New Kid on the Block
electronics giant Sony employee Hanae Kato displays the new
DVD camcorder "Handycam DCR-DVD403", equipped with
3.3 mega-pixel CCD on its image sensor, 5.1 - 51mm Carl Zeiss
VarioSonnar zoom lens and 2.7-inch wide LCD display. Sony
will put it on the market in March with an estimated price
of 1,310 USD. Sony announced its operating profit fell 13
percent in the December quarter, hit by falling digital product
prices and weak sales of its iconic PlayStation 2 game consoles.
has unveiled what its founder Bill Gates calls "more
precise and powerful" search capabilities on msn.com.
The announcement is widely seen as Microsoft's effort to crack
the near monopoly of search technology pioneer Google, which
too has recently added a host of new features. "Our goal
at Microsoft is to use the power of software to solve our
customers' toughest problems. Searching the Internet today
is a challenge and it is estimated that nearly half of customers'
complex questions go unanswered," Gates said in an official
announcement. MSN Search has been displayed more prominently
on the home page, with convenient tabs that allow consumers
to search for news, images, music, desktop or Microsoft Encarta.
Although Google enjoys the pioneer's advantage, Microsoft
is likely to use its financial and network muscle to power
into this rapidly growing multi-billion dollar market.
Grows its Own Muscles
that walks using muscles that it grew for itself has been
developed in a US laboratory. The remarkable device could
eventually lead to muscle-based nerve stimulators that let
paralysed patients breathe without a ventilator or to nanobots
that clear away plaque from inside the walls of a human coronary
artery. Scientists at the University of California in Los
Angeles grew a length of muscle about 100 microns long on
the underside of a silicon frame measuring 200 microns. The
cells were taken from a rat's heart and grown in a culture
that mimics natural biological conditions. The muscle contracts
and relaxes by feeding on glucose in a solution, the contractions
causing the tiny structure to shuffle along.
May Drive Birds into Extinction
greenhouse effect may cause the extinction of thousands of
birds globally, scientists warn. According to the Royal Society
for Protection of Birds (RSPB), global temperature rises must
be limited to less than two degrees Celsius above the temperature
in pre-industrial times to preserve birds. "There is
substantial and compelling evidence that climate change is
adversely affecting wildlife and it is going to take very
little further change to catastrophically affect other species
and ecosystems," said John Lanchbery, head of RSPB's
climate change department. "It is not a question of whether,
but how we tackle climate change if we care at all about our
health, our food, water supplies and our wildlife," Lanchbery
said at an international conference on the threat of climate
Learns Games 'like a human'
that learns to play a 'scissors, paper, stone' by observing
and mimicking human players could lead to machines that automatically
learn how to spot an intruder or perform vital maintenance
work. CogVis, developed by scientists at the University of
Leeds in Yorkshire, UK, teaches itself how to play the children's
game by searching for patterns in video and audio of human
players and then building its own "hypotheses" about
the game's rules. CogVis observed human volunteers playing
a version of the game using cards marked with a pair of scissors,
a piece of paper, or a stone. They were also told to announce
when they had won or when the game was a draw. After watching
for several rounds, CogVis was able to call the outcome of
each game correctly.
strong do you hold your tongue?
efficient is your brain's censor wall under pressure, distraction
and manipulations? What happens when you unknowingly put your
foot in your mouth and things go wrong?
make blunders! Associate Professor Bill von Hippel of New
South Wales was quoted as saying, "Stress, tiredness
and being distracted increase your chance of 'putting your
foot in it', telling people what you really think of them
or making other social blunders". The research analysed
humans regarding holding their tongues, suppressing irrelevant
or inappropriate thought, inhibitory ability and dilemma of
social etiquette. While we all, except older people, very
young people or brain-damaged people, can censor our thoughts,
some of us are better at it than others and it's easy to slip
up. Even people with good inhibitory ability like international
diplomats were likely to behave inappropriately when distracted
or fatigued. This suggests that our ability to suppress our
true feelings is disrupted under demanding conditions.
Dried specimens of plants collected by Scottish botanists
in the 19th century from Nepal will be used to find lost plant
species of the Himalayan kingdom. A team of Nepalese botanists
have travelled to Scotland to study the specimens preserved
in a special herbarium at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh,
reports Scottish daily Scotsman. Several of Nepal's 7,000
plant species that are believed to have been destroyed by
over-development and tourism could now be revived using the
herbarium, say scientists. "We have detailed information about
the plants. When they (the Nepalese scientists) go back, they
can look if the plants still exist," says Mark Watson, head
of the 'Flora of Nepal' project at the Royal Botanic Garden.
Nepal does not have a flora library. However, a few species
of plants may still exist and could be used to cultivate more
plants. Watson said the project could uncover a further 500
unknown species in Nepal. "We are very grateful that Scottish
scientists took some of our plants as specimens. Otherwise
we would not be able to learn about our plants."
by: Imran H. Khan
(R) thedailystar.net 2004