Sunday, September 30, 2012
Thursday, September 20, 2012
The world of cinema comes with many movies that failed to predict the future (we didn’t get to Jupiter by 2010, and the Soviet Union dissolved by then) but many that manage to. These films, while certainly nothing like Nostradamus, have predicted technology, crime, and even what will be popular.
The Truman Show
No, we don’t have flying cars (at least not widespread) or robot slaves, but one thing is certain: Our iPhones expire after about 1-3 years. The robots in Blade Runner expire after 4 years. Both now and in the 1982 film, our technology is set to expire so we’ll simply go back and get more and more technology. That mistake was made multiple times throughout history, never turning out well, but perhaps the appeal of the iPhone and iPad will make sure that the cycle works.
2001: A Space Odyssey
2001 is more often associated with terrorism than with the space age, but one thing became true: robots, like HAL, have killed humans. Drones are often set out to kill terrorists (for example, Alwaki) to spare soldiers that might have otherwise been killed during the mission. If you’re asking why they didn’t get Osama with the drones, it is because it might have alarmed Pakistani civilians if their neighbors were suddenly killed by a bomb. Of course, they must have also been alarmed when US Soldiers finally killed their evil neighbor.
On YouTube, 4 Million videos are uploaded every 5 seconds. And do you find it hard to doubt that at least one of those videos is filled with people attacking each other, torture, and even murder? While it is not shown on TV like in Videodrome, just think that as you read this, some messed-up sociopath is killing someone while taping it. These snuff or even real torture videos may remind old-film lovers of an even older film, Peeping Tom.
A Clockwork Orange
If you read the news, you might have heard about the riots in England in early 2011. Crime and lawlessness were everywhere… much like Alex’s violent gang that goes around paralyzing writers, killing women with statues and raping people while chanting “Singing In The Rain.” As for the Ludovico Sequence, there are ways to neutralize homicidal feelings in criminals. Although the rioters are not as violent as the Droogs (Alex’s gang), just think what may happen in a few years, if the economy in England slides down further, and riots become more common. Then, there may be a gang as violent as Kubrick and Burgess depicted the Droogs to be in England.
Children Of Men
I admit that the birth situation in the world is not as dire as in the film, but birth rates are declining, especially in Europe. For example, in Italy the average fertility rate is 1.40, and these numbers are declining even further. In France it’s 2.05. In Singapore, it’s 0.75. Again, there is proof that these numbers will dwindle further, but it is nearly impossible for us to resolve while many are worried about overpopulation. Underpopulation issue is actually more important.
No, there are no robotic policemen (yet), but people who lost limbs have often been rebuilt by machinery, although no one has yet been rebuilt an entire man with robotics. It is indeed an interesting idea for a man to be completely rebuilt. Perhaps at some point in the future, its prediction will come true.
What this classic triumph of science fiction predicted was that at some point in the future, humans would have small and handheld communicators that they would bring everywhere. It is very obvious that this prediction has come true, although we don’t have robot companions like Robbie. Actually, a version of Robbie might be true in Japan, as a robot that is used as a housekeeper, babysitter or even a friend is being released.
While not that much of the film has come true, one aspect has: remember the mall scene? The advertisements were aimed at the main character. Computers often save your searches, and find advertisements that they think you’ll like based on them. For example, if you type in “Yankees vs. Mets” you’ll later see an advertisement for tickets. Look up a lot of books? Barnes & Noble. Look up a lot of movies? Tickets to the premiere of a film.
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
The reason this is number 1 is because it is quite amazing that memories can be erased. In the 2004 film, a couple decides to have their memories erased of each other. First the girlfriend does, then the boyfriend, played by Jim Carrey, decides to retaliate and erase his memories. During the procedure, he desperately tries to save memories of her. In real life, Dutch scientists have found a way to erase traumatic memories for people who are suffering. One difference between the film and real life, however, is that the procedure is not for a break-up, but rather troubling memories of death, mugging, or even rape.
story as presented on listverse.com
Ahead of this year's Liverpool Biennial, which officially opens September 15 and runs until November 25, Israeli-artist Oded Hirsch was commissioned to create an art installation that would leave people scratching their heads. The Lift is an elevator that looks like it's erupting from a shopping mall ground or perhaps crashing down from above. While installing it, Hirsch's team was inundated with questions of people asking everything from where it fell from to whether people were actually killed from it.
The art installation, Hirsch's first public realm commission, is actually meant to elicit this kind of reaction. By disrupting the pristine floor of the shopping district at Liverpool One, Hirsch wants people to ask questions about what went wrong.
“There’s a huge area [Liverpool One] that became a pedestrian mall filled with shops,” Hirsch told Haaretz. “In this escapist-capitalist space they also opened a big multiplex. The vast new mall drained the city of its special character, and life was drawn into the glittery new area.
“I decided I wanted to create a work that would respond to the new social reality that was created there,” he adds, “and in my head I had these images of a cityscape getting out of control. From there I got to the idea of a rebellious elevator, that bursts from the earth as if from some underworld beneath the shiny shopping center. This new architectural phenomenon just fascinated me.”
as presented on www.mymodernmet.com
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
David H. McConnell started Avon in 1886 without really meaning to. McConnell sold books door-to-door, but to lure in female customers he offered little gifts of perfume. Before long, the perfume McConnell was giving away had become more popular than the books he was selling, so he shifted focus and founded the California Perfume Company, which later became Avon.
The telecom giant got its start in Finland in 1865, when Fredrik Idestam opened a pulp mill and started making paper on the banks of Tammerkoski. The company later bounced around a number of industries before getting serious about phones in the 1960s.
When the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company’s founders opened their business in Two Harbors, Minnesota, in 1902, they weren’t selling Post-It Notes. The partners originally planned to sell the mineral corundum, an important ingredient in building grinding wheels, directly to manufacturers.
Like Avon, the chewing gum company got its start with a popular freebie. William Wrigley, Jr. founded the company in 1891 with the goal of selling soap and baking powder. He offered chewing gum as an enticement to his customers, and eventually the customers didn’t care about the baking powder; they only wanted the gum.
E.I. du Pont started the company that eventually became one of the world’s largest chemical concerns in 1802 as a gunpowder business. Eventually the French immigrant expanded his business to include dynamite and other explosives before going into more diversified chemicals.
Tiffany & Co.
The jewelry and silverware hot bed was originally a stationer called Tiffany, Young, and Ellis when it started in 1837. In 1853 Tiffany switched its core business and began focusing on jewelry.
The defunct electronics corporation actually began as a leather goods company in Connecticut in 1932. In the early days it was known as the Connecticut Leather Company, which was later shortened to “Coleco.” Oddly, fellow defunct computer marketer Tandy was also originally a leather goods company; it switched to electronics after acquiring RadioShack in 1963.
The defense contractor started up in 1922 as the American Appliance Company, which worked on refrigeration technology. Eventually the company branched out into other areas of electronics and became Raytheon in 1925.
The hygienic products company got its start in 1806, but it didn’t make its first toothpaste until 1873. Founder William Colgate initially manufactured soap, candles, and starch.
When Xerox got off the ground in 1906, it was as a maker of photographic paper and photography equipment called the Haloid Company. The company didn’t introduce what we would think of as a copier until the Xerox 914 made its debut in 1959.
The man behind the giant fleet of green tractors got his start as a blacksmith in Grand Detour, Illinois. After struggling to make plows that could cut through the area’s tough clay, Deere hit on the idea of building plows out of cast steel, and his blacksmith gig gave way to a booming farm-supply business.
The company behind Transformers and G.I. Joes began in 1923 as Hassenfeld Brothers. The titular brothers didn’t make toys, though; they sold textile remnants. Their business gradually shifted into school supplies before making the leap to toys after the 1952 introduction of Mr. Potato Head.
Remember the Reading Railroad from the last time you played Monopoly? The company still (sort of) exists! The Reading Company got out of the railroad business in 1976 but was reborn as Reading Entertainment, which operates movie theaters mainly in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S.
The sprawling holding company helmed by Warren Buffett was originally a textile manufacturer that took off in 1839. Buffett took control in 1962, though, and by 1967 he started to move outside of textiles into insurance and other sectors.
Abercrombie & Fitch
When David Abercrombie founded the clothing store in 1892 in New York City, he wasn’t dreaming of clothing high school and college students everywhere. The store was originally a sporting goods shop and outfitter; Abercrombie even outfitted Charles Lindbergh for his famous flight across the Atlantic. The version Abercrombie & Fitch you see in your local mall started to come about after Limited Brands bought the company in 1988.
as presented on: http://www.mentalfloss.com/
Do emoticons make you :-) or :-( ? Whether you like them or not, you probably see emoticons — a portmanteau of “emotion” and “icon” — on a daily basis and thus, can appreciate the history of these quirky communication symbols. Here’s a little explanation, which we thought appropriate since today marks the 30-year anniversary of their first use.
On September 19, 1982, Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, posted the first documented “emoticons” (a happy face and a sad face), formed with a colon, a hyphen and a parentheses. Fahlman explained the need for emoticons thusly:
The problem was that if someone made a sarcastic remark, a few readers would fail to get the joke, and each of them would post a lengthy diatribe in response. That would stir up more people with more responses, and soon the original thread of the discussion was buried. In at least one case, a humorous remark was interpreted by someone as a serious safety warning.
This problem caused some of us to suggest (only half seriously) that maybe it would be a good idea to explicitly mark posts that were not to be taken seriously.
After all, when using text-based online communication, we lack the body language or tone-of-voice cues that convey this information when we talk in person or on the phone. Various “joke markers” were suggested, and in the midst of that discussion, it occurred to me that the character sequence :-) would be an elegant solution — one that could be handled by the ASCII-based computer terminals of the day. So I suggested that.
Here’s Fahlman’s memo from 1982:
But it’s possible that Fahlman actually wasn’t the original pioneer of emoticons. A New York Times transcript of an 1862 speech by Abraham Lincoln includes a :) symbol. Debate has swirled ever since about whether Honest Abe was expressing a wink or if it was just a typo (which is likely the case, however disappointing that may be).
In 1881, not long after Lincoln’s ambiguous emoticon, the team at satirical magazine Puck formed “emotions” with characters, also known as “typographical art,” documented here:
Despite these earlier uses, Fahlman is credited as the “father of the emoticon” for his 1982 memo. But regardless where they came from, we can all agree on one thing: For better or worse, emoticons have permeated both our personal and professional communications. As much of our communication moves online, emoticons can help to convey tone (and as many of us have experienced, passive aggression) in an otherwise hard-to-gauge medium.
In recent years, the popularity of emoticons has encouraged some operating systems to transform plain text emoticons into an animation or image, something that Fahlman thinks “destroys the whimsical element of the original.” And don’t even get him started on the library of shoes, sushi and sun icons known as Emojis, the Japanese illustrations that have usurped emoticons for many tech-savvy typists. Fahlman deems these graphics “ugly,” though he admits that his sentiments may be biased “because I invented the other kind.”
Despite the evolution of symbols and characters and the emergence of new formats and representations, emoticons endure. They’re like modern hieroglyphics, and if you tried hard enough, you could even tell a whole story through emoticons, as this TED talk by Rives does:
as presented on http://mashable.com/
As humans, we are a paradoxical animal. Our history has been punctuated by scientific discoveries, allowing us to advance and improve the way we live. Simultaneously, we use these very same wonderful breakthroughs to inflict needless pain. Aptly, we call this ‘human nature.’ With all the bad press we give each other, we often lose sight of the good we are capable of. An increasing cultural focus on environmentalism has emphasized the many wonderful forms of life which we have carelessly wiped out. To help bring us back down to Earth, here are ten animals and plants who owe their continued existence entirely to humanity.
The common head louse is only able to survive on humans. Many parasites are species specific – we often forget that when one creature goes extinct, so too do dozens of parasites which are species specific to it. Nevertheless, of all the many human-specific parasites, head lice are of interest as they are one of the few from which we benefit. A childhood infestation by head lice, although irritating, is a harmless affair. However, especially in places with poor sanitation, head lice boost natural immunity to the more dangerous body louse which transmits a number of harmful and potentially deadly diseases. Modern civilization has all but destroyed the need for the benefits of head lice, but those who live in poverty still benefit from this natural immunization. As a species, therefore, head lice still help us, and they in turn cannot survive without humans to live on. Although we may not have intended it, simply by continuing to exist we have allowed this species to survive, and even today people benefit from it.
Long ago, legend says, a Chinese Emperor planted a particular type of tree he was fond of in the Imperial Garden. The royal gardeners helped the tree flourish and it was enjoyed for many lifetimes, as its species typically lives for over half a millennium. Its seeds were used to carefully grow its many progeny. Centuries later, this tree, the ginkgo, had long been considered extinct in the rest of the world, and was studied through fossil records only. As China began to open to the West, it became apparent that the tree known only from imprints in rocks several millions of years old was in fact flourishing thanks to the fondness of an ancient emperor. Today, Ginkgo biloba trees are found around the world, but can be traced genetically to a single tree, or possibly a small group of trees, from nearly 3,000 years ago in China.
Bombyx mori, the silkworm, is entirely dependent on humans for the propagation of its species. Despite their name, they are not a worm at all, but actually a larva or caterpillar. Their cocoons are made of silk, which is of great use to humans. They have been bred and used for silk for over five thousand years, during which time their wild counterparts have gradually and naturally ceased to exist. Those which are bred for silk are helpless and even after undergoing metamorphosis, cannot fly or eat. Their wings have become vestigial and their mouthparts are too small for them to use unless carefully fed by a specialist. Worse, as a result of domestication, they have no fear of predators, and so cannot survive in the wild. They must be physically brought together by handlers to mate. Despite this, silkworms enjoy a pampered life due largely to the fact that healthy and well-fed silkworms produce the best silk.
This rare bird lives on the island of Bermuda. When the island was visited by Europeans, the many rats, dogs, and other animals brought along all but wiped out the bird. For over three hundred years, the Bermuda petrel was thought to be extinct. In 1951, 18 birds were unexpectedly discovered nesting on the coast, and were immediately put under legal protection. Even in an ideal situation, any species reduced to a mere 18 members has a bleak and unlikely future. The nests were isolated from the rest of the island with walls to prevent other wildlife interfering with the precarious situation, and the careful creation of more nest sites by conservation workers has helped this species steadily increase in number over the years. Volunteers rushed to save the birds at considerable risk to themselves during a hurricane in 2003, and many destroyed nest sites were rebuilt for the birds, who would have perished if left to fend for themselves during the disaster. There are now about 250 Bermuda petrels. With the continued care and work by humans, the Bermuda petrel may again one day number in the thousands.
This tree is named after the center of its flowers, which resemble jellyfish tentacles. It was thought to be extinct until late last century; since then, it exists only in a few small, tentative populations which are carefully guarded in national parks in Seychelles. It is an ancient plant which is poorly adapted to today’s climate. The population has dwindled naturally for thousands of years due to natural changes in the Earth’s climate, although it has persisted to the point that three trees were found to still be struggling to survive in 1970. These are now protected by law and botanists toil to understand how to help it. Its seeds cannot germinate in the wild, and only under very humid conditions have humans been able to purposefully sprout them. Today the population has risen to fifty, but this tree is sadly poorly adapted both to the modern climate and without constant human intervention it cannot cope with competition from its better-adapted peers.
Like the Bermuda petrel, this is another animal which humans drove to near-extinction. The European bison is the largest land animal in Europe, but was completely annihilated in the wild due to hunting. Although it had been traditionally hunted for its pelt and horns since Palaeolithic times, a modern increase in hunting resulted in a dwindling numbers. Soldiers in the First World War hunted them by the hundreds for their meat, despite being fully aware of their endangered status, and the last wild European bison were shot in 1927. Fortunately, several remained in zoos and menageries. These immediately caught the attention of the German biologist Heinz Heck. Heck proposed that since modern animals contain the genes of their extinct ancestors, they could be purposefully bred to produce their long-gone forebears. As ancient animals, Heck did not want to see European bison die out. He helped breed them from only twelve individuals to over 4,000 today, which have been reintroduced into the wild. Unfortunately, due to their small genetic pool, the species is highly susceptible to a number of diseases and the fertility of the males is gradually decreasing, so they still require human help to stave off extinction.
Although not a true pine tree, this plant was known only through fossil records from millions of years ago. Unexpectedly, in 1994 a park officer happened to notice one while walking in the Wollemi National Park in Australia. It was quickly realized that this tree was a living fossil, and that although not extinct, it very nearly was. Fewer than one hundred individual trees were left, and many of these were sick, dying, or unable to reproduce. Mathematical models have confirmed that without human intervention, this species would have been truly extinct in less than a millennium. A recovery program now legally protects the tree, and many thousands have been successfully cultivated. They have more recently been promoted throughout New South Wales, Australia, as a more local alternative to Christmas trees; the Wollemi pines are kept potted throughout the festival and are planted at its conclusion.
Mongolian Wild Horses
Most wild horses today are feral descendants of domesticated ancestors. However, the Mongolian wild horse has never been domesticated and is the only remaining truly wild horse on Earth. Ancient cave paintings show that humans hunted these creatures as far back as 20,000 years ago. However, since then the climate has naturally warmed as we move into an interglacial period. This has caused their habitat to shrink and the horses have had a decreasing population for millennia. After the Second World War, all wild Mongolian wild horses died indirectly due to wartime habitat destruction or directly through being hunted for food by desperate German soldiers. The existing zoo populations also diminished, and by 1945 only 31 horses remained. Of these, 9 were able to be bred and we have carefully brought their population up to 1800 today. Of these, 300 have been reintroduced to nature reserves in Mongolia and China at the places where they were last seen in the wild. They are now fastidiously protected and the species is expected to recover.
as presented on listverse.com
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Monday, September 17, 2012
Voting for your country’s next leader is a crucial decision.
So what if a “dead person” ran for office? What would you do?
For the past nine years, Santosh Kumar Singh has been trying to prove to officials that he is alive.
The only reason he wants to run for president is to help people realize that he is in fact not dead.
“I filed nomination papers for the president’s post to prove that I am alive. I don’t want to be the president. All I want to do is prove I’m alive. If the government cannot declare me alive, then I request them to kill me and issue a real death certificate in my name,” said Singh.
The 32-year-old cook left his village in 2000 for a job in Mumbai. He fell in love with a Dalit woman, also known as an “untouchable.” When he was about to introduce his bride to his family, they disowned him. Soon after, he was declared dead.
“They filed a missing persons report, which was later changed into my death report. The villagers even conducted post-funeral ceremonies and gave alms to the poor to prove I was dead,” Singh said.
as presented on weirdasianews.com
THE GREAT BLUE HOLE
- The Great Blue Hole is a large and circular underwater sinkhole off the coast of Belize
- It was formed as a limestone cave system during the last Ice Age when sea levels were much lower. As the ocean began to rise again, the caves flooded, and the roof collapsed
- Believed to be the world’s largest feature of its kind, the Great Blue Hole is part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
- This site was made famous by Jacques-Yves Cousteau who declared it one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world. In 1971, he brought his ship, the Calypso, to the hole to chart its depths
- Stalactites were retrieved from submerged caves, confirming their previous formation above sea level.
- This is a popular spot amongst recreational scuba divers, who are lured by the opportunity to dive in crystal-clear water and meet several species of fish, including giant groupers, nurse sharks and several types of reef sharks such as the Caribbean reef shark and the Blacktip shark
- Other species of sharks, like the bull shark and hammerheads, have been reported there, but are not regular sightings. Usually, dive trips to the Great Blue Hole are full-day trips, which include one dive in the Blue Hole and two further dives in nearby reefs
- Blue Hole diving is not recommended for beginners as it takes hundreds of feet into the hole to be able to enjoy the marvelous wonder of this underwater cave. The temperature inside the hole is 73F (22.7 C) all year long
- The deeper into the Blue hole, the clearer the water and the more breathtaking the scenery. As it takes diving deeper than sport diving depths, the Great Hole of Belize is only for specialists and cave divers, who have the required training and equipment
Photograph by Head Librarian
BEST TIME TO DIVE THE GIANT BLUE HOLE
- The air temperature in Belize is almost always warm, with a water temperature low of just 24°C. Because of the warm weather available all year long, you can dive at any time at the Great Blue Hole without necessarily having to deal with a cold period
- There is a rainy season in Belize and although it does not necessarily affect anything that can go on with a scuba dive, it can cause problems with anything else you may want to accomplish while in the country
- The rainy season usually lasts from June to August with the months of February to May generally considered to be the driest