Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Brain maps, 50 terabytes of hi-res open source images

This is just a cool resource.

"Brain Maps offers over 50 terabytes of high-resolution pictures of brains from several different organisms. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Brain Maps site isn't its elegant interface or its massive database -- it's its liberal use policy. Anyone can use the database for personal or scientific use, no questions asked. Anyone can use screenshots from the site for any use, even commercial uses, as long as the image is credited appropriately." - Cognitive Daily

Projector for you cell phone screen

Ooooh, more toys.

Now that cell phones are becoming the swiss army knife of pocket technology, this is a natural step in its evolution.

"...the Viewmaster-esque Neochroma prototype simply requires users to place their (preferably clamshell) mobile's screen atop the mirror-packed device, and then the internal magic does the rest....the finalized design should measure around 4- x 2- x 1.2-inches, utilize stereoscopic technology, and sport a viewing angle "roughly equal that of a 19-inch monitor at a 30-inch viewing distance."

Since Verizon and Samsung have banded together release a TV phone on March 1, I wonder when people will start projecting movies on their morning train commute, or in the back of the car for the kids, etc.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Remote controlled cyborg pigeons

These pigeons have brain implants.

"Scientists with the Robot Engineering Technology Research Center of east China's Shandong University of Science and Technology say they implanted micro electrodes in the brain of a pigeon so they can command it to fly right or left or up or down."

So much for homing pigeons. Now that they come with remote controls, these flying rats could actually be useful. Just think of all the disease you could spread to your enemies! :-P

Build your own 3d printer!

We are rapidly approaching the Diamond Age, where someday the feed will be readily available to all.

On the right is a Fab@Home 3d printer that you can build for about $2,300 worth of off-the-shelf parts.

"The site also includes construction hints, ideas for applications, notes on the history of 3-D printing and discussion groups. People are invited and encouraged to make improvements, and a sort of cult is slowly forming." -Science Daily.

Open source is wonderful.

Instructions to build the 3d printer on the right are at:

From Science Daily's article, here's what some people are doing:
"Biologists at Rockefeller University have been using a Fab@Home to deposit slime mold cells in various arrangements to see how the distribution influences their ability to form colony organisms.
The British magazine Auto Express suggests that fabbers could be used to make auto parts, allowing individuals to customize cars in ways that were previously available only to those with large manufacturing facilities.
While the usual expectation is to make solid objects out of epoxy or other quick-hardening plastic, the Fab@Home also can be used with plaster, Play-Doh, silicone, wax (to make forms for casting), low-melting-point metals and a variety of other materials.
Cornell graduate student Dan Periard and Jennifer Yao '08 have been loading commercial frosting into the machine to make cake decorations. It's not frivolous work, Lipson says: Because frosting dissolves in water it can provide temporary support for hollow structures and later be washed away.
A high school student in Kentucky is experimenting with a heated syringe to "fab" with chocolate."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Wii in nursing homes?

Back in college, my friends and I would joke that we all wanted to end up in the same nursing home so we could game together (in those days, it was mostly Shadowrun, or Champions, back in the day of pencil and paper RPGs).

So, when I saw this article about a Wii bowling tournament in a retirement home, I just had to highlight it. A pretty nice way to grow old...

Heat activated 3d paper?

"Chemical origami"

"Physicists in Israel have invented a neat method of making elaborate 3D structures from flat 2D discs. The trick is to pre-treat a gel disc half the size of a beer coaster with a monomer solution "blueprint" that selectively shrinks when heated. The technique, which cleverly demonstrates the link between 2D and 3D geometry, could be used by engineers to create self-assembling prototypes."

They also speculate creating 3d 'printers' that would also use this technique.

Let's just hope the kids don't get a hold of this anytime soon, or you'll never have paper or ink in the home again!

Friday, February 23, 2007

FDA approves ADHD drug Vyvanse

Generic name: lisdexamfetamine
It is a d-amphetamine, like dexedrine.

Key points of this article:

Brought to you by the makers of Adderall XR, this amphetamine based drug is harder to abuse than previous stimulants because it does not activate until it gets to your stomach, and interacts with digestive enzymes. Makes it harder to crush and snort. Adderall XR goes generic in 2009, so Shire, owners of both, are right on schedule to maintain a brand name profit prescence.

This is a known phenomenon with many drug companies, termed by a colleague as a 'product life extender'. When celexa was going generic, lexapro became the new 'hot' drug. (It's just a 'cleaner' form of celexa. All this really means is that to maintain a brand named product and extend their profits, they need to make minor tweaks to a drug so that the new product can earn its own patent, and stay branded for another several years).

Vyvanse is still a schedule II drug, like all the other stimulants medications.

It just got approved today, and I can't even find any dosing information online yet, so I probably won't be prescribing it for at least another several months, since these things take time to sort out. Officially comes out 2nd quarter of this year (2007).

Robots to learn emotions and socially appropriate responses

Dr. Lola Canamero with her robotsOh my....

"Feelix Growing is a research project involving six countries, and 25 roboticists, developmental psychologists and neuroscientists.
Co-ordinator Dr Lola Canamero said the aim was to build robots that "learn from humans and respond in a socially and emotionally appropriate manner". "

They start with basic robot hardware, and are focussing on software that learns, via neural networks. The article breaks the tasks up into three parts.

1. Sensory input - "Tactile feedback and emotional feedback through positive reinforcement, such as kind words, nice behaviour or helping the robot do something if it is stuck." Another article jokes about whacking them on the head with a newspaper if they are naughty.

2. Detect expressions - "The robots will get the feedback from simple vision cameras, audio, contact sensors, and sensors that can work out the distance between the machine and the humans. " Then they will use neural networks to learn and intergrate the data.

3. Imprinted behaviors - They start by having the robot imprint to the first object they see, much like Lorenz and his geese. ""We have a prototype of a robot that follows people around and can adapt to the way humans interact with it. "It follows closer or further away depending on how the human feels about it." "We are focusing on emotions relevant to a baby robot that has to grow and help human with every day life ".

Makes me think of the movie AI. Definitely worth seeing. Futuristic Pinocchio story, excellently done.

Vitamin D May Reduce Falls In Elderly Nursing Home Residents

Summary: 800 International Units (IU) per day of Vitamin D reduced falls by 72%, compared to the placebo group.

The depressingly staggering (yes, pun) statistic from the article is that 50% of nursing home residents fall every year, and once they are weakened, they are even more at risk of further injury.

"Past studies have shown that vitamin D could help prevent falls in seniors, and may be due to a possible strengthening effect the vitamin has on the musculoskeletal system."

Since vitamin D is the only vitamin the body is capable of producing on its own (with exposure to sunlight), I wonder how much of these nursing home residents get any real sun?

The US Air Force's war against sleep

Many sci fi universes have it: a way to override sleep, at least temporarily. The first one that comes to mind for me is the new Battlestar Galactica, where they inject themselves with stims, and deal with the speedy downsides as they go.

The US Air Force is also looking into ways to do this, without pills.

""An effective photic stimulus" could correct the imbalance between a person's normal sleep pattern "and the requirements for alert human performance on imposed environmental schedules (e.g., facilitate adjustments to “jet lag,” or shift work, etc.)," an Air Force request for proposals notes...
"For decades, the U.S. military has been tried all sorts of ways to keep its soldiers and pilots awake. During World War II, G.I.s were issued rations of amphetamines (as were German, Japanese, and British troops.) In the early days of the Afghanistan war these "go pills" were blamed for a particularly ugly "friendly fire" incident. A newer drug, modafinil, in being pushed in the military as a safer alternative, New Scientist notes. "

Makes me worry that our happy lights, commonly used to ameliorate seasonal affective disorder, will no longer be so happy.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Medical grade pigs being raised to help cure diabetes

Some background information about diabetes (from wikipedia):
There are 3 main types of diabetes. "Type 1 is usually due to autoimmune destruction of the pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin. Type 2 is characterized by tissue-wide insulin resistance and varies widely; it sometimes progresses to loss of beta cell function. Gestational diabetes is similar to type 2 diabetes, in that it involves insulin resistance. The hormones of pregnancy cause insulin resistance in those women genetically predisposed to developing this condition. Types 1 and 2 are incurable chronic conditions, but have been treatable since insulin became medically available in 1921. Gestational diabetes typically resolves with delivery." is an organization that is sponsoring a very special pig farm. "The 21,000 square-foot bio-secure building will be home to approximately 100 high-health, 'medical-grade' pigs. Pancreatic islet cells from those pathogen-free pigs will be used for transplantation into diabetes patients in clinical trials. "

Diabetes is a huge problem, with lots of nasty sequelae: "There are 20.8 million people in the United States, or 7 percent of the population, who have diabetes. Diabetes alone represents 11 percent of the nation's health care expenditure."

It's a long shot, but if it works, it will change the world.

D'oh! Genetic studies of mice are forgetting impact of environmental variables

Pretty ironic to have to remind scientists to take environmental factors into account when studying genetic components of various disorders.

"...a team of scientists at the University of Arizona says the genetic research community must control for the environment when conducting experiments, because it may well affect the results."

Scientists housed pairs of mice in a range of environments: "In some cases, they placed groups of four in small cages containing only bedding; in other cases, they put pairs in sprawling cages that were twice as large and furnished with an exercise wheel, a ladder and a plastic tube that the mice could crawl through. "

"Scientists found that the mice in the luxury accommodations spent an average of 40 percent of their time on their in-home exercise wheel and had significantly less fat tissue around their aortas and weighed up to 40 percent less than their compeers from the cramped quarters. When researchers viewed their aortas under microscopes, they found that they had nearly 80 percent fewer gaps than their packed-in pals. "

Bottom line: they suggest that future studies talk more about the housing conditions of their mice. As for the rest of us, it does make me wonder about the effects of population density, or just the condition/clutter level of one's abode.

Autonomous modular robots! Check out the pics.

The main points: (quoted from Science Daily, quoting the designer)

"Superbot consists of Lego-like but autonomous robotic modules that can reconfigure into different systems for different tasks. Examples of configurable systems include rolling tracks or wheels (for efficient travel), spiders or centipedes (for climbing), snakes (for burrowing in ground), long arms (for inspection and repair in space), and devices that can fly in micro-gravity environment.
"Each module is a complete robotic system and has a power supply, micro- controllers, sensors, communication, three degrees of freedom, and six connecting faces (front, back, left, right, up and down) to dynamically connect to other modules.
"This design allows flexible bending, docking, and continuous rotation. A single module can move forward, back, left, right, flip-over, and rotate as a wheel. Modules can communication with each other for totally distributed control and can support arbitrary module reshuffling during their operation.
"They have both internal and external sensors for monitoring self status and environmental parameters. They can form arbitrary configurations (graphs) and can control these configurations for different functionality such as locomotion, manipulation, and self-repair."
More cool pics:

Reminds of me of the replicators in Stargate SG-1. Let's hope they don't end up taking over their section of the galaxy too.

Preemptive hugging in monkeys to avoid fights?

Sounds wacky, but:
"...spider monkeys in Mexico have been observed embracing to avoid gang violence. Hugging diffuses the tension when two bands of monkeys meet, say the British researchers who made the discovery. Without these calming embraces, the situation can escalate into aggression and even physical attacks, they report."

They sound very social: ""It's like the monkeys live in a small village where everyone knows each other," says Filippo Aureli of Liverpool John Moores University. "You wake up and eat breakfast with one group, such as a family, then move into different subgroups such as work, or school, and go to lunch with another group.""

The researchers' hypothesis: "The embrace could be a way of testing the bond between monkeys, as it exposes vulnerable parts of the body to attack," suggests Aureli. Monkeys do not hug members of their own groups, suggesting that embraces do not just reflect general levels of affection."

Regardless, the monkey pic is adorable, and I'm always happy to find more data supporting the positive effects of physical contact with other beings.

An HD camcorder for $500

More cool toys coming our way. No release date has been set yet, but $500 for a 720p camcorder and a7.1 megapixel camera is a great entry into HD, and means you don't have to keep carrying both camera and camcorder.

The biggest complaint by the critics is the amount of memory it gobbles up: 13 minutes of HD video on a 4GB card .

For those that care, here are more stats:
"Approx. 30 minutes of continuous movie recording at 640x480 resolution, 30 fps* Continuous audio-only recording PowerShot TX1 can be used as a sound recorder• Sound recordings up to 2 hours in continuous length are possible• At highest quality (44.100 kHz) setting, up to 1.5 hours audio fit onto 1GB SD card• “Component” output to HDTVs D-type terminal delivers 1080i signal for higher-quality movie and still reproduction on new hi-definition TVs"

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Research Finds Natural Family Planning Method As Effective As Contraceptive Pill

Finally, some data to back up natural family planning. It has to be followed correctly for it to work.

"Science Daily — Researchers have found that a method of natural family planning that uses two indicators to identify the fertile phase in a woman's menstrual cycle is as effective as the contraceptive pill for avoiding unplanned pregnancies if used correctly, according to a report published online in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction today (21 February)."

"The symptothermal method (STM) is a form of natural family planning (NFP) that enables couples to identify accurately the time of the woman's fertile phase by measuring her temperature and observing cervical secretions."

Here's their findings: "Of the 900 women, 322 used only STM and 509 women used STM with occasional barriers during the fertile time. Sixty-nine women did not document their sexual behaviour. Out of the women who documented their sexual behaviour and abstained from sex during their fertile period ("perfect use") the unintended pregnancy rate was 0.4 per 100 women and 13 cycles [2], and 0.6 for women who used STM plus a barrier if they had sex during their fertile period. For cycles in which couples had unprotected sex during the fertile phase, the pregnancy rates rose to 7.5 per 100 women and 13 cycles. The drop-out rate from using STM for reasons such as dissatisfaction or difficulties with the method was 9.2 per 100 women and 13 cycles, and compared well with the drop-out rates from other methods of family planning, which can be as high as 30%, although direct comparisons are difficult due to methodological problems. "This demonstrates a fairly good acceptability for this particular FAB method," said Prof Frank-Herrmann."

For those who cannot tolerate the pill, there are now other documented options that work just as well, IF you are willing to master it. :-)

Montessori for college students?

A nice study that supports giving college kids freedom to learn and think, instead of cookbook lab experiments provided better test scores, and more objective thinkers.

"Science Daily — Give college students less instruction and more freedom to think for themselves in laboratory classes, and the result may be a four-fold increase in their test scores."

Here's the breakdown: "Roughly 300 students, all taking an introductory biology course for science majors, were in each group. The first group used what Rissing calls the “cookbook method” – they followed step-by-step instructions on how to carry out the experiment and display their results. These students were provided with a standard, prepared enzyme solution.
The second group of students had to prepare their own enzyme solutions from a piece of raw turnip. They were also given more freedom to think through their approach to the same experiment, and were encouraged to use critical thinking and hands-on discovery to come up with their approach. "

Results: ..."(23 percent) in the “cookbook” group answered the question correctly. But 83 percent of the students who developed their own approach gave the right answer".

The goal is to increase scientific literacy for the masses, and this is a good start.

Solar Panels for rent/lease?

Seems there a bit of controversy in the solar photovoltaic community, but if this really works out, it would be awesome! I just don't know if the math actually works out...

"Instead of making you spring for $25,000 or more in gear, Citizenrē says it will loan you a complete rooftop solar power system, install it for free and sell you back the power it generates at a fixed rate below what your utility charges. The company hopes to make back its investment with those monthly payments, augmented by federal tax credits and rebates."

The good: "Citizenrē plans to lower those expenses by building its own manufacturing plant. "It will be the largest solar manufacturing plant in the world, 600,000 square feet and 1,600 workers," says Rob Styler, the company's executive vice president of marketing. "By manufacturing our own panels and systems, we cut our costs to the bone.""

The bad: "Much of the criticism is clinging to the company's multilevel marketing scheme. So far, more than 700 people have enlisted as independent Citizenrē sales agents -- what the company calls "ecopenuers" -- or about one sales representative for every 10 customers, with significant overlap. Heading that sales army is 42-year-old Styler, a veteran of multilevel marketing and a colorful figure in his own right."
Even more bad, their marketing setup. "Then agents will earn 5 percent of their customers' monthly solar bill, as well as bonuses based on the performance of downstream sales representatives." How is the NOT multi-level marketing?

It does sound too good to be true, which is really unfortunate. The concept is a good, but it just doesn't sound feasible in its current incarnation. Maybe if they kicked out the sales people, and just advertised via the web or something...,72752-0.html?tw=rss.index

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Universal Solar charger for your many accessories

For about $60, and some sunlight (or a USB port), you can charge up most of your hand held devices (no, laptops are too big for this one).

"Once charged, Freeloaders internal battery can power an iPod for 18hours, a mobile phone for 44 hours, PSP for 2.5 hours a PDA for 22 hours and much much more."

Charges up in 5 hours of sunlight (120mA crystalline solar cells), or 3 hours of USB power. See website for more pics.

Sounds perfect for Burning Man, camping, long road trips, or just because...

Ebay for parking spots

Though I miss the City, I don't miss searching for parking. This company hopes to simplify the process of finding a parking spot, but you'll likely have to pay for it.

"SpotScout Inc. hopes to create an online marketplace where drivers armed with mobile phones can not only reserve private spaces in garages and driveways, but also swap public parking spots in real time, with vacant spaces going to the highest bidder."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Neurobiology of Chocolate...another excuse to eat it!

As a choco-holic, I'm always happy when there are more studies that say 'chocolate is good'.

"A two-hour symposium on the neurobiology of chocolate, billed as a potentially "mind-altering experience," drew a standing-room-only crowd during the annual meeting in San Francisco of the American Association for the Advancement of Science."

Unfortunately, the study was partially sponsored by Mars Inc. (the candy manufacterer), so you will need to take the data with a grain of salt (yes, that was intentional :-) ).

The beneficial brain effects appear to stem from flavanols' impact on the blood system. In essence, the chemicals stimulate an increase of blood flow to the brain, particularly in areas that light up during tasks that require alertness. Experiments suggest this neurovascular activity is distinct from the well-known stimulant effects of caffeine."

The article goes on to speculate about using flavanols for treating dementia and certain types of stroke, and other studies.

Hollenberg summarized studies of indigenous people in Panama with diets rich in cocoa, who had been shown to have low incidences of high blood pressure, cancer and dementia. His latest studies also found evidence of "a striking blood flow response" in people over 50 who were given flavanols over several weeks."

I have a sudden urge to go back to the Scharffenberger Chocolate Factory for a slice of chocolate cake. Anyone up for a field trip? (It's a restaurant 3 blocks from my climbing gym, Berkeley Iron Works, and has the BEST desserts.)

Tron bike is here, and it's a 2 seater!

Supposedly comes out in late 2008. Looks really cool, and I can't wait to test drive one.

"...3-wheel, tilting, plug-in Hybrid vehicle under the working name VentureOne. It’s a two-passenger Hybrid vehicle that will get 100 mpg, accelerate from 0-60 in 6 seconds, will have a top speed of over 100 mph, while being priced at under US$20,000. In addition to the low-emission, flex-fuel Hybrid model, a zero-emission all-electric version is also being developed that will have an all-electric range of nearly 200 miles."

"All three models will exceed 100mpg, with speeds of over 100 mph, and 0-60 in 6 seconds or less – a major breakthrough in the automotive industry."

It this actually makes its way into the public marketplace, hopefully it will inspire more electric alternatives of this caliber.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Lost your group? Follow the dandelion (dandella)!

Just too cute.

Not that I'd want to lose line of sight of my 5 year old, but still very cool for finding someone in a crowd. Or, maybe when she's older...

"...this hand-held GPS tracking device lights up and physically bends and points towards its location or another Dandella that it's been synchronised with. If you've lost your friend in the crowd, just activate the Dandella and it'll point you the way you should go to find them. Great for parents looking to keep track of their kids at the mall, or people travelling in a group who like to wander independently for a bit and rejoin the rest later."

Carpal tunnel due to genetics, not repetitive strain

Wow! If this is true, which was presented today at the 74th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Diego, then the whole worker's compensation system is going to need an overhaul!

"The link to genetics is strong and believable," Ring says. "If you are diagnosed with carpal tunnel, you are an innocent bystander. You did nothing to cause it."

What's going to happen to the masses of administrative assistants and other computer users who go out on disability because they develop too much pain from years of typing?

Atlas Rope Ascender, zoom up a rope at 10 feet a second!

As an avid rock climber, I always have a soft spot for ascenders. This one is just too cool. The thing weighs 20 lbs, and is about backpack sized.

"Atlas Devices’ Rope Ascender is a remarkable new tool that enables "reverse rappelling" up buildings and other vertical surfaces at unprecedented speeds. The device, which is the size of a hand-held power tool, can lift a 250-pound load more than 600 feet into the air at nearly 10 ft/sec, all on a single battery charge."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

RFID 'Powder', dust sized chips for tracking you

This first image on the right is actually of the old Hitachi RFID chip, sized .4mm by .4mm, on someone's fingertip.

The newer ones below are 60 times smaller, at .05mm by .05mm. Shown next to a human hair.

"The new RFID chips have a 128-bit ROM for storing a unique 38 digit number, like their predecessor. Hitachi used semiconductor miniaturization technology and electron beams to write data on the chip substrates to achieve the new, smaller size. "

Tracking uses are endless. "Take a look at these earlier stories related to RFID, and consider how much easier it will be with tinier chips: RFID Sensor Tag Shower For Disasters (gentle rain of RFID), RFID-Maki: Easy Payment Sushi (just tag the sushi directly, then scan customer's stomach [no joke, see digestible tags]) and VeriChip Chairman Proposes RFID Chips For Immigrants (just dust the border). (

Reminds me of one of my all time favorite books, The Diamond Age (a definite must read for the uninitiated!).

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

Most socially conscious geeks are probably already well aware of this project, but I still think it's worth highlighting and following.

Background info: "The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is aimed at ensuring children around the world don't miss out on learning how to use computers. The fear is that the high cost of computers is keeping too many people in developing countries from learning how the software, Internet and communications benefits of computing can improve their economies, job prospects and lives, a conundrum commonly referred to as the digital divide." The original goal was to make these for less than $100 each. They've currently got the unit cost down to $130, but expect to meet their target by 2008.

Quanta Computer has already confirmed orders for one million laptops for OLPC. They hope to ship 5 to 10 million units this year alone, because the governments of 7 countries have already committed to buy laptops for their schoolchildren (Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Thailand, and Uruguay). (Yahoo News).

For the latest news on OLPC:

Swimming with an Ipod Shuffle

Most repetitive aerobic activities usually go better with music: jogging, cycling, and others that your imagination may drift to as you read this. ;-)

So why not swimming?

SwimMan has totally waterproofed the 2nd generation Ipod shuffle, and created some water friendly headphones to go along with it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Scientific American's advice for keeping flowers fresh

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

The advice is pretty straightforward. The key components are:

Food. "This necessary combination of acidic water and sugar describes 7-Up or Sprite, says William Miller, a professor of horticulture at Cornell University. One can of either is loaded with citric acid that lowers the pH (increases the acidity) of the soda and contains about 38 grams of sugar."

Preservative. "Vodka has a different effect on a bouquet of flowers: When added to a vase, it preserves them, probably by inhibiting ethylene production...", but only in tiny quantities.

Bactericide. "...a few drops of bleach to kill the bacteria."

Trimming. "When the flowers arrive home, half an inch to an inch of the stem should be cut off. This prevents air from being sucked into the stem and creating a blockage in the plant's uptake system, Miller says. Also, removing the ends physically removes any bacteria that might be growing there, he adds. Roughly every three days another inch should be cut from the stem bottoms and the bouquet should be placed in a clean vase."

Animal Pharms for growing drugs

I wonder what happens if these animals escape? Makes me think about The Secret of NIMH.

Pharming: "...several companies worldwide perfecting the art of "pharming" -- genetically modifying animals to churn out drugs for disorders like hemophilia and cancer."

How they do it: "It involves genetic modification of an animal embryo's genetic makeup, or genome. Just after fertilization, "pharmers" insert into the embryo a human gene that codes for a particular protein -- usually one that's produced naturally in humans, but that's lacking in people who have certain diseases. They attach that DNA code with a gene that codes for a sugar found in mammalian milk, insuring that the therapeutic protein will be expressed only in the animals' milk or eggs.",72708-0.html?tw=rss.index

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Daylight saving time changes this year. So much for Halloween...

Totally sucks for taking toddlers trick or treating on Halloween, since it'll be that much later until it's dark out.

Start End
2006 April 2 October 29
2007 March 11 November 4

Date change in 2007
On August 8, 2005, President George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This Act changed the time change dates for Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. Beginning in 2007, DST will begin on the second Sunday in March and end the first Sunday in November. The Secretary of Energy will report the impact of this change to Congress. Congress retains the right to resume the 2005 Daylight Saving Time schedule once the Department of Energy study is complete.

Assemble your own spy bot!

American International Toy Fair 2007

Erector's Spyke, a surveillance bot you assemble yourself. It functions as an MP3 player, a digital camera -- and a home security system.
Photo: Ryan Brenizer

More than 1,200 exhibitors will occupy every square inch of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York from Feb. 11 to 14, filling four city blocks of space with every kind of plaything imaginable. Reporter Alexander Gelfand and photographer Ryan Brenizer tour the American International Toy Fair in search of all things fun, weird and tech-related.

Thinking You Got A Work Out May Actually Make You Healthier

Another argument for mind over matter, and support for the placebo effect.

" Harvard University psychologist Ellen Langer and her student Alia Crum found that many of the beneficial results of exercise are due to the placebo effect.

The researchers studied 84 female housekeepers from seven hotels. Women in 4 hotels were told that their regular work was enough exercise to meet the requirements for a healthy, active lifestyle, whereas the women in the other three hotels were told nothing. To determine if the placebo effect plays a role in the benefits of exercise, the researchers investigated whether subjects' mind-set (in this case, their perceived levels of exercise) could inhibit or enhance the health benefits of exercise independent of any actual exercise.

Four weeks later, the researchers returned to assess any changes in the women's health. They found that the women in the informed group had lost an average of 2 pounds, lowered their blood pressure by almost 10 percent, and were significantly healthier as measured by body-fat percentage, body mass index, and waist-to-hip ratio. These changes were significantly higher than those reported in the control group and were especially remarkable given the time period of only four weeks. "

Hot potato with Anna Nicole Smith's baby daughter

I don't know how many of you follow the tabloids, as I usually do not myself.

However, this one stands out for me.
Since Anna Nicole Smiths' death, she's even more in the news.

The latest development is the growing number of men who are claiming paternity for her baby daughter.

"Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband Prince Frederic Von Anhalt is officially adding his name to the paternity battle over late Anna Nicole Smith's baby daughter Dannielynn. The European royal came forward with claims he might be the biological father of the five month old last Friday - 24 hours after his one-time mistress died in Florida. Von Anhalt stated he'd challenge any agreement that gave feuding 'fathers' Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead custody of Dannielynn, but now it seems he isn't waiting for a court-ordered Dna test on February 20, which will decide who is the tot's biological dad. The Prince told reporters yesterday he plans to file a paternity challenge to gain custody of the baby - even if it costs him his 20-year marriage to actress and socialite Gabor, who is said to be devastated by her husband's claims. And he'll even fly to The Bahamas, where the child was born and is currently being looked after by Anna Nicole's friends, to claim the baby. Von Anhalt says, "If the court rules in my favor, I will go to The Bahamas and pick up the child. My wife says, `If you bring a baby home then it's over.' If my wife wants to divorce me then it's up to her."

Monday, February 12, 2007

Viagra for sale OTC on Valentine's Day in the UK

This is scary.

"Three Manchester Boots pharmacies will sell the prescription-only medication made by U.S. drugs group Pfizer in a pilot program from February 14.

Men aged between 30 and 65 suffering from erectile dysfunction will be able to buy four Viagra pills for 50 pounds ($97) without having to get a prescription from a doctor first.

Instead, they will have a private consultation with a Boots pharmacist, when their medical history will be checked and measurements taken of their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels."

At almost $24 a pill, Pfizer must be ecstatic about this.

Image: Comet McNaught Over New Zealand

Comet McNaught Over New Zealand Credit & Copyright: Minoru Yoneto

Explanation: Comet McNaught is perhaps the most photogenic comet of our time. After making quite a show in the northern hemisphere in mid January, the comet moved south and developed a long and unusual dust tail that dazzled southern hemisphere observers starting in late January. Comet McNaught was imaged two weeks ago between Mount Remarkable and Cecil Peak in this spectacular image taken from Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand. The bright comet dominates the right part of the above image, while the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy dominates the left. Careful inspection of the image will reveal a meteor streak just to the left of the comet. Comet McNaught continues to move out from the Sun and dim, but should remain visible in southern skies with binoculars through the end of this month.

Study supporting naps for working adults

A pretty decent sized study. Makes you want to consider moving to siesta countries...

New research on napping provides the perfect excuse for office slackers, finding that a little midday snooze seems to reduce risks for fatal heart problems, especially among men.

In the largest study to date on the health effects of napping, researchers tracked 23,681 healthy Greek adults for an average of about six years. Those who napped at least three times weekly for about half an hour had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart attacks or other heart problems than those who did not nap.

The researchers said naps might benefit the heart by reducing stress, and jobs are a common source of stress.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Gene Variant that Optimizes Thinking but Increases Risk of Schizophrenia Identified by NIMH

Yet another instance where genius and madness are closer than we think.

"To understand DARPP-32s role in the human brain, the NIMH researchers used genetic, structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging, and post-mortem techniques to identify the human gene's variants and their functional consequences. Seventy five percent of subjects had the most common version of the gene, which boosted circuit activation, structural and functional connectivity and performance on thinking tasks, likely by increasing gene expression. In 257 affected families, people with schizophrenia were more likely to have this common version of the DARPP-32 gene."

Over the counter weight loss drug, and calorie burning drinks

We are a crazy society...

Orlistat, aka xenical, soon to be Alli, is going over the counter:
Decreases absorption of fat by about 1/3, with the main side effect of loose, fatty stools, and anal leakage.

Nestle and Coca cola have come together to market a drink that 'burns' calories:
If you drink their recommended 3 cans a day...

Kids, toys, and growing up way too fast!

Nice article about some cool new toys being presented at the American International Toy Fair next week.

Some of my favorites:
  • The $55 Technokids Graphic Tablet, for example, features Click & Create With Mia -- a kind of Photoshop for tots that teaches kids to draw, paint and animate shapes on screen, and allows them to create posters, invitations and birthday cards.
  • Concept Enterprises will be introducing a SmartKids laptop for children aged 3 to 6 that features a piano keyboard and bilingual programs in Spanish and English.
  • Jazwares will be showing off its Marvel Ani-Movie Studio, which allows kids to create digital stop-motion films starring Marvel Comics characters.
  • And there will be the inevitable iPod accessories, including Pressman Toy's iGamez, which allows kids to play a digital version of Name That Tune.
And for the calorie oriented:

Fisher-Price is also introducing the Smart Cycle, a small stationary bike that allows kids to peddle their way through a virtual environment on a standard television set. Kids can race other on-screen vehicles, and play a variety of educational games: picking up letters or numbers, or spelling various words. The faster they pedal, the faster the game.,72674-0.html?tw=rss.index