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     Volume 5 Issue 104 | July 21, 2006 |

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Degree offered in computer game design
The University of California-Santa Cruz has approved a new science major in computer game design. The school said the new major is designed to provide students with a rigorous background in the technical, artistic and narrative elements of creating interactive computer games. The university's department of computer science will administer the new interdisciplinary program that opens this fall. A highlight of the major is a yearlong game design project in which students will work in teams to develop and polish a substantial video game. To help launch the program, UCSC has hired Michael Mateas, an artificial intelligence researcher and an assistant professor of computer science, to help students create computer-controlled characters. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and the Georgia Institute of Technology have recently launched similar computer science programs.

Bluetooth Robot
Japanese robot venture Systec Akazawa's new humanoid robot "Plen", controlled by a bluetooth equipped mobile phone, demonstrates his skills in Tokyo, 12 July 2006. The robot, 23cm tall and weighing 700g, is able to walk and kick a ball.

Mazda Stars in Comic Book
Betting that young men love comics (sorry, graphic novels) as much as cars, Mazda has placed its RX-8 in the centre of the new Revved series of books. The car derives its superpower from magical metal originally found in "the Holy Grail, Joan of Arc's armour and King Arthur's Excalibur." The Revved series will also be a TV show from Fox (no doubt debuting after NASCAR) as well as an online property. Mazda makes great vehicles, but it is a surprise that the company was chosen for product placement over American manufacturers for the books. They could have had fun with a super Ford Pinto or Focus.

Science captures the essence of fruit
New Zealand scientists say a complete scientific understanding of fruit genes could revolutionise the way foods, cosmetics and perfumes are created. Researchers at the Auckland-based life sciences company HortResearch say they can accurately determine which genes create the individual flavours and fragrances found in fruits and flowers. Combined with traditional bio-fermentation techniques, the new information should make it possible for the natural tastes and aromas of fruit to be recreated. HortResearch biotechnology scientist Richard Newcomb said that's exciting news for the world's food, perfume and cosmetic producers, who have for years sought to mimic nature's flavors and fragrances in products ranging from ice cream to shampoo. While manufacturers have largely been successful in copying natural tastes and scents, they generally do so either through a chemical synthesis process or extraction from harvested raw ingredients, said Newcomb. "Neither approach is ideal. Chemical synthesis requires heat and pressure, so it is reliant on increasingly expensive and polluting fossil fuels for energy. What's more, he added, chemical synthesis can never truly recreate nature; the flavour or fragrance will typically be slightly different to that found naturally in fruits and flowers

Here, Fishy, Fishy, Fishy
Back in the day, an angler could spend a lifetime learning the ins and outs of his favourite fishing hole. Now he just needs to drop a sonar buoy, tie on a smart lure, and bam! Hook an enormous bass. The new gear has fishermen embroiled in a heated debate: At what point is fishing too easy? Tackle makers argue that bigger catches are better for the sport. And it seems they're winning: Pro-fishing competitions have embraced the tech. Here's a few tools that enable even novices to land the big one.

REMOTE CONTROL: It's hard to maneuver a boat and set a hook at the same time. Minn Kota Motors solves this problem with a remote control for the motor that can be mounted on a fishing pole. The all-electric motor is painstakingly balanced during manufacturing to run silently.

SONAR BUOY AND WATCH: Humminbird's SmartCast watch uses an internal antenna to communicate with a sonar buoy attached to a fishing line. The buoy pings the depths to 120 feet and sends data to the watch, which uses it to map the aquatic landscape. The software even recognizes the sonar signature of a fish, causing a cute icon to pop up on the display.

FISH CALL: The Fish Activator underwater speaker uses six digitally mastered sounds to attract prey. Choose from tracks like “Distressed Bait” and “Shad Clicks.” They were all perfected by scientists from Louisiana- based Biosonix Systems and recorded in a 957-gallon tank. The audio was tested in lakes, where fish reaction was monitored via underwater video cams.

LIGHT- SENSITIVE LINE: Many modern fishing lines are made from Dyneema, a plastic used in bulletproof vests. The material yields ultra-thin line that fish can't see. But humans have trouble spotting it, too. Berkley Fishing addresses this by embedding a UV-sensitive chemical that makes the line turn bright yellow in the sunlight above the water.

DIGITAL LURE: When the battery-powered SolarisFatshad lure is submerged, a chip tells 14 onboard LEDs to start flashing, simulating sunlight reflecting off scales. Simultaneously, a digital buzzer begins to chirp out electromagnetic pulses, emulating those emitted by an injured fish.


Compiled by IMRAN H. KHAN

Source: Wired, NewScientist and Webindia123


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