Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Slimming down worth its weight in Gold in Dubai - a gram of gold for each kilogram of weight lost -

Slimming down worth its weight in Gold in Dubai -  a gram of gold for each kilogram of weight lost - 

Shedding weight is as good as gold under an unusual slim-down initiative in Dubai over growing concerns about rising obesity levels in the wealthy Gulf city-state.
Municipal officials are offering a gram of gold — worth about $45 at current prices — for each kilogram of weight lost in a 30-day challenge. The minimum drop is two kilograms, or 4.4 pounds, to cash in.
Local media Wednesday quotes Dubai official Hussain Lootah as saying there is no limit on the payout for the golden losers, who must sign up and weigh in Friday.
The plan is the latest attempt to encourage healthier lifestyles in the United Arab Emirates. Across the Gulf Arab states, authorities have raised alarms about rising obesity from increasing fast-food diets and lack of exercise.

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Google Maps loses major Scottish island -

Google Maps loses major Scottish island - 


The Scottish island of Jura is pretty big -- comparable to the nearby, whisky-famous Islay.

Jura is also certainly inhabited. At last count, the island had nearly 200 residents (and some 5,000 deer: Jura is thought to be a derivation of old Norse for "island of deer.")

It's big, it's populated -- Jura should be pretty hard to lose.

Unfortunately, Google Maps has done just that. All that's left of Jura on the website's popular maps tool is the island's central highway, meandering across the North Atlantic.

The BBC reported the disappearance of Jura Tuesday. In fact, the problem has been ongoing for a few weeks now. A Google spokesperson gave the Star the same statement that the company sent Jura's local newspaper when the island's loss was first noticed:

"We're sorry about that. We're aware of the problem, and our engineers are beavering away to fix it. We hope to have the map of Jura back to normal as soon as possible."

While Google's engineers sort out the problem, Jura locals have been having some fun with their digital disappearance. The island's whisky distillery, also called Jura, tweeted a contest: the first person to correctly put an "x" over the spot on Google Maps where the distillery should be wins a bottle of their 16-year-old malt. (The contest is now closed, booze fans.)

Here's to wishing Jura a speedy un-sinking.


Vatican says you can get time off purgatory by following the Pope on Twitter -

Vatican says you can get time off purgatory by following the Pope on Twitter - 

Is it really ludicrous that the Vatican should be claiming you can get time off purgatory by following the pope on Twitter?

There are obvious problems. If as a materialist you don't believe in purgatory, or hell, or any kind of moral balancing in an afterlife, then the whole thing is absurd, though no more absurd than any other belief about purgatory. Or you may be a Christian, happy to imagine our souls must be purified before they are fit to see God entirely (and this is the most charitable interpretation of the doctrine of purgatory I can find) but none the less amused and outraged that the pope should stick his oar into the business. Indulgences, after all, were the single greatest and grossest abuse of papal power to inspire the Reformation.

But let's suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the pope does have an informed opinion on what behaviour pleases God and benefits the soul. Does it then matter at all what technology he uses to spread his opinions? Is there anything intrinsically more ridiculous in following a devotion on Twitter than in the flesh, or on television?

The answer has to be no. The whole point of electronic communication is that it has effects in the physical world. That makes it real so far as I am concerned. If a love affair can be nourished in letters, it can be nourished, too, in email, or even, for very time-pressed lovers, in tweets.

When evangelical churches put their prayers up on PowerPoint displays, they don't lose their spiritual effects through not being printed in books, or on service sheets. What matters is that the congregations say them and mean them. What might make them pointless is the sentiment, not the means of transmission.

And it is quite clear from the Vatican's remarks that merely reading the Twitter feed won't have any effect. What it is claiming is that following along with the feed and allowing it to stimulate your thoughts and behaviour as it is supposed to do will have a beneficial spiritual effect. Again, I can't see that the means of transmission should make any difference at all here.

When you go to a rock concert, and see the performance on huge screens above the stage, this brings most of the audience closer, because that's where they want to be and the technology makes this possible. It would have no effect whatsoever on someone with a different intention – say a man who wanted to throw a stink bomb at Mick Jagger. Screens aren't going to bring him any closer.

So I think that a lot of the fuss about this is misplaced – and there's something delightful about people getting worked up on electronic media about someone using electronic media to do something ridiculous. In the end, what's interesting about this story isn't the medium involved but the concept of purgatory, and – to judge from my tweet stream – we only now believe in purgatorial suffering before death.


Researchers power cell phone with Urine... -

Researchers power cell phone with Urine... - 

A group of researchers from the University of the West of England have invented a method of charging mobile phones using urine.

Key to the breakthrough is the creation of a new microbial fuel cell (MFC) that turns organic matter – in the case, urine – into electricity.

The MFCs are full of specially-grown bacteria that break down the chemicals in urine as part of their normal metabolic process. The bacteria produce electrons as they consume the matter and it this natural process that creates a small electrical charge to be stored in the MFC.

“No one has harnessed power from urine to do this so it's an exciting discovery,” said Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, an engineer at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory where the fuel cells were developed.

“The beauty of this fuel source is that we are not relying on the erratic nature of the wind or the sun; we are actually reusing waste to create energy. One product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine.”

After the urine has been processed by the MFCs the electrical charge is stored in a capacitor. In the first test of the new invention, researchers simply plugged in a commercial Samsung phone charger and were able to charge up the handset.

Although the amount of electricity produced by the fuel cell is relatively small – only enough for a single call on the mobile – researcher believe it might be installed in bathrooms in the future, helping to power electric razors, toothbrushes and lights.

The device is about the size of a car battery, but engineers believe that future versions will be smaller and more portable. With each fuel cell only costing around £1 to produce such devices could provide a new, cheaper way of generating power.

The research was sponsored by public money from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Gates Foundation (the charity run by Microsoft-founder Bill Gates), with the scientists hopeful that the technology could be beneficial in developing countries.

"One [use] would be to put these into domestic situations or it could be used in remote regions of the developing world,” said Dr Ieropoulos.

"The fuel cells we have used to charge a mobile phone with hold around 50ml of urine but the smallest we have had working in the laboratory hold 1ml, so we can make them a lot smaller. Our aim is to have something that can be carried around easily.”

“The concept has been tested and it works – it's now for us to develop and refine the process so that we can develop MFCs to fully charge a battery.”


Oops! PayPal accidentally credits man $92 quadrillion -

Oops! PayPal accidentally credits man $92 quadrillion - 

When Chris Reynolds opened his June PayPal e-mail statement, something was off.
The Pennsylvania PR executive's account balance had swelled to a whopping $92,233,720,368,547,800.
That's $92 QUADRILLION (and change).
Money that'd make Reynolds -- who also sells auto parts on Ebay in his spare time -- the richest man in the world by a long shot.
Rich, as in more than a million times richer than Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim. and he's worth $67 billion!
Oh, if only.
"It's a curious thing, I don't know maybe someone was having fun," Reynolds said.
So he logged online -- and reality bit back.
His account balance read $0. The correct amount.
PayPal admitted the error and offered to donate an unspecified amount of money to a cause of Reynolds' choice.
"This is obviously an error and we appreciate that Mr. Reynolds understood this was the case," PayPal said in a statement.
So what would the newly minted quadrillionaire have done with the cash?
"I probably would have paid down the national debt," he said.
Before this incident, the most Reynolds ever made on PayPal was "a little over $1,000" selling a set of vintage BMW tires on eBay.


2 years after nuclear disaster, Japan spawns freaky fruits and veggies -

2 years after nuclear disaster, Japan spawns freaky fruits and veggies - 

Mutated tomatoes next to a normal one < (tangomango13 via Reddit)

Tomato growing sprouts < (tangomango13 via Reddit)

Cucumber sprouting a leaf < (tangomango13 via Reddit)

Mutated citrus < (tangomango13 via Reddit)

Mutated radish < (tangomango13 via Reddit)

Mutated daisies < (tangomango13 via Reddit)

Mutated sunflower < (tangomango13 via Reddit)
It might be wise to steer clear of vegetables from Japan’s Fukushima area for, oh, say a few hundred years. A Korean website assembled this image collection of produce from towns and villages surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. And they are NOT pretty pictures. From Siamese-twinned corn cobs to what can only be called peaches with elephantiasis, the region’s agriculture appears to have taken a heavy radiation hit from the nuclear disaster in 2011. It’s not clear yet what effect eating the produce might have on the population, but you never know. It could be pretty dangerous, but you never know — in an ideal world, maybe it give you superpowers.

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