When to Log Off
M. Levy, a computer scientist who loves technology and gets
more than 100 e-mail messages a day, makes a point of unplugging
from the Internet one day each week to clear his head. Even
so, with all the e-mail messages flooding in, with academic
blogs bursting with continuous debate and with the hectic
pace set by an increasingly wired world, Mr. Levy says he
cannot help but feel an occasional sense of information overload.
And that, he says, is something to stop and think about. Levy,
a professor at the University of Washington's Information
School, is one of many scholars trying to raise awareness
of the negative impact of communication technologies on people's
lives and work. They say the quality of research and teaching
at colleges is at risk unless scholars develop strategies
for better managing information and for making time for extensive
reading and contemplation. "We're losing touch with the
contemplative roots of scholarship, the reflective dimension,"
says Levy. "When you think that universities are meant
to be in effect the think tanks for the culture or at least
one of the major forms of thinking, that strikes me as a very
serious concern." He and other scholars have already
started a dialogue on the topic. Levy hopes the conversations
will grow into a new kind of movement focused on people's
informational environments and on reducing data smog.
can blame it on their genes
too much or nodding off at exactly the wrong time, does not
exactly mean you are lazy or dozy. It could all be due to
a gene named "shaker". Researchers at the US-based
University of Wisconsin Medical School have discovered that
a single gene mutation in fruit flies could hold the key to
new treatments for people who sleep too long - or too little.
"Sleep in fruit flies is very, very similar to sleep
in mammals," said one of the researchers, Chiara Cirelli.
Like humans, they sleep anywhere from six to 12 hours a night.
Most people need about eight hours to function properly but
some - famously such as Margaret Thatcher and Madonna - get
by with just three or four. Fruit flies are a model organism
for research because of the similarities in their genetic
make-up to that of humans and researchers found that mutation
of the gene shaker enabled them to exist on a third of the
normal amount of sleep. The mutated flies functioned normally
when given a series of tasks, but did not live as long as
other fruit flies.
and Search Engines
new feature launched by Google, the Internet's most popular
search engine, allows users to see all their past searches.
But privacy experts warn the service could easily be abused.
The service, called My Search History, is similar to, but
more comprehensive than, the feature Amazon.com, Ask Jeeves
and America Online have offered for some time. It is intended
to help people who use Google locate the information they
sought during earlier searches so they can avoid repeating
past queries. "If you don't remember an exact search
query, for instance, but do remember when you did the search,
you can use My Search History's calendar feature to check
the searches you did on a given day and navigate to any of
them with a single click," the Google site says. People
also can do a full-text search over their entire search history.
This may sound interesting and useful, but computer experts
said there are risks to privacy the technology has now generated.
that information should remain safely on its servers.
to Human Stem-Cell Trials
scientists have used embryonic or fetal stem cells to help
rodents with spinal cord injuries walk again. The researchers
travel the country showing videos of rats dragging their hind
legs, followed by clips of them miraculously hopping around
following stem-cell injections. The question now, especially
in the minds of the 250,000 people in the United States with
spinal cord injuries, is: When will the research transfer
into helping humans? The answer depends on who you ask. Some
scientists believe it could happen as soon as the end of this
year. Others say that is too soon, and data from larger animals
such as dogs or monkeys is necessary before researching with
humans. The controversy surrounding embryonic and fetal stem-cell
research means the first human clinical trial using the cells
will be under a microscope in more ways than one. If something
goes awry, opponents of killing embryos for research will
be poised to quash future research. Stem cells have the unique
potential to self-renew and to become various cell types.
Researchers believe those taken from embryos to be the most
flexible kind. Adult stem cells, derived from bone marrow,
blood, skin, hair follicles, nasal passages and the brain,
come without the ethical quandary, but some scientists doubt
they have as much potential as embryonic stem cells.
Your Music Hub Be a Phone?
Corp. is developing mobile phones with a novel capability:
They can link a home computer, stereo and car sound system
into a seamless, commercial-free music zone. The company plans
to launch a service, dubbed iRadio, that allows the new phones
to download songs and radio programming from an Internet-
connected computer each day, then beam them to car stereos
or home entertainment centres. The phones are not expected
to reach the market until later this year, with the iRadio
service due in December, said David E. Ulmer, a top marketing
executive at Motorola. The company needs one or more mobile
phone companies to sign on and none have publicly lent support.
The increasing capacity of wireless networks and advancing
mobile-phone technology have led carriers to experiment with
an assortment of music offerings and other new services. The
service will let customers load their phones with pre-recorded,
commercial-free digital radio stations. The phones will connect
via Bluetooth to specially equipped car stereos, enabling
people to listen to the stations stored on the phones as if
they were coming in over the air.
IANS, LA Times, Wired and Webindia123
by: Imran H. Khan
(R) thedailystar.net 2005