2010年10月27日 星期三

cassette Walkman

an irritant

Sony halts production of the cassette Walkman in Japan
BBC News
Released in 1979, they were popular with commuters, joggers and teenagers, but they were also an irritant to many, who found the tinny noise from the ...

2010年10月23日 星期六

In Taiwan, Smartphones Are a Dog's Best Friend

In Taiwan, Smartphones Are a Dog's Best Friend

By Dan Nystedt, IDG News

Oct 21, 2010 10:10 pm

It takes about an hour to lure the stray dog into a steel cage with food. During that time, Sean McCormack, a co-founder of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Taiwan, sits taking pictures and video with his HTC smartphone.

The dog's leg is bleeding from a wire trap set by a farmer in this small mountain town north of Taipei. McCormack plans to take the dog to a local animal hospital for treatment as soon as it's safely in the cage.

A worker at a local temple says the wire traps don't always injure the dogs, and that it's the farmer that does the most damage. "I saw him," says the worker. "He just walked right over with a big knife and [chopped] the dog's leg off to get it out of the trap." He shudders, making a chopping motion. "It was terrible."

McCormack is recording the testimony, making a video as the man talks. "This is evidence. We can use this when we go to the authorities," he says.

[Watch a video of the SPCA in action here.]

In Taiwan, where a problem with stray dogs has reached epic proportions, rescue workers at the SPCA have turned to smartphones to help them do their jobs. Besides collecting video testimony, they are used to show dogs to potential adopters or to let donors see how their money is being put to use.

They also use smartphones to update their websites, read e-mails and check for rescue requests on their Facebook page. And the handsets lead them to remote rescues via GPS and Google Maps

Once, they fixed a flashlight to a smartphone and lowered it into an air duct to find a lost kitten, using video to see where it was. An echo in the pipe made it sound like the kitten was close by but it was actually two floors down. Without the video they might have wasted hours tearing up the pipe.

"This is our Swiss Army Knife, it does so much for us. I don't know what we'd do without them," says McCormack.

He has worked with animal groups in Taiwan for over a decade, arriving on the island when a boom in pet ownership led to an explosion in the street animal population. Puppies and kittens that looked cute in night markets and pet stores ended up dumped on the street. Strays became so prevalent that, in a twist, Taiwanese people -- always eager to put a positive spin on a bad situation -- started to say that stepping in dog poop was "lucky." And people were getting lucky everywhere.

Taiwan has come a long way since then and the number of shelters and rescue groups has grown. But McCormack joined with Beki Hunt, and Connie and Annie Chiang to start the SPCA to focus on putting a stop to animal cruelty.

"We wanted to start an animal welfare group that's different," says Connie Chiang, campaigns director at the Taiwan SPCA. "There's no other animal group in Taiwan that focuses on investigations."

Smartphones have amplified the impact of their small team. None of the SPCA workers can be in the office all the time because there's too much to do. And since it's important to update their websites, they need phones to upload pictures on the go and check for posts on Facebook.

"We post a lot of our adoption cases and events on Facebook and we get a lot of attention there," Connie says. "Adoptions can be really fast if we get photos up on the website quickly."

Anyone who meets McCormack will get the hard sell to adopt a dog, complete with pictures on his smartphone.

"We just took in this new dog. Look at him. His name is TouDo. Isn't he cute? You need a dog in your life, Dan, everybody does," he said recently.

They even found that smartphones were a good way to raise funds.

Taiwanese vendor HTC donated several of its latest handsets to the group, including one that was raffled off to raise funds. It netted over NT$150,000 (US$4,865), despite having a retail price less than one fifth that amount.

"The HTC Desire phone wasn't out yet so there was a lot of interest," says Annie Chiang, marketing director at Taiwan SPCA. "The final winner was a vet that supports us, so it was great."

Others in Taiwan's technology sector are also helping. The only free animal hospital in Taipei was built by a Taiwanese tech mogul who has been much reviled in the press lately.

Terry Gou, chairman of Foxconn (the trade name of Hon Hai Precision Industry), was accused by media of running "suicide factories" in China because a number of workers leapt to their deaths in recent months.

Never mind that the suicide rate at these massive complexes is far below the national average in China. Foxconn makes iPhones and iPods, so with "suicide" and "iPhone" in the headline the stories were sure to get attention.

The SPCA and other groups convinced Gou to open a hospital for neutering strays and healing injured animals. A neutering hospital helps keep a lid on the stray population. Gou was involved in the matter personally, despite running a company with more than a million workers worldwide.

Despite the effort, the Love For Animals, Care For Life Charity Animal Hospital is in peril. Members of the committee that takes care of Gou's foundation don't want to continue its work, a worker at the hospital said. They think the money would be better spent on humans for cancer research.

Meantime, work at the SPCA and the animal hospital continues.

So far, the SPCA has picked up four dogs caught by the farmer's wire traps and taken them to the animal hospital to be stitched up. McCormack wonders aloud how the farmer would like it if his leg were caught in a bear trap. Animal lovers can be passionate to the point of seeming anti-human.

"I forget sometimes that most people are good and treat animals really well," he says. "I really have to remind myself of that sometimes. A lot of good people donate to us and without them, we couldn't do what we do."

The Taiwan SPCA can be found on Facebook, Blogspot, Twitter, and at their official website, here.

2010年10月22日 星期五

Water (and Lots of It) Discovered on Moon

  1. Water (and Lots of It) Discovered on Moon
    Scientists say that the discovery could be the first step toward manned space stations.
    Read original story in The Wall Street Journal | Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010

Science Grows on Acquiring New Language

Published Online: October 22, 2010

Science Grows on Acquiring New Language

Premium article access courtesy of Edweek.org.

Recent studies on how language learning occurs are beginning to chip away at some long-held notions about second-language acquisition and point to potential learning benefits for students who speak more than one language.

“We have this national psyche that we’re not good at languages,” said Marty Abbott, the director of education for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in Alexandria, Va. “It’s still perceived as something only smart people can do, and it’s not true; we all learned our first language and we can learn a second one.”

New National Science Foundation-funded collaborations among educators, cognitive and neuroscientists, psychologists, and linguists have started to find the evidence to back that assertion up. For example, researchers long thought the window for learning a new language shrinks rapidly after age 7 and closes almost entirely after puberty. Yet interdisciplinary research conducted over the past five years at the University of Washington, Pennsylvania State University, and other colleges suggest that the time frame may be more flexible than first thought and that students who learn additional languages become more adaptable in other types of learning, too.

“There has been an explosion of research on bilingual-language processing,” said Judith F. Kroll, the principal investigator for the Bilingualism, Mind, and Brain project launched this month at Penn State’s Center for Language Science in University Park, Pa. The five-year, $2.8 million project is intended to bring together neuroscientists, linguists, and cognitive scientists to compare the brain and mental processes of different types of bilingual people, such as a Chinese-English speaker whose languages include different writing systems or a deaf English speaker whose signed and written languages involve different modes of communication.

Distinguishing Sounds

During the first year of life, a baby starts to specialize in the sounds of his native language and becomes less able to distinguish sounds common only to other languages. University of Washington researchers exposed 9-month-old American babies of native-English-speaking parents to sounds associated with Mandarin either through sessions with a native-Mandarin-speaking tutor or video or audio lessons. At 12 months, babies who had worked with a person recognized Mandarin sounds more accurately than did infants who were exposed to the language through video or audio only.

Likewise, the Washington-based American Association for the Advancement of Science has added a symposium on bilingualism to its 2011 annual conference in February, and the University of Washington this summer opened the world’s first brain-imaging center adapted to study language and cognition in infants and young children in Seattle.

“Bilingualism provides a lens for researchers to examine aspects of the underlying cognitive architecture that are otherwise obscured by native-language skill,” Ms. Kroll said.

New Techniques

The increased use of neuroscience in language-acquisition research has been fueled in part by the development of brain-imaging equipment scaled for tiny brains and squirmy bodies, according to Patricia K. Kuhl, a co-director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, known as I-LABS. The technology has enabled scientists over the past decade to start to paint a picture of how language learning affects a child’s brain,

Among the new techniques is magnetoencephalography, or MEG, which maps brain activity by measuring the magnetic fields produced by the brain’s electrical currents. The MEG’s sensors use a global positioning system to correct the resulting image for the child’s head movements.

In a series of experiments, Ms. Kuhl and her team studiedRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader American infants of English-speaking parents between the ages of 6 and 12 months. During the first year, the team foundRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader the auditory and motor regions of the brain start to react more in response to speech, as opposed to other sounds.

“They are mapping the language, so the faster they can map those critical sounds, the faster their language is going to grow,” she said.

“Babies start out as citizens of the world; they can discriminate the sounds of any language,” Ms. Kuhl said.

Yet during about a two-month window from 8- to 10-months-old, the team found babies start to specialize in sounds from their native language. For instance, an English-speaking baby will get better at hearing the difference between the often-used “l” and “r” sounds, while a Japanese baby, whose native language does not differentiate between the sounds, will get worse at hearing the difference.

Since the initial experiments, the researchers have drilled down into exactly what sort of instruction props open that language-learning window.

For example, when babies born to native-English-speaking parents played three times a week during that window with a native-Mandarin-speaking tutor, at 12 months, they had progressed in their ability to recognize both English and Mandarin sounds, rather than starting to retrench in the non-native language. By contrast, children exposed only to audio or video recordings of native speakers showed no change in their language trajectory. Brain-imaging of the same children backed up the results of test-based measures of language specialization.

The research may not immediately translate into a new language arts curriculum, but it has already deepened the evidence for something most educators believe instinctively: Social engagement, particularly with speakers of multiple languages, is critical to language learning. Social and emotional areas of the brain mediate language areas, but only now—with an MEG that can correct for the child’s head movement—are researchers starting to measure those neural connections. “When we can connect language regions with social-emotional regions with executive functions, we’ll have a picture of the whole system,” said Gina C. Lebedeva, the translation outreach and education director for I-LABS.

“The key to that series of studies is exposure and live interactions with native speakers,” Ms. Lebedeva said. “The interactions need to be naturalistic: eye contact, gestures, exaggerated phonemes.”

“Human brains are wired to learn best in social interactions, whether that learning is about language or problem-solving or emotion,” Ms. Lebedeva said, “but language is such a ubiquitous human behavior that studying it gives us an example of how more general learning takes place.”

With the opening this summer of I-LABS’ $7 million MEG Brain Imaging Center— the first such facility adapted to study babies and young children—Ms. Kuhl and lab co-director Andrew Meltzoff will launch a new phase of research. The Developing Mind Project is studying how people’s brain and cognitive processes change during key transition periods: infancy and early childhood, puberty, and old age.

Ms. Abbott said she hopes such research will help persuade education officials to provide more second-language instruction for all students in early grades, as opposed to the traditional secondary school courses.

“Just around the time when most students in this country, if they study a language, are starting that process, they’re becoming less likely to be able to make those native-like sounds in another language,” Ms. Abbott said.

Ms. Kuhl and Ms. Lebedeva agreed. “I think we may be able to draw a new [language learning] curve that’s not so age-dependent,” Ms. Kuhl said. “We think we can push that curve around. Learning itself in early development is so profound, and the neural architecture stays with you throughout your life.”

Other studies also suggest that learning multiple languages from early childhood on may provide broader academic benefits, too.

For example, at the science-oriented Ultimate Block Party held in New York City this month, children of different backgrounds played games in which they were required to sort toys either by shape or color, based on a rule indicated by changing flashcards. A child sorting blue and yellow ducks and trucks by shape, say, might suddenly have to switch to sorting them by color. The field games exemplified research findings that bilingual children have greater cognitive flexibility than monolingual children. That is, they can adapt better than monolingual children to changes in rules—What criteria do I use to sort?—and close out mental distractions—It doesn’t matter that some blue items are ducks and some are trucks.

Ms. Abbot, who has supervised foreign-language programs for early-elementary students in Fairfax County, Va., said she saw exactly that sort of flexibility in problem-solving among the young students in the district’s partial-immersion program, in which both English-speaking students and speakers of other languages spend part of the school day learning in a second language.

“A bilingualist,” Ms. Kroll said, “is a mental juggler.”

2010年10月21日 星期四

At Harvard, the Kitchen as Lab

Michele McDonald for The New York Times

Students at Harvard who are studying the science of cooking learn techniques from guest chefs who stop by, like Carles Tejedor from Barcelona, shown with Amy Rowat, a researcher.


Video: Harvard Lectures on Science and Cooking

On YouTube, lectures from a public series given in connection to the undergraduate course, with Ferran Adrià, Harold McGee and others.

IN a basement laboratory at Harvard, Ashley Prince read from the instructions as her lab partner, Allan Jean-Baptiste, poured fruit nectar into a pot.

“Heat it to 113,” Ms. Prince said.

Then Mr. Jean-Baptiste added a mix of sugar and pectin, and Ms. Prince whisked.

“So far, so good,” Ms. Prince said.

These Harvard students were making chewy fruit gelées for From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science, an undergraduate course that uses the kitchen to convey the basics of physics and chemistry, a most unusual Ivy League approach to science.

Each Thursday, David A. Weitz, a physics professor, or Michael P. Brenner, a professor of applied mathematics, covers the science concepts. On the following Tuesday, one of a select group of top chefs, some well versed in kitchen technology — like Wylie Dufresne, of WD-50 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, or Grant Achatz, of Alinea in Chicago — talks about cooking techniques that illustrate the science.

Besides the laboratory work — the week before the fruit gelées, the students made ceviche; the week after, molten chocolate cake and ice cream — the students also work on projects tackling some sort of culinary science conundrum.

The guest chefs have suggested ideas and problems that they hope the students can solve.

Mr. Dufresne and the other chefs at WD-50 have concocted Parmesan noodles for the fall menu, but the texture deteriorates too quickly.

“They’re e-mailing and calling, ‘Is there any team you have yet that can run this project?’ ” said Amy Rowat, a postdoctoral researcher who is also involved in putting together the course.

Mr. Achatz wants help with some dessert geometry. At Alinea, some desserts are served by pouring them onto a latex sheet draped on the table. Cream will pool into the expected circular puddle. But chocolate flows, to spectacular effect, into a square puddle, and Mr. Achatz would like to know why.

The projects will culminate in a science fair in December, at which the students will be judged on their science (by the instructors) and the culinary presentation (by chefs including David Chang, of the Momofuku restaurants).

For Mr. Jean-Baptiste, a junior majoring in economics, it’s been an introduction to two worlds. “I think I will start to cook,” he said. “I actually think I will take more science classes.”

His gelée experiment was part of a lesson on elasticity (how easily a solid, like gelatin, can be squeezed or pulled) and viscosity (whether a liquid flows fast or slow).

Dr. Weitz also used a steak to demonstrate elasticity, measuring its thickness, applying some weight to it and seeing how much it was squeezed.

“A steak is a spring,” he said enthusiastically. “We’re going to understand the difference between a raw, rare and well-done steak. Tofu has exactly the same behavior. It’s all the same.”

Cooks increase the viscosity of gravies and sauces by using flour and cornstarch as thickeners. In recent years, some chefs have manipulated the textures of their dishes by tapping ingredients from the processed-food industry like xanthan gum and guar gum.

To show how that worked, Dr. Weitz had a brainstorm in the morning, saying in an e-mail to Dr. Rowat, “Please bring spaghetti.”

Pouring cooked spaghetti out of the pot, Dr. Weitz explained to the students that the strands entangle and rub against one another and that the friction slows their movement, increasing the viscosity. In the same way, the proteins in flour, cornstarch and xanthan gum also increase viscosity and thicken the liquid.

If the spaghetti strands — or these proteins — stick together, the liquid turns into a gel.

In the laboratory, as their fruit gelées were cooling and solidifying in a freezer, the students measured the viscosity of water mixed with varying amounts of guar gum and the elasticity of blocks of gelatin.

The experimental apparatus was an improvised mash-up of science and cooking tools. To measure the viscosity, the liquids were poured into measuring columns — standard equipment for a chemistry lab. The funnels were upside-down mustard squeeze bottles with the bottoms cut off.

This particular week, Carles Tejedor, the chef at Via Veneto in Barcelona, had flown in to give the Tuesday lecture. He stopped by the laboratory to see what the students were doing and then started experimenting himself.

In his kitchen, Mr. Tejedor has been developing olive oil jellies. A tiny bit of xanthan gum can thicken water but does nothing when added to olive oil. But if he first made a mixture of water and xanthan gum and then blended in olive oil, the result would be olive oil jelly.

In the Harvard lab, he did something similar but with guar gum, a thickener he had not used before.

“And it’s really good,” Mr. Tejedor said. “It’s like crème brûlée.”

(The guar gum was actually a second choice of the instructors. Originally, the lab was to use xanthan gum solutions, but “at high concentrations, it has strange properties we couldn’t explain,” Dr. Rowat said.)

Explaining how all this works — why, say, honey is viscous and sugar water is not — has turned out to be a tough task, even for the professional scientists.

“What we realized is we also don’t completely understand it,” Dr. Weitz said. “We learn a lot in trying to explain it.”

The science-of-cooking class grew out of a visit to Harvard a couple of years ago by Ferran Adrià, the wizard chef of El Bulli in Spain. At the time, Harvard was looking to revamp and revitalize the core undergraduate curriculum, and the idea of such a class popped up. Mr. Adrià liked the idea, and his foundation collaborated on the course material, which covers the phases of matter, thermodynamics and the various chemical reactions that turn ingredients into food.

The subject material appealed to the students as well, many of whom are history or political-science majors yet to take a science course.

Nearly 700 students wanted to enroll. By lottery, 300 got in. (Dr. Brenner noted to the students that the chance of getting into the class, about 43 percent, was still much better than the chance of getting a reservation at El Bulli.)

A “Top Chef” aesthetic has already made its way into the laboratory. Madison Shelton, a senior, cut her finished gelée into various shapes and attempted to stand them up on a rectangular white shape, just as on the television cooking shows. The soft gelées, however, did not stand up straight, but leaned to the side.

“If you have time, you ought to figure out the elasticity of your jellies,” said Tom Dimiduk, a physics graduate student and one of the teaching assistants for the lab section.

Ms. Shelton took no heed of that suggestion. “I need to make more shapes — a star,” she said, and she cut a star out of the gelée, then a heart, and added them to the plate.

2010年10月7日 星期四

諾貝爾化學獎 感想

每年諾貝爾化學獎公布 我總想起英國第一流大學的化學系早已很難招到好學生

The prize was awarded jointly to:

RICHARD F. HECK, EI-ICHI NEGISHI, and AKIRA SUZUKI for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis.



羅芬臺談恩師 根岸英一要求嚴格





2010年10月3日 星期日

Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology

科技的發達和人類社會的合作 讓數十年前的不錯著作Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
落伍 (然而中文資訊不發達)

Ignaz Semmelweis

2010年10月2日 星期六

U.S. scientists design smart underpants that could save lives

《中英對照讀新聞》U.S. scientists design smart underpants that could save lives 美國科學家設計出可救命的智慧內褲


A team of U.S. scientists has designed some new men’s briefs that may be comfortable, durable and even stylish but, unlike most underpants, may be able to save lives.


Printed on the waistband and in constant contact with the skin is an electronic biosensor, designed to measure blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs.


The technology, developed by nano-engineering professor Joseph Wang of University of California San Diego and his team, breaks new ground in the field of intelligent textiles and is part of shift in focus in healthcare from hospital-based treatment to home-based management.


The method is similar to conventional screen-printing although the ink contains carbon electrodes.


The project is being funded by the U.S. military with American troops likely to be the first recipients.



briefs:名詞,短內褲。例句:He stripped himself to his briefs.(他脫掉衣服,只穿內褲。)

vital:形容詞,生命的;維持生命所必需的。例句:Growth and decay are vital processes.(生長和衰亡是生命過程。)

break new ground:片語,開闢新的領域;作出新發現。例句:Miles Davis broke new ground in jazz.(邁爾士.戴維斯為爵士樂開創出新風貌。)

2010年10月1日 星期五

Extinct Penguin Wore Earth Tones, Fossil Shows

Giant Ancient Penguins Wore Beige

Black and white coats are a penguin's signature look. On Thursday, however, scientists announced that the penguin's ancient predecessors clothed their towering five-foot forms in brown and grey, reports the New York Times. The finding was made possible by the discovery in Peru of the first ancient penguin fossil with evidence of feathers. The 36-million-year-old birds may not yet have donned tuxedos, but they had by that point evolved the flippers and streamlined body to fly in water. The ancient bird, named Inkayacu paracasensis, sported an extraordinarily long beak and a body twice the size of an emperor penguin. Scientists did not find actual feathers with the fossil, but they were able to pick up tiny "pigmentation packets" called melanosomes, which were distinctly different from the melanosomes of today's penguins. Scientists guessed that the change of coat may have been driven by the appearance of new predators or the demands of swimming underwater. The findings will be published today in the journal Science.

Read original story in The New York Times | Friday, Oct. 1, 2010

Extinct Penguin Wore Earth Tones, Fossil Shows

"Science"/American Association for the Advancement of Science

A reconstruction of Inkayacu paracasensis showing recovered elements in white and photographs of the holotype specimen.

Penguins didn’t always wear tuxedos.

Katie Browne/U.T. Austin .

An illustration of Inkayacu paracasensis.

At least a large penguin that lived 36 million years ago looked nothing like Fred Astaire stepping out in high society. Nor anything like the house tom all dressed up in black and white with no place to go. Scientists announced Thursday that the fossils of the first extinct penguin to be found with preserved evidence of feathers showed that it had yet to adopt the tuxedo look of living penguins. Its feathers were predominantly reddish brown and shades of gray.

The findings also corroborated previous skeletal evidence that penguins had by then evolved the flippers and body shape for powerful swimming — birds in “aquatic flight,” as scientists characterize their marine behavior. The shapes and dense arrangement of the feathers appeared to stiffen the flippers and streamline and insulate the entire body, the researchers said.

For reasons not yet understood, the scientists said, the familiar color pattern of living penguins, dark coat and contrasting white shirt front, is a much more recent innovation, long after they evolved the feathers and anatomy for a life as expert divers and swimmers in frigid water.

“Before this fossil, we had no evidence about the feathers, colors and flipper shapes of ancient penguins,” Julia A. Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement. She was the lead author of the report describing the discovery online and in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

The fossil specimen was a giant bird about five feet tall that had an exceptionally elongated beak with a grooved tip. Its estimated body mass was twice that of today’s emperor penguin, so it was one of the largest penguins that ever lived. The extinct species has been named Inkayacu paracasensis, meaning the water emperor from the Reserva Nacional de Paracus, the place in Peru where the fossils were uncovered.

Dr. Clarke and her colleagues had already established that the Peruvian site held a rich diversity of giant penguin species from the Eocene period, about 36 million to 41 million years ago. She said that further investigations were expected to yield new discoveries to “change our view of not only penguin evolution, but of other marine vertebrates.”

The research on the feathered fossil penguin was supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society.

Although the actual feathers had not survived, distinct impressions of them were left in the stony matrix. The preserved feathering of the left winglike flipper, as well as some of the body cover, was pronounced. To their surprise, the researchers were able to detect in the impressions the microscopic color-imparting structures known as melanosomes.

From a close analysis of the shapes, dimensions and other characteristics of the fossil’s melanosomes, the scientists determined that they were nothing like the large ellipsoidal shape and arrangement of pigmentation packets of living penguins.

Two members of the team, Matthew D. Shawkey and Liliana D’Alba of the University of Akron, compared the fossil specimen’s melanosomes with those of other birds. When there was a close match with well-studied birds, the researchers could then reconstruct the colors of the extinct penguin’s feathers. The Inkayacu feathers, they concluded in the report, were “gray or reddish-brown with high probability.”

Scientists said it was not clear when or why penguins acquired their tuxedo appearance.

“Shifts in penguin plumage coloration indicated by the fossil,” Dr. Clarke’s team wrote in the journal report, “may be linked to differences in ecology, thermoregulatory demands” or the introduction of new predators. Specifically, the scientists speculated that changing demands of underwater propulsion affected the melanosomes and that this led to their black and white feathers.

While such discoveries may yield insights into the ecology and behavior of early penguins, Jakob Vinther, a member of the research team who was the first to note the presence of pigmentation cells in fossils, said, “Most of all, I think it is simply just cool to get a look at the color of a remarkable extinct organism.”