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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Beer from 'Barhand' to Your Hand
If you are in Glasgow this week, be sure to visit the Garage, one of its largest clubs, and order a beer from the new assistant bartender. The Barhand vending machine will give you a bottle of beer with its electronic robotic hand. The Sunday Herald reports that Michael Bowes, a 23-year old entrepreneur, is installing the first robotic bartender, built by Japanese company Fuji. Bowes has exclusive rights to sell the robot and expects to generate sales of about $200 million within five years.

Of course, some people are concerned that the Barhand could deliver beers to people already drunk, but Bowes insists that by reducing queues, people will only buy one drink at a time instead of picking several ones from a real bartender. Read more for other details and references. And send me pictures of the Barhand if you're at the Garage next Wednesday, but please don't drink too much!
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 2:26 PM Comments (0)
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Military RFID Sensors Hidden Inside Fake Rocks?
Scientists and the military often share a common quality: imagination. For example, in this article the Financial Times reports that the U.S. military is developing RFID sensors that will be installed in fake little rocks.

These 'rocks' which will be the size of golf balls, will be sent from an aircraft and will detect enemies by 'listening' to them from 20 to 30 meters. These sensors should be operational within 18 months and they should be cheap enough to leave them on the battlefield after they completed their tasks.

Read more for some other details and references, and post your comments if you have additional information about this project.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 2:20 PM Comments (1)
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Monday, May 30, 2005

Now in Mindjack...
Melanie McBride talks to Broken Saints creator Brooke Burgess, plus we've got reviews of The Aviator and three Fox Studio Classics in Mindjack Film.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 10:51 PM Comments (1)
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Technorati Japan is launched
Joi Ito and the Technorati Japan team have just launched Technorati.jp beta. Joi Ito announced the news today:
"After months of work by the teams at Digital Garage and Technorati, we are happy to launch the Technorati Japan beta site. I noticed that some of the Japanese bloggers had already discovered our alpha site and some of the the feedback from the blogs have been incorporated into the new version that we launched today. Check out the Japanese news talk, book talk, Japanese top 100 and other features and let us know what you think."
[Disclaimer: Joi Ito is on Mindjack's Board of Advisors]
:: posted by Melanie McBride, 12:43 PM Comments (0)
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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Wi-Fi Networks Know Where You Are
It's a well-known fact that GPS devices perform better in rural areas than in urban ones, especially because their signals bounce upon buildings. This is not the case with Wi-Fi networks. So why not applying the concept of triangulation, central to GPS localization, to Wi-Fi?

In "One more way to find yourself," the Boston Globe tells us the story of a start-up company, Skyhook Wireless, which is using Wi-Fi networks to provide location-based services (LBS).

When you're walking or driving, your laptop or PDA can get the ID number of several Wi-Fi access points stored in Skyhook Wireless database, even if the signal is not strong enough to provide a connection. With these IDs, the company will plot a map of where you are.

Neat idea, but will it work if people move from an area to another one, taking away their access points with them? Anyway, this overview contains other details, references and pictures about these new location services.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:32 PM Comments (0)
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Friday, May 27, 2005

Heather Champ joins Flickr
Via Kris Krug: Heather Champ has joined Flickr as Community Manager.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 7:18 PM Comments (0)
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Morpheus meets his end in Matrix Online
MTV.com reports that Morpheus, the character played by Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix movies, has been killed off in the Matrix Online massively mulitiplayer game.
Morpheus' demise was not without controversy. In the days leading up to it, the developers' live team, who orchestrate the game's big monthly story-advancing moments, carried out a Wachowski-Chadwick plot that had Morpheus, in the words of some users, "turning terrorist." According to storyline, Morpheus wanted to reclaim the body of the fallen Neo, which was being held by the Matrix's machine overlords. Morpheus tried to pressure cooperation by planting bombs throughout the Matrix infrastructure. That's how the live team, including developers who controlled Morpheus himself, set things up. Players aligned with the game's three factions — the establishment Machines, the maverick Exiles, and even Morpheus' own group, the emancipating Zionists — had been assigned by their in-game leaders to defuse the bombs and stop the out-of-control digital Laurence Fishburne. But not everyone wanted to stop him.
Unlike the various Star Wars games and other movie licenses, the Matrix game is in full continunity with the films, so any future Matrix movies would presumably reflect these events.

[via Slashdot Games]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:53 PM Comments (0)
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JibJab founder on viral marketing
Marketing Vox recently interviewed JibJab founder Gregg Spiridellis about the internet and viral marketing.
Spiridellis: I think advertisers will be able to create viral ads if they are willing to take the creative risks necessary to make them happen. To date, few companies have been willing to take those risks. To make something viral it can’t feel like a traditional ad. If you try to push the same message in a viral piece that you’re playing on network TV during prime time, it won’t work. If you can do something a little edgier (or self deprecating) it can work. Brand managers should look to the web as a place to experiment and have a little fun with their brand.
[via Kottke.org]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:32 PM Comments (0)
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The Loud Report: Volcano, I'm Still Excited!!
It sort of sounds like they tried a band-name generator web page and went with the results, doesn't it? Their sound doesn't contradict that lack of regard exactly, but it's more of a giddy, childlike disregard, mixed with plenty of psychedelia and some seriously lusty post-punk-y beats to back it all up. Kind of like, I dunno, Mates of State and Of Montreal with Bloc Party's rhythm section. (I hate describing bands that way... one wants to be accurate, but not to annoy people with what might as well be gibberish to them, or make them think one is showing off. If you don't know the name-check-ees above, please consider it an invitation to do some Googling and discover some wonderful stuff.) Got a couple tracks for you at the band's own site, plus this other one over there. Really nice harmonies on all of them - and barely two words strung together that make sense, but hey.
:: posted by Mike Sugarbaker, 3:13 PM Comments (0)
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Friendster CEO Resigns
Reuters reports that Friendster CEO Scott Sassa has resigned to make way for a more tech savvy executive. Sassa left his job as president of NBC Entertainment in June 2004 to join Friendster. Another revealing fact from the Reuters article is that Friendster had only 703,000 visitors in April, compared to the 8.2 million visitors its competitor MySpace.com had in the same month (Reuters incorrectly identifies the site as "MyPlace" at one point). Users also stay at MySpace.com much longer than they do at Friendster -- apparently an hour and 23 minutes compared to 14 minutes. Could this be the start of a broader shakeout in the social network space or is it just an isolated case?
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:03 PM Comments (0)
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Innovation on the Nintendo DS
In their current newsletter (not online, so I can't link to it) GameSpy suggests that some of the biggest innovation in video games is happening on the Nintendo DS, with games like Nintendogs, Trauma Center: Under the Knife, and Animal Crossing DS that simply couldn't be done on any other system. Anyone have any other suggestions for big innovations happening in video games right now?
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 4:06 PM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Video Game Console History
The Wall Street Journal has a nifty infographic on the history of video game consoles, although they've left out a lot of stuff. For a less flashy but more thorough overview, check out GameSpot's History of Video Games.

[Via Kottke.org]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:39 PM Comments (0)
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Movies on PSP taking hold
USA Today reports on the fairly rapid growth of UMD movies, the proprietary format used for Sony's PlayStation Portable. Five of the six major studios are now releasing movies on the format, with a total of 70 titles in stores or coming soon, and two movies, House of Flying Daggers and Resident Evil 2 (both released on April 19th), have now sold more than 100,000 copies each. A number that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president Benjamin Feingold is quick to point out took nine months for the first DVD title to hit.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:29 PM Comments (0)
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Monday, May 23, 2005

BitTorrent Search coming soon
Wired News reports that BitTorrent is about to launch an advertising-supported search engine for the peer-to-peer network. That sound you hear is a thousand MPAA laywers jumping out of their seats.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 12:04 PM Comments (0)
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Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Future of Television, according to Conan
Clearly, Mark Pesce was way off with his prognostications on the future of television. In the current issue of Newsweek, Conan O'Brien tells us what tomorrow's TV landscape is really going to look like.
To begin, the trend toward larger and larger televisions will continue as screens double in size every 18 months. Televisions will eventually grow so large that families will be forced to watch TV from outside their homes, peering in through the window. Random wolf attacks will make viewing more dangerous. And, just as televisions grow larger and more complicated, so will remote controls. In fact, changing channels will soon require people to literally jump from button to button. Trying to change the channel while simultaneously lowering the volume will require two people and will frequently lead to kinky sex.
Oh, and Steven Levy also has a few ideas.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 10:13 PM Comments (0)
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Cellphedia, a SMS Social Network Service
Based on ideas taken from Wikipedia and dodgeball, Cellphedia allows its members to broadcast questions to its community and receive answers, using SMS text messaging on cell phones.

Here is how it works, according to "Cellphedia Melds Facts with Mobile Smart Mobs" from E-Commerce Times. First, you register for free on the site and you indicate what are your subjects of interest. If you want to ask a question, it is sent to all the members who expressed interest in this particular subject. Finally, the first answer received by Cellphedia is sent back to you.

This means that later answers, which could have been more accurate, are discarded. But this service is still very young and its creator is working hard to improve it. Read more for some examples of questions and answers stored on the Cellphedia central server.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:10 AM Comments (0)
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RFID Bracelets to Track Inmates in L.A. County
According to RFID Journal, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is about to launch a pilot program to track 1,800 inmates using RFID devices. If the test is successful, the technology will be deployed for the 18,000 inmates of the L.A. county jails.

With this system, inmates carry a wrist bracelet which issues a signal every two seconds and is caught by RFID readers installed everywhere in the prison. Officers and staff also carry a RFID device attached to their belts. And a central server keeps track in real time of the position of all prisoners and guardians. Besides tracking locations, the system also intends to reduce violence within the jail and to avoid escapes.

If this system works as its promoters think, the potential market to equip all federal, state and county jails in the U.S. exceeds $1 billion. This overview contains other details and references, including a picture of a wristwatch transmitter worn by inmates.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:07 AM Comments (0)
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Looking for Organs Online
According to BusinessWeek in "Meet Your Organ Match Online," about 88,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for living organs and expecting a transplant. But more than 60,000 patients will die before a liver or a kidney becomes available.

Enter MatchingDonors.com, a non-profit corporation run by volunteers who take no salaries. If you're a potential donor, you tell them that you're ready to give an organ (not sell, it's illegal!). If you're a patient, you register for $295 per month -- 100% of the money paid for patient memberships is applied to running the site.

Then you have access to the full list of potential donors -- more than 2,000 today -- and you look for what you need. Read more for other details and references.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:03 AM Comments (0)
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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Now in Mindjack: Piracy is Good? Part Two
Part two of Piracy is Good?, The New Laws of Television, has just been published. In it Mark Pesce lays out some new rules for television, which he says are good for everyone — unless you're a broadcaster. If you haven't read it, part one of the article is here. Also now available is a torrent of a live presentation of Piracy Is Good?, delivered by Mark Pesce on May 6th, 2005 at the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney (200MB download). See BitTorrent.com for help downloading.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9:48 PM Comments (1)
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Friday, May 20, 2005

The Loud Report: The Helio Sequence, "Blood Bleeds" and "Everyone Knows Everyone"
Second in a series of duos from Portland who record at home and make the drummer press buttons on a computer between songs during live shows, is The Helio Sequence. These guys manage to sound even huger than entry #1 - like Cornelius but not as rangy, maybe - even when they play live. Sadly, I cannot find an MP3 out there that truly shows the way these guys can rock, 1982 synthesizer stylee notwithstanding - but you get a hint toward the end of "Blood Bleeds." As far as "Everyone Knows Everyone," well, you like harmonica too, right? Especially if it still sounds like TRON? Well, good.
:: posted by Mike Sugarbaker, 6:24 PM Comments (0)
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Thursday, May 19, 2005

China recruiting online commentators to influence public opinion
The Online Journalism Review blog picks up on a Reuters story about Chinese city governments trying to sway public opinion by recruiting undercover online commentators to respond to controversial issues in message boards and chatrooms. According to the Southern Weekend, a special force of commentators (who are actually government officials) has been operating in Suqian city in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu since April. Ma Zhichun, one of the recruited commentators, is also quoted as saying "We are not the first and won't be the last (to have online commentators). The whole nation is playing the same game."
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9:24 PM Comments (1)
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Microsoft looks towards 'spectator advertising' in games
Reuters reports on the prospect of 'spectator advertising' in games.
Peter Moore, the Microsoft vice president in charge of advertising for the Xbox business, described a scenario where a virtual race hosted by a corporate sponsor, with thousands of gamers competing for a grand prize while their buddies and competitors watch online.

"If you are the sponsor, you've captured the attention of hundreds of thousands of people who've spent the last six months living and breathing your tournament and your brand," Moore said at a Xbox 360 launch event.
For more on advertising in video games check out Tony Walsh's Mindjack article, Banner Ads Invade Gamespace.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:24 PM Comments (0)
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Boodler: generative music on the cheap
I'm rereading Brian Eno's A Year With Swollen Appendices - his diary from 1995, which reads exactly like he concurrently invented the weblog right along with Justin Hall et alia. Among all kinds of other great stuff, it depicts the beginnings of Eno's interest in "generative music." In 1995, Eno began working with an app called Koan, for which you can download a demo. The first time I read this book, I went and played with Koan immediately... and was stymied by its obscure interface seemingly intended for people with years of MIDI sorcery under their belts. (They now have an allegedly-simpler package called Koan X which I haven't tried.)

Then I found Boodler. Its author, noted interactive-fiction scion and game designer Andrew Plotkin, describes it as "a programmable soundscape tool" and mainly uses it for ambiences that are not musical, strictly speaking. However, with the instructions here, some short WAV files, a touch of music theory and a little Python code (not exactly an easy interface, but at least it's straightforward to learn - and you can reuse it to make desktop apps! Try that with MIDI!), you could be rollin' with heat. And did I mention it's free? Give it a try - if you have trouble with the Windows version, it's worth grabbing a Linux live CD of some sort to fool with it. (And Mac OS X users should do well, naturally.)
:: posted by Mike Sugarbaker, 1:37 PM Comments (0)
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Doctorow on BBC's digital initiatives
Cory Docotorow has an op-ed in Wired News today on the BBC's new digital initiatives, including BBC Backstage and the Creative Archive. Cory says: "Unlike Hollywood, the BBC is eager and willing to work with a burgeoning group of content providers whose interests are aligned with its own: its audience."
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 12:24 PM Comments (0)
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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

New York Times to charge for some content
The New York Times announced yesterday that they'll soon be charging for access to some content on its website, in particular its Op-Ed and news columnists. The subscription service will start in September and cost readers $49.95 a year. Not suprisingly, reaction from bloggers has been swift. Meg Hourihan pretty much sums up the general sentiment with the headline to her post on the subject: The NY Times wants less links.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6:17 PM Comments (0)
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Nintendo Revolution revealed
Another day, another new console. Pictures of Nintendo's new Revolution system have been released to the press, though it looks like it's still in prototype form (1UP.com has a larger image here). The Revolution will be backwards compatible with GameCube titles and will also have downloadable access to titles originally released for the Nintendo 64, SNES and NES. Nintendo also pulled another Game Boy out of their hat, the Game Boy Micro, which will play all GBA games and weighs just 2.8 ounces (or the weight of 80 paper clips, as Nintendo puts it) -- look for it this fall. Once again, Engadget has live coverage of Nintendo's launch event at E3, so check it out for up-to-the-minute details.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:25 PM Comments (0)
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Monday, May 16, 2005

PlayStation 3 unveiled

Sony unveiled the PlayStation 3 today at E3 today, Engadget has live coverage of the launch and details on all the specs. At first glance it looks like it beats the Xbox 360 in the performance department, and it will be backwards compatible with both the PS1 and PS2. Also confirmed for the console are Metal Gear Solid 4, Devil May Cry 4, Tekken 6, Gran Turismo 5, and a next-gen Grand Theft Auto game. Look for it to hit stores in Spring 2006 -- no price announced yet though.

[Disclaimer: I'm a contributor to Engadget]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9:35 PM Comments (0)
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CNN.com switching to free video
In part of a growing trend, MediaDailyNews reports that CNN will soon offer free video on its website, abandoning their subscription service in place since March 2002 that cost users $4.95 a month. In addition, CNN.com will be producing specialized two-minute newscasts every hour called "Now in the News." The new service will launch June 20th and be ad-supported, although CNN does plan to launch a separate subscription service in the fall that will give users access to multiple live video streams and CNN's video archives, but a price for that hasn't been set yet.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 3:38 PM Comments (0)
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Gillmor Launches Bayosphere
Dan Gillmor recently launched Bayosphere which, contrary to my first reaction, apparently has nothing to do with Scott Baio. It's actually a grassroots journalism site for the San Francisco Bay Area, putting into practice much of what Gillmor discussed in his recent book, We The Media.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 2:53 PM Comments (0)
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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Elections B.C. Say Blogs are Campaign Advertising
The CBC reports that Elections B.C. (the organization that oversees provincial elections) ruled on Thursday that blogs are a form of campaign advertising and must be registered as such. At the same time, however, a representative of Elections B.C. also said that the volume of sites is overwhelming and they haven't ruled out seeking changes to the Election Act.

Clearly, this leaves a lot of bloggers faced with a tough decision, so B.C. blogger Darren Barefoot decided to call up Elections B.C. to get more details about their position. He found that even a single web page with text expressing support for a candidate, party or referendum issue must be registered. He also notes that newspapers, including editorials and letters to the editor, get an exemption -- in fact, the exact words used by Elections B.C. were “bona fide news organizations”. Where exactly does someone register as a bona fide news organization?

[Via Mikel.org]
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 7:56 PM Comments (0)
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Hydrogen Fuel Cell Uses Cow Manure
In January 2005, a world's premiere took place in a farm near Princeton, Minnesota. The event went largely unnoticed, except by the Princeton Union-Eagle in 'Hydrogen fuel cell project at Princeton farm called world's first.'

Now, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is celebrating the first hydrogen fuel cell powered by cow manure. The Haubenschild farm already was producing electricity from its cows, by using methane gas as the vehicle. But now, the farmers wanted to know if hydrogen fuel cells could produce enough electricity to power a farm and dubbed their effort the 'cow power.'

This overview contains other details and references about this innovative way of using cow manure.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:36 PM Comments (0)
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New 'BetaBatteries' May Provide Power for Decades
Imagine a day when you never have to recharge your cellphone battery? It might become true. According to this news release from the National Science Foundation (NSF), American researchers have developed a porous-silicon diode that "convert low levels of radiation into electricity and can have useful lives spanning several decades."

The new 'BetaBattery' is more efficient than conventional chemical batteries and potentially cheap to manufacture. It uses a radioactive source as its fuel, the tritium, an hydrogen isotope. When the tritium releases electrons in a process called beta decay, the 'BetaBattery' generates electricity by absorbing these electrons.

So far, the 'BetaBattery' doesn't deliver as much power as chemical batteries, but it could be extremely useful to power devices which have a long life and are difficult to service, such as structural sensors in bridges and satellites. This overview contains other details and references and includes a picture of the special wafer used to design the 'BetaBattery.'
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:33 PM Comments (0)
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Tracking You Via TV Signals
If you're inside a building, a GPS receiver cannot find you. But a $40 radio chip from Rosum Corporation will do it, with the help of TV signals. This start-up says that TV signals are 10,000 times stronger than GPS signals according to this article from Mercury News.

Right now, these chips are at the prototype stage, but navigation products able to track an individual within a city should be available next year. And Rosum even thinks to integrate these radio chips in future cell phones. Meanwhile, the military envision to use the technology as a full GPS backup system or to track soldiers in dangerous environments.

Obviously, privacy advocates warn that the technology could be used to locate and track people without their consent. Considering that one of Rosum's investors is In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA, we should look at this technology with caution. Read this summary to know how the technology works and look at a diagram showing the TV-GPS system components.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:28 PM Comments (0)
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The Hottest Chilli in the World
According to the Telegraph, this chilli is so hot, you'd have to drink 250,000 gallons of water just to put out the fire. It's called the "16 Million Reserve" and is 8,000 times stronger than Tabasco sauce. In fact, it's not really a sauce, it's a food additive made of pure capsaicin.

Its creator, Blair Lazar, from Extreme Food, describes his experience when he tried it: "It was like having your tongue hit with a hammer. Man, it hurt. My tongue swelled up and it hurt like hell for days." Another "chilli head" -- as are named the lovers of these extra hot sauces -- put a single grain into a pan of tomato soup and reported his wife's words after she tried the soup: "She threatened divorce once she could speak again."

If you're interested, there will be only 999 bottles for sale, with prices ranging between $159 and $199. Read this summary to discover where to buy a bottle of this very hot stuff.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:24 PM Comments (0)
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Your Paper Is Rejected? Post it as an Ad!
In this article, The Scientist reveals a curious and probably unique story. Two years ago, a researcher at Brown University submitted a paper to a scientific medicine journal. Then he received a note from the editor saying that his paper would not interest the journal readers.

Thinking that his article was unfairly rejected before peer review, he decided to publish a two-page ad with the contents of his paper in the same journal. He even asked readers if they thought the contents interesting and received 33 positive replies. Read this summary before telling me what you think and if you've heard about a similar story.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:21 PM Comments (0)
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Friday, May 13, 2005

Now in Mindjack
In the first part of a two-part article, Piracy is Good?, Mark Pesce looks at how Battlestar Galactica killed broadcast TV. Plus Tony Walsh reviews Jade Empire for Xbox, the latest game from the creators of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 7:20 PM Comments (0)
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The Loud Report: Black Lipstick, "Grandma Airplane"
I first found this Austin band on a strange, yet strangely amazing, compilation from 2003, to which I can't link because they have no website I can find. (Yeti magazine #2, if that helps any.) I did, in fact, think of the same comparisons everyone thinks of - Television, Velvet Underground, only if they moved to Texas, put beers in their hands and chilled the hell out - but take a listen to the track at the bottom of this page, the one from their latest LP "Sincerely, Black Lipstick." Tell me you don't hear Yo La Tengo, or even Iron and Wine a little. In short, propulsive, old-school urban-hipster rock energy finding a new balance with placid beauty and trancendence. The rest of the album's good too.
:: posted by Mike Sugarbaker, 1:37 PM Comments (0)
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Sunday, May 08, 2005

An Army BUFF's Dream
The U.S. Army is increasingly using battlefield sensors these days, from static ones which detect ground movements to unmanned aerial drones. This means that field commanders are overwhelmed by too much information. So the military started the BrUte Force Fusion (BUFF) program, which uses server and visualization systems from SGI, according to Military Information Technology.

In a lab located at Fort Huachuca, AZ, BUFF analyses 170,000 hourly intelligence reports or about 3 terabytes of data each day. The goal of the BUFF program is to reach the Level II of the data fusion hierarchy -- Level I occurs when a sensor is able to detect the movement of an object in a battle space while Level II blends data from multiple sensors.

Many scientists believe that reaching Level II will take two decades, but promoters of the BUFF program think they can do better. This overview contains other details and references.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 4:23 PM Comments (0)
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The Sharpest Ever Global Earth Map
The GLOBCOVER project, started by the European Space Agency (ESA), has a very simple goal. It will create the most detailed portrait of the Earth's land surface with a resolution three times sharper than any previous satellite map.

The image acquisition will be done throughout 2005 and use the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) instrument of the Envisat environmental satellite. To create this sharp map, the GLOBCOVER project will analyze about 20 terabytes of data gathered by the European satellite.

When it's completed, the GLOBCOVER map will have numerous uses, "including plotting worldwide land use trends, studying natural and managed ecosystems and modelling climate change extent and impacts." Read more for additional links.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 4:21 PM Comments (0)
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Your Mission: Build a 3D City Model in One Hour...
How long does it take to create an accurate 3D model of a city on a computer? If you're familiar with virtual reality modeling, you know it can take weeks. But according to New Scientist, engineers from the University of California at Berkeley have found a speedier way to capture a city.

Using a concept dubbed "virtualized reality," which mixes inputs from lasers to measure distances and digital cameras to scan a city, they can now build a 3D model of a whole city in about an hour. Obviously, the first applications will be military, but sooner or later, you'll be able to drive your car in an unknown city using this 3D technology.

This overview contains more details, pictures and references about this new way to build a model of a city in 3D.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 4:16 PM Comments (0)
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Restoring 'Endangered' 50-Year Old Tapes
You probably don't bother to convert an old cassette or a VHS tape to a CD or a DVD. Most of you just buy a new copy -- at least if it's available. But if you're a museum, such as the Field Museum in Chicago, and that you own dozens of hours of invaluable information recorded more than 50 years ago, this is another story.

You want to rescue these 'endangered' recordings. In order to give visitors some insights about over 6,000 artifacts of its permanent Pacific collection, the museum needed to read audio tapes named 'sonobands.' Now, these voices which have been recorded on a state-of-the-art Walkie RecordAll system -- in 1958 -- have been saved to digital format with some creative engineering help.

This overview contains more details and references about this old recording device.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 4:13 PM Comments (0)
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Can't Take it with You? Mail it instead!
You all know that security measures have been dramatically reinforced in U.S. airports since September 11, 2001. In particular, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a long list of objects you cannot carry on board. So what to do if your gold lighter is to be confiscated by security or airline personnel?

ReturnKey Systems Inc. has a solution. The company has deployed Automated Mailing Kiosks (AMKs) in several airports. These AMKs look like ATM machines. Using a touch screen, you enter your personal information and a description of the object. If your address is valid and if the object is not included in the list of prohibited items by the US Postal Service, you pay and you send the item.

And international shipping is also available since mid-April. This overview contains more details and references. It also includes a picture of a happy traveler.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 4:11 PM Comments (0)
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Secure Video Conferencing via Quantum Cryptography
If you use a webcam to talk with your mom, this tool is not for you. But if you're working for a company and that you have to routinely discuss about sensitive future projects or the possible acquisition of another company, you need more security, and this new video conferencing system based on quantum cryptography is a tool you need.

According to this article from Nature, researchers from Toshiba have developed a system which can generate 100 quantum 'keys' every second, fast enough to protect every frame in a video exchange.

This technology, which today is working over a distance of about 120 kilometers, could become commercially available within two years at an initial cost of $20,000. This overview contains more details and references.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 4:08 PM Comments (0)
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When Lofar Meets Stella
The LOFAR (Low Frequency Array) telescope is a new IT radio-telescope which will use about 20,000 simple radio antennae when it's completed in 2008. At this time, it will cover an area with a diameter of 360 kilometers centered over the Netherlands.

Its small radio antennae will detect radio wavelengths up to 30 meters, and because the ionosphere can bend some of these radio waves, the Lofar images might be somewhat blurry. So all the information captured by these antennae will be digitized and sent to a computing facility at a rate of 22 terabits/second today, and almost 50 terabits/second in 2010.

This is the reason why Lofar needs Stella, an IBM supercomputer installed recently in Groningen, also in the Netherlands, to process signals from up to 13 billion light years from Earth.

Stella consists of 12,000 PowerPC microprocessors and has a computing power of 27.4 teraflops. This overview contains more details and a picture about the Lofar-Stella interaction.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 3:32 PM Comments (0)
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Friday, May 06, 2005

Star Wars Episode III Seen and Commented On
Just in case you're not reading Mindjack's new film blog, contributing blogger Jeffrey M. Anderson just got back from a screening of Star Wars: Episode III and has posted his early thoughts on the movie. Short version: don't worry, it's good. Read the full post here.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 9:47 PM Comments (0)
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The Loud Report: 65daysofstatic, "Hole" and "I Swallowed Hard, Like I Understood"
Instrumental bands are difficult to trust these days - are they post-rockers who think they're jazz? Are they metalheads only more pretentious? Are they metalheads and not pretentious enough? A lot can go wrong. It isn't until you hear 65daysofstatic that you realize that what's going wrong in so much rock right now is the vocals, the damn depressive self-obsessed vocals that nobody thought to strip out of this kind of music before. By "this" I mean the current dreamy, slightly shoegazery trend in Britpop, with some glitch folded in, and all with that not-quite-metal indie guitar assault invented by Slint and perfected by Mogwai. With vocals, it could easily have stumbled and become annoying nu-metal. Without, it was still a big risk, but these kids are doing it beautifully and joyously. Try both of the tracks here; they're like Mogwai as a hyperactive video game soundtrack.
:: posted by Mike Sugarbaker, 5:56 PM Comments (0)
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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Call for Contributors
Just a reminder that we're always looking for new contributors for Mindjack. So if you're interested in writing for either the magazine or the blog, please send a few samples of your writing to: editor@mindjack.com and we'll go from there.
:: posted by Donald Melanson, 4:20 PM Comments (0)
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Sunday, May 01, 2005

With RealReflect, Virtual Reality Looks More Real
Virtual reality (VR) modeling has been used for years in various industries, including the automotive sector. But most of the applications were neglecting the effects of lightning. In "Getting the Feel of Virtual Reality," IST Results, a EU organization, says that RealReflect, a project started in 2002 at several European universities, is about to change this.

It uses "a new image acquisition technique known as Bidirectional Texture Function (BTF) that captures the look and feel of different materials." The system handles both lighting and viewing direction and can acquire and render very subtle textures in VR environments. With previous VR modeling applications, you could see the results as believable. But, according to the researchers, with RealReflect, you think the model is real.

The system has been targeted for the automotive industry, but could be used for other applications, such as architecture design or computer games. This overview contains other details, pictures and references.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:26 AM Comments (0)
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Multicolor Wavelength-Agile Lasers At Your Service
Laser lights can be used for optical sensing applications, for example to identify unknown gases emitted by an engine. And as these unknown substances react differently to different wavelengths, researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison have developed unique wavelength-agile lasers.

And I'm amazed by the beauty and the simplicity of their idea. They're using white lasers which produce all colors simultaneously -- but with a twist. The white laser light goes through a 20-kilometers long optical fiber before reaching its target. And because different colors 'travel' at different speeds, this produces independent results for the different wavelengths. The researchers are using spectral resolutions smaller than a thousandth of a nanometer and they are able to get all the results within a millionth of a second.

This method could be used to design cleaner engines or data storage applications in a few years. Read more for other details, pictures and references.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:24 AM Comments (1)
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'Smart' Nanocarriers to Fight Cancer
Today, anticancer drugs are delivered to patients in such a way that they can destroy both infected and healthy cells. But now, researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), in Singapore, have designed 'smart' nanocarriers which deliver the drugs exactly where they are needed, reducing side effects and suppressing cancer growth.

Their core-shell nanoparticles are both sensitive to temperature -- which has been done before -- and to acidic levels. When these nanocarriers encounter acidic environments such as tumor tissues, they break apart and release the molecules they contain. So far, this technology has only been tested on mice, but the researchers have filed an application patent in the U.S., so expect to see practical applications in a few years. Read more for other details and references.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:22 AM Comments (0)
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Writing with a Nanoscale Fountain Pen
I'm sure that almost all of you have used a fountain pen. But imagine a pen drawing lines only 40 nanometers in width. Now, it can be done with the Nanofountain Probe (NFP) developed by scientists at Northwestern University. This innovative fountain pen "employs a volcano-like dispensing tip and capillary fed solutions to enable sub-100 nanometer molecular writing."

But it needs to be mounted on an atomic force microscope (AFM) to be useful, so it probably is something you'll not find at your local drugstore for a while. However, this nanofountain probe could have applications for nanosensors, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Read more for other details, pictures and references.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:20 AM Comments (0)
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DNA Shows that Gibraltar’s Rock Apes Are Africans
The Barbary Apes who live on Gibraltar’s Rock are the only semi-wild monkeys in Europe. And for decades, nobody knew where they came from. Now, after studying mitochondrial DNA from 280 individual samples, an international group of scientists from Germany, Switzerland and the U.S. has solved the mystery of the origin of Gibraltar's macaques. Their study reveals that they descended from founders picked in both Morocco and Algeria.

Of course, another mystery needs to be solved. You might not know that a local story says that if the monkeys disappear from Gibraltar, so will the British. So when the population of these Barbary Apes was almost reduced to zero sixty years ago, did British Prime Minister Winston Churchill order to capture some of them in nearby Africa? Read more for other details and references, plus a great photo of one of these monkeys which doesn't seem to suffer from vertigo.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:17 AM Comments (0)
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A New Way to Grow Bones
As it is often the case, a recent discovery just came out from a simple idea. By studying diseases in which the human body generates too much bone, UCLA researchers have discovered a natural molecule that can be used to generate new bone growth in patients who lack it.

This new molecule has aptly been named UCB, or University of California Bone. This new protein for growing bones is more precise and has less side effects than the ones currently used by orthopedic surgeons to aid in bone repair.

But if you suffer from a bone deficit today, you'll have to wait almost ten years before an FDA approval and a commercial introduction of products based on this discovery. Read more for other details and references, plus a picture of a bone defect corrected by the UCB.
:: posted by Roland Piquepaille, 8:14 AM Comments (0)
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