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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Politician takes on Wikipedia

A left-wing German politician has filed charges against online encyclopaedia Wikipedia for promoting the use of banned Nazi symbols in Germany.

Katina Schubert, a deputy leader of the Left party, said she had filed the charge with Berlin police on the grounds that Wikipedia's German language site contained too much Nazi symbolism, particularly an article on the Hitler Youth movement.

Wikipedia to be converted
Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia written by volunteers, is to be published in Germany as a book for people who prefer turning pages to clicking links, publishing multinational Random House said on Tuesday.
Editors will distil 50 000 of the most popular entries in the German version of Wikipedia into the 1 000-page volume to go on sale in September. When begun, Wikipedia was perceived as making books redundant, with no future for printed encyclopaedias.
The book will draw on the Wikipedia community's unconventional ideas of what knowledge people want, rather than prescriptions by scholars. There will be entries for Carla Bruni (the French first lady), Playstation 3 and Donald Duck's fellow characters.
Football stadiums or the US television series Dr House will rate as entries alongside the more usual nations and statesmen.
Random House, part of the Bertelsmann group of Germany, said the selection of 50 000 headwords would be based on the most common terms searched by the 15 million monthly users of Wikipedia in German.
"It's a document of the zeitgeist," said Beate Varnhorn, chief of the Bertelsmann Lexicography Institute, adding that professional editors would check the facts and edit out incongruous passages.
She said the volume would appeal to homes that had no permanent internet connection, since books were always available, but could also be bought by people who just like to browse for interesting facts.
Arne Klempert, a spokesperson for Wikipedia Germany, said the definitions would only be short summaries of the Wikipedia articles and there was no breach of the rights of Wikipedia contributors.
Commercial republication was allowed under the Wikipedia rules accepted by the site's users. Those rules also applied to Random House, which would not be allowed to claim copyright over the book.
"They can't re-monopolise it," said Klempert, who said Random House had taken the initiative and proposed the idea to Wikipedia.
"This will demonstrate that open-source writing also offers publishing houses opportunities for commercial development."
The German Wikipedia is second in size to the English Wikipedia. It was once calculated that it would take at least 750 thick volumes to print all 2.3 million articles in the English-language version. - Sapa-dpa .


Students 'should use Wikipedia'
Students should be allowed to use the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia as it has become more accurate and trustworthy, its founder Jimmy Wales said in comments published by BBC Online on Friday.

"You can ban kids from listening to rock 'n' roll music, but they're going to do it anyway," he was quoted as telling the Online Information conference in London this week.

"It's the same with information and it's a bad educator that bans their students from reading Wikipedia."

Wales's comments come amid continued questions over the accuracy of the site, where online users can write and update entries, compared with other, more authoritative paid-for sources like the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

He had previously said Wikipedia lacked the authority for academic work, because of often unsourced, biased or inaccurate information.

Students who copied information from the site deserved to be marked down, he told the BBC in 2005.

But new fact-checking procedures introduced since then, including real-time peer reviews, had made Wikipedia more trustworthy, he said.

"There is no substitute for peer critique," he told delegates.

As long as an article contained accurate citations, he saw "no problem" with students using it as a reference work, although he added that academics would "probably be better off doing their own research".

ABOUT Wikipedia

Wikipedia 'is the best'
The German version of the do-it-yourself online reference work Wikipedia is better than Germany's most prestigious commercial encyclopaedia, the weekly magazine Stern asserted on Wednesday.

It engaged WIK, a research institute, to compare 50 randomly chosen articles from Wikipedia with 50 matching articles in the regularly updated online version,, of the Brockhaus, Germany's equivalent of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Wikipedia is a website which can be altered by anyone who notices a mistake or wants to improve the information displayed, provided the contributor presents sufficient documentary evidence to back up the new information.

Stern said the Wikipedia's average rating was 1.7 on a scale where 0 is best and five is worst. The Brockhaus rated 2.7 on the same measure.

The articles were assessed for accuracy, completeness, how up to date they were and how easy they were to read.

In 43 matches, the Wikipedia article was judged the winner.

The co-operative project trumped by being up to date with the news. It gave Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti's death date the next day, but Brockhaus had not noted this even weeks later. But Stern said Wikipedia also had the lead in accuracy.

The German-language section of Wikipedia, numbering 673 000 articles, is the second biggest after the English version.

Bilingual readers say the German articles tend to be more formal than the English ones.

Microsoft,s Live Mesh preview

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, wrote principles for Live Mesh, its Web-based data storage and software system.

As Microsoft is preparing to take its most ambitious step yet in transforming its personal computer business into one tied more closely to software running in remote data centers.
Microsoft has officially unveiled a preview of Live Mesh, the web services platform seen as a key plank of the company's aggressive software plus services strategy.
Chief software architect Ray Ozzie, who has been evangelising the project for some time, lifted the skirt on Microsoft’s Live Mesh last night.

The service will initially provide file sharing and folder synchronisation for Windows XP and Vista PCs to a closed beta of about 10,000 testers.

There are also plans to roll out Live Mesh to Apple Macs and other platforms, but the firm hasn't set a date for when customers can expect to see that happen.

The move is Microsoft's latest attempt to build the web platform of choice for consumers by merging more of its software within a SaaSy cloud. In recent months, Redmond has been working hard at blurring the lines by making its applications' capabilities available as services.

But the likes of Google, Salesforce, Amazon and Facebook might have something to say about Microsoft's online strategy. All those firms are equally keen to be the dominant Web 2.0 force.

Down the road, Microsoft hopes to bring more features to Live Mesh, including allowing customers to connect and synch all of their digital devices such as phones, games consoles, and music players.

Microsoft already has in its armoury Exchange and SharePoint Online, and Dynamics CRM Live – which was given the official red carpet treatment earlier this week.

Ozzie has also tackled the issue of making Microsoft Office productivity and collaboration available on the PC, mobile, and as a hosted service via Office Live in a direct challenge to the increasingly popular online office suite Google Apps.

Developers will probably be attracted to Microsoft's "open" platform offer to let them write code in a variety of flavours for Live Mesh that include anything from Atom to RSS and Javascript.

Meanwhile, consumers can expect to have at least 5GB of personal online storage and unlimited peer-to-peer data for synchronising information between devices.

Microsoft, which is still hotly pursuing Yahoo! in a hostile takeover bid, said it was also looking at a number of business models to monetise Live Mesh. These include paid subscriptions and advertising.

Pilot toxicology study of intravenously injected carbon nanotubes

The toxicity issues surrounding carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are highly relevant for two reasons: Firstly, as more and more products containing CNTs come to market, there is a chance that free CNTs get released during their life cycles, most likely during production or disposal, and find their way through the environment into the body. Secondly, and much more pertinent with regard to potential health risks, is the use of CNTs in biological and medical settings. CNTs interesting structural, chemical, electrical, and optical properties are explored by numerous research groups around the world with the goal of drastically improving performance and efficacy of biological detection, imaging, and therapy applications. In many of these envisaged applications, CNTs would be deliberately injected or implanted in the body. For instance, CNT-based intercellular molecular delivery vehicles have been developed for intracellular gene and drug delivery in vitro.
What these CNTs do once inside the body and after they discharge their medical payloads is not well understood. Cell culture studies have shown evidence of cytotoxicity and oxidative stress induced by single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), depending on whether and to what degree they are functionalized or oxidized. A recent report also found that inhaled single-walled CNTs can cause damage to the lungs in animal studies. On the other hand, another study (New nanotube findings give boost to potential biomedical applications) reported that the CNTs leave the body without accumulating in organs and without observable toxic effects (read more about this ongoing debate in The detection of carbon nanotubes and workplace safety).
So of course you need to take these results with a grain of salt (see Comparing apples with oranges - the problem of nanotubes risk assessment).
For most medical applications like drug delivery, the most relevant route into and through the body for CNTs would be in the circulatory system. However, close to nothing is known about the acute and chronic toxicity of SCWNTs when they enter the bloodstream. A new study at Stanford University tested non-covalently pegylated SWCNTs as a 'least toxic scenario', and oxidized, covalently functionalized nanotubes as a 'most toxic scenario' in a study on mice. It was found that SWCNTs injected intravenously into nude mice do not appear to have any significant toxicity during an observation period of four months following injection.
"Our study demonstrates the first systematic toxicity evaluation of functionalized SWCNTs following intravenous injection" Dr. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir tells Nanowerk. "Single administrations of high doses did not lead to acute or chronic toxicity, but we observed some changes in red blood cells. Because of the small number of animals used in the tests, our findings must be considered a pilot study. Although more extensive series are needed to confirm our results and show equivalence in other mouse strains, they do encourage further exploration of functionalized SWCNTs in biomedical applications in living animals."

Liver and spleen histology. a–f, Haematoxylin and eosin stains of liver (a–c) and spleen (d–f) tissues of mice injected with phosphate buffered saline (PBS) (a,d), non-covalently pegylated SWCNTs (SWCNT PEG) (b,e) or covalently functionalized nanotubes (SWCNT O PEG) (c,f). Finely granular brown-black pigments were seen in sinusoidal liver cells of SWCNT PEG (b, arrows) and SWCNT O PEG (c, arrows), as well as a golden-brown pigment in spleen macrophages of SWCNT PEG and SWCNT O PEG (e,f), without signs of cellular or tissue damage. (Reprinted with permission from Nature Publishing Group)
Gambhir, a professor in Stanford University's Departments of Radiology and Bioengineering, and Director, Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS) as well as Head, Stanford Nuclear Medicine, collaborated on this project with Stanford researchers from MIPS, Hongjie Dai's group in the Department of Chemistry, and the Department of Comparative Medicine. The scientists published their findings in the March 30, 2008 online edition of Nature Nanotechnology ("A pilot toxicology study of single-walled carbon nanotubes in a small sample of mice"). This work was funded in part by the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE).
All aspects of toxicity, including EKG, blood pressure, temperature, cell blood count, electrolytes, etc were monitored repeatedly during the 4-months study period. Gambhir says that, although minor changes occurred, no statistically significant changes occurred between mice given SWCNTs and those not given them.
"At the end of the monitoring period of 4 months all mice were sacrificed and a full tissue histology was done to look for signs of organ toxicity; but there was none." he says. "The Kupfer cells in the liver (a special type of cell that sits within the sinusoids, which are the phagocytes of the liver) had eaten up the nanotubes and they were found in these cells within the liver."
Gambhir and his group were motivated to do this study because they are developing imaging agents for cancer detection that rely on carbon nanotubes. Of course, before these technologies can be moved to a human trial stage the question of toxicity must be much better understood than it is today. Although preliminary, this recent study gives some hope in at least not finding any obvious toxicity problems.

Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood

We know from animal studies that a stimulating and enriched environment can enhance recovery after stroke,
but little is known about the effects of an enriched sound environment on recovery from neural damage in
humans. In humans, music listening activates a wide-spread bilateral network of brain regions related to attention,
semantic processing, memory, motor functions, and emotional processing. Music exposure also enhances
emotional and cognitive functioning in healthy subjects and in various clinical patient groups.The potential role
of music in neurological rehabilitation, however, has not been systematically investigated. This single-blind,
randomized, and controlled trial was designed to determine whether everyday music listening can facilitate
the recovery of cognitive functions and mood after stroke. In the acute recovery phase, 60 patients with a left
or right hemispheremiddle cerebral artery (MCA) stroke were randomly assigned to amusic group, a language
group, or a control group. During the following two months, the music and language groups listened daily to
self-selected music or audio books, respectively, while the control group received no listening material. In
addition, all patients received standard medical care and rehabilitation. All patients underwent an extensive
neuropsychological assessment, which included a wide range of cognitive tests as well as mood and quality of
life questionnaires, one week (baseline), 3 months, and 6 months after the stroke. Fifty-four patients completed
the study. Results showed that recovery in the domains of verbal memory and focused attention improved
significantlymore in themusic group than in the language and control groups.Themusic group also experienced
less depressed and confused mood than the control group. These findings demonstrate for the first time that
music listening during the early post-stroke stage can enhance cognitive recovery and prevent negative mood.
The neuralmechanisms potentially underlying these effects are discussed.

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