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     Volume 7 Issue 29 | July 18, 2008 |

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Sci Tech

Of Zombies and Penguins

Imran H. Khan

Are you tired of tokais scaling broken glass topped walls or adventurous flower sellers sneaking in on their way and stealing fruits from your backyard tree? Have you already tried using a charred matir hari- headed scarecrow to keep birds off your vegetable patch and had hoards of crows sitting on the scarecrow jeering at your effort? Despair no more. Design Toscano wants you to "expect the extraordinary from your home and garden," and that includes the walking dead. In their arsenal is a giant undead garden zombie. Designed by British artist Alan Dickinson, this is a resin sculpture that would be a terrifying addition to any lawn, garden or personal graveyard, owning to the fact that it is totally life-size. . .

My mom and I (in an effort towards greater mother/son bonding) recently started watching TV serials together. Not just any TV serial, but a psychological thriller that sends shivers down your BONES. The star of the serial, Emily Deschanel as the brilliant forensic anthropologist and writer Dr. Temperence Brennan, works at the Jeffersonian Institute. She teams up with a cocky yet charming ex-Army Ranger turned Special Agent, Seeley Booth played by David Boreanaz. Their work involves identifying human remains too far gone for standard FBI forensic investigations to solve (usually burnt beyond recognition or chopped bits of bones). Ok, I got a little side tracked … anyway if you've ever envied Bones (as Temperence Brennan likes not to be called and silly Booth insists on calling her) the dead bodies that turn up right and left and at times at her door step, you've hit pay dirt. Now you can have one of your very own in the guise of a Garden Sculpture.

To move from gardens to living quarters, Casa 11 Mujeres (House 11 Women, named after the 11 daughters of the family for which it was designed) hangs majestically over the Pacific. It is built with bare concrete with wood floors, glass, and steel on a 45 degree slope looking down Cachagua beach, 87 miles north of Santiago de Chile. The house has three floors. The bottom contains shared spaces, while the second level has the daughters bedrooms all of which have a view of the sea. The architectural design, the precise geometric structure and the breathtaking view were to ensure peace and harmony even among eleven daughters. Personally, if I had 11 daughters, I would have a lot more to worry about rather than harmony.

A little away from eccentric homes is the news about those adorable creatures -- penguin. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has recently listed 12 species of penguins as either endangered, vulnerable or "near threatened." The dwindling march of the penguins is signaling that the world's oceans are in trouble, scientists now say. Penguins may be the tuxedo-clad version of a canary in the coal mine, with generally ailing populations from a combination of global warming, ocean oil pollution, depleted fisheries, and tourism and development. A University of Washington biologist detailed specific problems around the world with remote penguin populations, linking their decline to the overall health of southern oceans.

Scientists figure there are between 16 to 19 species of penguins. Only a few, such as the king penguin found in islands north of Antarctica, are improving in numbers, while about a dozen are in some form of trouble. The largest Patagonian penguin colony in the world is at Punta Tumbo, Argentina, but the number of breeding pairs there dropped in half from about 400,000 in the late 1960s to about 200,000 in October 2006. Over a century, African penguins have decreased from 1.5 million breeding pairs to 63,000. There are several factors responsible for the overall decline, where the top two are global warming and oil spills.

The problems may be different from place to place, but looking at the numbers for the species overall, one can get a clear enough message of what is to come. And if your are not too concerned about the fate of penguins, just remember “today the penguins, tomorrow…” It may not be long before animation documentaries like the March of the Penguin becomes a classic from the archive.

Moving from scarcity to excess, the traffic today seems to always be on the rise. San Francisco seems to have come up with a small solution to their parking problems. The city's doing what it can to alleviate the problem, and that includes a multi-million dollar programme called SFPark that will convert 6,000 of San Francisco's 24,000 metered parking spaces into 'smart' spots. These special parking spots are currently being fitted with sensors that will allow drivers to find available spaces over a city-wide wi-fi network. The network will show available spots on drivers' cell phones and on dynamic street sign displays. It seems like a great idea and one wonders why more of these systems aren't already available. The SFPark network is also adaptable to parkers' habits. If a resident wants to add more time to the meter, they won't have to return to their car to do so, and spots can be calibrated for longer evening parking stays as well. This city is just another in the smart parking movement as both Niagara Falls and Vancouver city officials had installed new parking meters that accept payment via cell phone in 2007. I wonder why we have not started to at least to think about this sort of solution here in Bangladesh, and mainly in the Mirpur and Mohakhali area where people park their cars (and buses) by the road as if they owned the country. If not these smart spots, then at least we could come up with some high-rise parking lots where we one could park during office hours. I can already see that the traffic situation is reaching such a dilemma that it won't be long before we decide to run for the hills, and I mean literally on foot.

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