Friday, June 28, 2013

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Chocolate and Health Benefits: Study Details:
Hong compared white chocolate, which has no cocoa solids, to regular dark chocolate containing 70% cocoa. The cocoa solids contain healthy compounds called flavonols. These have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

She also tested dark chocolate containing 70% cocoa that had been overheated or ”bloomed.” (“You know when you leave chocolate in the [hot] car?” she asks. That’s ”bloomed” — melted and then maybe hardened again.).

She wanted to see if the melting would rob the dark chocolate of the health effects.

Hong’s team assigned 31 men and women to eat about 1.7 ounces (a standard-size chocolate bar is about 1.5 ounces) of dark, white, or ”bloomed” dark chocolate every day for 15 days. Before and after the study, Hong’s team measured blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.


  • Improved LDL or ”bad” cholesterol
  • Improved HDL or “good” cholesterol
  • She didn’t find differences in blood pressure between the white chocolate eaters and the dark chocolate eaters.
As for why the dark chocolate may help blood sugar levels, Hong says its antioxidants may help the body use its insulin more efficiently to control blood sugar. This, in turn, helps to lower blood sugar levels naturally.

Compared to people who ate white chocolate, those who ate dark lowered their bad cholesterol by about 20%, Hong tells WebMD. Dark chocolate eaters increased their good cholesterol by 20%, compared to white chocolate eaters.

The white chocolate, but not the dark, made the skin blood flow slow down — not a desirable quality. Skin blood flow is a way to measure how the blood vessels are functioning.

The study did not have industry funding.

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Beach Benefits: Oceanside Living Is Good for Health

People who live close to the coast have greater well-being than people who live inland, studies show.


WASHINGTON — The age-old wisdom that being near the seaside is good for your health may be true, studies suggest.

People often focus on the threats the ocean poses to human health, whether it's storms and floods, harmful algal blooms or pollution. But research shows that spending time by the ocean has many positive effects on health and well-being, epidemiologist Lora Fleming of the University of Exeter in England, said here on Wednesday (June 26) at a science policy conference of the American Geophysical Union.

The notion that being near a beach makes one feel healthy is not new, of course. Doctors were prescribing trips to the shore or visits to "bathing hospitals" — special clinics that offered seawater bath treatments — as early as the 18th century. But only recently have scientists begun studying the ocean's health benefits experimentally, Fleming said.
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Migraines' Genetic Clues Could Lead to Better Treatment


About 14 percent of adults suffer from migraines, but despite their prevalence, scientists have struggled to find the biological roots of the sometimes debilitating disorder. Now, researchers have identified a dozen genetic regions linked to migraine susceptibility, according to a new study.

Knowing these genetic regions could help researchers better understand what triggers the severe headaches, and could lead to more personalized treatments for sufferers.

A team of researchers combed through 29 genomic studies, and sifted through gene markers from more than 100,000 tissue samples taken from both people who suffer from migraines, and those who do not.
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Omega-3 in Fish May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk


A large review of studies concludes that women who consume more omega-3 fatty acids by eating fish were at a lower risk of having breast cancer.

The researchers in China analyzed the results of 26 international studies involving almost 900,000 women, including 20,000 who had breast cancer. The scientists found that those women who had the consumed the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids from fish were 14 percent less likely to have breast cancer, compared with those who ate the least.

The results also showed what researchers call a dose-response relationship: each 0.1-gram increase in omega-3 per day was linked with a 5 percent lower risk of having breast cancer. For comparison, a serving of an oily fish such as salmon contains about 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish are those that have high concentrations of omega-3.

Google making the Web faster with protocol that reduces round trips

Chrome testers to get faster speed with QUIC, an experimental network protocol.


Google, as is its wont, is always trying to make the World Wide Web go faster. To that end, Google in 2009 unveiled SPDY, a networking protocol that reduces latency and is now being built into HTTP 2.0. SPDY is now supported by Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and the upcoming Internet Explorer 11.

But SPDY isn't enough. Yesterday, Google released a boatload of information about its next protocol, one that could reshape how the Web routes traffic. QUIC—standing for Quick UDP Internet Connections—was created to reduce the number of round trips data makes as it traverses the Internet in order to load stuff into your browser.

Although it is still in its early stages, Google is going to start testing the protocol on a "small percentage" of Chrome users who use the development or canary versions of the browser—the experimental versions that often contain features not stable enough for everyone. QUIC has been built into these test versions of Chrome and into Google's servers. The client and server implementations are open source, just as Chromium is.

"Users shouldn't notice any difference—except hopefully a faster load time," Google's Jim Roskind wrote in a blog post.

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One of the Culprits Behind PRISM? Design Thinking (Really)


As details of the National Security Agency’s PRISM program came out – alongside concerns about democracy, freedom, state surveillance and the complicity of corporations — something else was revealed.

It’s about the ways in which digital technologies are fundamentally reformulating the ways in which design — a new kind of design born out of digital culture — now organizes and impacts the way we live. 

PRISM actually tells us something about design in the 21st century: It tells us that design is increasingly about systems, increasingly about processes, and the way these interface with the real world.

Take the designs of the hardware, software, and services that companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google offer. These companies provide virtual worlds that we find ourselves enmeshed in: places that we can’t get out of, like Apple’s Mac OS, iOS, iTunes and iPhone, or Google’s services that link activities like search, calendar, documents, email, chat, and so on.

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Nearly One in Five Members of Congress Gets Paid Twice

  They draw government pensions from previous work in addition to their congressional salary. The practice is called “double-dipping.”  

To solve the debt crisis, Americans—who are already suffering in these tough economic times—will have to make even more sacrifices, Rep. Mike Coffman told his House colleagues last year. So, leaning on his military service, the 58-year-old Colorado Republican argued that members of Congress should take the first step and abolish their congressional pensions. “If there’s one thing I learned in both the United States Army and the Marine Corps about leadership, it was leading by example,” Coffman lectured them, pointing to his chest at a committee hearing. “Never ask anyone to do anything that you yourself would not be willing to do.”

What Coffman left unsaid that day in a speech about his bill’s “symbolic” importance was that he was collecting a $55,547 state-government pension in addition to his congressional paycheck. Having spent two decades as an elected official in Colorado, he has received retirement benefits since 2009, the year he arrived in Congress.

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So You Wanna Go To Space. Can You Put Up With The Superpower Bacteria?

“The space-grown communities of bacteria, called biofilms, formed a ‘column-and-canopy’ structure not previously observed on Earth."--NASA.

Mars astronaut

We all love space here and we’re sure, given that thousands of people applied for a one-way trip to Mars, that at least some of you want to spend a long time in a spacecraft. But have you thought about the bacteria that will be going along with you?

If you don’t feel too squirmy to read on, understand this: one type of bacteria grown aboard two shuttle missions ended up being bigger and thicker than control colonies on Earth, new NASA research shows.
Two astronaut crews aboard space shuttle Atlantis grew colonies of bacteria (more properly speaking, biofilms) on behalf of researchers on Earth. Most biofilms are harmless, but a small number could be associated with disease.

Biofilms were all over the Mir space station, and managing them is also a “challenge” (according to NASA) on the International Space Station. Well, here’s how they appeared in this study:
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The Myth Of The Komodo Dragon's Dirty Mouth


In 1969, an American biologist named Walter Auffenberg moved to the Indonesia island of Komodo to study its most famous resident—the Komodo dragon. This huge lizard—the largest in the world—grows to lengths of 3 metres, and can take down large prey like deer and water buffalo. Auffenberg watched the dragons for a year and eventually published a book on their behaviour in 1981. It won him an award. It also enshrined a myth that took almost three decades to refute, and is still prevalent today.

Auffenberg noticed that when large animals like water buffalo were injured by the dragons, they would soon develop fatal infections. Based on this observation, and no actual evidence, he suggested that the dragons use bacteria as a form of venom. When they bite prey, they flood the wounds with the microbes in their mouths, which debilitate and kill the victim.

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The Suicide Detective

Matthew K. Nock, director of the Laboratory for Clinical and Developmental Research at Harvard University, is one of the most original and influential suicide researchers in the world.


For reasons that have eluded people forever, many of us seem bent on our own destruction. Recently more human beings have been dying by suicide annually than by murder and warfare combined. Despite the progress made by science, medicine and mental-health care in the 20th century — the sequencing of our genome, the advent of antidepressants, the reconsidering of asylums and lobotomies — nothing has been able to drive down the suicide rate in the general population. In the United States, it has held relatively steady since 1942. Worldwide, roughly one million people kill themselves every year. Last year, more active-duty U.S. soldiers killed themselves than died in combat; their suicide rate has been rising since 2004. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the suicide rate among middle-aged Americans has climbed nearly 30 percent since 1999. In response to that widely reported increase, Thomas Frieden, the director of the C.D.C., appeared on PBS NewsHour and advised viewers to cultivate a social life, get treatment for mental-health problems, exercise and consume alcohol in moderation. In essence, he was saying, keep out of those demographic groups with high suicide rates, which include people with a mental illness like a mood disorder, social isolates and substance abusers, as well as elderly white males, young American Indians, residents of the Southwest, adults who suffered abuse as children and people who have guns handy. 

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The Upside of Trauma

Worries about post-traumatic stress have become a stock part of the media narrative surrounding tragedies like Boston and Newtown. And resilience is supposedly the best we can hope for in the face of adversity. But what if there’s a third option? The story of one mass shooting, and the surprising tug of post-traumatic growth.


The Year of Living Traumatically: The Boston bombings (above), the Newtown school massacre, and the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion all played out within a few months of each other.

The event that changed Bill Benson’s life revealed itself in his Twitter feed early last Christmas Eve morning. It started, as so many episodes of mass violence do, with a plot so fiendish that ordinary people like Benson couldn’t immediately comprehend it. In the town of Webster, New York, on the shore of Lake Ontario, someone had set a row of houses ablaze and then lain in wait with a rifle to ambush the firefighters.

Three of them, all volunteers, lay in the road—two dead, one grievously wounded and pinned down by gunfire. A fourth took cover in the bullet-riddled fire truck, using a radio to broadcast warnings and a heartbreakingly cool-headed plea: “I am struck in the lower back and lower leg, both of which I know can be deadly. So I need EMS.” Benson stared as the news tweets unspooled on his screen for 90 agonizing minutes, until police confirmed the shooter’s suicide and rescued the survivors. By then, seven homes had turned to smoldering heaps, and the media’s attention was shifting to the basic questions: Who? Why?

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Lance Armstrong: You can't win Tour de France title without taking drugs

Comments will infuriate Brits Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, who insist that the sport is now clean.

Nobody can win the Tour de France without taking performance-enhancing drugs, Lance Armstrong, the disgraced seven-times winner of the race said today.

In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde on the eve of the 100th Tour, Armstrong implied that all recent winners of the race – including Britain’s Sir Bradley Wiggins last year – must have taken some form of dope.

“I didn’t invent doping. It didn’t stop with me either,” Armstrong said.

In reply to the question whether it was possible to win cycle races without dope while he was a professional rider, Armstrong said: “It depends which races you want to win. The Tour de France? Impossible to win it without dope. The Tour is a test of endurance where oxygen is the decisive factor.”

“EPO, for example, is not going to help a sprinter over 100 metres but it will make all the difference to a 10,000 metre runner. That’s obvious.”

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Russian meteor shockwave circled globe twice


The shock wave from an asteroid that burned up over Russia in February was so powerful that it travelled twice around the globe, scientists say.

They used a system of sensors set up to detect evidence of nuclear tests and said it was the most powerful event ever recorded by the network.

More than 1,000 people were injured when a 17m, 10,000-tonne space rock burned up above Chelyabinsk.

The study appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The researchers studied data from the International Monitoring System (IMS) network operated by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO). 

The detection stations look out for ultra-low frequency acoustic waves, known as infrasound, that could come from nuclear test explosions. But the system can also detect large blasts from other sources, such as the Chelyabinsk fireball.
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Are Smartphones Emasculating After All?


“Is Your iPhone Turning You Into a Wimp?” is the provocative title of an article from Harvard Business School’s Monday newsletter, Working Knowledge, and in it you can hear echoes of Sergey Brin’s contention that smartphones are “emasculating.” But this time, our smarter-than-thou technologies aren’t sapping our confidence by making us depend on them, like megalomaniacal red wheelbarrows. They’re changing the hormonal chemistry of our brains through our posture.   

I’ve written before on the Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy and power poses—I’ve even tried them out, at some cost to my dignity but gain to my dry-cleaning pickup skills. The idea is that certain body stances, such as standing with your legs apart and your hands on your hips, or opening up your chest area, bathe your cortex in testosterone, a hormone associated with assertiveness and the willingness to take risks. Meanwhile, they also reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. On the other hand, low power poses—crossing your arms over your chest, say, or bunching your shoulders—increase neural levels of cortisol and reduce testosterone, resulting in more stress and less confidence.
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Runners Show Less Fatigue After 200 Miles Than 100 Miles

New study shows role of pacing and sleep deprivation in endurance. 

Runners compete in the 89km Comrades Marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, May 24, 2009.  

Runners compete in the 89-kilometer (55-mile) Comrades Marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, South Africa, on May 24, 2009.

Running the Tor des Geants is not for the faint of heart. Widely regarded as one of the world's toughest endurance events, the 210-mile (336-kilometer) foot race climbs through some of the steepest and wildest terrain in the Italian Alps, taking runners up and over some 25 major mountain passes and involving a total of more than 80,000 feet (24,000 meters) of vertical elevation gain.

The rules are simple. This is not a stage race. Whoever gets to the finish line first is the winner, simple as that. From the moment the starter's gun goes off in the mountain village of Courmeyeur, in Italy's Aosta Valley, competitors have 150 hours to complete the course. How, when, where, even if they get any sleep during the race is completely up to them. The focus is solely on getting to the finish.
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Photos of the World’s Scariest Border Fences


A test mounting of a photograph depicting the U.S.-Mexican border on the Berlin Wall. Photo: Kai Wiendenhöfer.

Back in 1989, Kai Wiendenhöfer was a first-semester student studying in Cologne, Germany. The day the Berlin Wall fell, the budding photographer rushed to the city to capture the historic moment. Since then, the Berlin-based documentarian has traveled the world shooting border separation walls in some of the most hostile cities on earth. He’s photographed the DMZ between North and South Korea, the Peace Lines in Belfast, the Green Line separating Turkey and Greece and our very own border wall between the United States and Mexico (to name just a few). Now, in conjunction with the publishing of his book Confrontier, Wiedenhöfer is looking to mount those photographs on the remnants of the Berlin Wall, creating a massive, open-air exhibition that he hopes will spark conversation about the use of border walls as a means to political gain.

Photographing the Korean DMZ and Baghdad’s concrete curtain required increased safety measures.
Wiedenhöfer has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the project, and if he meets his goal, he’ll print 36 large-format photographs from eight barrier structures around the world. The exhibition, titled WALLONWALL, will be expansive. With each photograph measuring 3 by 9 meters, the exhibition will stretch for 364 meters and take up nearly 1,100 square meters of space on the Berlin Wall, making it a nearly unavoidable art experience for everyone who visits the landmark.
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Gold in them bits: Inside the world’s most mysterious Bitcoin mining company

Butterfly Labs has taken millions of dollars worth of orders for its hardware.


This is the first in a two-part series exploring Butterfly Labs and its lineup of dedicated Bitcoin-mining hardware. In part one, we look at the company and the experiences customers have had with it. In part two, to be published on June 29, we share our experiences running a Bitcoin miner for a couple weeks. Spoiler alert: we made money.

The more I dig into Bitcoin, the stranger it gets. There’s gray-market online gambling and Russian-operated futures markets—to say nothing of the virtual currency’s wild ride over the last several months. It’s full of characters with names like “artforz” and “Tycho,” supposedly two of the largest Bitcoin holders out there. Of course, like most things Bitcoin, it’s nearly impossible to know for sure.

While reporting on a Bitcoin-based gambling story earlier this year, I interviewed Bryan Micon, who works with a Bitcoin-based poker site called Seals With Clubs. (To continue the lack of information, Micon won’t say who owns the site.) Micon has taken it upon himself to investigate what he believes are Bitcoin-related scams—such as the ill-fated Bitcoin Savings and Trust online bank—and he makes public pronouncements about them.
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Ex-Pentagon general target of leak investigation, sources say


James Cartwright, a retired general and trusted member of President Barack Obama's national security team, has been informed that he's the target of a Justice Department criminal investigation into a leak about a covert cyberattack on Iran's nuclear program.  

Legal sources tell NBC News that the former second ranking officer in the U.S. military is now the target of a Justice Department investigation into a politically sensitive leak of classified information about a covert U.S. cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear program.

According to legal sources, Retired Marine Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has received a target letter informing him that he’s under investigation for allegedly leaking information about a massive attack using a computer virus named Stuxnet on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Gen. Cartwright, 63, becomes the latest individual targeted over alleged leaks by the Obama administration, which has already prosecuted or charged eight individuals under the Espionage Act.

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Heat Wave May Threaten World’s Hottest Temp. Record

A brutal and potentially historic heat wave is in store for the West as parts of Nevada, Arizona and California may get dangerously hot temperatures starting Thursday and lasting through next week. In fact, by the end of the heat wave, we may see a record tied or broken for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth.

The furnace-like heat is coming courtesy of a “stuck” weather pattern that is setting up across the U.S. and Canada. Starting this weekend, the jet stream  a fast-moving river of air at airliner altitudes that is responsible for steering weather systems — will form the shape of a massive, slithering snake with what meteorologists refer to as a deep “ridge” across the Western states, and an equally deep trough seting up across the Central and Eastern states. 

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Inside The Most Expensive Science Experiment Ever

Many machines over the past 60 years have been billed as the one that will make the big breakthrough in fusion science, only to stumble. This one could be different.  

Some people have spent their whole working lives researching fusion and then retired feeling bitter at what they see as a wasted career. But that hasn’t stopped new recruits joining the effort every year: optimistic young graduates keen to get to grips with a complicated scientific problem that has real implications for the world. Their numbers have been increasing in recent years, perhaps motivated by two factors: there is a new machine under construction, a huge global effort that may finally show that fusion can be a net producer of energy; and the need for fusion has never been greater, considering the twin threats of dwindling oil supplies and climate change.

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How Earth Heals Itself After an Earthquake

One of the sites for the Wenchuan earthquake deep-drilling project, which recorded changes in the fault following a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in 2008.


For the first time, scientists have watched the Earth heal itself after an earthquake.

The process is similar to the body repairing a cut, researchers from China and the United States report today (June 27) in the journal Science. During an earthquake, the ground tears apart along a fault, leaving a jagged series of fractures. After China's devastating magnitude 7.9 Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, fluids filled the fractured fault, like blood gushing into a wound, the team found by drilling into the fault. Within two years — a blink of the eye in geologic time — the fault was speedily knitting itself back together, closing gaps through a combination of processes. But the gashes occasionally reopened when damaged by shaking from distant earthquakes, the study reports.

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What will be the next global transformers?

What will be the next global transformers? 

Oil, electricity and the internet have profoundly altered our planet, but what will come next? Gaia Vince wants your help in predicting them.   

Look ahead five years... ten years... fifty years, perhaps. You will be different. Older. Perhaps no longer alive. Now think about where you will live in years to come. Think about the world as a whole. It too will be different, but it's harder to imagine how.

When we try to imagine the future, we tend to look to the past for clues and extrapolate forwards. But we are living at a time of planetary change. Over the past century, humans have utterly transformed the planet on such a scale that many believe we are entering a new geological era, the Anthropocene. In recent decades we have been polluting the atmosphere and changing global climates, reducing biodiversity, re-plumbing rivers and other waterways, raising sea levels and acidifying the oceans, depleting the world's mineral and natural resources, among many other things.

Will we continue on this trajectory? Or will something happen to shift us onto a new course?
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Snowden’s only safe choice may be to stay in Russia indefinitely


Assuming that Edward Snowden has not already been spirited away from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport to yet another international destination, he may want to buy an ushanka and find a nice dacha. Russia, though it was initially supposed to be a stopover, perhaps on the way to Ecuador, might be Snowden’s best bet for permanent shelter away from the United States’s requests for extradition.

Snowden’s other options look risky or have already fallen through. He fled Hong Kong when it became clear that the Chinese special administrative region would not guarantee his asylum and that he might face jail time pending the U.S. extradition request. Snowden had earlier said he wanted to seek refuge in Iceland. But the government there, which recently shifted to the right and has an economic interest in not upsetting the United States, has downplayed its willingness accepting him.
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We're In The Platinum Age Of Maps

Plotting the Landscape of Digital Information  


For this street map of the United States, pink shades represent roads that were mapped recently by OpenStreetMap users; bluer shades represent roads that were mapped years ago.

The 17th Century, particularly in The Netherlands, is considered the Golden Age of maps. The Dutch were spanning the globe for trade and their maps and atlases became lavish and colorful works of art depicting mysterious worlds encountered by explorers.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and with the ubiquity of GPS devices, navigational maps have more or less gone the way of the horse and buggy. But maps themselves are seeing a renaissance as the landscape of digital information needs plotting.
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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Alternative cancer therapy using B17 (Apricot seeds)

Here is part 1 of 5 the other parts are below if you wish to continue watching to learn more.

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Seeds of Death: Unveiling The Lies of GMO’s

The world’s leading Scientists, Physicians, Attorneys, Politicians and Environmental Activists expose the corruption and dangers surrounding the widespread use of Genetically Modified Organisms in the new feature length documentary, “Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs”.

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How Our Visions of Virtual Reality Have Changed in the Past 40 Years

How Our Visions of Virtual Reality Have Changed in the Past 40 Years 

The other day, Second Life celebrated its 10-year anniversary. But long before that venerable virtual world came into existence, we were dreaming up images of virtual reality and cyberspace.

Top image: Tron vs. Tron Legacy

It seems like there are a few basic ways to represent "cyberspace" and virtual reality. You can have basic reality, with the occasional glitches or incongruities. You can create a surreal dreamscape that is clearly not "reality" as we know it. You can use actual computer graphics, or try to approximate computer graphics somehow using animation. Or you can just go for something extremely cartoony.

As computer animation and CG effects became more sophisticated, in the 1990s, the scope for film-makers and designers to create "computerized" looking worlds became greater — but by some point in the late 2000s, CG animation and motion-capture start being convincing enough that we no longer accept a virtual world that looks obviously computer-y or excessively 8-bit. To some extent, the evolution of our imagery around virtual worlds reflects our increased computing power and our greater sophistication when it comes to imagining our interactions with computers in general.

Just look at the difference between Tron and Tron Legacy.

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Chinese woman's breast implant explodes after she lies on stomach playing iPhone game

Poor quality combined with the prolonged pressure caused the boob to bust, doctors say.


The Chinese woman (not shown) was playing on her iPhone when the botched boob burst.
A Chinese woman's breast implant exploded after she lay on her stomach playing an iPhone game for four hours, it's claimed.

Doctors think the poor quality of the fake boob, combined with the pressure placed on them for such a long time, caused it to rupture.

True Facts About The Mantis Shrimp

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CIA cracks down on its own to stop leaks


WASHINGTON (AP) — CIA Director John Brennan is launching a new campaign aimed at pressuring CIA officers to keep the intelligence agency's secrets secret, after a series of leaks to the media.

In a memo to the CIA workforce this week, Brennan says the "Honor the Oath," campaign is intended to "reinforce our corporate culture of secrecy" through education and training. The Associated Press obtained the memo Wednesday, marked unclassified and for official use only.
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Why We Call It Alcoholic ‘Proof’ (Or How British Sailors Used to Be Freaking Pyros)


Picture a creaking ship. Disgruntled sailors. Cheating merchants. Toss in a bit of gunpowder and boredom and you have yourself the beginnings of our modern-day alcohol “proof” system. It turns out those seemingly arbitrary numbers printed on liquor bottles that require you to do MATH to figure out alcohol content actually have a semi-reasonable explanation. That is, in order to protect themselves against watered-down booze, sailors in the British navy used to mix their rum with gunpowder, taking note that only alcohol that hadn’t been diluted would actually ignite when lit. The flame, therefore, was considered “proof” the rum was actually worth anything – and proof these were probably not the people you wanted running your ship.

According to The Customs and Excise Act of 1952, spirits that were of “proof strength” needed to weigh exactly 12/13ths the volume of distilled water equal to the volume of the spirit at 51°F, or in layman’s terms, at least 57.1% ABV. Rum with this percentage of alcohol was considered to have “100 degrees proof,” while 100% ABV was 175° proof and 50% ABV was 87.5° proof. This system remained the technical standard in the UK until January 1980.
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Recollections from hundreds of executions in Texas

Michael Graczyk 

In this photo taken June 12, 2013, Associated Press reporter Michael Graczyk leaves the Huntsville Unit after witnessing the execution of confessed killer Elroy Chester in Huntsville, Texas. Chester was convicted of the 1988 the fatal shooting of Port Arthur firefighter Willie Ryman III. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan).

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — About once every three weeks, I watch someone die.

Beginning in 1984 when I arrived in Texas for The Associated Press, I've been just a few feet away as one convicted killer after another took a final breath in the Texas death chamber in Huntsville, where the state's 500th execution in modern times took place Wednesday.

I really don't know how many I've seen. I lost count years ago and have no desire to reconstruct a tally.

While death penalty cases are not the only assignments I cover, those certainly leave the strongest impressions.

One inmate, Jonathan Nobles, sang "Silent Night" as his last words as he was receiving the lethal injection. He got to "Round yon virgin, mother and child" before gasping and losing consciousness. Christmas, for me, never has been the same.
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NSA Leaks Are Said to Have Changed the Ways Al Qaeda Talks, but How Much?


Following the Edward Snowden leaks that detailed a large part of the process by which the U.S. government's largest intelligence agency spies on terrorists — and American citizens — Al Qaeda has reportedly (and predictably) started tweaking the way it communicates, but in a way the doesn't necessarily make it harder for the National Security Agency to track them. "[A] lawmaker briefed on the matter said al-Qaida's Yemeni offshoot, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, has been among the first to alter how it reaches out to its operatives," reports the Associated Press's Kimberly Dozier, referring to what is thought of as the most active group of the network. The AP sources, of course, cited secrecy in declining to elaborate on how Al Qaeda has shifted its digital tactics: "The officials wouldn't go into details on how they know this, whether it's terrorists switching email accounts or cellphone providers or adopting new encryption techniques." CNN has more.

Making it harder for the NSA or CIA to spy on Al Qaeda would seem to help justify programs like PRISM, but it remains unclear whether the terrorists group's ever-evolving communications make it that much harder for the NSA to track anyone. After the leaks, "jihadists posted Arabic news articles about it ... and recommended fellow jihadists to be very cautious, not to give their real phone number and other such information when registering for a website," Adam Raisman of the SITE Intelligence Group, a private analysis firm, told Dozier. Were the most dangerous terrorists on earth really posting their home phone numbers online? Or, for that matter, even using Skype anymore?

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The Inside Story of Russia's Fight to Keep the U.N. Corrupt

From bullying out reformers to blocking efforts to save millions.


When U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Sochi, Russia, they were supposed to discuss the civil war in Syria. But the Russian leader -- joined by his top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, and defense secretary, Sergei Shoigu -- suddenly changed the subject to more mundane matters. A series of U.N. reforms aimed at streamlining billions of dollars of spending on U.N. peacekeeping was posing a threat to Russia's commercial interests. Putin and his national security team politely but firmly pressed the U.N. leader to back off, according to several senior U.N.-based sources briefed on the meeting.

The high-level intervention on U.N. spending marked only the latest example of Russia flexing its diplomatic muscle to protect its commercial position at the United Nations. For much of the past decade, Russia has been engaged in a systematic effort to stymie attempts to root out corruption in U.N. spending. The Russians have pushed out U.N. reformers. They've defanged watchdogs. And they've blocked internal budget reforms aimed at saving costs. 

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A view of Earth that'll make you go whoa

A view of Earth that&#39;ll make you go <em>whoa</em> 

From ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano comes an absolutely gorgeous view of our planet from space.

Parmitano captured this view of a cloud-covered Earth yesterday from the International Space Station. He arrived aboard humanity's orbital outpost back in May, as a member of Expedition 36. He's been tweeting photos from low-Earth orbit ever since – follow him on Twitter for regular updates!
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NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama

• Secret program launched by Bush continued 'until 2011'
• Fisa court renewed collection order every 90 days
• Current NSA programs still mine US internet metadata

George Bush and Barack Obama 
The internet metadata collection program was halted in 2011 for 'operational and resource reasons'. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP.
The Obama administration for more than two years permitted the National Security Agency to continue collecting vast amounts of records detailing the email and internet usage of Americans, according to secret documents obtained by the Guardian.

The documents indicate that under the program, launched in 2001, a federal judge sitting on the secret surveillance panel called the Fisa court would approve a bulk collection order for internet metadata "every 90 days". A senior administration official confirmed the program, stating that it ended in 2011.

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First Unlooted Royal Tomb of Its Kind Unearthed in Peru

Three queens were buried with golden treasures, human sacrifices.

Peru Tomb - Gold and silver ear ornaments found by archaeologists.   

Images of winged, supernatural beings adorn a pair of heavy gold-and-silver ear ornaments that one high-ranking Wari woman wore to her grave in the imperial tomb at El Castillo de Huarmey.  In all, the archaeological team found the remains of 63 individuals, including three Wari queens.

It was a stunning discovery: the first unlooted imperial tomb of the Wari, the ancient civilization that built South America's earliest empire between 700 and 1000 A.D. Yet it wasn't happiness that Milosz Giersz felt when he first glimpsed gold in the dim recesses of the burial chamber in northern Peru.

Giersz, an archaeologist at the University of Warsaw in Poland, realized at once that if word leaked out that his Polish-Peruvian team had discovered a 1,200-year-old "temple of the dead" filled with precious gold and silver artifacts, looters would descend on the site in droves. "I had a nightmare about the possibility," says Giersz.
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The American way of using fork and knife is inefficient and inelegant. We need a new way.

Fork, knife and steak. 

A European businessman once paid me that backhanded compliment at a dinner in London. If only I’d had the presence of mind to chomp a few dinner rolls into a doughy mess before turning to reply, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, “Pffffardon me? Fwwwahat did you say?” Instead, I asked what I’d done to deserve such “praise.”

Turns out I don’t zig-zag. Fffwhat’s that? Zig-zag is etiquette doyenne Emily Post’s term for it, but we could also call it the Star-Spangled Fork-Flip, the Freedom Fork-Over, or the Homeland Handoff. Or the cut-and-switch. See, when using both a fork and knife, Europeans (and everyone else, basically) will keep the fork in their left hand and the knife in the right as they cut and eat their food. But the traditionally well-mannered American? After he cuts a piece of amber-waves-of-grain-fed steak, he’ll lower his knife to his plate. And then he’ll switch the fork (USA! USA!) to his right hand to convey the food.
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WikiLeaks Volunteer Was a Paid Informant for the FBI


On an August workday in 2011, a cherubic 18-year-old Icelandic man named Sigurdur “Siggi” Thordarson walked through the stately doors of the U.S. embassy in Reykjavík, his jacket pocket concealing his calling card: a crumpled photocopy of an Australian passport. The passport photo showed a man with a unruly shock of platinum blonde hair and the name Julian Paul Assange.

Thordarson was long time volunteer for WikiLeaks with direct access to Assange and a key position as an organizer in the group. With his cold war-style embassy walk-in, he became something else: the first known FBI informant inside WikiLeaks. For the next three months, Thordarson served two masters, working for the secret-spilling website and simultaneously spilling its secrets to the U.S. government in exchange, he says, for a total of about $5,000. The FBI flew him internationally four times for debriefings, including one trip to Washington D.C., and on the last meeting obtained from Thordarson eight hard drives packed with chat logs, video and other data from WikiLeaks.

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What Causes Green Potato Chips and are They Really Poisonous?

green_chip_5 Every once in a while — less often than a few years ago — you’ll open a bag of potato chips and see one which isn’t like the others. It’s green-ish, especially around the edges. It is safe to eat, though it is poisonous. Confused?  Read on!

Potatoes grow underground and are shielded from sunlight — usually. Sometimes, parts emerge above ground, and those sections turn green as chlorophyll develops. And for this to happen, the light need not be natural light. Most green potatoes don’t make it to the stores — be it in the produce section or in crinkly foil bags — for a variety of reasons, but really, who wants to eat a green potato?

That said, on occasion, a green-tinted potato may find its way into a potato chip factory and, eventually, a slice thereof may sneak into a bag of chips. (It’s less and less likely though, due to advances in technology. Here’s a video showing how potato chips are made in a large factory setting; if you fast-forward to about 2:50, you’ll hear about the cameras used to identify and reject flawed chips.)
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