Saturday, July 18, 2009

Nazi Gnome

The BBC reports on how the president of Nuremberg´s Academy of Fine Arts has caused commotion following an exhibition of a garden gnome raising the Nazi salute. The artist claim that it is making fun of the Nazis and cannot believe that a minor exhibition has suddenly been given such negative publicity. However Nuremberg had a special place in Nazi Germany and German laws are, and rightly so, very strict on Nazi related publications. The gnome was put there by the gallery owner and not the artist, who wanted to ridicule the Nazi ideology by portraying gnomes as the master race.

Element 112: Copernicum

I recently posted about a new element discovered during nuclear fusion experiments that was looking for a name. The BBC reports on how the element has finally been given a name. Element 112 will be named Copernicum after Copernicus who first discovered how celestial objects orbit each other. Thank god they´ve honored someone worthy and not the name of scientists who seem to like glueing bits together in a laboratory for the sake of it and then claiming new discoveries.

NASA Moon Footage To Be Restored

40 years ago NASA put a man on the moon. Although the images of the landing are well known, it would appear that original tapes have been lost. The BBC reports on how Lowry Digitgal, a company responsible for digitally cleaning up classic movies, is restoring about 2.5 hours worth of lost NASA film footage from that era. The project should be completed by this september.

Real Music Lovers Still Purchase CDs

A UK survey reported in this article from Ars Technica shows that real music lovers still purchase CDs. The behaviour seems to indicate that purchasing downloads is used to discover new music and decide which new CDs to buy. P2P music downloading has dropped, probably because of the dubious quality of anything obtained through those channels. The study also confirms that people who purchase music online also buy more CDs. Although the article doesn´t mention this, to me this is also an indication that the lost sales figures that the RIAA claim due to illegal downloads is not accurate, since a proportion of people may just as easily download music illegally as a way to discover new music before buying it.

GE Zero Energy Housing Initiative

Ars Technica reports on a plan by GE for the energy neutral home of the future. As part of their smart grid programme, the system will include an energy device monitor and intelligent appliances to provide residents with detailed information about domestic power consumption and automatically throttle a device´s power usage at times it is not required. Combining this with solar power for water heating and charging residential batteries, the project could reduce domestic power consumption by at least 15%.

NSA Illegal Post 9/11 Wiretap Programme

Ars Technica have another article about how Bush recruited John Yoo as presidential advisor to back up secret, illegal powers given to the president and NSA to increase government surveillance. Yoo was apparently assigned the post directly by the president, bypassing the Attorney General and without any kind of legal backing or approval from congress, working secretly and alone to provide justification for government activities post 9/11 and arguing that the president could do whatever he wanted in the interests of national security, overriding any laws passed by congress if necessary.

Pigeon Art Critics

Ars Technica provided this link to a Japanese bit of research in which pigeons were conditionally trained to evaluate child drawings and determine whether their art is bad or good. Results suggest that pigeons were less successful with grayscale images but could discriminate well with colours and patterns. Although the author suggests that pigeons may even be able to appreciate beauty in the same way as humans, how much of this is simply about a pigeon learning to get a tasty snack when he picks a conditioned right answer?

Snipers To Protect Fairy Penguins

Snipers are being employed in Sydney harbour according to the BBC to protect a group of fairy penguins that have been attacked by predators in recent weeks. Night patrols have been set up, joining up with groups of volunteers to protect the creatures from dogs and foxes.

Japan Love Hotels Beat The Recession

Business seems to be booming at Japan´s love hotels according to the BBC, which seem to have not been affected by the recession. The hotels are short stay operations that provide a discrete service for couples wanting a couple of hours in private. Japanese homes are usually very small, one of the reasons why mobile entertainment is success there and a flop in the west. There may be a market for enterpreneurs since there no large chains and most owners have only a handful of the hotels in their possession.

Gaza Atrocities: Breaking The Silence

The BBC reports on a group of anonymous Israeli soldiers who speaking out against behviour of troops against Gaza civilians during the last conflict. Some of the allegations including using civilians as human shields when entering building, clearing buildings to ease movement of military units and the use of white phosphor, something was filmed by the media but denied by Israel. Although I believe Israel has the right to defend itself, the David and Goliath tactics do not win them any sympathy and as afar as I´m concerned counterproductive.

Cats Purr To Manipulate Owners

The BBC reports on how cats use purring to influence their owners. Cats seemed to have learned that certain frequencies of purring sound more urgent and evokes a stronger emotional response in humans, in the same way babies cry. As a result a certain kind of purr is more likely to persuade the owner to feed them.

$1 Trillion Deficit

Reading this from the BBC I wonder why the US still is not a third world country, with its seemingly bottomless pit of debt. The deficit there has reached such astronomical levels largely as a result of additional governemnt spending for bail outs from the recession. China has a lot of dollars invested in the US and investors quite rightly are wondering what their return is going to be.

Tremors On The San Andreas Fault

Seismology does not seem to be an exact science, but according to this article from AOL the number of deep tremors along the San Andreas fault has been increasing, a possible indication of upcoming seismic event. The last quake was in 2004 and tremors were recorded before this event. Now the tremors seem to be above the levels recorded in 2003, which may be an indication of a quake hitting the area in the short term.