Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2415 on: Dec 31st, 2010, 07:36am »
What Makes a Face Look Alive? Study Says It's in the Eyes
ScienceDaily (Dec. 31, 2010) —
The face of a doll is clearly not human; the face of a human clearly is. Telling the difference allows us to pay attention to faces that belong to living things, which are capable of interacting with us. But where is the line at which a face appears to be alive?
Not quite alive looking? A face has to be quite similar to a human face in order to appear alive, and the cues are mainly in the eyes.
A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that a face has to be quite similar to a human face in order to appear alive, and that the cues are mainly in the eyes.
Several movies have tried and failed to generate lifelike animations of humans. For example, the lifeless faces in Polar Express made people uncomfortable because they tried to emulate life but didn’t get it quite right.
“There’s something fundamentally important about seeing a face and knowing that the lights are on and someone is home,” says Thalia Wheatley of Dartmouth College, who cowrote the study with graduate student Christine Looser. Humans can see faces in anything—the moon, a piece of toast, two dots and a line for a nose—but we are much more discriminating when it comes to deciding what is alive and what is not.
Wheatley and Looser set out to pin down the point at which a face starts to look alive. Looser drove around New Hampshire visiting toy stores and taking pictures of dolls’ faces. “It was fun trying to explain what we were doing to shopkeepers. I got some strange looks” says Looser, who then paired each doll face with a similar-looking human face and used morphing software to blend the two. This made a whole continuum of intermediate pictures that were part human, part doll.
Volunteers looked at each picture and decided which were human and which were dolls. Looser and Wheatley found that the tipping point, where people determined the faces to be alive, was about two-thirds of the way along the continuum, closer to the human side than to the doll side. Another experiment found that the eyes were the most important feature for determining life.
The results suggest that people scrutinize faces, particularly the eyes, for evidence that a face is alive. Objects with faces may look human, but telling the difference lets us reserve our social energies for faces that are capable of thinking, feeling, and interacting with us.
“I think we all seek connections with others,” Wheatley says. When we recognize life in a face, she says, we think, “This is a mind I can connect with.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2416 on: Dec 31st, 2010, 11:07am »
There are a lot of good people out there.
"Operation R & R
Operation R&R is a non-profit organization designed to provide our service men and women an opportunity to reconnect with their spouses and children upon their return from Iraq or Afghanistan.
Property owners, represented by many property management companies, are donating their homes and villas on Hilton Head Island, SC for this purpose.
All of this is to ensure that our military families have a chance to spend some time away from their everyday lives to strengthen relationships that have been strained due to long separations and extreme circumstances."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2422 on: Jan 1st, 2011, 07:52am »
New York Times
Car Bomb Kills 21 at Egyptian Church By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 8:50 a.m. EST on January 01, 2011
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (AP) — A powerful bomb, possibly from a suicide attacker, exploded in front of a Coptic Christian church as a crowd of worshippers emerged from a New Years Mass early Saturday, killing at least 21 people and wounding nearly 80 in an attack that raised suspicions of an al-Qaida role.
The attack came in the wake of repeated threats by al-Qaida militants in Iraq to attack Egypt's Christians. A direct al-Qaida hand in the bombing would be a dramatic development, as the government of President Hosni Mubarak has long denied that the terror network has a significant presence in the country. Al-Qaida in Iraq has already been waging a campaign of violence against Christians in that country.
The bombing enraged Christians, who often complain of discrimination at the hands of Egypt's Muslim majority and accuse the government of covering up attacks on their community. In heavy clashes Saturday afternoon, crowds of Christian youths in the streets outside the Saints Church and a neighboring hospital hurled stones at riot police, who opened fire with rubber bullets and tear gas.
Egypt has seen growing tensions between its Muslim majority and Christian minority — and the attack raised a dangerous new worry, that al-Qaida or militants sympathetic to it could be aiming to stoke sectarian anger or exploit it to gain a foothold.
Nearly 1,000 Christians were attending the New Year's Mass at the Saints Church in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, said Father Mena Adel, a priest at the church. The service had just ended, and some worshippers were leaving the building when the bomb went off about a half hour after midnight, he said.
"The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf," Marco Boutros, a 17-year-old survivor, said from his hospital bed. "All I could see were body parts scattered all over — legs and bits of flesh."
Blood splattered the facade of the church, as well as a mosque directly across the street. Bodies of many of the dead were collected from the street and kept inside the church overnight before they were taken away Saturday by ambulances for burial.
Some Christians carried white sheets with the sign of the cross emblazoned on them with what appeared to be the blood of the victims.
Health Ministry official Osama Abdel-Moneim said the death toll stood at 21, with 79 wounded. It was not immediately known if all the victims were Christians. It was the deadliest violence involving Christians in Egypt since at least 20 people, mostly Christians, were killed in sectarian clashes in a southern town in 1999.
Police initially said the blast came from an explosives-packed vehicle parked about four meters (yards) from the church.
But the Interior Ministry said later in a statement that there was no sign that the epicenter was a car. That "makes it likely that the explosives ... were carried on the person of a suicide attacker who died with the others," it said.
Around six severely damaged vehicles remained outside the church, but there was little sign of a crater that major car bombs usually cause. Bits of flesh were stuck to nearby walls.
Both car bombs and suicide attackers are hallmark tactics of al-Qaida, and they have rarely been used in Egypt. Most recent attacks on Christians or churches have been by less sophisticated means — mainly shootings.
The last major terror attacks in Egypt were between 2004-2006, when bombings — including some suicide attackers — hit three tourist resorts in the Sinai peninsula, killing 125 people. Those attacks raised allegations of an al-Qaida role, but the governments strongly denied a connection, blaming them on local extremists.
Hours after the blast, President Mubarak went on state TV and vowed to track down those behind the attack, saying "we will cut off the hands of terrorists and those plotting against Egypt's security."
Aiming to prevent sectarian divisions, he said it was attack against "all Egypt" and that "terrorism does not distinguish between Copt and Muslim."
But Christians at the church unleashed their fury at authorities they often accuse of failing to protect them. Soon after the explosion, angry Christians clashed with police, chanting, "With our blood and soul, we redeem the cross," witnesses said. Some broke in to the mosque across the street, throwing books into the street and sparking stone- and bottle-throwing clashes with Muslims, an AP photographer at the scene said.
Police fired tear gas to break up the clashes. But in the afternoon, new violence erupted in a street between the church and the affiliated Saints Hospital. Some of the young protesters waved kitchen knives. One, his chest bared and a large tattoo of a cross on his arm, was carried into the hospital with several injuries from rubber bullets.
"Now it's between Christians and the government, not between Muslims and Christians," shouted one Christian woman at the hospital.
In a reflection of the deepening mistrust between Egypt's communities, many in the crowd believed police would not fully investigate the bombing, reflecting Christians' suspicions that authorities often overlook attacks on their community.
Archbishop Arweis, the top Coptic cleric in Alexandria, said police want to blame a suicide bomber instead of a car bomb so they can write it off as a lone attacker. He denounced what he called a lack of protection.
"There were only three soldiers and an officer in front of the church. Why did they have so little security at such a sensitive time when there's so many threats coming from al-Qaida?" he said, speaking to the AP.
Christians, mainly Orthodox Copts, are believed to make up about 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population of nearly 80 million people, and they have grown increasingly vocal in complaints about discrimination. In November, hundreds of Christians rioted in the capital, Cairo, smashing cars and windows after police violently stopped the construction of a church. The rare outbreak of Christian unrest in the capital left one person dead.
Alexandria governor Adel Labib immediately blamed al-Qaida, pointing to recent threats by the terror group to attack Christians in Egypt.
He offered no evidence to support his claim, but a recent spate of attacks blamed on al-Qaida against Christians in Iraq have an unusual connection to Egypt.
Al-Qaida in Iraq says it is attacking Christians there in the name of two Egyptian Christian women who reportedly converted to Islam in order to get divorces, prohibited by the Orthodox Coptic Church.
The women have since been secluded by the church, prompting Islamic hard-liners to hold frequent protests in past months, accusing the Church of imprisoning the women and forcing them to renounce Islam.
Al-Qaida in Iraq says its attacks on Christians would continue until Egyptian Church officials release the two women. The Church denies holding the women against their will.
Egypt faced a wave of Islamic militant violence in the 1990s, that peaked with a 1997 massacre of nearly 60 tourists at a pharoanic temple in Luxor. But the government suppressed the insurgency with a fierce crackdown, and militant violence all but stopped until the bombings in the Sinai reports of Dahab, Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh in the mid-2000s.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2423 on: Jan 1st, 2011, 07:57am »
Russia in milestone oil pipeline supply to China
MOSCOW | Sat Jan 1, 2011 5:50am EST
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia, the world's top crude exporter, said it had begun scheduled oil shipments to China via an East Siberian link on Saturday as the Kremlin cements ties with its energy-hungry neighbor.
So far, Russia's 50,000-km oil pipeline network has been concentrated in West Siberia and run toward Europe.
With the commissioning of the Eastern Siberia - Pacific Ocean pipeline (ESPO), Moscow is carving out a large chunk of the world's second-largest energy consumers' market.
"The shipments started at 0030 (4:30 p.m. EST on Friday). We plan to pump 1.3 million tonnes of oil in January," Igor Dyomin, a spokesman for Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, told Reuters.
According to the final schedule for crude oil exports and transit, in January-March 2011, Russia will ship 3.68 million tonnes of oil to China via ESPO.
An annual plan envisages the supply of 15 million tonnes (300,000 barrels per day). Many oil market participants expected it would effectively double Russian sales to China, which totaled 12.8 million tonnes (308,000 bpd) in the first 10 months of 2010.
Transneft started to ship the barrels along the first stage of the pipeline, which runs in a 2,757-km arch above Lake Baikal. So far the oil had been transported only by rail to the Pacific port of Kozmino.
On Saturday, the crude flowed to Daqing in China from Russia's Skovorodino via the pipeline.
When the 4,070-km the pipeline's second stage is finished in 2013, it will be the world's longest. At a cost of $25 billion, it dwarfs all other infrastructure projects in post-Soviet Russia.
Russian state oil firm Rosneft has been sending oil to China by rail ever since it bought the biggest unit of defunct oil giant Yukos six years ago. The purchase was facilitated by a $6 billion loan from China, which effectively prepaid $17 per barrel for 48.4 million tonnes of oil.
That contract ran out this year, and Rosneft decided not to extend it, citing the low selling price.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Philippa Fletcher)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2424 on: Jan 1st, 2011, 08:06am »
The sun's journey through the year makes an infinity shape by Charlie Jane Anders 1 January 2011
Hungarian photographer Tamas Ladanyi photographed the sun's position at 9 AM GMT every ten days in 2010, and the result is this striking infinity symbol in the sky, known as an analemma. [APOD, thanks Roklimber!]
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2425 on: Jan 1st, 2011, 08:10am »
Flooding forces thousands to evacuate in Australia
Flooding has affected about half of Queensland state, where many rivers and creeks have burst their banks. The state has declared eight regions disaster areas, and more rain is expected.
By Jennifer Bennett, Los Angeles Times January 1, 2011 Reporting from Sydney, Australia
Thousands of people were being evacuated from towns in northeastern Australia amid rising floodwaters that by Friday had left half of massive Queensland state inundated and affected more than 200,000 people.
Mandatory evacuations of 4,000 residents were underway in Rockhampton on the state's east coast, the latest populated area to be hit by flooding. Officials feared that the entire city of 76,000 people might be cut off by Monday.
The local government was dropping food on isolated rural properties cut off by the rising Fitzroy River. Federal officials offered the use of a Chinook and four Black Hawk helicopters to assist with evacuations. Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter asked residents to leave before the situation worsened.
"We are strongly urging people to self-evacuate today and not to be complacent," he said. "This is a major flood event, and given the predicted levels, mandatory evacuations will be enforced."
Officials estimated that half of Queensland, which is more than 668,000 square miles, was affected by flooding. Rivers and creeks across the state have burst their banks.
Heavy rainfall caused extensive flooding in Queensland, as well as the states of New South Wales and Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, with more rain to come. The wet December is the result of a cyclone season and the return of La Nina weather patterns.
The floods end a period of extreme drought. But instead of bringing comfort to farmers, the waters have wiped out the first good crops many had seen in years.
"It is impossible not to feel for those Queensland families who have lost everything in these floods, particularly so close to Christmas," state Premier Anna Bligh said while visiting one of the worst-hit areas. "The resilience of these Queensland communities is certainly on display, but the worst is far from over and they need our help."
In Rockhampton, the river was expected to continue to rise through Tuesday, remain at high levels for at least a week and affect as much as 40% of the city. The Nogoa River, about 250 miles from Rockhampton, crested Thursday evening, sending a surge downstream that is expected to take about a week to reach Rockhampton.
Eight regions in Queensland have been declared disaster areas by the state government.
The Australian Red Cross has flown emergency response teams to Rockhampton and other affected towns in the state, including Dalby, where fresh drinking water was being trucked in. The relief organization began establishing shelters early in the week.
Hundreds of people have already sought shelter with the Red Cross, including all 100 people of the township of Condamine, who were airlifted out Thursday evening.
"A number of towns have been completely cut off so we're having to fly in by helicopter and charter plane staff and volunteers from around the state and around the country," said Greg Goebel, the Red Cross' executive director in Queensland.
The Queensland government put out warnings reminding residents of possible waterborne diseases because the floods have destroyed rural septic systems and killed large numbers of livestock. The state's mines also were under close surveillance, with concern that runoff water could be contaminated. The state was offering emergency financial assistance to those affected by the floods. The final cost is not likely to be known for weeks, but damage to the town of Bundaberg has been estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said those in affected areas would receive grants and Queensland would get federal funding to help rebuild damaged infrastructure, including schools, roads and bridges.