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     Volume 4 Issue 16 | October 8 , 2004 |

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SUVs Double Pedestrians' Risk of Death
Someone struck by a large sports utility vehicle is more than twice as likely to die than someone hit by a saloon car travelling at the same speed. The finding by American researchers will add further weight to calls for SUVs -- sporty vehicles with a high, blunt-fronted body atop a broad chassis -- to be made safer. Their high centre of gravity makes them more likely to roll over. Half the passenger vehicles being sold each year are now classed as light trucks and vans (LTVs), a class that includes SUVs, pickups and light freight vehicles. But no one has ever performed a broad analysis of the risk the burgeoning LTV fleet poses to people on the sidewalks, says Clay Gabler, a mechanical engineer specialising in vehicle technology at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. "Pedestrians are the forgotten crash victims," he says. "LTVs are heavier, stiffer and geometrically more blunt than passenger cars and pose a dramatically different type of threat to pedestrians," says Gabler. Research found that all LTVs have a higher risk of injuring pedestrians in an impact than cars. A pedestrian struck by a large van is three times as likely to die as someone hit by a car at the same speed. Pedestrians struck by large SUVs are twice as likely to die. The probability of serious head and thoracic injury is substantially greater than with a car," says Gabler. As they are lower in profile, cars tend to cause leg injuries, which are less likely to kill than head injuries.

Crashed Cars Text Message for Help
There is no good place to have a car crash - but some places are worse than others. In a foreign country, for instance, trying to explain via cellphone that you are upside down in a ditch when you cannot speak the local language can fatally delay the arrival of the emergency services. If you are conscious at all, that is. But an answer may be at hand. Researchers funded by the European Commission are beginning tests of a system called E-merge that automatically senses when a car has crashed and sends a text message telling emergency services in the local language that the accident has taken place. The system was developed by ERTICO, a transport research organisation based in Brussels, Belgium. Cars are fitted with a cellphone-sized device attached to the underside of the dashboard, which is activated by the same sensor that triggers the airbag in a crash. The device includes a cellphone circuit, a GPS positioning unit, a microphone and loudspeaker. It registers the severity of the crash by reading the deceleration data from the airbag's sensor. Using GPS information, it works out which country the car is in and from this it determines in which language to compose an alert message detailing the precise location of the accident. The device then automatically makes a call to the local emergency service operator. If the car's occupants are conscious, they can communicate with the operator via the speaker and microphone.

Robots To Change Their Shape
Scientists in New Hampshire have developed a new algorithm which would make it feasible for robots to change their shapes and even split into smaller parts to explore unfamiliar terrain. According to New Scientist, Zack Butler and colleagues have developed algorithms to control robots made from identical components, each capable of moving on their own but also able to attach to one another. These algorithms are the first step towards using the power of modularity to work in parallels. They could allow the use of modular robots to perform parallel exploration, dividing up and recombining to cover ground faster while still having the capability of the original system," said Butler. After conducting some preliminary testing using a modular lattice-shaped robot developed at Dartmouth, called Crystal, researchers are hopeful that such robots could eventually be used to explore particularly treacherous and remote territories, like the surface of another planet. However, Butler has admitted that the construction of reliable robots might not be an easy task. "Building robust modular hardware is very difficult, especially for the challenging environments in which they could have the biggest impact," he said.

Internet Addicts Suffer Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms are usually associated with alcohol or drug abuse, but now a behavioural study carried out on 28 people by Yahoo has revealed, that Internet addicts also suffer from the same fate. The people who participated in the study, meant for finding out how difficult life would be without the net, complained that they felt lost and out of touch with the world by missing on regular interaction with friends and family members through e-mails and chats. "It was a really hard thing to do. I thought I wasn't that Internet dependent but I was kind of helpless - like an infant. I got paid $700 - but I earned every penny of it," the New York Daily News quoted Northwestern University senior Russ Nelson, who took part in the study, as saying. Some people, however rediscovered more traditional and technology free lifestyles during their net withdrawal. David Armstrong of Belmont, Massachusetts rediscovered the joys of reading, but found the withdrawal symptoms too severe. "I can't believe I'm looking forward to getting spam," he said. "I had no idea how to get plane tickets through a travel agent and look things up in the newspaper. Just going out and buying a paper is difficult. I'm not used to paying for goods and services. I'm used to getting everything for free off the Internet," added Nelson. "I don't remember how I did live in the city before I had Internet access but I must have. I wouldn't go without it for 1,000 dollars," the report quoted Josh Weinberger, a freelance editor in Manhattan, as saying.


Source: The New Scientist.com / Webindia123.com / Google



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