Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1680 on: Oct 27th, 2010, 5:58pm »
October 26, 2010 5:30 PM
A tattooist in Australia has been charged with assault after allegedly inking a 40cm penis on the back of a 'friend' who he'd had an argument with.
Queensland Police say the 25-year-old victim had been visiting the tattooist at home when he was talked into getting a tat.
He asked for a yin and yang symbol with some dragons, but instead ended up with a 40cm penis on his back, it wasn't until it was finished he realised what had happened.
Cops say the man claimed he was also punched and thrown out of the house adding that he'd been in an argument with the 21-year-old tattooist prior to being inked.
Yes that's right, he agreed to let the man he'd just been arguing with, tattoo him. Oops. The tattooist is due to appear in court next month charged with two counts of assault occasioning bodily harm and one charge relating to the Public Safety Act.
The tattoo apparently also included a slogan suggesting the victim was homosexual and will cost £1,000 to remove.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has detected buckyballs -- intriguing, miniature-soccer-ball-shaped molecules - in interstellar space for the first time.
PASADENA, Calif. – A soccer ball-shaped carbon molecule that some scientists think may have helped seed life on Earth is more common in the universe than initially believed.
Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, researchers spotted the carbon spheres known as 'buckyballs' around three dying sun-like stars in the Milky Way and in the space between stars. The telescope also detected the cosmic balls floating around a dying star in a nearby galaxy.
"Buckyballs are carbon molecules in the shape of a cage and they are very tough and hard to destroy," said Kris Sellgren, a professor of astronomy at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH.
She noted that although life forms, let alone a single molecule of DNA, absolutely dwarf a buckyball, "single atoms or small molecules can become trapped and can survive inside the cage while the buckyball safely travels through the harsh conditions of space."
The telescope previously found buckyballs only in one location in space.
The new findings appear online Thursday in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Scientists hope to better understand the role buckyballs play in the birth and death of stars and planets.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1683 on: Oct 28th, 2010, 08:48am »
New York Times
October 28, 2010 Urging Secrecy, British Spy Chief Goes Public By JOHN F. BURNS and ALAN COWELL
LONDON — At an appropriately hush-hush venue, before a not-so-hush-hush audience of newspaper editors and television cameras, the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service on Thursday delivered what he said was the first public address by a serving chief of the agency in its 101-year history.
But Sir John Sawers, whose organization is widely known as MI6, devoted much of his 30-minute address to the central role of secrecy in maintaining security and to what he called Britain’s abhorrence of torture to extract secret information.
“Secrecy is not a dirty word,” he said. “Secrecy is not there as a cover-up. Secrecy plays a crucial part in keeping Britain safe and secure.”
“If our operations and methods become public, they won’t work,” he said.
His appearance reinforced a trend among Britain’s spy bosses to shed the traditional cloak of their trade. Sir John’s appearance followed a first public speech by Iain Lobban, the director of Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency, and several appearances by Jonathan Evans, the director general of MI5, which is responsible for domestic security in contrast to MI6’s focus on overseas operations.
“Why now, might you ask?” Sir John said of his decision to go public. The answer, he said, was that despite its prominence in the news, the debate about MI6 was not well-informed and “in today’s open society, no government institution is given the benefit of the doubt all the time.”
Sir John took over the agency after the retirement of his predecessor, Sir John Scarlett, in November, 2009. Previously he had been a high-profile diplomat, serving as Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations and in other posts.
“This is someone who loves the limelight,” said Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent. The history of MI6 has not always been so public.
The organization traces its roots to a decision by defense planners in 1909 to create a Secret Service Bureau. The body evolved through two world wars and the Cold War, feeding the plot lines and character lists of spy thrillers from James Bond to George Smiley. But for decades, the identity of its chief — known only as C, according to the agency’s Web site — was the biggest secret of all.
No other members of its staff are supposed to be identified in public and Sir John’s movements are not widely publicized. Britain’s Press Association news agency said before he spoke that his host, the Society of Editors, had requested that the venue for his speech not be made public in advance.
Even before his appointment, Sir John, 55, seemed to offer something a break with tradition, shown in Facebook photographs having fun in a park, wearing a red fleece and a Santa Claus hat and playing Frisbee on a beach.
The photographs were posted by Sir John’s wife, Shelley, who had chronicled the activities of her family and friends on the Facebook page. Its existence was disclosed by the tabloid Mail on Sunday.
In addressing the issue of torture, Sir John said Britain sought to avoid actions that could lead to torture, even though that might help terrorists maintain their ability to carry out attacks. The issue is hotly debated in Britain and has been the focus of much public questioning about whether the British secret services used information from spy agencies in other countries that was obtained under duress, or contributed indirectly to torture by supplying questions to be asked of captives in other countries.
Sir John called torture “illegal and abhorrent under any circumstances.” He spoke at some length on what he cast as a conflict between moral considerations and perceived operational need, depicting spy agencies as caught between the need for information and the manner of its acquisition.
“These are not abstract questions just for philosophy courses or searching editorials, they are real, constant operational dilemmas,” he said. “Sometimes there is no clear way forward. The more finely-balanced judgments have to be made by ministers themselves.”
“If we know or believe action by us will lead to torture taking place, we’re required by U.K. and international law to avoid that action,” Sir John said. “And we do, even though that allows the terrorist activity to go ahead.”
“Some may question this, but we are clear that it’s the right thing to do. It makes us strive all the harder to find different ways, consistent with human rights, to get the outcome that we want.”
Sir John said one third of his agency’s resources were devoted to combating international terrorism and called MI6’s work “the secret frontline of our national security.”
“Few know about the terrorist attacks that we help stop,” he said.
He singled out agents recruited by MI6 to spy on Britain’s behalf for praise, calling them “true heroes.”
While he has not spoken publicly until Thursday about the work of MI6, he made two public appearances to give evidence at an official inquiry into the Iraq war, both about earlier assignments as a foreign policy adviser to former Prime Minister Tony Blair and as the British representative in Baghdad.
John F. Burns reported from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1684 on: Oct 28th, 2010, 08:51am »
New York Times
October 28, 2010 China Wrests Supercomputer Title From U.S. By ASHLEE VANCE
A Chinese scientific research center has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, replacing the United States as maker of the swiftest machine, and giving China bragging rights as a technology superpower.
The computer, known as Tianhe-1A, has 1.4 times the horsepower of the current top computer, which is at a national laboratory in Tennessee, as measured by the standard test used to gauge how well the systems handle mathematical calculations, said Jack Dongarra, a University of Tennessee computer scientist who maintains the official supercomputer rankings.
Although the official list of the top 500 fastest machines, which comes out every six months, is not due to be completed by Mr. Dongarra until next week, he said the Chinese computer “blows away the existing No. 1 machine.” He added, “We don’t close the books until Nov. 1, but I would say it is unlikely we will see a system that is faster.”
Officials from the Chinese research center, the National University of Defense Technology, are expected to reveal the computer’s performance on Thursday at a conference in Beijing. The center says it is “under the dual supervision of the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Education.”
The race to build the fastest supercomputer has become a source of national pride as these machines are valued for their ability to solve problems critical to national interests in areas like defense, energy, finance and science. Supercomputing technology also finds its way into mainstream business; oil and gas companies use it to find reservoirs and Wall Street traders use it for superquick automated trades. Procter & Gamble even uses supercomputers to make sure that Pringles go into cans without breaking.
And typically, research centers with large supercomputers are magnets for top scientific talent, adding significance to the presence of the machines well beyond just cranking through calculations.
Over the last decade, the Chinese have steadily inched up in the rankings of supercomputers. Tianhe-1A stands as the culmination of billions of dollars in investment and scientific development, as China has gone from a computing afterthought to a world technology superpower.
“What is scary about this is that the U.S. dominance in high-performance computing is at risk,” said Wu-chun Feng, a supercomputing expert and professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. “One could argue that this hits the foundation of our economic future.”
Modern supercomputers are built by combining thousands of small computer servers and using software to turn them into a single entity. In that sense, any organization with enough money and expertise can buy what amount to off-the-shelf components and create a fast machine.
The Chinese system follows that model by linking thousands upon thousands of chips made by the American companies Intel and Nvidia. But the secret sauce behind the system — and the technological achievement — is the interconnect, or networking technology, developed by Chinese researchers that shuttles data back and forth across the smaller computers at breakneck rates, Mr. Dongarra said.
“That technology was built by them,” Mr. Dongarra said. “They are taking supercomputing very seriously and making a deep commitment.”
The Chinese interconnect can handle data at about twice the speed of a common interconnect called InfiniBand used in many supercomputers.
For decades, the United States has developed most of the underlying technology that goes into the massive supercomputers and has built the largest, fastest machines at research laboratories and universities. Some of the top systems simulate the effects of nuclear weapons, while others predict the weather and aid in energy research.
In 2002, the United States lost its crown as supercomputing kingpin for the first time in stunning fashion when Japan unveiled a machine with more horsepower than the top 20 American computers combined. The United States government responded in kind, forming groups to plot a comeback and pouring money into supercomputing projects. The United States regained its leadership status in 2004, and has kept it, until now.
At the computing conference on Thursday in China, the researchers will discuss how they are using the new system for scientific research in fields like astrophysics and bio-molecular modeling. Tianhe-1A, which is housed in a building at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, can perform mathematical operations about 29 million times faster than one of the earliest supercomputers, built in 1976.
For the record, it performs 2.5 times 10 to the 15th power mathematical operations per second.
Mr. Dongarra said a long-running Chinese project to build chips to rival those from Intel and others remained under way and looked promising. “It’s not quite there yet, but it will be in a year or two,” he said.
He also said that in November, when the list comes out, he expected a second Chinese computer to be in the top five, culminating years of investment.
“The Japanese came out of nowhere and really caught people off guard,” Mr. Feng said. “With China, you could see this one coming.”
Steven J. Wallach, a well-known computer designer, played down the importance of taking the top spot on the supercomputer rankings.
“It’s interesting, but it’s like getting to the four-minute mile,” Mr. Wallach said. “The world didn’t stop. This is just a snapshot in time.”
The research labs often spend weeks tuning their systems to perform well on the standard horsepower test. But just because a system can hammer through trillions of calculations per second does not mean it will do well on the specialized jobs that researchers want to use it for, Mr. Wallach added.
The United States has plans in place to make much faster machines out of proprietary components and to advance the software used by these systems so that they are easy for researchers to use. But those computers remain years away, and for now, China is king.
“They want to show they are No. 1 in the world, no matter what it is,” Mr. Wallach said. “I don’t blame them.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1685 on: Oct 28th, 2010, 08:58am »
Wired Danger Room
Despite Scare Talk, Attacks on Pentagon Networks Drop By Noah Shachtman October 28, 2010 | 7:00 am | Categories: Info War
Listen to the generals speak, and you’d think the Pentagon’s networks were about to be overrun with worms and Trojans. But a draft federal report indicates that the number of “incidents of malicious cyber activity” in the Defense Department has actually decreased in 2010. It’s the first such decline since the turn of the millennium.
In the first six months of 2010, there were about 30,000 such incidents, according to statistics compiled by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Last year, there were more than 71,000. “If the rate of malicious activity from the first half of this year continues through the end of the year,” the commission notes in a draft report on China and the internet, “2010 could be the first year in a decade in which the quantity of logged events declines.”
The figures are in stark contrast to the sky-is-falling talk coming out of the Beltway.
“Over the past ten years, the frequency and sophistication of intrusions into U.S.military networks have increased exponentially,” Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn wrote in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs.
In his April Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, U.S. Cyber Command and National Security Agency chief Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander said he was “alarmed by the increase, especially this year” in the number of attempts to scan military networks for potential vulnerabilities. His NSA predecessor, retired Adm. Mike McConnell, took things three steps further, writing: “the United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing.”
The report cautioned that the drop in “malicious activity … may or may not represent a decrease in the volume of attempts to penetrate defense and military networks.” Instead, the Pentagon seems to be doing a little better job in securing its networks, ever since a relatively-unsophisticated worm made its way onto hundreds of thousands of military computers in late 2008.
During “Operation Buckshot Yankee,” the subsequent clean-up effort, military leaders found that they were unable to gather even the most basic information about how their computers were configured — and what programs might be living in their networks.
In response, implementation of a new, Host-Based Security System was accelerated, for better threat detection. Information security training and patch updates are mandatory. And there’s now a Cyber Command responsible for coordinating threat monitoring, network defense and information attack. Leaders now have “greater visibility of threat activity, vulnerability, and ultimately risk” into network threats, the report says. “Greater resources, enhanced perimeter defenses, and the establishment of U.S. Cyber Command” have all helped, as well.
Does that mean the Pentagon is suddenly safe from hack attacks? Of course not. Could some adversaries be on the process of trading malware quantity for malware quality? Of course they could. But, at least in this most basic of measures, there are indications that the threat to Defense Department networks may not be quite as overwhelming and unstoppable as some in the military brass have lead us to believe.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1686 on: Oct 28th, 2010, 09:04am »
Northrop Arms Its Robot Pack Mule With Big Gun By Spencer Ackerman October 27, 2010 | 5:10 pm | Categories: Army and Marines
Jon Anderson has seen a lot of gawkers pause at his Northrop Grumman booth in the Association of the U.S. Army’s Washington conference. Not that he’s odd-looking or off-putting: He’s a gregarious guy. The stares he’s getting are about the .50-caliber M2 machine gun he’s got mounted on a treaded robot — something Northrop isn’t even selling right now.
“Quite frankly,” explains Anderson, a Northrop advanced-systems employee with short white hair and a whiter smile, “a weapon on a robot brings people into the booth.”
That it does. For the past few years, Northrop has produced a treaded, 60-inch robot vehicle to help troops haul their gear called the Carry-all Mechanized Equipment Landrover, or CaMEL. It’s like a more traditional version of the BigDog robot — a simple flat, motorized platform that putters along at up to 7 miles per hour while taking on up to 1,200 pounds of stuff. Northrop has sold more than 60 of them to the Israeli military; and recently, the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning expressed interest in the CaMEL as a hauler.
Only the version of the CaMEL Anderson brought to the conference doesn’t have any room to load on any gear. There’s a machine gun where the boxes and the body armor should be, with wires stretching from the gun down into the guts of the robot.
With a grin, Anderson calls it a “new application,” comparing his modification to the first time someone thought to arm a drone with a Hellfire missile. “We’re gonna come around the side here,” he says, “and scare people half to death.”
That’s because Anderson has a touchscreen control, mounted in a nearby mockup Humvee, that jerks the gun around, lifting the nozzle skyward, dropping it back down and pitching it 90 degrees around. Passers-by pause their conversations at the sound of the whir of the gears that send the business end of the gun in their direction. Eyes get a little wider. Walking gets a little faster. In case it needs to be said, the gun isn’t armed.
But the firing of the gun is all done remotely — through the same touchscreen controls that Anderson would normally use to send the CaMEL marching along. This version is actually stationary, even though Anderson expresses pride in its hybrid engine. (“It works just like a Toyota Prius,” he says.)
It’s just a suggestion for the Army, Anderson says. Fort Benning is interested in a cargo-carrying robot, not a weaponized model: “The Army has not bought this.” That’s an understatement. The Army sent an armed robot called SWORDS to Iraq in 2007 — with great fanfare. But the Army wasn’t comfortable sending the machine-gun equipped ‘bot out on combat missions for fear of it malfunctioning. There are no plans for replacements.
All Anderson is doing, he says, is nudging the Army, suggesting that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to have a rolling armed robot, and rattles off all the guns it can support: the M240, the M249, the MK19 grenade launcher, a 25mm or 30mm cannon. What could go wrong?
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1687 on: Oct 28th, 2010, 09:06am »
- The Federal Trade Commission has ended its investigation into allegations that Google collected private data through its Street View Cars, Wired reports. Officials said in a statement: "Google has recently announced improvements to its internal processes to address some of the concerns raised above, including appointing a director of privacy for engineering and product management, adding core privacy training for key employees, and incorporating a formal privacy review process into the design phases of new initiatives." The web giant's CEO, Eric Schmidt, recently told The Hollywood Reporter that anyone can now be taken off Google Street View. Other countries, including Italy, are still investigation privacy breaches.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1688 on: Oct 28th, 2010, 09:10am »
Gunmen kill 15 at carwash, in latest Mexico massacre The attack took place in the Nayarit state capital, Tepic. State authorities said 13 of the victims, all men, worked at the carwash and that most were clients of a drug rehab center.
By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times October 28, 2010 Reporting from Mexico City
In Mexico's third mass shooting in less than a week, gunmen opened fire Wednesday at a carwash in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit, killing at least 15 people.
The midmorning attack took place in the state capital, Tepic, rocked this year by bouts of drug-related violence.
Nayarit authorities said 13 of the victims, all men, worked at the carwash and that most were clients of the same drug treatment center, Alcance Victoria (Victory Outreach). As for the remaining two killed, one was found dead at a nearby fruit stand and the other was shot while arriving at the carwash on a motorcycle.
The Sol de Nayarit newspaper said on its website that three victims wore matching T-shirts emblazoned with "Fe y Esperanza," or "Faith and Hope." The website showed bodies scattered in the area where cars are washed.
A witness told W Radio that men arrived in two SUVs, carrying rifles. When the gunmen got out of the vehicles, the witness said, shots erupted first from inside the carwash. The men with rifles then opened fire on the manager and workers, he said.
Officials did not specify a motive for the attack, though it bore signs of organized crime. Three people were wounded. It was unclear whether any customers were hurt.
The attack was the country's third massacre in recent days. On Sunday, gunmen fatally shot 13 men at a private drug treatment center in Tijuana. Two days earlier, attackers opened fire on a birthday party in Ciudad Juarez, killing 14.
President Felipe Calderon, appearing at a forum on public safety in the central state of Morelos, asked for a minute of silence for the victims of the three attacks.
"These are acts perpetrated by unscrupulous criminals who snatch life from innocent people, most of them young people with life ahead of them, young people struggling to build a future, to overcome addictions, to study," Calderon said.
In June, Nayarit's governor, Ney Gonzalez Sanchez, closed the state's schools three weeks early after shootouts left more than 30 people dead over several days. He said he was shortening the school calendar to prevent a public "psychosis."
Nayarit, with pretty beaches and a growing tourist industry, has seen fighting between traffickers explode this year, with at least 155 people killed, according to a tally by the daily newspaper Reforma. Last year, 22 were killed.
Some transplants from Nayarit have gained notoriety on the U.S. side of the border by creating a successful network for peddling black-tar heroin.
In Guerrero state Wednesday, three men and a woman were shot dead in a residential area of the resort city of Acapulco, where cartel fighting has left at least 18 people dead in recent days. The spate of violence appears to pit leaders of the Beltran Leyva group against a breakaway faction once led by Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as "La Barbie," who was arrested by police in August.
Cecilia Sanchez in The Times' Mexico City Bureau contributed to this report.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1689 on: Oct 28th, 2010, 09:13am »
October 28, 2010 | 7:01 am by Randy Lewis
Country superstar Garth Brooks will ride to the rescue of victims of the flooding that devastated middle Tennessee in May with a benefit concert on Dec. 17 at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.
Brooks made the announcement at the State Capitol Building in Nashville with Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, Congressman Jim Cooper and state Rep. Marsha Blackburn.
Proceeds will go to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for flood relief. Full details on ticket sales will be announced Nov. 3.
Brooks announced his retirement a decade ago to focus on raising his three daughters, but he's made occasional appearances for charity. And last December, he came out of retirement to play a series of small-theater concerts at Steve Wynn’s Encore theater in Las Vegas.
Early in 2008, Brooks staged a marathon run of five concerts over two days at Staples Center in Los Angeles to raise money for victims of wildfires that ravaged Southern California the previous fall and to aid the firefighters and fire departments who battled them. Those shows included a live broadcast on CBS one performance that allowed viewers to call in and donate money, toward a goal of raising $10 million.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1690 on: Oct 28th, 2010, 12:27pm »
description with video:
Exclusive 1st Look at the documentary interviewing over a dozen eyewitness accounts of unidentified flying objects over the small town of Honoka'a on the Big Island of Hawaii. DVD release date May 20th 2011 Massive UFO Sightings In Hawaii Exclusive Sneak Peak Investigation Documentary 1st look!
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1691 on: Oct 29th, 2010, 08:24am »
New York Times
October 29, 2010 North and South Korea Exchange Border Fire By MARK McDONALD
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean troops fired two machine-gun bursts at a South Korean guard post across their heavily militarized border on Friday night, and soldiers from the South returned fire with three rifle shots, a Defense Ministry official said in Seoul.
The official, Kiyheon Kwon, described the fire from the North as unprovoked, and said an investigation team from the United Nations Command was being sent to the scene. The exchange took place in Hwacheon, a mountainous area about 70 miles northeast of Seoul.
South Korean troops along the border were placed on the highest state of alert, Mr. Kwon said, adding that “nothing more happened” after the initial volleys. The North Korean fire came from a guard post 1.3 kilometers away, about 1,300 yards, he said.
Defense officials said they had no immediate explanation for the North Korean fire, which they said was the first such incident since August, 2007. They said the shots had come from a 14.5-millimeter machine gun, typically used against aircraft and light armor. The North Korean military is known to use the gun, which has an effective range of 2,000 yards, about two kilometers.
But it was not clear why the gun was fired.
North Korea was angered by Seoul’s recent refusal to engage in additional rounds of open-ended military talks, according to analysts in Seoul. Earlier Friday, the North’s official news agency, K.C.N.A., called the rejection of the talks “an act of treachery” that would have “a catastrophic impact.”
“There was this verbal attack by the North Koreans,” said Paik Hak-soon, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute near Seoul. “The North said South Korea would get a very serious lesson from this non-cooperation.”
“It’s too soon to know, and maybe it’s just accidental firing, but if this proves to be intentional firing, North Korea could be trying to send a signal that they are living up to their words.”
The incident came on the eve of a highly anticipated reunion of families separated by the Korean War. The six-day gathering of about 100 families from both the North and the South is due to begin Saturday at the North Korean resort of Diamond Mountain. There was no immediate indication Friday night that the reunions would be canceled or suspended, and the Unification Ministry in Seoul said late Friday night that the gathering would proceed as scheduled .
South Korea also is preparing to host a summit meeting of leaders from the Group of 20 economic powers on November 11-12 in Seoul. The group includes the United States, China, Russia and the European Union.
Tensions have been strained between the two Koreas since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which the South has blamed on a North Korean torpedo attack. The North has denied involvement in the sinking, which killed 46 sailors.
But in recent weeks the North has made diplomatic overtures that Mr. Paik characterized as “a peace offensive.”
“So intentional firing by North Korea, across the DMZ, it doesn’t make sense,” he said.
North Korea shuffled its senior leadership hierarchy last month, with the youngest son of the leader, Kim Jong-il, receiving significant political posts in the Workers’ Party. He also was promoted to four-star general, but there was no immediate indication that the son, Kin Jong-un, had any role in the incident Friday night.
“The most urgent thing for North Korea right now is their political stability,” said Mr. Paik. “They want a smooth power succession, a smooth transition. That’s their top priority, and anything that would have a negative impact on that would be avoided.”
Mark McDonald reported from Seoul, South Korea, and Kevin Drew from Hong Kong.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1692 on: Oct 29th, 2010, 08:31am »
Flamingos use 'make-up' to appeal to mates Wild flamingos use bright 'make-up' to appeal to potential mates, scientists have claimed.
By Nick Collins Published: 9:12AM BST 29 Oct 2010
Flamingos rub the reddish pigments, released in oil from a gland near the base of the tail, into their feathers to bring out their vibrant colour.
The result, according to researchers studying the birds in southern Spain, is that the birds appear healthier and are more likely to find a mate.
While arranging their feathers, scientists noticed that many flamingos scraped their cheeks across the gland before rubbing their face against their breast, back and neck in order to spread the colour
In an article in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, the experts explained that doing do made the birds appear more attractive to potential mates - not because of their eye-catching colour, but because other flamingos could tell they had made an effort with their appearance.
Dr Juan Amat, from the Donana Biological Station in Spain, told BBC News: "The rubbing is time-consuming. And the more frequently the birds practise it, the more coloured they appear.
"If the birds stop the rubbing, [their] plumage colour fades in a few days because carotenoids [the pigments] bleach quickly in the sunlight."
Rubbing the pigment into the feathers takes a lot of time and effort, so colourful feathers are a sign to the opposite sex that a flamingo is healthy and well-fed, because it can afford to spend time on how it looks.
The behaviour is more common in female flamingos than in males, the researchers said.
Dr Amat added that the brightest coloured birds started breeding first, meaning they took the best breeding sites, giving them a reproductive advantage over their paler rivals.
Flamingos in better habitats were also found to apply the cosmetic pigment more often.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1693 on: Oct 29th, 2010, 08:36am »
Google 'revealed location of centre for vulnerable women' Google failed to consider the safety of vulnerable women when it revealed the location of a secret refuge centre for at-risk women, an MP has claimed.
By Nick Collins Published: 12:10PM BST 29 Oct 2010
He accused the search engine of a "staggering" invasion of privacy of the organisation, which houses women and children who have fled abusive homes and therefore depend on the building's "anonymity".
Mark Lancaster, a Conservative MP, claimed Google had not only compromised the security of the building by publicising its full address alongside a picture of the exterior, but had also refused to respond to requests to remove the information.
His comments came in a House of Commons debate on internet privacy initiated by Robert Halfon, a fellow Tory MP, in which Google was also attacked for its Street View service, which catalogues photographs of millions of homes across the country.
Mr Lancaster said "[The refuge's] anonymity is crucial to the organisation" and to the wellbeing of the women and children housed inside.
He added: "Only once women have called the emergency number and a pickup point has been agreed do they find out where the hostel is.
"Imagine their great concern when, on entering the name of the organisation in Google, they see a picture of the building the refuge uses and its address appears on the search engine".
Mr Lancaster added that the refuge had requested that Google remove the information, but received no response.
He said: "It is staggering that the privacy of an organisation whose purpose it is to protect others is allowed be invaded in that way."
Google's motives for introducing its Street View service were also questioned in light of reports earlier this year that residents' email addresses and passwords were collected from unsecured wireless networks by passing Google vehicles as they captured pictures of streets across the country.
Mr Halfon said: "I find it hard to believe that a company with the creative genius and originality of Google could map the personal Wi-Fi details, computer passwords and email addresses of millions of people across the world and not know what it was doing.
"My feeling is that the data were of use to Google for commercial purposes and that that is why it was done."
Despite an inquiry by the Information Commissioner finding Google not guilty of any wrongdoing, Mr Halfon said the watchdog had done so because it had limited powers.
Ed Vaizey, the Communications Minister, is to consider forming a mediation panel with Google and other internet service providers, the Daily Mail reported.
A Google spokesperson said: "The company has contacted Mr Lancaster this morning to urgently try to find out the details of the case he raised.
"Anyone can request an image for removal from Street View using our simple 'report a problem'. When they do we remove the image quickly. We have removed sensitive locations in the past and are happy to do so."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #1694 on: Oct 29th, 2010, 08:45am »
World’s Most Precise Clocks Could Reveal Universe Is a Hologram By Dave Mosher October 28, 2010 | 7:11 pm | Categories: Physics
Our existence could be coded in a finite bandwidth, like a live ultra-high-definition 3-D video. And the third dimension we know and love could be no more than a holographic projection of a 2-D surface.
A scientist’s experiment, now under construction in Illinois, will attempt to test these ideas by the end of next year using what will be two of the world’s most precise clocks.
Skeptics of a positive result abound, but their caution comes with good reason: The smallest pieces of space, time, mass and other properties of the universe, called Planck units, are so tiny that verifying them by experiment may be impossible. The Planck unit of length, for example, is 10 trillion trillion times smaller than the width of a proton.
Craig Hogan, a particle astrophysicist at Fermilab in Illinois, isn’t letting this seemingly insurmountable barrier stop him from trying.
Hogan is following through on a radical idea to confirm Planck units with two of the most precise clocks in the world. Deemed holometers, each L-shaped laser interferometer will have two perpendicular, 131-foot-long arms to scan for pixelation in the very fabric of space and time. If it’s there, two laser beams (split from a single source) that run through the arms won’t hit a detector at the same time.
“What we’re looking for is when the lasers lose step with each other. We’re trying to detect the smallest unit in the universe,” Hogan said. “This is really great fun, a sort of old-fashioned physics experiment where you don’t know what the result will be.”
The two holometers, now being built in an earth-covered tunnel on Fermilab’s prairie-covered campus, will initially be stacked almost on top of one another to listen for the same Planck-scale “noise.” Once the machine is calibrated and environmental interference is accounted for, Hogan says it should only take a matter of minutes to see if the devices simultaneously see it.
Should Hogan’s team detect something significant, they will then separate the machines and run the experiment all over again. If the noise they measure next isn’t correlated between the machines, it could be the calling card of a limit to space-time’s resolution.
Inspiration for the holometer came from such a noise picked up by an experiment called GEO600. Designed to detect gravity waves — ripples in space-time caused by things like colliding black holes — the machine is a laser interferometer like the holometer will be, yet has arms 15 times longer and a lower-frequency laser source (to be sensitive to gravity waves, if they exist).
Experimental physicist Hartmut Grote, of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, said he and his colleagues at GEO600 have been unable to pinpoint the source.
“In the past, [Hogan] became a little bit driven, even excited for some time, that this noise could be a result of the holographic principle,” Grote said.
The holographic principle, derived from weirdness theorized to occur at the boundaries of black holes, says reality could be a 3-D projection of a 2-D plane of information. It’s much the same way a hologram printed on a credit card creates the illusion of a 3-D object but, as Hogan explained, we can’t perceive the 2-D surface.
“We could be living inside that 3-D projection, with the truer vision of it as a 2-D sheet hidden by scale,” Hogan said.
Ultra-precise devices such as laser interferometers might be able to detect noisy fluctuations in the projection, which Grote says might “blow up” the pixelation to a larger, detectable size. Yet Grote suggests Hogan’s holometers, which are slated to be finished in a year, may be too late if progress with GEO600 continues on-schedule.
“We are not at the point where we can verify the noise we discovered is holographic, but we can falsify it as soon as our instrument is more sensitive than the limits of Hogan’s theory,” Grote said. “I’m confident we will reach that point over the next half of a year and find the source of the noise.”
Hogan maintains his cheeriness for the endeavor, even if much of the physics community remains skeptical. But Grote says Hogan has good reason to be upbeat.
“I think it’s a reasonable design to measure this effect, even though I think it’s unlikely he’s going to measure something,” Grote said. “If anything happens, he’ll put to rest another exotic theory about the universe.”
If he does find a limit to the universe’s resolution by exploiting the cosmos’ possible holographic underpinnings, however, Grote said it will make waves.
“It would be a very strong impact to one of the most open questions in fundamental physics,” he said. “It would be the first proof that space-time, the fabric of the universe, is quantized.”