Apr 25, 2009

Something to Laugh About

In a 2007 study, allergy researcher Hajime Kimata of Moriguchi-Keijinkai Hospital in Japan measured levels of the hormone melatonin in the breast milk of nursing mothers before and after the subjects watched either a comic Charlie Chaplin video or an ordinary weather report.

Melatonin regulates the sleep-wake cycle and is often disturbed in the allergic skin condition atopic eczema, which all of the 48 babies in the study had.

Kimata found that laughing at the funny film, but not hearing the weather report, increased the amount of melatonin in the mothers’ milk. In addition, the laughter-fortified breast milk reduced the allergic responses to latex and house dust mites in the infants. Thus, making a nursing mom laugh might sometimes serve as an allergy remedy for her baby. Laughter is even more important this month, because April is Humor month.

National Museum of Funeral History

Here is a place to go for a few chuckles. It’s motto “Any Day Above Ground is a Good One.” The Museum is in Houston and opened in 1992. You can view exhibits that include a Civil War embalming display and a replica of a turn-of-the-century casket factory.

It also has a collection of fantasy coffins designed by artist Kane Quaye. The collection includes a casket shaped like a chicken, a Mercedes-Benz, a shallot, and an outboard motor, all based on the dreams and last wishes of his clients. Sounds like a fun place.

Chocolate Sniff

A new way of eating chocolate - by breathing it.

Chocolate without the calories is yours if you inhale chocolate when Le Whif goes on sale later this month in four luscious flavors: mint chocolate, raspberry chocolate, mango chocolate, and plain chocolate. I'll have my coffee with a sniff.

Wallpaper TV

Coming to a wall near you.

Many of us are accustomed to watching TV on high-quality flat screens, but now Toshiba has come up with a new solution. It is a flexible paper that doubles as a TV screen.

The paper uses light that has been redirected using a fine grating created by self-assembling nano-particles. In addition to projecting moving and still pictures, the paper could also be used to emit light, eliminating the need for traditional lighting.

I won't go into details of the cool OLED technology used, but the basic materials have been around since the 90s. Television wallpaper is currently in the early stages of research and won't be on your wall for quite sometime. Wow, I don't even have an HDTV yet and they are already on their way out. The speed of technology change is so exciting, I can hardly stand it.

Nanotube Radio

The nanotube radio, invented in 2007, performs a set of amazing feats: a single carbon nanotube tunes in a broadcast signal, amplifies it, converts it to an audio signal and then sends it to an external speaker in a form that the human ear can readily recognize. You can visit www.sciam.com/nanoradio and listen to a song.

Can you imagine hearing aids and cell phones small enough to fit completely within the ear canal. The nanoradio is actually small enough to fit inside a living cell. Wish they could invent a device of any size that did not have commercials.

Light a Picture

This is so ridiculous that I first thought it was an April Fool's joke, but it is not. A group at MIT proposed the idea of a matchstick embedded with a tiny camera and microphone (green half) and micro projector (red half).

A user swipes the red side of the match, physically lighting it on fire. This sets off the camera and microphone to start recording, moving down the length of the match in response to heat. The match stores the image and sound in the middle. When a user lights the other end, a mini projector plays back the video once before burning away (literally). The group has so far designed a prototype, based on two coupled matches synced to a computer webcam and playback program. A one-time recorder and playback might be a fun party trick and a fleeting reminder to appreciate moments, but it's still a stupid idea.


Can you say ten point five trillion and keep a straight face? Check this site for a detail breakdown of the money the government is spending. It scares the bejeebers out of me.


Slinky was invented by Naval engineer Richard James, who knocked a spring off of a shelf when he was working to develop springs that could keep ship instruments stable in choppy waters.

The spring stepped down to a stack of books, then to the table, and then to the floor, where it righted itself into a cylinder. He tested it with neighborhood kids and the rest is history.

Speaking of Kid's Things

Did you know Terrell Owens, the football player, wrote a children's book titled "Little T Learns to Share", in which a young boy struggles with being fair and sharing his new football. In the end, he decides football is no fun when played all alone. Hmmm!

Pig Fact

A typical American eats 28 pigs in his/her lifetime.

Apr 17, 2009

Speaking of Internet and TV

The BBC has launched a new service that allows viewers to watch live TV programs from suitable Wi-Fi connected mobile phones.

BBC Live TV is available in a beta test form, offering a limited number of the broadcaster’s channels, plus its radio stations.

More Nano Stuff

As of August, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 3-4 per week.

Current nano applications include:
Titanium dioxide - in sunscreen, cosmetics and some food products;
Carbon allotropes - used to produce gecko tape;
silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants, and household appliances;
zinc oxide - in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints, and outdoor furniture varnishes;
andcerium oxide - as a fuel catalyst.

PPG Industries produces SunClean self-cleaning glass, which harnesses the sun’s energy to break down dirt and spreads water smoothly over the surface to rinse the dirt away without beading or streaking.

Various sunscreens (Wild Child, Wet Dreams, and Bare Zone) incorporate ZinClear, a transparent suspension of nanoscopic zinc oxide particles that are too small to scatter visible light. Probably five years from now we will hear about some regulations being needed to make sure this stuff is really safe to use.


welcomed its 200 millionth user on April 8. Mark Zuckerberg, 24-year-old CEO, who created Facebook with two Harvard University roommates five years ago, announced the milestone in a post on the official Facebook blog.

He said, "We are working hard to build a service that everyone, everywhere can use, whether they are a person, a company, a president, or an organization working for change."

Phones as Computers

As testament to the changing use of phones, consider the following. At North America's largest cell phone trade show in Las Vegas this month, there were only a few new phones for the US market that had a numeric keypad instead of an alphabetic keyboard. Touch screens also were out in force.

These changes are a recognition of the popularity of text messaging and wireless Internet use. Industry organization CTIA Wireless said US subscribers sent 1 trillion text messages in 2008 (three times the 2007 volume). Meanwhile, the same people used 2.2 trillion minutes of voice calls, an increase of less than 5 percent.

This shift in how people use their mobile devices has changed cell phone design to the point that 31 percent of phones sold in US in the fourth quarter of 2008 had full-alphabet keyboards, vs. 5 percent two years earlier. u me lunch, k?

Flat Speakers

Wow, these are cool. New loudspeakers, less than 0.25mm thick, have been developed. They are flat, flexible, can be hung on a wall like a picture.

A real bonus is that its method of sound generation could make public announcements in public places clearer, crisper, and easier to hear because it delivers planar directional sound waves, which project further than sound from conventional speakers. I think they will fit nicely on the wall beside my flat screen TV, if I ever get one.

Apr 15, 2009

Women Smell Better

Scientists collected microdroplets of perspiration, and had men and women sniff the vials. According to both, the odors were equally rich. Subjects were then asked to rate odor strength when sniffing the sweat mixed one by one with 32 different fragrances. Only two of the fragrances stopped women from smelling the sweat. But 19 fragrances successfully blocked it from male noses.

The researchers also concluded that men’s body odor is harder to mask than women’s, regardless of who sniffs. Only a fifth of the fragrances could cover up male odor. But half of the scents masked female odor. The researchers suggest that for women there may be important biological information contained in male sweat. I have long known that women smell good, now I know they also smell better.

Patently Obvious

Did you know Michael Jackson has a patent? Remember how he leaned in defiance of gravity in the video for “Smooth Criminal”?
He wore a pair of specially designed shoes that could hitch into a device hidden beneath the stage. Jackson and two co-inventors patented this method for creating anti-gravity illusion in 1993.

Apr 10, 2009

Internet Passes TV in Europe

(From the UK) Europeans will spend more time on the internet than watching television by June 2010, according to research by Microsoft.

The report, "Europe logs on: Internet trends of today and tomorrow", analyzes online behavior across Europe, and for 2010 predicts web consumption will average 14.2 hours per week, while TV program watching will average 11.5 hours per week.

Driving the rise of online media consumption is always-on broadband, with 48.5 per cent of Europeans now having an internet connection. The report says that for watching television programs, "three screens will dominate" - the traditional TV, desktop and laptop PCs, and mobile devices.

Apr 9, 2009

Stink Free Underwear

The first Japanese astronaut to live aboard the International Space Station had a research project to test newly invented odor-free briefs named J-ware.

The briefs were created by textile experts at Japan Women's University in Tokyo. They are designed to kill bacteria, absorb water, insulate the body and dry quickly. Not only that, but they resist fire and static.

According to the Japanese researchers they are also comfortable and "stylish". The first use is in space stations and commercial release will follow. One official said that they can be worn for a week. There are so many things I could say here, but I'll resist.

Internet Browsers

It is finally official, Mozilla Firefox has more users than Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Firefox climbed to 46.4% in February, while the various versions of IE dropped by 1.2% to 43.6%. As of March 23, IE8's market share stood at 2%, an increase of 0.7 of a percentage point since the final code was released. IE7, meanwhile, accounted for 36.9%. Apple's Safari came in at 3.2%.

Wow, in just a few short years, the free Firefox has outdone Microsoft, which used to claim 97% of the market. I have been using Firefox for a few years, since it was beta and love the simplicity, and that it can be spiffed up with as many add-ons as you want (all free). I also use Mozilla Thunderbird as my email. It handles my eight email addresses all in one place.

Library of Congress

The U.S. Library of Congress has begun uploading its audio archives to iTunes, and it will soon begin to post videos on YouTube, in an effort to make its materials easier for the public to access.

The decision to post audio and video on iTunes and YouTube follows a successful launch early last year of a library photo archive on Flickr. Since January 2008, the library's photos on Flickr have been viewed about 15.7 million times, and more than 20,000 Flickr users have added the Library of Congress as a contact.

Some items - 100-year-old films from Thomas Edison's studio, book talks with contemporary authors, early industrial films from Westinghouse factories, first-person audio accounts, a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and the contents of President Abraham Lincoln's pockets on the night of his assassination.

Brain control

March 31, 2009 - The research wing of Honda Motor Co. has co-developed a brain-machine interface system that allows a person to control a robot through thought alone. The system, builds on previous work announced three years ago toward a future in which devices might be controlled by thought.

In 2006, Honda and ATR researchers managed to get a robotic hand to move by analyzing brain activity using a large MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner like that found in hospitals.

The latest work is a step more advanced and measures the electrical activity in a person's brain using EEG and blood flow within the brain using near-infrared spectroscopy to produce data that is then interpreted into control information. It requires no physical movement.

Both the EEG and NIRS techniques are established, but the analyzing process for the data is new. Honda said the system uses statistical processing of the complex information to distinguish brain activities with high precision without any physical motion. A person visualizes moving a hand yet physically remains completely still, then Honda's Asimo robot, to which the system is hooked-up, raises its right hand. Honda claims a 90% success rate using this method.

Hey, Asimo, get me a beer!


Here is Asimo conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

For those who have not seen this thing, it really is a robot. Although, this time not using brain waves for input. Honda is besting Detroit in Detroit, and with the 'Impossible Dream'. How's that for a sharp stick in the eye. Wonder how many caught the irony?

Google Voice

This new service is about to be launched. It has been in test for some time. Call it the "one number to rule them all" service. Users will be able to register, sign up for a phone number in a local area code, and add multiple land line and cell-phone numbers to an account. When someone calls a Google Voice phone number, all the registered phones ring at the same time.

The service takes several telephony technologies and connects them to the Web. It's the voice equivalent of an e-mail address. Once you register a number you never have to worry about which phone you are using, even if you switch offices, homes, or cell phones. You can even press 4 to record a current call.

No matter which phone you use, there is one portal for all voice-mail messages. You can play them on the Web, save them as MP3 files, and even post a voice-mail message on a website. Conference calls are also easy. Answer an incoming call to add it to the current one. Very cool technology, but that record feature is a bit too scary for me. I like to keep my rants current, and not have someone save them for posterity.

I have my beta invite, because I was signed up with GrandCentral, which is the foundation technology for Google Voice.

Speaking of Robots

What’s silver and brown and lies in the grass ? R2 Doo Doo…

In twenty years robots will be doing most of the work humans don’t want to do,
especially illegal robots from Mexico.

Apr 2, 2009

Scientific Myths Debunked

You heard it here.
It takes 7 years to digest gum. Not true, it digests as fast as any other food.

Hair and fingernails keep growing after death. Not true, the body dehydrates so fast that this is just an optical illusion.

Chickens can live with their heads cut off. True, because part of the brain stem is left intact when the head is chopped off.

There is no gravity in outer space. Not true, the effect of gravity diminishes with distance, but it never truly goes away. BTW space is not a vacuum, either.

Eating a poppyseed bun mimics opiates on blood tests. True, eating two of them can mimic opiates on a blood screen test.

Toilet Seat scale

Check this out. I think it is a bit odd, but some think it is a very neat idea.

More Bathroom Goodies

Here is a 2.4 GHZ wireless toothbrush camera. You can now inspect your teeth anywhere, just hook it to your computer and get a dentist's eye view of what is going on in your mouth. Might be good to help you find that nagging popcorn kernel. There is also a USB model with wires, but it is messy to use.

Emilio Marcos Palma is Thirty

He was the first person known to be born on the continent of Antarctica in January, 1978. He is also listed in Guinness Records as the only known first-born on any continent.

Emilio had secured a scholarship to study Mechanical Engineering in the Army because he was an 'Anartic', but lost it by having to work on a website as a consultant, and then none of his brothers responded with a military vocation.

He is the fourth of five brothers, Carlos Jorge, María Silvia, Juan Santos, and Luciano, who was born 20 years after Emilio in the same bed, in the same room, in the same hospital in Neuquén, where his father was transferred.

Telling Time the Hard Way

Here is a robotic clock. Fully functional, accurate, interesting for a minute, but not very practical.


"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." Robert Louis Stevenson

Orange Juice Truths

OJ is heavily processed and heavily engineered. In the process of pasteurizing, juice is heated and stripped of oxygen, a process called deaeration, so it doesn't oxidize.

Then it's put in huge storage tanks where it can be kept for over a year. It gets stripped of flavor-providing chemicals, which are volatile. When it's ready for packaging, companies, such as Tropicana, hire flavor companies to engineer flavor packs to make it taste fresh. These are orange-derived substances, essences, and oils. Flavor companies break down the essence and oils into individual chemicals and recombine them. Most concentrate (even Tropicana) comes from Brazil, not Florida.

People think not-from-concentrate is a fresher product, but it is not and sits in storage for quite a long time.

BTW - Minute Maid is owned by Coca-Cola. Tropicana is owned by Pepsi.

Speaking of Breakfast

When it comes time for my birthday, I hope someone keeps this web site in mind. It is a bacon-of-the-month club gifts.
How better to tell that certain someone that you are thinking of them every month of the year. Bobby Flay's father bought him a one year subscription. Bacon is almost as good as potato chips. OK, OK, sorry. I just had to do it.

Inspiring Words

The Latin root "spir," which means "to breathe life into," is found in words like inspiration, respiration, spirit, and perspiration.

Speaking of Inspiring

Here is the latest effort to mimic the human brain on a chip.
A collaboration with neurobiologists and contributions of 15 scientific groups from seven different countries, the group is trying to recreate the three-dimensional structure of the brain in a 2-D piece of silicon. The current prototype can operate about 100,000 times faster than a real human brain.

The FACETS group now plans to further scale up their chips, connecting a number of wafers to create a superchip with a total of a billion neurons and 1013 synapses. Roomba has been eclipsed.

Awesome miniature Railroad

It takes about 4 minutes to watch this video, but the view is truly amazing. Leave it to the Germans to outdo themselves once again. You might even get sidetracked by the steampunk robots like I did (the link is on the left of the video). They are becoming popular again.

Google Tip

Do you get as frustrated as I do when searching and Google comes back with sites and articles that are years old? Try typing inurl:2008 or whatever year you like, at the end of the words and it will come back with results for that year only, example: computers inurl:2008.

If you want to see the results for different years, you can type: computers view:timeline and it will come back with this on the top of the page.

You can then click on any of the years and only the results for those years will be displayed.

BTW use quotes if you want to find a particular phrase or string of words. If I used my name without the quotes it would find many extraneous things for tom and many other shubnells. By using the quotes around both names, I limit the search to only me.