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     Volume 5 Issue 80 | January 27, 2006 |

   Cover Story
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"Million Dollar Homepage" Hits the Mark
Alex Tew, the money-minded student, has hit his goal of raising one million dollars for his college education. His Million Dollar Homepage features a page of one million pixels, which he sold off for a dollar a piece in blocks of ten. Tew decided to flog the last remaining 1,000 pixels on eBay. And, when the auction closed yesterday evening, the bidding for the last available space on this giant pixel billboard stood at $38,100. It means Tew's site has succeeded in generating just over a million dollars - since its launch in September. If you've got that sinking feeling like you missed out on something spectacular, don't worry. Pixel blocks are still available at other "flog sites" like Pink Million Dollars and The Million Pixel Page. Then, of course, there is the Zero Dollar Homepage for all of us cheap types. Heck, why not just create your own?

Gene therapy stops Parkinson's mutation
Northwestern University scientists say they're developing a therapy to selectively turn off a gene involved in Parkinson's disease development. The therapy was designed by Martha Bohn and colleagues at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. Bohn is director of the neurobiology program at Northwestern's Children's Memorial Research Centre and professor of paediatrics, molecular pharmacology and biological chemistry. The technique removes a protein known as alpha-synuclein from the diseased dopamine-producing neurons that die in Parkinson's disease. Alpha-synuclein is abundant in structures known as Lewy bodies -- a diagnostic hallmark of Parkinson's disease. This is the first step in developing a new therapy for Parkinson's disease based on molecular knowledge of the disease, said Mohan Sapru, research assistant professor of paediatrics and co-inventor of the gene therapy technology. It may also be useful for other diseases of the brain, such as dementia with Lewy bodies, a disease also characterised by Lewy bodies in the brain.

Mice may hold clues to schizophrenia
By deleting a single gene in the brains of mice, Texas scientists say they've found the animals behaved in a manner resembling schizophrenia in humans. After the gene was removed, researchers said the animals -- trained to use external cues to look for chocolate treats buried in sand -- couldn't learn a similar task. The scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre deleted the gene, which codes for a part of a protein involved in passing signals between nerve cells needed for learning and memory. When a similar protein is blocked by drugs in humans it leads to a psychotic state similar to schizophrenia. We think that both our genetic rodent model, as well as a new learning and memory test we developed, may provide valuable tools in the investigation of schizophrenia, said Dr. Robert Greene, professor of psychiatry and senior author of the study.

Your Awful Noise is my Art
As if getting jostled awake by the screeches, alarms and hollering of a city that never sleeps isn't bad enough, a web-based art project wants you to make Lower East Side noises into audible art. But the noises are much less annoying when you can control them. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum has commissioned an online exhibit called Folk Songs for the Five Points. It starts with an interactive map of Manhattan's downtown neighbourhood. Coloured circles dot the grid of streets, marking spots where the museum's artist-in-residence David Gunn recorded an assortment of audio clips. Each hue represents a different genre of sound, ranging from spoken to musical to ambient. Up to five clips can play at once, each with its own playback controls at the bottom of the page. Vectors on the map can be shifted with the click of a mouse, layering various sounds. "When I moved to New York, the Lower East Side really intrigued me," said Gunn, who is a recent British import. "There are all these different cultural contexts that have collided over time, and I wanted to create a reflection of that diversity by using music as the main focus. When you walk around Manhattan, there are an awful lot of ambient sounds," he said. "It's one of the noisiest cities I've ever been to." Gunn sees Folk Songs for the Five Points as an ongoing documentation of the neighbourhood and hopes to further promote the idea by setting locals loose with their own DAT recorders. "You could do this almost anywhere and it would be interesting," he said, "because every city has its own fluxes and changes."

The Importance of Being Pretty
Internet users can give websites a thumbs-up or thumbs-down in less than the blink of an eye, according to a study by Canadian researchers. In just a brief one-twentieth of a second -- less than half the time it takes to blink -- people make aesthetic judgments that influence the rest of their experience with an Internet site. The author said the findings had powerful implications for the field of website design. "It really is just a physiological response," said Gitte Lindgaard. "So web designers have to make sure they're not offending users visually. "If the first impression is negative, you'll probably drive people off." In the study, researchers discovered that people could rate the visual appeal of sites after seeing them for just one-twentieth of a second. These judgments were not random, the researchers found -- sites that were flashed up twice were given similar ratings both times. But the results did not show how to win a positive reaction from users, said Lindgaard, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa. "When we looked at the websites that we tested, there is really nothing there that tells us what leads to dislike or to like." And while further research may offer more clues, she said the vagaries of personal taste would always be a limiting factor. "If design were reducible to a set of principles, wouldn't we find an awful lot of similar houses, gardens, cars, rooms?" said Lindgaard. "You'd have no variety."

New Kid on the Block
Employee for Japanese electronics giant Matsushita Electric Industrial, Kazumi Tamamoto, displays the world's first 3CCD DVD camcorder, "DVD digicam VDR-D300", equipped with three 800,000-pixel CCDs on an image sensor and a 45.6 - 456mm/F1.8 - 2.8 zoom lens with image stabling system, enabling it to record 120 minutes of digital video images on an 8cm diameter DVD disk, at the company's showroom in Tokyo. Matsushita will put it on the market 01 February with an estimated price of 1,040 USD.

Seeing doesn't happen in the eye
Johns Hopkins University scientists are studying how we see objects in hopes of eventually developing neural prostheses. The question of how the brain sees, recognises and understands objects is one of the most intriguing in neuroscience, associate professor and paper co-author Charles Connor said. Vision doesn't happen in the eye, said Connor, It happens at multiple processing stages in the brain. Connor said the ability to see is one of the great evolutionary accomplishments of the human brain and understanding the process may lead to the development of neural prostheses -- artificial replacements for lost sensory, motor and perhaps even memory and cognitive functions. A team from the university's Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute described their research in detail in a recent journal.


Compiled by IMRAN H. KHAN

Source: Wired and Webindia123


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