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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Virtual reality therapy

Ashawn Brewer powers his Formula One racer onto the track. He almost loses it on a fast curve but - yes! - he recovers with a hard swerve to left. Some wise guy throws a watermelon in his path and he outmaneuvers the mess, only to find a purple speedster blocking his lead. No problem; a butt to the fender, and Mr. Purple is out of there.
Ashawn beams.
"I like it when I run the other cars off the road," he says.
Sharp driving for a 7-year-old - and his wheelchair has nary a scratch on it.
Ashawn does his racing at the Voorhees Pediatric Facility in Voorhees, N.J., for special-needs children, one of a growing number of health, education and youth programs using virtual-reality games and programs to achieve a varied array of goals.
On any given day, Ashawn and his friends at the pediatric center, most in wheelchairs, play soccer, volleyball, ride snowboards or collect treasure under the sea in the virtual world. They actually see themselves on the screen, as opposed to a generic character as in the popular Nintendo Wii. And because they need to move their bodies, not just a game controller, to play, what looks and feels like fun is actually physical therapy.
"It's in a play setting, so it doesn't seem as tedious to them," said Frank DiBacco, a recreation therapist at Voorhees Pediatric.
Interest in the therapeutic use of virtual reality is on the rise.
After a lot of attention in the early 1990s, the excitement hit a lull, according to James Westwood, a program coordinator at the 15-year-old Medicine Meets Virtual Reality conference, an annual gathering of doctors, scientists and computer experts. But, he added, the interest is resurging with the development of actual products.
"The serious games stuff is growing, and growing fast at our conferences," Westwood said.
Much of the development is at universities, with systems too expensive to be available to clinical patients at the moment. But that, researchers say, likely will change over time.
"It's certainly emerging as one of the new technologies of interest," said Judith Deutsch, director of the Research in Virtual Environments and Rehabilitation Sciences Lab of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
Some studies show promising results.
Deutsch's lab helped develop the Rutgers Ankle Rehabilitation System in which stroke patients use their feet to navigate through one of two virtual worlds, an airscape and a seascape.
"We find they try longer. They improved more," Deutsch said. "They actually walked faster than the group that didn't use the virtual reality."
"I-C-Me," the commercially available virtual program used at Voorhees Pediatric and many other institutions, was developed by a Bensalem, Pa.-based company, VTree Inc.
Chuck Bergen, company president, worked for the U.S. Navy as a software designer for 19 years. He made his first game, a roller-coaster simulator, to amuse himself and his colleagues. "It hit me if I was a child in a wheelchair, this would be phenomenal," said Bergen, who admits to playing his own games.
Bergen also developed "City of Life Skills," a virtual program that allows patients to learn how to manage their way through a simulated cityscape before they tackle the real thing. I-C-Me, which also lets patients play musical instruments and pop magical balloons, has been used by disabled children and adults for therapy and rehabilitation, as well as by autistics to help them learn social inclusion.
Katie Leach, overnight camp director at the Variety Club of Philadelphia Camp and Developmental Center in Worcester, Pa., said "I-C-Me" has been a hit with her campers.
"The kids enjoy it because they don't get to do those things," Leach said. "It's kind of like they're in their own video game."
Cathy Adams, special education coordinator at the Philadelphia Academy Charter School, has found it useful with autistic students, as well as others.
"I think it's the wave of the future to do more and more things with virtual reality," Adams said. "It's even a sneaky way to get therapy in."
Occupational therapists at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Magee Rehabilitation Hospital have found the game popular with patients.
"There are definitely some patients who get bored of the same thing or they are depressed because of their condition," said Mary Ann Palermo, an occupational therapist at Magee. "We bring them in there and you see them really engaged in it. People are laughing when they use it."
Nevertheless, people in the field say the therapeutic use of virtual reality merits more study. Others note it's an aid to conventional therapy, not a replacement.
Some benefits seem more than virtual.
Hunter G. Hoffman, director of the Virtual Reality Analgesia Research Center of the University of Washington, wanted to see if virtual reality could help distract burn victims from their often excruciating pain. They created "SnowWorld," a game in which the player glides through a virtual canyon, lobbing snowballs at penguins, snowmen, igloos and robots.
Patients who were medicated as usual reported less pain, Hoffman said, and tests showed less pain-related activity in their brains.
Hoffman said he and colleagues have also used virtual reality and exposure therapy to help a woman with a spider phobia and people suffering post-traumatic shock from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and terrorist bombings in Israel.
For a long time, virtual reality seemed the stuff of hyped-up science fiction. But with advancing science, Hoffman predicted even more breakthroughs.
"Now what's happening," he said, "is the technology is catching up with the hype - and wow!"
Back at Voorhees, Ashawn Brewer has trounced his therapist, Frank DiBacco, by a score of 8-4 in virtual volleyball. But snowboarding, Ashawn says, is his favorite.
Shifting from side to side in his wheelchair, Ashawn, who has very limited use of his arms and legs, is off - whizzing down, down the mountain. He gets creamed by a tree, but the kid is tough. Before you can say icicle, he's back with a grin, zipping around one rock, then another, ready to take on the virtual world.
Pity the snowman that gets in his way.

YES -True: Cats Cannot Taste Sweets

Sugar and spice and everything nice hold no interest for a cat. Our feline friends are only interested in one thing: meat (except for saving up the energy to catch it by napping, or a round of restorative petting) This is not just because inside every domestic tabby lurks a killer just waiting to catch a bird or torture a mouse, it is also because cats lack the ability to taste sweetness, unlike every other mammal examined to date.
The tongues of most mammals hold taste receptors—proteins on the cellular surface that bind to an incoming substance, activating the cell's internal workings that lead to a signal being sent to the brain. Humans enjoy five kinds of taste buds (possibly six): sour, bitter, salty, umami (or meatiness) and sweet (as well as possibly fat). The sweet receptor is actually made up of two coupled proteins generated by two separate genes: known as Tas1r2 and Tas1r3.
When working properly, the two genes form the coupled protein and when something sweet enters the mouth the news is rushed to the brain, primarily because sweetness is a sign of rich carbohydrates—an important food source for plant-eaters and the nondiscriminating, like humans. But cats are from the noble lineage Carnivora and, unlike some of its lesser members, such as omnivorous bears or, even more appalling, herbivorous pandas, they exclusively eat meat.
Whether as a result of this dietary choice or the cause of it, all cats—lions, tigers and British longhairs, oh my—lack 247 base pairs of the amino acids that make up the DNA of the Tas1r2 gene. As a result, it does not code for the proper protein, it does not merit the name gene (only pseudogene), and it does not permit cats to taste sweets. "They don't taste sweet the way we do," says Joe Brand, biochemist and associate director at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. "They're lucky. Cats really have bad teeth as it is."
Brand and his colleague Xia Li first discovered the pseudogene after decades of anecdotal evidencesuch as cats showing no preference between sweetened and regular water, unlike other animals—testifying to their indifference to the sweet stuff. Of course, there are also plenty of anecdotal accounts pointing in the other direction: cats that eat ice cream, relish cotton candy, chase marshmallows. "Maybe some cats can use their [Tas1r3 receptor] to taste high concentrations of sugar," Brand says. "It's a very rare thing but we don't know yet."
Scientists do know, however, that cats can taste things we cannot, such as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the compound that supplies the energy in every living cell. "There isn't a lot hanging around in meat, but it's a signal for meat," Brand says. And plenty of other animals have a different array of receptors, Li says, from chickens that also lack the sweet gene to catfish that can detect amino acids in water at nanomolar concentrations. "Their receptor is more sensitive than the background concentration," Brand notes. "The catfish that detects the rotting food first is the one that survives."
So far, cats are alone among mammals in lacking the sweet gene; even close relatives among the meat-eaters like hyenas and mongooses have it. And cats may lack other components of the ability to enjoy (and digest) sugars, such as glucokinase in their livers—a key enzyme that controls the metabolism of carbohydrates and prevents glucose from flooding the animal. Despite this, most major pet food manufacturers use corn or other grains in their meals. "This may be why cats are getting diabetes," Brand offers. "Cat food today has around 20 percent carbohydrates. The cats are not used to that, they can't handle it." What these fearsome predators of suburbia cannot taste may be hurting them. But it also means that most cat lovers don't have to worry about Simon snatching their unattended dessert.

More astronomical features will be on tap to enhance Google Earth's ability to serve as a virtual observatory

Google's launch this week of Sky, a new feature within Google Earth that provides a virtual tour of celestial phenomena, may be of limited use to professional astronomers, but its impact on future scientists and amateur stargazers alike is expected to be as infinite and expansive as the universe it portrays. New features on the horizon promise to further refine Sky's ability to serve as a virtual observatory and deliver images of unfolding cosmic events as they occur.
The key to Sky's success and its impact on the field of astronomy is the software's ability to provide an easy-to-use interface that satisfies Internet users' insatiable appetite for new information. "There is a huge need to get more young people interested in science," says California Institute of Technology astronomy professor S. George Djorgovski.
The Caltech Center for Advanced Computing Research's VOEventNet project, which created a virtual observatory by linking a number of telescopes, introduced a software program this week that works with Sky, allowing users to post and view images and video of transient phenomena such as exploding and colliding stars, gamma-ray bursts, and supernovae within minutes of their detection. As such, Djorgovski is hoping to make Sky a dynamic learning tool that leads not only to increased enthusiasm in astronomy but also to an interest in related disciplines such as physics and even information technology.
Caltech's VOEventNet team is hoping to add links by March that let users track the movement of asteroids, which are "weeds in the rose garden for professional astronomers" but create excitement among amateur stargazers by providing them with the feeling of discovering something new, says Roy Williams, Caltech senior scientist and leader of the VOEventNet team.
Google Earth debuted in June 2005, combining Google's search capabilities with worldwide geographic information provided by maps and satellite images. Google created Sky by stitching together imagery from a number of scientific institutions, including the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Caltech's Palomar Observatory in California and the U.K. Astronomy Technology Center in Edinburgh. Sky lets Google Earth users view and navigate through 100 million individual stars and 200 million galaxies by clicking on "Switch to Sky" from the "view" drop-down menu in Google Earth, or by clicking the "Sky" button on the toolbar.
More than a star map, Sky is an interface that astronomers, educators and students can use to contribute their own findings to a community of like-minded users, says Carol Christian, an astronomer with STScI, which serves as the science operations center for the orbiting Hubble telescope. Look for Google to eventually offer Sky users the ability to go beyond conventional video and photo images and view ultraviolet and infrared images of the celestial universe, something that will help people "appreciate the astrophysical universe they live in," she says.
Christian would also like to see the Google Earth and Sky interfaces merged into one (for now, users click on a button to switch between interfaces) so that they can navigate seamlessly between the terrestrial and extraterrestrial worlds.

The Fear Factor: When the Brain Decides It's Time to Scram

William James, the late 19th- through early 20th-century philosopher, once proposed that people do not fear a bear when they see it but, rather, become frightened when running from it.
One hundred years later, a new brain-imaging study proves James may have been right. Using a Pac-Man–like video game and functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) scans, scientists showed that when a fear-provoking stimulus (say, a bear) is detected in the distance, the human brain switches on circuitry that analyzes the threat level and ways to avoid the animal or harm. Should the bear move closer—increasing the threat—other, more reactive regions of the brain jump into action, triggering an immediate protective response, whether it be to fight, flee or freeze in one's tracks.

"This [duality] is evolutionarily advantageous because a system needs to be in place that evaluates and makes decisions about external stimuli and decides if it is a threat or not," says study co-author Dean Mobbs, a PhD candidate in University College London's imaging neuroscience department. "Fast responses," he adds, "are also important because in early mammals, who were smaller and weaker than the larger reptiles, a quick response in the form of fight, flight or freeze were and still are critical to the survival of the animal." Human abnormalities in these functions, he notes, could lead to anxiety and panic disorders
Mobbs and his colleagues report in Science that they devised a video game that required 14 subjects to move game pieces along a virtual grid to avoid a virtual predator. To increase the fear factor, players snagged by predators could receive a series of three slight electric shocks, a slight shock or no punishment at all.
Researchers discovered by taking fMRIs of participants' brains as they played that when the predator was a distance away, there was increased activity in areas of the brain responsible for the more sophisticated processing, such as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), a section of the cortex (the brain's main computer) located just behind the eyebrows. As the predator moved closer, the periaqueductal gray (PAG) area of the brain, located near the brain stem, kicked into action; the PAG, which triggers the release of opioid analgesia, the body's internal painkiller, also handles more visceral reactions like the fight-or-flight response.
"With the threat of more shocks, we saw more activity in the (PAG), while the threat of less shocks increased activity in the (vmPFC)," Mobbs says. "This suggests that the more fearful the stimuli is, the more we recruit the PAG, while a threat of low salience is under the control of the vmPFC."
In an editorial accompanying the study, Stephen Maren, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, wrote that the trigger shifts may underlie an individual's subjective appraisal of fear. "Activation of the prefrontal cortex by distal, unpredictable threats might foster anxiety, whereas activation of the periaqueductal gray by proximal threats may fuel panic," he wrote. "Dysfunction in these circuits is, therefore, likely to yield a variety of chronic anxiety disorders."
Mobbs agrees that overactive PAGs (and underactive vmPFCS) may play a role in panic disorders, whereas the reverse—deficient PAGs and hyper vmPFCS—may lead to anxiety. Knowing this, he says, could "help us to understand the systems that are aberrant in such populations…. This is the first step to helping such patients."

Psychology of Leadership

Today we’ve had a national tragedy,” announced President George W. Bush, addressing the nation for the first time on September 11, 2001. “Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.” Bush then promised “to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act.” These remarks, made from Emma T. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla., may not seem extraordinary, but in subtle ways they exemplify Bush’s skill as a leader. When viewed through the lens of a radical new theory of leadership, Bush’s 9/11 address contains important clues to how the president solidified his political power in his early months and years in office.

In the past, leadership scholars considered charisma, intelligence and other personality traits to be the key to effective leadership. Accordingly, these academics thought that good leaders use their inborn talents to dominate followers and tell them what to do, with the goal either of injecting them with enthusiasm and willpower that they would otherwise lack or of enforcing compliance. Such theories suggest that leaders with sufficient character and will can triumph over whatever reality they confront.
In recent years, however, a new picture of leadership has emerged, one that better accounts for leadership performance. In this alternative view, effective leaders must work to understand the values and opinions of their followers—rather than assuming absolute authority—to enable a productive dialogue with followers about what the group embodies and stands for and thus how it should act. By leadership, we mean the ability to shape what followers actually want to do, not the act of enforcing compliance using rewards and punishments.
Given that good leadership depends on constituent cooperation and support, this new psychology of leadership negates the notion that leadership is exclusively a top-down process. In fact, it suggests that to gain credibility among followers, leaders must try to position themselves among the group rather than above it. In his use of everyday language—such as “hunt down” and “those folks”—Bush portrayed himself on 9/11 as a typical American able to speak for America.
According to this new approach, no fixed set of personality traits can assure good leadership because the most desirable traits depend on the nature of the group being led. Leaders can even select the traits they want to project to followers. It is no accident, then, that Bush has often come across to Americans as a regular guy rather than as the scion of an elite East Coast Yale University dynasty.
But far from simply adopting a group’s identity, influential presidents or chief executives who employ this approach work to shape that identity for their own ends. Thus, Bush helped to resolve the mass confusion on 9/11 in a way that promoted and helped to forge a new national unity. Among other things, people wondered: Who or what was the target? New York? Washington? Capitalism? The Western world? Bush’s answer: America is under attack. By establishing this fact, he invoked a sense of a united nation that required his leadership

IBM Nanotech Breakthroughs Point To Tech's Future Building Blocks

IBM researchers this week announced they've made major strides in nanotechnology by studying how to build storage and other computing devices out of components no bigger than a few atoms or molecules.
Researchers at the company's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., report in Science that magnetic anisotropy could eventually be used to store information in individual atoms, paving the way to pack as much as 150 trillion bits of data per square inch, 1,000 times more than current data storage densities. In other words, the ability to store data in individual atoms could lead to devices capable of storing the equivalent of 30,000 movies in a device the size of an iPod.Anisotropy measures how long a magnet has a pull in any single direction. "Every atom has a magnet inside," says Cyrus Hirjibehedin, a researcher at the Almaden lab, noting that the magnetic orientation of an atom is called its "spin." "We want to understand the properties of an atom and were able to measure the anisotropy for a single atom in a particular environment."
Almaden researchers used IBM's scanning tunneling microscope to manipulate individual iron atoms and arrange them with atomic precision on a specially prepared copper surface; scientists previously were unable to measure the magnetic anisotropy of a single atom. IBM used the microscope to determine the orientation and strength of the magnetic anisotropy of each iron atom.

Image: Courtesy of IBM
MOLECULAR SWITCH: IBM researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope to study how atoms within a molecule can change position and electrically switch the entire molecule from "on" to "off." "Now we have a means for understanding anisotropy," says Andreas Heinrich, manager of Almaden's Scanning Tunneling Microscopy lab. The next step, he says, is fashioning a system in which the atom's spin is stable enough to be used for data storage--something that scientists may achieve in several years or, says Heinrich, may not even be possible. "Our job is to jump ahead," he says. "We hope to make a drastic change rather than incremental improvements."
Another Science report describes research by scientists at IBM's Zurich Research Lab in Switzerland on ways to use a single molecule to perform many of the same functions now carried out by silicon. The study indicates that it's possible to turn a single molecule into a switch without disrupting its outer shell--a significant step toward building computing elements at the molecular scale that are vastly smaller, faster and use less energy than today's computer chips and memory devices.
Switches inside computer chips turn the flow of electrons on and off and, when put together, form the logic gates that make up the electrical circuits of the computer processors. Having ever-smaller switches allows the circuits to be shrunk to ever-tinier sizes, making it possible to crowd more circuits into a processor, boosting speed and performance.
Researchers at IBM and elsewhere previously demonstrated switching within single molecules, but the molecules would change their shape when switched, making them unsuitable for building logic gates for computer chips or memory elements.
Next up for the Zurich research team: building a series of these molecules into a circuit, and then figuring out how to link them to make a molecular chip.

Wii-like PS2- sony

What's a family to do this holiday in the event they still can't find a Wii on store shelves? Buy a Wii-esque looking PS2 bundle instead complete with karaoke game, two mics, and white controller for only US$150.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Or at least that appears to be the thinking (not to mention the timing) behind Sony's white PS2 as Nintendo's Wii continues to outsell the competition.

Sony announced on Wednesday plans for a limited edition "Ceramic White" PlayStation 2 bundled with SingStar Pop, two USB microphones, and a single white Dual-Shock controller. The bundle launches this November for $150.

Granted, Wii doesn't own the patent on the color white; that one belongs to Apple. And even though Wii similarities abound, the announcement shouldn't take anything away from the PS2. To date the system has sold an unprecedented 117 million worldwide, 44 million in North America alone. In fact, PS2 is still the second best selling console in the world some seven years after its initial release.

Sony revamps the PlayStation 2 in time for holiday season

Even though we're closing in on the first anniversary of the PlayStation 3, the older but more successful PlayStation 2 console is getting a little makeover in time for the holiday season, and will sit in stores alongside the current crop of next-gen consoles – at least in the United States.

Sony Computer Entertainment America has announced a new limited edition 'Ceramic White' PS2 to come bundled with casual gaming hit SingStar Pop, two USB microphones, and a single white Dual-Shock controller. The new bundle will be available in November for a suggested retail price of around $150.

At that price point, Sony is hoping the PS2 will lure some casual gamers away from the Wii this holiday season. With an installed base of about 117 million PS2 consoles worldwide, it makes sense for Sony to keep squeezing a profit from this best seller, which continues to rank as the second-best-selling console almost every month – ahead of the PS3 and the Xbox 360.

Climate Change to Bring Fewer but Stronger Storms

Md Moshiur Rahman 24hours news (space)/nasa

Climate scientists have developed a new model predicting the effect of global warming on storms, and for once, there's a little good news along with the bad.

Good news first: Under their new model, it appears that a slightly hotter, carbon dioxide-richer atmosphere would produce fewer big storms of the kind that trigger tornadoes and set off wildfires.

The bad: Those fewer storms will likely be more violent, intensifying the potential damage done instead. So, if you want to keep driving that SUV around, maybe you'd better get yourself a good lightning rod, and start clearing that brush away from your house. And don't even think about going near a trailer home.

Researchers from NASA's Goddard Institute For Space Studies were building on previous work that had shown that heavy rainstorms would likely be more common on a warming Earth, but which had rarely addressed the issues of updrafts, wind shear, and other elements that contribute to the violence of a storm.

They say the computer model they've developed is the first that successfully simulates measured differences between the strengths of storms over land and sea, as well as features of storm production over tropical areas in Africa and the Amazon Basin.

With those successes in mind, researchers modeled instead for an Earth with an average surface temperature five degrees warmer than today, and double the current carbon dioxide content. The result: Fewer overall storms over land masses, but more that rival the strongest thunderstorms and tornadoes that we experience today.


"These findings may seem to imply that fewer storms in the future will be good news for disastrous western U.S. wildfires," said Tony Del Genio, lead author of the study and a scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York. "But drier conditions near the ground combined with higher lightning flash rates per storm may end up intensifying wildfire damage instead."

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STS-120 Crew to Deliver Harmony

Md Moshiur Rahman 24hours news (space)/nasa

Image above: Inside the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, STS-120 crew members familiarize themselves with Harmony in preparation for their mission to deliver the module to the International Space Station. From left are Mission Specialist Scott Parazynski, Commander Pam Melroy and Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shifflet
+ View larger image

Discovery Remains on Target for October
Even with the work in progress on the external tank, the STS-120 launch remains targeted for Oct. 23. Since the schedule leading to Discovery's liftoff contains about five extra days, mission managers believe it provides enough room to make the changes and still launch on time.

The preparation of Discovery continues in the Orbiter Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In the nearby Vehicle Assembly Building, stacking and closeout of the solid rocket boosters are finished. Pending completion of foam repair work on the external tank's liquid oxygen feedline support brackets, attachment of the tank to the boosters is targeted for Sept. 5.


JSC2007e18090 : STS-120 crew
Image above: Attired in training versions of their shuttle launch and entry suits, the STS-120 crew members await the start of a training session in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at Johnson Space Center. From the left are astronauts Pamela A. Melroy, STS-120 commander; Daniel M. Tani, Expedition 15 flight engineer; George D. Zamka, STS-120 pilot; Douglas H. Wheelock, Scott E. Parazynski, Stephanie D. Wilson and European Space Agency's (ESA) Paolo Nespoli, all mission specialists. Image credit: NASA

STS-120 is the 23rd shuttle mission to the International Space Station, and will launch an Italian-built U.S. multi-port module for the station.

Air Force Col. Pamela A. Melroy will command the STS-120 mission to take the Node 2 connecting module to the station. Melroy, a veteran shuttle pilot, is the second woman to command a shuttle. Marine Corps Col. George D. Zamka will serve as pilot. The flight's mission specialists will be Scott E. Parazynski, Army Col. Douglas H. Wheelock, Stephanie D. Wilson and Paolo A. Nespoli, a European Space Agency astronaut from Italy. Zamka, Wheelock and Nespoli will be making their first spaceflight.

Expedition 15/16 Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson will return to Earth from the space station aboard shuttle mission STS-120. That flight will carry his replacement, Daniel Tani, to the station. Tani will return on shuttle mission STS-122.

Mission Information
+ STS-120 Mission Overview
+ Harmony Node 2
+ Space Shuttle Discovery

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Think and act globally, Samuels tells new students

HMIT Professor Richard Samuels gave the faculty keynote address to freshmen on Tuesday morning. He said, "Throughout your time here you will encounter how international learning is becoming a central component of an MIT education."

undreds of members of MIT's Class of 2011 turned out Aug. 28 for their first official lecture, in which Ford International Professor of Political Science Richard J. Samuels challenged them to seek out knowledge about societies that are geographically and culturally remote from their own.

Samuels, director of the Center for International Studies (CIS), invited the new students to take full advantage of MIT's open, multicultural academic community and, at the same time, to participate boldly in its ever-expanding array of hands-on international work experiences.

"I hope that you will avail yourself of the many opportunities MIT provides to make sure that you step boldly and intelligently out into the global marketplace of ideas," he said in the annual faculty keynote lecture in Kresge auditorium, a featured event in MIT's Orientation Week.

In introducing Samuels, President Susan Hockfield told students that his work is "quintessentially MIT" because of its focus on applying knowledge to practical issues in the world.

Samuels (Ph.D. 1980) discussed the roles science and technology play in economic development and how societies differ in the way they approach innovation.

"The central challenge for MIT is to continue to anticipate and to stay 'ahead of the future.' And that future has even less respect for national borders than the past," he said.

Samuels has taught at MIT since 1980. The founding director, in 1981, of the MIT-Japan Program, the nation's first center of applied international studies, he urged the incoming students to consider participating in the MIT International Science and Technology Initiative known as MISTI.

MISTI interns are provided all-expense-paid internships in labs, factories and universities in Japan, China, India, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Mexico and elsewhere.

"The ability to lead in tackling complex global issues of health, environment, energy or innovation requires scientists, managers and engineers to participate in world-wide networks of knowledge creation and use. This takes empathy and a deep understanding of foreign experience," Samuels said.

He also offered the Class of 2011 an understanding of what it may mean to become members of MIT's global community both as students and as alumni/ae.

"Our international programs will initiate you into the networks of research, management and service that will be the terrain of your professional lives. Having cappuccino on the piazza is nice. But it's nicer if you helped design the machine that made it in a lab nearby," he said.

Following Samuels' talk, Undergraduate Association President Martin Holmes, a senior majoring in aeronautics and astronautics, offered the group his personal experience with diving into extracurricular activities his first year, followed by diving into coursework his second year.

"Balance is important. Find time to relax and unwind. Form a study group! Cook with friends! And know when you need to, seek help. I spend thirty minutes each day reading the newspaper or just reflecting on the bigger picture of my life," he said.

Technorati : 0-99 is building for building and developing career 0-99

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Perfume and personality

According to Health Canada, an estimated 2 to 5 per cent of adults may experience mild reactions to the chemicals in cosmetics. For those who suffer from allergies related to chemicals found in fragrances, California-based Rich Hippie offers a synthetic-free alternative perfume.

"We don't use any synthetic ingredients. We just use the real thing," says Rich Hippie owner Nannette Pallrand. says perfume presents personality Ads by perfume strore

"... It is more time consuming, more expensive to produce...but it is worth it because it is safer for your health, safer for the environment and a much more beautiful scent."

The two-year-old company has 22 perfumes with rich titles like, "Bohemian Wedding," "Summer of Love" and "Hoochie Coochie" as well as unisex scents like "Nirvana." For the potent fragrance, Pallrand uses old-world French perfume manufacturing methods.

"The perfume industry was traditionally in France where there was a huge wine industry," says Pallrand of the wine alcohol she uses in Rich Hippie. "In France, famous perfume houses would pop up near these vineyards. After World War II, chemical companies needed a new market and went into different areas, like cosmetics."

The result is perhaps one of the most intoxicatingly fresh and light scents on the market that didn't make my throat sore or make my eyes itch.

According to Pallrand, all of the ingredients in Rich Hippie perfume are organic, including the alcohol that is made from organic California grapes as opposed to alcohol derived from petroleum. However, Rich Hippie is not certified organic.

"Perfume recipes are something that one doesn't give out. They are a closely guarded secret," she says, "To certify, one would have to give up the recipe and sources to the certification agency."

Pallrand will disclose that she gets ingredients from around the world: rose and camomile from Morocco, orange blossom from Tunisia, vanilla and ylang ylang from Madagascar, to name a few.

And although the luxurious ingredients are both exotic and expensive, the actual perfume is packaged in simple pharmaceutical bottles.

"I didn't want to do what large conventional companies do where most of the money is spent on the packaging and not the product."

However, the actual perfume box is an impressive shock of yellow and hot pink calligraphy reminiscent of Sofia Coppola's punkesque queen, Marie Antoinette. No retailers in Toronto carry Rich Hippie - yet - so it can only be purchased online. Which raises the question: How does one find a fragrance without smelling it beforehand?

"We sell sample kits of the perfume in small vials," says Pallrand.

Sample kits run between $55 to $325 while full bottles are $225 for a 1/2-oz. vial and $675 for 2 oz. Available at rich-hippie. com


To many people, the word "fragrance" means something that smells nice, such as perfume. We don't often stop to think that scents are chemicals. Fragrance chemicals are organic compounds that volatilize, or vaporize into the air - that's why we can smell them. They are added to products to give them a scent or to mask the odor of other ingredients. The volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) emitted by fragrance products can contribute to poor indoor air quality (IAQ) and are associated with a variety of adverse health effects.

Exposure to fragrance chemicals can cause headaches; eye, nose, and throat irritation; nausea; forgetfulness; loss of coordination, and other respiratory and/or neurotoxic symptoms. Many fragrance ingredients are respiratory irritants and sensitizers, which can trigger asthma attacks and aggravate sinus conditions.

Fragrance chemicals are the number one cause of allergic reactions to cosmetics -- not only to the primary users, but also to those who breathe in the chemicals as secondhand users. Phthalates in fragrances are known to disrupt hormones and are linked in animal studies to malformations of the penis, as well as adverse effects on the developing testes.

In health care facilities, fragrance can come from a number of sources:

scented cleaning products;
fragrance-emitting devices and sprays;
workers, patients, and visitors who are wearing perfume, cologne or aftershave; scented cosmetics, skin lotions or hair products;
or clothes that have been laundered with scented detergents, fabric softeners or dryer sheets.
Indoor air quality can be greatly improved in health care facilities by adopting a hospital-wide fragrance-free policy that includes a fragrance-free policy for employees, maintenance products and non-employee hospital occupants.

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2009 Space Tourist Flight, Future Spacecraft

Russia's Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov said Friday that a prominent Russian businessman-turned-politician is training to fly to space as a tourist in 2009 and underscored the need to cut his country's dependency on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for manned space exploration.

"If we create a new manned spaceship, which our program until the year 2015 provides for, then we will need a new rocket and that rocket will require a new launch pad," Perminov told reporters in a press conference here. We have not decided whether to build that pad at Baikonur or in Russia."

While Perminov didn't name the new spaceship, the Russian space agency has envisioned the Rocket Space Corporation Energia's Klipper spacecraft for use as a replacement for the Soyuz-TMA capsules and interplanetary voyages.

Should Russia decide to launch the new ship from its territory, it would have to build an entire new cosmodrome -- or spaceport -- from scratch, Perminov said. None of Russia's own cosmodromes, including Plesetsk in northern Russia, or the little-used Svobodny and Kapustin Yar pads located in the far east and south respectively, meet requirements for the new ship, he added.

Perminov didn't elaborate on what these requirements are, but it is known that all of Russia's existing launch pad are inferior to Baikonur when it comes to minimizing amount of fuel needed to launch ships to orbits where space stations operate. Perminov vowed that Russia will continue to lease Baikonur, from which it carries out the bulk of its launches, regardless of whether it builds a new cosmodrome or not.

Kazakhstan agreed in 2004 to extend Russia's lease on the Baikonur Cosmodrome until 2050. Then Russian president Boris Yeltsin and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev signed an agreement in 1994, in accordance to which, Russia was to pay the annual sum of $115 million for renting Baikonur for 20 years. "These are delirious ideas," Perminov said when asked if Russia could leave Baikonur.

Space tourist in 2009

Perminov also said his agency may launch to space the first ever Russian space tourist even before the new manned spaceship becomes operational. The official said one "serious" candidate is already undergoing medical tests to determine whether he is fit to fly in 2009, but declined to name him.

"He has personally asked me not to name him. All I can say so far is that he is a serious, respect person who is a businessman and politician," Perminov said.

He would only add that the candidate is a young man. A former Federal Space Agency official familiar with the issue said the candidate is "most probably" a member of State Duma, lower chamber of the federal parliament.

The former official - who was involved in negotiations with previous space tourists, said in an Aug. 31 interview that the candidate has neither paid any down payment nor completed medical tests. "Therefore, he cannot be for now considered to be a serious candidate," said the former official, who asked not to be named.

Only two Russians have in the past offered to pay money to fly to space as tourists -- head of the construction company Mirax Group Sergei Polonsky and then-mayor of Volgograd Yevgeny Ishchenko -- but neither agreed to pay the full price of $20 million or more, the official said. Ishchenko was forced to step down from his post amid accusations of corruption and he was subsequently convicted of "illegal entrepreneurship" earlier this year.

To date, Russia's Federal Space Agency has launched five space tourists to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Soyuz rockets and spacecraft under agreements brokered by the U.S. space tourism firm Space Adventures. Four were U.S. citizens and one was from South Africa.

Prices for the orbital trips increased from $20 million-to-$25 million to no less than $30 million earlier this year.

Perminov also said he has not had discussions with president Vladimir Putin, whose term expires next year, on whether he may want to fly to space. "I think the president has places to fly to and things to do," Perminov said when commenting on wishes to see Putin aboard the ISS recently expressed by commander of this station's current crew Fyodor Yurchikhin.

Deputy head of the Federal Space Agency Aleksei Krasnov told reporters earlier that a number of rich Russians have inquired about possibility of flying to space as tourists, but he also did not name those interested.

Calls to Sergei Kostenko, head of Space Adventures' Moscow office, were not returned Friday.

Future exploration

Perminov said Russia is considering whether to propose to its ISS partners to extend the lifespan of the international scientific outpost from its 2015 designed end date to 2020. By then, he said, Russia should be able to launch a next-generation space station while also preparing for inter-planetary manned missions.

When discussing longer-term manned space exploration, Perminov said his agency plans to send cosmonauts to the moon by 2025, and then set up a manned outpost there in 2028-2032.

Interestingly, one of the reasons that Perminov sought the removal of Energia's previous chief Nikolai Sevastyanov in July outlandish vows to carry out interplanetary manned missions, such as flights to Mars, and other unrealistic projects, according to some Federal Space Agency and Energia officials. During Friday's press conference, Perminov attacked one of Sevastyanov's ideas - the proposal to mine helium isotopes on the Moon, saying it is "misleading" and cannot be implemented in the next 30 years.

He also said Russia will not try to launch men to Mars at least until 2035.

In his comments on unmanned space exploration, Perminov said he expects the number of Russian operational satellites to total 102 or 103 by the end of this year. He also said Russia is considering whether to cooperate with Indonesia for launches of small satellites by rockets to be fired from An-124 planes rather than from ground.

He also said Russia is touting the idea of developing Earth observation and telecommunications satellites jointly with a number of Arab countries, noting that Russian rockets have already launched six Saudi Arabian satellites.

Launches of foreign satellites and other commercial services are expected to generate $800 million in sales for the national space and rocket industry in 2008, Perminov said.

Russia enters 'space race' to build moon base

Pb : Md Moshiur rahman.

Russia has revived another Cold War rivalry by entering a new "space race" with America to build a permanent base on the Moon.

The moon from Moscow's Novodevichy Monastery
Anatoly Perminov, the head of the space agency Roskosmos, said Russia would organise a manned lunar mission by 2025 and would be ready to build an "inhabited station" between 2027 and 2032.

From there, cosmonauts could strike out on a long-planned mission to Mars as early as 2035. "According to our estimates we will be ready for a manned flight to the Moon in 2025," said Mr Perminov, adding that Mars remained a long-term ambition for Russia.

Mr Perminov also said that Roskmosmos intended to complete its section of the International Space Station by 2015 so that the ISS "becomes a fully-fledged space research centre", while "major modernisation" of its Soyuz spacecraft would also be completed.

President George W. Bush in 2004 outlined plans for America, which landed the first men on the moon in 1968, to return by 2020 and use the mission as a stepping stone to Mars.

advertisementA new spacecraft design and manned lunar base modules formed part of the plan.

Launching a Mars mission from the Moon would remove the biggest cost factor of space travel - breaking out of the Earth's atmosphere.

Russia's announcement comes as it attempts to revive Cold War prestige on the back of a buoyant economy fueled by booming energy prices.

Among its aims is to secure its claim to Arctic territory - and the natural resources found beneath the sea bed.

This month, President Vladimir Putin revived Russian daily long-range bomber patrols near Nato airspace, in part to respond to American plans to build a missile defence shield in the former Soviet territories of the Czech Republic and Poland.

Mr Putin had previously said that Russia could once again point nuclear missiles at European cities to counter the shield's strategic threat, and "suspended" its adherence to a treaty limiting the deployment of military forces on European soil.

Russia is already organising a simulated manned mission to Mars, by placing six volunteers in a sealed capsule on Earth for up to two years to study the effects.

The European Space Agency has expressed an interest in contributing to the project, including research and financial support.

However, Mr Perminov admitted that many difficulties linked to the a real Mars expedition remained unresolved, not least designing and building appropriate equipment.

"Current spacecraft do not provide the protection needed for the crew to survive and return to Earth," he said.

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EarthLink woes eclipse Wi-Fi plans says perfume presents personality Ads by perfume strore

Times are tough for EarthLink, and the company's massive workforce reduction is putting many municipal Wi-Fi networks in jeopardy.

The Internet service provider announced that it would lay off approximately 900 employees--about half its staff--as the company restructures in an attempt to boost its sagging stock price. The staff reductions will occur as it shuts down operations in Orlando, Fla.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Harrisburg, Pa., and San Francisco. It will also substantially reduce its presence in Pasadena, Calif., and Atlanta.

But the company's newest initiative--building and operating citywide Wi-Fi networks--will also be hit. Don Berryman, the head of EarthLink's municipal Wi-Fi initiative, will be leaving the company as part of the restructuring, EarthLink CEO Rolla Huff said.

The company has won several citywide Wi-Fi contracts with cities such as Anaheim, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The way these deals are structured, EarthLink builds and runs the networks in exchange for using city-owned infrastructure like utility poles. But the Wi-Fi projects haven't gone as smoothly as EarthLink had hoped.

EarthLink's scaled-back municipal Wi-Fi business has jeopardized many cities' plans to bring free or low-cost broadband to low-income residents.

Over the past few years, blanketing cities with unlicensed Wi-Fi signals has been viewed as a cheap solution to bringing affordable or even free broadband access to cities. Politicians and community leaders have rallied around the technology as an economic development tool that could help bring low-income individuals into the bustling economy of the 21st century
But as the economic reality of building a network primarily to serve up low-cost broadband access settled in at EarthLink, the company's top brass decided the strategy isn't viable.

So it appears that EarthLink's dreams of competing against the big telephone and cable companies are fading. For many, EarthLink's cutbacks signal a major setback in the company's evolution to break free of its dying dial-up business and become an Internet player with new services to attract subscribers.

There are already signs that some cities are also starting to lose enthusiasm for citywide Wi-Fi networks. Officials in Chicago said the city is backing away from its planned municipal Wi-Fi service after failing to reach an agreement with either AT&T or EarthLink, which had each bid to build the new network.

Also, EarthLink said it would pay a $5 million penalty to the city of Houston to get a nine-month extension on its contract. The same day, EarthLink also said it was killing plans to build San Francisco's citywide network.

Some CNET readers saw the writing on the wall long ago.

"As a former customer, the whole tone of the company changed when Mindspring acquired them," wrote one reader to the CNET TalkBack forum. "And it went downhill from there."

Vista update on the horizon
After months of silence, Microsoft finally revealed details about its first update to Windows Vista, saying the service pack will arrive in the first quarter of next year. In the next few weeks, Microsoft will start private testing of a beta of Service Pack 1 for Vista as well as a third service pack for Windows XP. The company plans initially to release the beta only to 10,000 preselected testers, though it may expand that release later.

As for what's in the Vista update, it's mostly a collection of existing fixes and tweaks aimed at improving the stability and reliability of the operating system, which went on sale to consumers in January. There are a few minor enhancements, most notably the ability to encrypt multiple hard drive partitions using Vista's BitLocker feature.

The first Vista service pack may serve dual purposes for Microsoft: fixing the operating system's rough edges while simultaneously indicating that it's ready for mass adoption. Microsoft initially downplayed the importance of service packs in an era where patches are easily available online. Also, the company urged businesses not to wait for a service pack to start testing and rolling out Vista.

Nonetheless, in announcing its plans to release Service Pack 1 early next year, Microsoft is noting that the milestone remains an important signal for some businesses that the operating system has reached a level of maturity.

Many analysts have consistently advised companies to hold off on Vista deployments until the first service pack's arrival. By talking about SP1, Microsoft hopes to sway some businesses that have yet to move forward in any fashion to start at least testing the OS.

Meanwhile, AutoPatcher, a 4-year-old project to distribute Microsoft patches and other updates to software that runs on Windows, has shut down because of a Microsoft request.

AutoPatcher had a variety of uses. For example, people with limited bandwidth could download patches once and install them on multiple computers, or people setting up new machines could apply security updates without having to expose the computer to network security risks. AutoPatcher could handle updates from Microsoft as well as third-party software such as Sun Microsystems' Java.

Microsoft said it "discourages" others from distributing supplemental software such as hot fixes, security patches and service packs, and that doing so infringes the company's copyright. "This policy is in place due to concern for the safety and security of our customers, as we can only guarantee the download's contents when it comes from a Microsoft Web site," the company said in a statement.

Piracy and privacy
A judge tossed out of court a lawsuit filed last year by TorrentSpy that accused the movie studios' trade group of intercepting the company's private e-mails.

U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper threw out the lawsuit TorrentSpy brought against the Motion Picture Association of America last year for allegedly purchasing copies of private e-mails belonging to TorrentSpy executives. Robert Anderson, a former business associate of one of TorrentSpy's founders, acknowledged "hacking" into the company's e-mail systems and rigging it so he would receive a copy of all outgoing and incoming e-mail correspondence. He later sold the information to the MPAA for $15,000. is shutting down access to users in the U.S. while awaiting a ruling by a U.S. district judge on whether TorrentSpy must turn over its user information to the MPAA. That group filed a civil complaint against the company last year, accusing TorrentSpy of violating copyright law.

Although TorrentSpy doesn't host any pirated movies on its site, the search engine helps users find unauthorized copies, the MPAA alleged in its suit. TorrentSpy has argued that the company has many legitimate uses and is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The MPAA's acknowledgment that it purchased TorrentSpy e-mail correspondence is significant because it comes at a time when the group is trying to limit illegal file sharing by imploring movie fans to act ethically and resist the temptation to download pirated movies. To critics, the revelation by the MPAA is a possible sign that the organization is itself not above adopting unethical practices in its fight against file sharing.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a proponent of strong privacy laws on the Web, has criticized the court findings and claim they pose serious threats to Internet users. Yet, the theft of the e-mails did not violate the federal Wiretap Act, according to Cooper. Kevin Bankston, an EFF staff attorney, said Cooper misread the law.

"Essentially, one can do ongoing surveillance of another party's e-mails without their consent and not violate the law," Bankston said. "Not only does this open the door to privacy abuses in civil cases but it also could lead to abuses by the government...It's an incredibly dangerous decision."

Also of note
After more than two years of minor tweaks to its most popular product, it looks like Apple is ready for new iPods...Microsoft settled a long-running and expensive lawsuit with Eolas Technologies, a start-up backed by the University of California that alleged Internet Explorer infringed a patent...Federal regulators slapped three wireless firms, including No. 3 operator Sprint Nextel, with a total of $2.83 million in fines for not meeting a long-passed deadline for equipping subscribers with enhanced 911 service...Apple and Volkswagen are reported to be in talks about an "iCar", which would connect the car to the home PC and entertainment systems...Teenage tech celebrity George Hotz, who unlocked the iPhone enabling it to work on any network, traded the hacked iPhone for three more 8GB iPhones plus a Nissan 350Z.

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