whey: babies.  Dave Barbano, a dairy scientist at Cornell University, believes that the tiny amount of protein left over in acid whey could be used in infant formula.  Cheese manufacturers have managed to sell similar products from sweet whey, a byproduct of cheese. Whey protein is sold as an ingredient in body building supplements and in other foodstuffs – and Greek yogurt manufacturers are eager to try the same tactics.
“There are a lot of people coming in and out of New York state looking at whether this is a good opportunity for investment,” Barbano told Modern Farmer.
Other researchers at the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, are trying to figure out a way to extract the sugar from acid whey, which could be used as an ingredient in things like icing and bread.  And a farm in Scipio Center, N.Y., is hoping to convert the whey’s lactose into methane – which could ultimately be used to generate electricity.
No matter what, the Modern Farmer report maintained that a solution needs to be found as soon as possible, because the development of excess whey isn’t slowing down.


'Mars rat' spied by NASA's Curiosity rover - 

Mars Rat Big.jpg

Is that a rat on Mars?
A photo from the mast camera on NASA’s Curiosity rover reveals the dusty orange, rock-strewn surface of the Red Planet -- and what starry-eyed enthusiasts claim is a dusty orange rodent hiding among the stones.
The photo, taken Sept. 28, 2012, depicts the “Rocknest” site, where NASA’s rover took a scoopful of sand, tasted it, and determined it was full of weathered basaltic materials -- not unlike Hawaii, the space agency’s scientists said last year.

No word on how the rodent tasted, however.
The “creature” was identified on the UFO Sightings Daily website, where its finder, ScottCWaring, held tight to his opinion: That’s one darn cute rodent on Mars.
“Note its lighter color upper and lower eyelids, its nose and cheek areas, its ear, its front leg and stomach. Looks similar to a squirrel camouflaged in the stones and sand by its colors," he wrote. "Hey, who doesn't love squirrels, right?”
Others pointed out that the similarity in coloring and position mean it was most likely just a rock, fingering the psychology phenomenon known as pareidolia, a propensity to pick out faces from everyday objects and structures.


Moon telescope would offer online views of Earth from lunar surface -

Moon telescope would offer online views of Earth from lunar surface - 

Ever wonder what it would be like to stand on the moon and look back at Earth?
You'll soon have to experience that view, via the Internet.
There's a plan to send a telescope the moon next year to allow Earthlings to view the Earth from the lunar surface.

The privately funded telescope, known as the International Lunar Observatory precursor, was designed and built by Silicon Valley-based Moon Express.
Company CEO Bob Richards says the shoebox-sized telescope will provide a unique view.
The Canadian-born Richards says people on Earth will even be able to manoeuvre the telescope by remote control to give them out-of-this-world access to galaxies, stars and planets.
The telescope was tested in December 2011 from the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii and the flight-test hardware was unveiled Tuesday in Vancouver.


Eyelid lifts for Medicare patients cost taxpayers millions  - 

Aging Americans worried about their droopy upper eyelids often rely on the plastic surgeon’s scalpel to turn back the hands of time. Increasingly, Medicare is footing the bill.

Yes, Medicare. The public health insurance program for people over 65 typically does not cover cosmetic surgery, but for cases in which a patient’s sagging eyelids significantly hinder their vision, it does pay to have them lifted. In recent years, though, a rapid rise in the number of so-called functional eyelid lifts, or blepharoplasty, has led some to question whether Medicare is letting procedures that are really cosmetic slip through the cracks — at a cost of millions of dollars.

As the Obama administration and Congress wrestle over how to restrain Medicare’s growing price tag, critics say program administrators should be more closely inspecting rapidly proliferating procedures like blepharoplasty to make sure taxpayers are not getting ripped off.

From 2001 to 2011, eyelid lifts charged to Medicare more than tripled to 136,000 annually, according to a review of physician billing data by the Center for Public Integrity. In 2001, physicians billed taxpayers a total of $20 million for the procedure. By 2011, the price tag had quadrupled to $80 million. The number of physicians billing the surgery more than doubled.

“With this kind of management malpractice, it’s little wonder that the [Medicare] program is in such dire shape,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who is also a physician. “The federal government is essentially asking people to game the system.”

Plastic surgeons say there are a number of legitimate reasons for the spike, including a tendency among the elderly to seek fixes for real medical issues they might have quietly suffered through even a decade ago. But surgeons also acknowledge an increased awareness of the surgery fueled by reality television, word-of-mouth referrals, and advertising that promises a more youthful appearance. And doctors concede they face increased pressure from patients to perform eyelid lifts, even when they do not meet Medicare’s requirement that peripheral vision actually be impaired.

Thomas Scully, former Medicare administrator under George W. Bush, has a blunter assessment; he doubts the jump is caused by anything other than seniors seeking younger-looking eyes. “How many seniors among your friends or family have needed eyelid surgery?” he said. “I bet a hell of a lot of them at 65 say, ‘You know what, I bet I can get Medicare to pay for this.’ And I can imagine the plastic surgeons love it. If you can go to patients and say that Medicare will pay, they will do it in much larger numbers.”

Florida surgeon bills Medicare for more than 2,200 eye surgeries a year

Surgeons who bill Medicare for large numbers of eyelid surgeries dot a map of the United States. Yet 11 of the 20 highest billers in 2008 were in Florida, which is both an elderly mecca and the country’s foremost magnet for questionable Medicare billing.

Among the top surgeons, the data show a South Florida doctor billed Medicare more than $800,000 in 2008 for about 2,200 eyelid lifts. That’s an average of six a day, including weekends. This same doctor was also a top biller in 2006 and 2007.

The Center is barred from naming the Florida surgeon. A 1979 federal court injunction blocks the Department of Health and Human Services from publicly releasing doctor’s names in conjunction with specific Medicare billing information. The Center sued HHS to obtain the Medicare data but, as a condition for obtaining it, signed an agreement not to publish the names of individual doctors, unless they agreed to discuss their billing histories. After repeated calls for comment, and a fax including the billing referenced by the Center, the Florida physician’s office assistant said he would not talk “due to prior engagements.”

Read more -

Google plans 'wireless balloons' to spread the Internet -

Google plans 'wireless balloons' to spread the Internet  - 

Is it just a lot of hot air?

Google aims to help wire the world by bringing the Internet to a billion or more new people, including small villages and cities outside of major urban areas in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa -- using special balloons to broadcast the wireless connection.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Google plans to team up with local telecommunications firms and equipment providers in the emerging markets to develop the networks, as well as create business models to support them, people familiar with the project said. The networks also could be used to improve Internet speeds in urban centers, the paper reported.

To speed the spread of the Internet in these areas, the company has worked on special blimps, called high-altitude platforms, to broadcast a signal over hundreds of square miles.

Google has also considered helping to create a satellite-based network.

"There's not going to be one technology that will be the silver bullet," meaning that each market will require a unique solution, said one person familiar with Google's plans.


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Diet Soda's Effect On Teeth Terrifyingly Similar To Effects Of Meth, Crack Cocaine -

Diet Soda's Effect On Teeth Terrifyingly Similar To Effects Of Meth, Crack Cocaine - 

Diet Soda Teeth

Diet soda can have the same effect on your tooth enamel as methamphetamine or crack cocaine use -- and it's not pretty.

In a three-person case study published in the March/April 2013 issue of the journal General Dentistry, Dr. Mohamed Bassiouny studied the teeth of a diet soda drinker and two drug addicts and found similar dental erosion among all three.

"You look at it side-to-side with 'meth mouth' or 'coke mouth,' it is startling to see the intensity and extent of damage more or less the same," Bassiouny, a professor of restorative dentistry at Temple University's Kornberg School of Dentistry, told HealthDay.

The three participants included a woman in her thirties who drank two liters of diet soda daily for three to five years, a 29-year-old methamphetamine addict and a 51-year-old habitual crack cocaine addict, according to the case study. All three came from similar socioeconomic backgrounds and lived in urban areas with fluoridated public water.

According to an Academy of General Dentistry press release, the three people experienced severe erosion of their tooth enamel, a condition caused by acid. When the enamel is worn away, teeth become more susceptible to cavities and other problems. Diet soda, methamphetamine and crack cocaine are all highly acidic substances, the release notes.

The American Beverage Association disputed the study's claims, telling HealthDay in a statement that "the body of available science does not support that beverages are a unique factor in causing tooth decay or erosion," and to imply that diet soda consumption caused the woman's tooth erosion "is irresponsible."

However, in an interview with Business Insider, Bassiouny defended his comparison, adding that over a long dental career he had observed hundreds of similar soda-caused erosion cases.

"I was trying to make a parallel between drug abusers — and the usual neglect for themselves — and put this with the same traits of someone who drinks diet soda," Bassiouny said.

The idea that drinking diet soda might be bad for your teeth is not new, however, as evidenced by a 2011 Huffington Post blog written by New York City cosmetic dentist Dr. Thomas P. Connelly:

The problems with soda are twofold: first, the sugar content is bad for your teeth (but that fact is pretty obvious). The second bad part is the acidity, which is quite high in soda pop. Acidic content (aka pH) is measured on a scale of 0 (most acidic) to 14 (least). Battery acid is a 1 on the scale -- tap water is a 7 (this may seem backwards, but yes, the higher numbers are less acidic. Blame science.)

Read more -

JC Penney billboard with 'Hitler' teapot sparks social media storm -

JC Penney billboard with 'Hitler' teapot sparks social media storm - 

View image on Twitter

IT'S just a humble teapot, short and stout - but its comparison to a German dictator has got more than just water boiling.

American retailer JC Penney caused quite a stir after a billboard advertising its latest kettle set tongues wagging and social media users steaming.

The kettle, designed by American architect Michael Graves, is advertised on the retailers website as having " all the bells and whistles you'll need - a cool-touch handle, space-saving design and a delightful whistle to let you know when it's ready to pour."

Twitter users agreed the kettle looked like Adolf Hitler. Picture: Twitter@DorkmanScott

But it attracted plenty of controversy after it was spotted on a billboard along California's 405 Interstate highway, near Culver City.

The ad alos generated plenty of attention on social media with users comparing the kettle to Adolf Hitler.

A picture of the billboard first appeared on Reddit, but quickly spilled over to Twitter with most - except the retailer itself - agreeing it bore a passing resemblance to Hitler.

Read more -

Arctic Ice Melt Forces Evacuation Of Russian Research Station -

Arctic Ice Melt Forces Evacuation Of Russian Research Station - 

A Russian research station has found itself on thin ice. Literally.

Scientists at North Pole-40, a drifting ice floe station near Canada, are evacuating following a major split in the ice, the RT news network reports.

“A collapse of the station’s ice floe poses a threat to its continued work, the lives of the crew, the environment close to the Canadian Economic Zone and to equipment and supplies,” Russian minister Sergey Donskoya said in a press release.

Ice levels have reached record lows recently, according to the U.S.'s National Snow and Ice Data Center, with the Arctic losing 1.5 million square kilometers of ice in April alone.

Up until the 1980s, ice floe stations were expected to last around three years, New Scientist reports. But since 2003, the labs have hardly been lasting a year.

"Russian high-latitude ocean measurements are fundamental to our knowledge of the Arctic Ocean," Sheldon Bacon of the UK's National Oceanography Centre told New Scientist.

In recent years, Arctic scientists have been fighting to keep up with disappearing sea ice, he added.


China Builds EU Beachhead With $5 Billion City in Belarus -

China Builds EU Beachhead With $5 Billion City in Belarus - 

China is building an entire city in the forests near the Belarusian capital Minsk to create a manufacturing springboard between the European Union and Russia.

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko allotted an area 40 percent larger than Manhattan around Minsk’s international airport for the $5 billion development, which will include enough housing to accommodate 155,000 people, according to Chinese and Belarusian officials.

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko is turning to China to help revive a $60 billion economy that’s needed $6.5 billion of bailouts from the International Monetary Fund and Russia since 2009.
Lukashenko, who’s led his former Soviet state of 9.5 million for two decades, is turning to China to help revive a $60 billion economy that’s needed $6.5 billion of bailouts from the International Monetary Fund and Russia since 2009. The hub will put Chinese exporters within 170 miles of EU members Poland and Lithuania and give them tax-free entry into Russia and Kazakhstan, which share a customs union. It will also let them draw from a workforce that’s 99.6 percent literate and makes $560 a month on average, half the Polish wage.

“This is a unique project,” Gong Jianwei, China’s ambassador to Belarus, said on state television May 17, after the project won regulatory approval. “Nobody will be able to build anything like this industrial park anywhere else in Europe anymore. The infrastructure is so powerful.”


Syria Goes Hot: Russia To Deliver Weapons, Deploys Air Defense; Israel Warns Russia; Obama Demands No Fly Zone -

Syria Goes Hot: Russia To Deliver Weapons, Deploys Air Defense; Israel Warns Russia; Obama Demands No Fly Zone - 

Those who were intently following the USDJPY pair formerly known as the stock market today missed the biggest news of the day: the proxy war in Syria just went hot, following a confluence of news, first that Russia insisted "it would deliver anti-aircraft missiles to Syria despite international criticism, as fears of spillover from the conflict grew" and in logical retaliation to yesterday's decision by Europe to lift an arms embargo to the Al Qaeda-supported, Qatari mercenaries operating in Syria, also known as "rebels.

This lead Israel's defense minister Moshe Yaalon to immediately signal that "its military is prepared to strike shipments of advanced Russian weapons to Syria."

Meanwhile back in the US "the White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a no-fly zone inside Syria that would be enforced by the U.S. and other countries such as France and Great Britain, two administration officials told The Daily Beast."

And just to make it very clear that Russia is not bluffing, it announced overnight that its four regiments of S-300 air defense systems have been deployed at the Ashuluk firing range in southern Russia as part of another snap combat readiness check of the Russian armed forces "The missions will be carried out in conditions of heavy electronic warfare to test the capabilities of the air defense units to the highest limit."

And to think: yet another threat of a global war over some natgas pipelines from Qatar to Europe, and a threat to Gazprom's monopoly.

From AFP:

Russia insisted Tuesday it would deliver anti-aircraft missiles to Syria despite international criticism, as fears of spillover from the conflict grew after three Lebanese soldiers were killed in a border-area attack.

Israel warned Russia it would "know what to do" if the delivery went ahead, and Syria's top rebel commander gave Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese Shiite movement, a 24-hour ultimatum to stop fighting alongside regime forces.

The developments stoked tensions after the European Union decided to lift an embargo on weapons to Syria's rebels, in a move the opposition reacted to with caution.

Syria's regime joined its ally Russia in condemning the EU decision as an "obstruction" to peace efforts, while accusing the bloc of supporting and encouraging "terrorists".

Moscow said it would go ahead with its plans to deliver the S-300 missiles to Syria, despite international concerns, saying the weapons were part of existing contracts.

"We consider these supplies a stabilising factor," deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said, adding they could act as a deterrence against foreign intervention.
Israel's immediate response via the Guardian:

Israel quickly issued a thinly veiled warning that it would bomb the Russian S-300 missiles if they were sent to Syria, as such a move would bring the advanced guided missiles within range of civilian and military planes over Israel. Israel has conducted three sets of air strikes on Syria this year, aimed at preventing missiles being brought close to its border by the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah.

"The shipments haven't set out yet and I hope they won't," Moshe Ya'alon, the Israeli defence minister, said. "If they do arrive in Syria, God forbid, we'll know what to do."

Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov, argued that the delivery of the S-300 system had been previously agreed with Damascus and would be a stabilising factor that could dissuade "some hotheads" from entering the conflict. That appeared to be a reference to the UK and France, who pushed through the lifting of the EU embargo on Monday night and are the only European countries considering arming the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA).
After much deliberations, and unable to find the much needed "weapons of mass destruction" to justify intervention, the US is nonetheless escalating next and Obama is now said to demand plans for a No Fly Zone over Syria from the Pentagon. From the Daily Beast:

Along with no-fly zone plans, the White House is considering arming parts of the Syrian opposition and formally recognizing the Syrian opposition council.

The White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a no-fly zone inside Syria that would be enforced by the U.S. and other countries such as France and Great Britain, two administration officials told The Daily Beast.

The request was made shortly before Secretary of State John Kerry toured the Middle East last week to try and finalize plans for an early June conference between the Syrian regime and rebel leaders in Geneva. The opposition, however, has yet to confirm its attendance and is demanding that the end of Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s rule be a precondition for negotiations, a condition Assad is unlikely to accept.

In April, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that the military was planning for a range of options in Syria but that he did not necessarily support using those options.

"We're prepared with options, should military force be called upon and assuming it can be effectively used to secure our interests without making matters worse,” he said. “We must also be ready for options for an uncertain and dangerous future. That is a future we have not yet identified."
And finally going back full circle, Russia announced overnight that its four regiments of S-300 air defense systems have been deployed at the Ashuluk firing range in southern Russia as part of another snap combat readiness check of the Russian armed forces, the Defense Ministry said. From RIA:

The regiments were airlifted on Thursday by military transport planes to designated drop zones where they will carry out a variety of missions simulating the defense of the Russian airspace from massive attacks by “enemy” missiles and aircraft.

“The missions will be carried out in conditions of heavy electronic warfare to test the capabilities of the air defense units to the highest limit,” the ministry said.

A total of 8,700 personnel, 185 warplanes and 240 armored vehicles are involved in the three-day exercise, overseen by Col. Gen. Vladimir Zarudnitsky, head of Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate.
Surely all of the above is very beneficial for future global GDP prospects.

Finally, here is the Russian S-300 system causing Qatar gas pipeline plans global democracies so much consternation:

Read more -