Tuesday, March 31, 2009
[Warning: This article may be disturbing to people who, like me, believe that mums are infallible]
Telegraph.co.uk reports: [edited]
Far from being harmful to eyesight, as many experts had feared, action games such as 'Counter-Strike', 'Call of Duty' and 'Left 4 Dead' provide excellent training for what eye doctors call 'contrast sensitivity'.
People who participated in a video-game training programme saw significant improvements in their ability to notice subtle differences in shades of gray, a finding that may help people who have trouble with night driving, the researchers said.
"Normally, improving contrast sensitivity means getting glasses or eye surgery - somehow changing the optics of the eye," said Daphne Bavelier of the University of Rochester in New York, whose study appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience. "But we've found that action video games train the brain to process the existing visual information more efficiently, and the improvements last for months after game play stopped."
"When people play action games, they're changing the brain's pathway responsible for visual processing. These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it" she said.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Tesla Motors reports: [edited]
With a range up to 300 miles and 45-minute QuickCharge, the $49,900* Model S can carry five adults and two children in quiet comfort - and you can charge it from any outlet, without ever stopping for gas.
The world’s first mass-produced electric vehicle offers performance, efficiency and unrivaled utility, making it the only car you’ll ever need.
- 300 mile range
- 45 minute QuickCharge
- 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds
- Seats 7 people
- More cargo space than station wagons [estates, Ed.]
- Twice as energy efficient as hybrids
- 17 inch touchscreen
*The anticipated base price of the Model S is $57,400. All Tesla vehicles qualify for the full $7,500 US federal tax credit on battery-powered cars. Teslas also qualify for state incentives, sales tax waivers and rebates.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Latest Microsoft Ad - continuing the mistake of referring to the competition, compounded by stating (however sarcastically) that the competition is 'cooler'.
- - - - -
For some background to the ad visit seattlepi.com
Friday, March 27, 2009
The Big Picture reports: [edited]
In December of 2006, Mexico's new President Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug cartels, reversing earlier government passiveness. Since then, the government has made some gains, but at a heavy price - gun battles, assasinations, kidnappings, fights between rival cartels, and reprisals have resulted in over 9,500 deaths since December 2006 - over 5,300 killed last year alone.
President Barack Obama recently announced extra agents were being deployed to the border and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to Mexico today to pursue a broad diplomatic agenda - overshadowed now by spiraling drug violence and fears of greater cross-border spillover.
Officials on both sides of the border are committed to stopping the violence, and stemming the flow of drugs heading north and guns and cash heading south.
(34 photos total)
Thursday, March 26, 2009
One of my favourite children's books is Maurice Sendak’s 'Where the Wild Things Are'. After a number of delays Spike Jonze is bringing it to the big screen.
The trailer is available here, with Arcade Fire's 'Wake Up' providing a wonderful bittersweet aural backdrop.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Register Hardware has reviewed Evoke's pricey (£170) DAB offering.
"Everything is laid out simply and labelled clearly, so there's no need to go near the manual to figure out which button does what. All the controls feel solid and precise."
"You can purchase the company’s ChargePAK internal rechargeable battery for true portability, as well as an iPod dock. We can't help feeling that, for the price, the Evoke-2S really should come with these in the box."
"The unit has a good-sized detachable aerial which helps to deliver a quick automatic search on start-up. There's a good level of coverage with full DAB Band III (174–240MHz) and FM reception (87.5–108MHz). The unit is capable of decoding all DAB and DAB+ transmission modes one to four, up to and including 192Kb/s. You can also trim the DAB station list or rearrange it into your preferred order."
"The alarm functions - wake, kitchen and machine sleep timer - are all easy to find and set. The radio provides a generous 50 DAB and 50 FM station presets, and is easy to tune."
"The Evoke-S2 also supports Intellitext, textSCAN, FM RDS and RadioText. Not huge amounts of Intellitext around as yet, but for now the football tables available on TALKSport work well."
"Pure's pitch for this radio centres on its sound quality. The Evoke-S2 has a digital end-to-end audio sub-system which uses an integrated switch-mode power supply, class D amplifiers and custom-tuned speakers together delivering 30W RMS output. The unit boasts two mid-range 7.5cm drive units and two 1.9cm dome tweeters which give the unit genuine range and clarity for its size."
"Pure says the unit can handle lots of bass and there's a bass adjustment mode that's easily accessible from the front panel, so we turned it right up. What is really nice here is that when the bass is turned up, you actually get more bass, not just a vague thumping sound and loss of clarity on the rest of the frequencies, as per so many bass-boosters."
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
physorg.com reports: [edited]
An atomic clock that uses an aluminum atom to apply the logic of computers to the peculiarities of the quantum world now rivals the world's most accurate clock, based on a single mercury atom. Both clocks are at least 10 times more accurate than the current U.S. time standard.
The measurements were made in a yearlong comparison of the two next-generation clocks, both designed and built at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The clocks were compared with record precision, allowing scientists to measure the relative frequencies of the two clocks to 17 digits — the most accurate measurement of this type ever made.
The comparison produced the most precise results yet in the worldwide quest to determine whether some of the fundamental constants that describe the universe are changing slightly over time, a hot research question that may alter basic models of the cosmos.
The aluminum and mercury clocks are both based on natural vibrations in ions and would neither gain nor lose one second in over 1 billion years — compared to about 80 million years for NIST-F1, the U.S. time standard based on neutral cesium atoms.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The Guardian reports: [edited]
As you might expect, Mark Wallinger's horse is a metropolitan phenomenon - a bigger story in London newsrooms than it is at the site for the horse itself in north Kent. There, people continue to go about their business as though a white stallion as high as Nelson's column, plonked in a field beside the A2 and the high speed line to Europe, was something they would believe when they saw it. This week's Gravesend Reporter put the story on page 10.
According to Sandra Soder, the secretary of the Gravesend Historical Society, Wallinger's horse has aroused diverse local opinion, with the loudest voice coming from those most opposed, but the general feeling is that the promoters had deemed the people of north Kent 'too culturally inept' to have a deciding view on the form Britain's biggest work of art should take.
In the words of one Northfleet man, nobody had asked whether or not "they wanted to wake up every morning looking into a giant horse's arse".
Sunday, March 22, 2009
London to Lincoln
Afternoon Delight - Starland Vocal Band
I Can't Help Myself - Orange Juice
Beautiful Girl - Pete Droge
Pirouette - Stickboy
What Do I Get - Buzzcocks
Strange Town - The Jam
The Riddle - Gigi D'Agostino
What Is Love - Haddaway
Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell
Earth Angel - Penguins
Embarrassment - Madness
Spanish Stroll - Mink DeVille
My Give A Damn's Busted - Jo Dee Messina
Star Wars Theme (Cantina Band) - Meco
Dy Na Mi Tee - Ms Dynamite
The Art Of Losing - American Hi-Fi
Blue Moon - The Mighty Echoes
Can You Dig It - The Mock Turtles
Motorcycle Emptiness - Manic Street Preachers
Give Him A Great Big Kiss - Shangri-Las
Happy - Ned's Atomic Dustbin
Supermassive Black Hole - Muse
Potential Breakup Song - Aly & A.J.
Too Much Wheelin' And Dealin' - Mel & Tim
Whole again - Atomic Kitten
Jake Summers - Fight Like Apes
Alphabet Street - Prince
Bones - The Killers
Rapture (Riva Remix) - iiO
You're The Best - Joe 'Bean' Esposito
Bright Idea - Orson
Pilot of the Airways - Charlie Dore
Sultans Of Swing - Dire Straits
Who's Zoomin' Who - Aretha Franklin
Bad Reputation - Joan Jett
Spiralling (Radio Edit) - Keane
Saturn 5 - Inspiral Carpets
In for the Kill - La Roux
It's My Life - Gwen Stefani/No Doubt
I Write Sins Not Tragedies - Panic! At The Disco
Foundations - Kate Nash
There Goes My First Love - Drifters
Kill the Director - The Wombats
Lincoln to London
You Won't Be Able to Be Sad - The Break and Repair Method
Get Down Moses - Joe Strummer And The Mescaleros
Another Drive-in Saturday - Wreckless Eric And Amy Rigby
Glory Train - James Taylor
Honor Amongst Thieves - These United States
Ride My See Saw - Various Artists
Conspiracy of Praise - Thomas Function
Living In Another World (Single Version) - Talk Talk
They Don't Like Me - Lyle Lovett
Middle of Winter - John Otway
Idiot Country - Electronic
We Be Clubbin' - Ice Cube feat. DMX
Am I Not Pretty Enough? - Kasey Chambers
Pick Up The Pieces - Average White Band
In the midnight hour - Wilson Pickett
My Cup - Bob Marley And The Wailers
I Hear You Knocking - Dave Edmunds
Among the Survivors - The Latebirds
Ballad Of Barbara - Johnny Cash
Time You Have Been Wasting - The Salteens
Are You Out There (live) - Dar Williams
Long Line Of Cars - Cake
Tell Yourself - Natalie Merchant
Never Going Back Again - Fleetwood Mac
No Woman No Cry - Bob Marley
Telephone - Shelby Lynne
Each Star We See - Kathryn Williams
Lost In Music - Sister Sledge
Crown Of Love - Arcade Fire
I'm gone - Lloyd Cole
New Year's Day (live) - U2
Thorn In My Side - Eurythmics
Through Unto the End - Trainwreck Riders
From a Balance Beam - Bright Eyes
Ordinary Man - Christy Moore
Vegas Nights - Meliss Fx
Clever Trevor - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
Mannequin - The Witnesses
The Air That I Breathe - The Hollies
Saturday, March 21, 2009
London to Lincoln
Potential Breakup Song - Aly & AJ
Little Bird - The White Stripes
When Will You Come Back Home - Ryan Adams & The Cardinals
Liverpool Lullaby - Cilla Black
Beauty And The Mess - Nickel Creek
Stairway To Heaven - Dolly Parton
Nutrocker - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Bridge and Tunnel - The Honorary Title
I Don't Want A Lover - Texas
Crying Ground - Pierce Pettis
Repetition - The Willowz
Joanna - Scott Walker
The Hard Disk Approach - Len
Kindness (At the End) - Renaissance
Last Smile For Jaron - Tera Melos
You Won't Sass Me When I Can Summon Wolves - Howard Kremer
Goodbye Yesterday - Phil & John
And When She Was Bad - Cinerama
The Last Unicorn (Original) - Jimmy Webb
This Changes Everything - De los Muertos
Big Moon Shinin' - Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez
Flower - Eels
Isobel - Jake Thackray
Marie Floating Over The Backyard - Eels
Calling This Life - The Webb Sisters
Greystone Chapel (live at Folsom Prison) - Johnny Cash
Lord, I Have Made You A Place In My Heart - Cry Cry Cry (Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky, Richard Shindell
It Could Be Sweet - Portishead
Burn - The Tiny
Blue Velvet - Bobby Vinton (Bobby Vee)
Certain People I Could Name - They Might Be Giants (TMBG)
Let The Train Blow The Whistle - Johnny Cash
I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy - Rogers & Hammerstein
My Angel Rocks Back And Forth - Four Tet
Change Your Ways - Willie Kendrick
Call Me On Your Way Back Home - Ryan Adams
Its A Shame - Detroit Spinners
Tell Mamma - Etta James
Tumbling Ground - Kevin Prosch & The Black Peppercorns
Lincoln to London
Zero - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Something Good Can Work - Two Door Cinema Club
Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me - The Pipettes
Couldn't Get It Right - Climax Blues Band
Ramp! (The Logical Song) - Scooter
Cheryl (come and take a ride) - Waltham
99 Ways to Die - Megadeth
Better Off As Two - Frankmusik
Bad Things (Club Mix) - Jace Everett
House Arrest - KRUSH
You Really Got Me - The Kinks
Sushi - Kyle Andrews
Too Fake - Hockey
Candy Girl - New Edition
Then He Kissed Me - The Crystals
Sometime Around Midnight - The Airborne Toxic Event
Dancing On A Saturday Night - Barry Blue
How It All Went Wrong - Les Incompetents
Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
An Honest M.I.A. - The Bravery vs. M.I.A.
I Won't Change You - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Red Dragon Tattoo - Fountains Of Wayne
Happy Jack - The Who
Stayin' Alive - N-Trance
I heard a rumour - Bananarama
Brainless - Sunny Day Sets Fire
Tthhee Ppaarrttyy - Justice
Ca Plane Pour Moi - Leila K
Knock On Wood - Amii Stewart
Kiss Me Deadly - Lita Ford
Ghost Town - Shiny Toy Guns
Everybody's Gone To War - Nerina Pallot
Run Away - (MC Sar &) The Real McCoy
My Girls - Animal Collective
Jungle Drum - Emiliana Torrini
Everytime We Touch - Cascada
Love Generation Ft. Gary 'Nesta' Pine - Bob Sinclar
Everybody Dance (Clap Your Hands) - Chic
Electric - Melody Club
One Way or Another - Blondie
Friday, March 20, 2009
New Scientist reports: [edited]
A new material that is weight for weight stronger than steel and stiffer than diamond, and weighs little more than its volume in air, could be the perfect artificial muscle for robots.
"We've made a totally new type of artificial muscle that is able to provide performance characteristics that have not previously been obtained," says Ray Baughman, a materials scientist at the University of Texas, Dallas, and co-developer of the new muscle.
Baughman and colleagues have developed a technique to make ribbons of tangled nanotubes that expand in width by 220% when a voltage is applied and then return to their normal size once it is removed. The process takes only milliseconds.
Collections of those ribbons could act as artificial muscle fibres – for example, to move the limbs of a walking robot, says Baughman. And the material has other impressive properties.
It is extremely stiff and strong in the 'long' direction – that in which the nanotubes are aligned – but is as stretchy as rubber across its width. It also maintains its properties over an extreme range of temperatures: from -196°C, at which temperature nitrogen is liquid, to 1538°C, above the melting point of iron.
This means any robot equipped with the nanotube muscles could potentially keep working in some very extreme environments.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Watchmen is one of my favourite graphic novels. However I had mixed feelings when I heard that it was being 'movie-fied'
With its dense, complex plotline (so much so that, unusually for a graphic novel, it has a number of pages of explanatory type) I was concerned that it might be 'butchered' on its transfer to cinema.
Zack Snyder's last major project was '300', a film version of Frank Miller's graphic novel loosely based on the Battle of Thermopylae. Snyder's approach was to use the book as a 'storyboard', using digital techniques to make the imagery look as if it had been lifted from the pages of a comic. And it worked extremely well.
However '300' was (even by graphic novel standards) a brief story with a simple, linear plotline. There was no need to read the book before watching the film to understand what it was about.
In taking on Watchmen, Snyder had at least two audiences: those familiar with the book and those who had never heard of it. To please the former he had to do justice to the characters and story. To satisfy the latter, he had to produce an entertaining, self-explanatory piece of cinema.
To his credit, I think Mr Snyder has made a creditable attempt at fulfilling an impossible brief. The film's storyline is (with just a few of exceptions) faithful to the book, and the dystopian atmosphere is successfully captured. Nearly all of the actors capture the spirit of the characters they are playing, with Billy Crudup (Dr Manhattan) and Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach) taking top honours.
Watchmen is a dystopian, violent, misanthropic book. And its movie adaption does not make easy viewing. It is filled with scenes involving killing, mutilation and rape, all portrayed in an unflinching, ultra-realistic 'hands-over-eyes' manner. Despite this, it is a moving and thoughtful production (much more so than '300'), and one that I will certainly be purchasing when it is released on Blu-ray.
If you haven't read the book, I would encourage you to do so before you watch the film. If you don't enjoy the book, I doubt you will enjoy the film. If you do, it will make the movie more understandable without spoiling its impact.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Register Hardware have published a comparison review between the MacBook Air and Dell's uncharacteristically handsome new Adamo. Their conclusion...
"Apple gets the gong for more raw grunt, slightly lighter weight, better storage options and Mac OS X. Dell wins on being thinnest (although not by much), having a superior display, plus better wired and wireless connectivity."
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
The American Library of Congress has a huge library of photographs available online. However the design of the site does not encourage casual browsing. Many of the photos are now being uploaded to flickr page. Worth bookmarking.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
From Disney/Pixar comes 'Up', a comedy adventure about 78 year old balloon salesman Carl Fredericksen, who finally fulfills his lifelong dream of a great adventure when he ties thousands of balloons to his house and flies away to the wilds of South America. But he discovers too late that his biggest nightmare has stowed away on the trip: an overly optimistic 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Behance Network reports: [edited]
The Periodic Table of Typefaces is in the style of the Periodic Table of Elements posters that hang in schools and homes around the world. This table lists 100 of the most popular, influential and notorious typefaces today.
Thanks to Pippa for the link
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Register Hardware has reviewed Acer's latest 'micro-projector'. Excerpts follow, but the general feeling seems to be 'noisy but dim'.
"Its dimensions are a diminutive 127 x 122 x 52mm tall, including the rubber feet. The weight is 540g, but you need to add another 630g for the power brick."
"There is the LED light source, which has a rated life of 20,000 hours. That ought to mean that you'll never need to replace the lamp. The downside of the LED light source is a brightness rating of 100 lumens. The consequence is that the K10 has a projection distance of 0.6-2.4m and a diagonal picture size of 38-152cm."
"The projector was unpleasantly noisy. It’s not so much the volume of the cooling fan - 28dBA is very quiet - but the tone of the sound was annoying."
"We weren’t entirely happy with the picture quality despite the allowances we made for the limitations of the LED light source. We suspect this is due to the bizarre native resolution of 858 x 600."
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Register Hardware reports: [edited]
Apple has quietly revamped the iPod Shuffle - removing [most of] its controls and making it half the size of the previous model [think 'half-a-stick of chewing gum, Ed.].
According to Apple's publicity "With the press of a button, [the Shuffle] tells you what song is playing and who's performing it."
Available in dark or light grey, the new Shuffle has 4GB capacity. Price £59.
The 1GB 2G Shuffle is still available for £31.
Adapted from Dick King-Smith's children's novel, this is an unashamedly 'family' film, following the adventures of Angus MacMorrow, a young boy living on the shores of Loch Ness toward the end of the Second World War. You can pretty much work out the plot from looking at the poster, but the characters all play their parts with a good mixture of warmth and humour.
Some of the early reviews referred to it as 'Free Nessy'. It's not an unfair summary of this straightforward, old-fashioned and extremely enjoyable film.
Special mention should be made of New Zealand's Weta Workshop (Lord of the Rings, Narnia, King Kong) who make the CGI sequences both believable and highly enjoyable.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The Big Picture reports:
Robotic systems continue to evolve, slowly penetrating many areas of our lives, from manufacturing, medicine and remote exploration to entertainment, security and personal assistance. Developers in Japan are currently building robots to assist the elderly, while NASA develops the next generation of space explorers, and artists are exploring new avenues of entertainment.
Collected here are a handful of images of our recent robotic past, and perhaps a glimpse into the near future. (32 photos total)
Monday, March 09, 2009
Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]
Sony has announced a superzoom compact featuring the company's newly-developed high-speed 9 Mp Exmor CMOS sensor. Sporting a 28-480mm (35mm-equivalent) 20x zoom lens, the DSC-HX1 is capable of up to 10 frames per second in burst mode using a high-speed mechanical shutter.
The new sensor also enables high definition movie capture up to 1080/30p, with sound captured by a built-in stereo microphone. The specification is rounded off by 'Optical Steady Shot' image stabilization, a 3" LCD, an ISO range up to 3200 and a wide array of scene modes and face detection options.
There's also an interesting 'sweep panorama' mode which automatically stitches multiple frames in-camera to give one 7152 x 1080 pixel ultra-wide view.
Friday, March 06, 2009
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Zak spent most of Saturday evening and Sunday morning playing Killzone 2, Guerrilla Games' latest FPS (First Person Shooter) for the Playstation 3. The quality of the visuals and sound effects are top-notch, and (according to my son) the online play is 'lag-free'.
It's not a complex game, you and your team-mates run around a suitably apocalypic post-industrial landscape doing your best to kill and not be killed, using your rifle and grenades, in a 'last-man/alien standing' fight.
According to what I've read online there's lots of other stuff available, including the ability to commandeer a tank. I'm looking forward to seeing Zak wreaking havoc with one this weekend.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Los Angeles Times reports: [edited]
It's a kitchen degreaser. It's a window cleaner. It kills athlete's foot. Oh, and you can drink it.
The stuff is a simple mixture of table salt and tap water whose ions have been scrambled with an electric current. Researchers have dubbed it electrolyzed water. But at the Sheraton Delfina in Santa Monica, some hotel workers are calling it el liquido milagroso - the miracle liquid.
"I didn't believe in it at first because it didn't have foam or any scent," said housekeeper Flor Corona. "But I can tell you it works. My rooms are clean."
Management likes it too. The mixture costs less than a penny a gallon. It cuts down on employee injuries from chemicals. It reduces shipping costs and waste because hotel staffers prepare the elixir on site. And it's helping the Sheraton Delfina tout its environmental credentials to guests.
It turns out that zapping salt water with low-voltage electricity creates a couple of powerful yet nontoxic cleaning agents. Sodium ions are converted into sodium hydroxide, an alkaline liquid that cleans and degreases like detergent, but without the scrubbing bubbles. Chloride ions become hypochlorous acid, a potent disinfectant known as acid water.
"It's 10 times more effective than bleach in killing bacteria," said Yen-Con Hung, a professor of food science at the University of Georgia-Griffin, who has been researching electrolyzed water for more than a decade. "And it's safe."
There are drawbacks however. Electrolyzed water loses its potency fairly quickly, so it can't be stored long. Machines are pricey and geared mainly for industrial use. The process also needs to be monitored frequently for the right strength.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Using a tripod is an excellent way of achieving good quality shots in low-light situations, or when taking macro shots, without having to resort to dialing in high-iso speeds.
This 135g tripod is well-built and good looking. The head has a good action to it, and the legs are (for its size) sturdy and easy to extend/retract. It even comes with a carry pouch and (inexplicably) a microfibre cleaning cloth.
£13.20 including delivery from amazon.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Starting March 18 SXSW 2009 will be showcasing more than 1,800 musical acts of all genres from around the globe on over eighty stages in downtown Austin.
For the past few years, it has made a number of its featured artists work available as MP3 files available for free download from its site.
For bittorrents of over 1000 of those files, click here