Archive for August, 2011

Jon Stewart Scolds Media For Ignoring Ron Paul, the One Who “Planted the Grassroots!”

17 Aug

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Drinking with friends could lower the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease [Medicine]

16 Aug
Alcohol has its uses, medically speaking, and one of them might be staving off dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment. Moderate social drinking appears to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and similar diseases by a massive 23 percent. More »

Super-Dense Stars May Squash Neutrons Into Cubes

16 Aug

Deep inside the super-dense hearts of exploding stars, gravity may squash neutron particles from spheres into cubes.

The idea could mean that neutron stars, as researchers call the stellar corpses, are denser than anyone expected. It could also question what stops them from collapsing into black holes and out of existence.

“If you take this result purely at face value, it means neutron star theoreticians are in trouble. [Neutron stars] should collapse into black holes at lower masses,” said theoretical physicist Felipe Jose Llanes-Estrada of Complutense University of Madrid, co-author of a study published Aug. 9 on the prepublication server arXiv.

“But that’s not what we observe. It’s possible there’s an additional repulsive interaction [between neutrons] to counter a collapse that we just haven’t thought of yet,” he said.

A star between nine and 20 times the sun’s mass detonates as a supernova toward the end of its life. At that weight, a star isn’t heavy enough to create a critical, ultra-dense state and shrink into a black hole. Instead, its core collapses into a sphere no bigger than 15 miles wide and so dense that a single teaspoon of it weighs as much as everyone on Earth, multiplied by 18.

Late last year, astronomers discovered the biggest-ever neutron star, called J1614-2230, that weighed in at 1.97 times the sun’s mass.  Prior to its discovery, the most massive neutron star weighed 1.67 solar masses.

The find left more than a few astrophysicists scratching their heads. Its existence ruled out some models of neutron stars that relied on exotic forms of matter and can’t explain the halt in the collapse of such a heavy object. Instead, the discovery supported models of neutron stars as containing only neutrons and protons.

When Llanes-Estrada and his university colleague Gaspar Moreno Navarro heard of J1614-2230, they wanted to know what might be happening inside of it.

The duo knew of a model from the 1970s suggesting pure neutrons could form a crystal lattice under incredible pressure (similar to how carbon forms diamonds in the bowels of the Earth). When they tweaked a familiar computer model to incorporate the idea, they discovered that — at the pressures anticipated deep in neutron stars — neutrons deformed from spheres into cubes.

“There’s an optimum packing density with spheres, including neutrons. It’s about 74 percent. No matter how efficiently you arrange them, like oranges on display at a supermarket, there’s always space in between,” Llanes-Estrada said. “If you want to be most efficient, you distort the oranges. Pack them a mile high and squish the ones on the bottom.”

Gravity shapes aggregate particles of matter into the simplest, most efficiently-packed object possible, normally a sphere like the Earth. The particles themselves, though, remain individually unaffected; gravity is too weak to overcome the strong interactions that hold neutrons and other particles together. But if gravity becomes intense enough, it might overpower the interactions.

So deep within the newly discovered neutron star — which may have a core pressure two times higher than the rest — a neutron’s most efficient shape may be a cube. “They’ll be flattened on all sides, like dice” starting at pressures found about 2.5 miles below the surface, Llanes-Estrada said.

So far, responses to the study have proven lukewarm.

Particle physicist Richard Hill of the University of Chicago, for example, noted the study looks at a neutron in isolation, not in aggregate.

“It’s an interesting idea, but what happens among the neutrons isn’t clear,” said Hill, who wasn’t involved in the study. At the densities in neutron stars, he noted, the “identities of individual neutrons may be blurred out.”

Llanes-Estrada acknowledged the criticism, which a second physicist who wished to remain anonymous also shared. But Llanes-Estrada said that pushing boundaries was, in part, the point.

“I think there is a large uncertainty of what happens to neutrons at very high compressions,” he said. “We should keep studying all of the possibilities.”

Updated: Aug. 17, 2011; 8:45 a.m. EDT

Images: 1) Illustration of a neutron star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech) 2) As pressure and density in a neutron star go up, normally sphere-like neutrons might take on an increasingly cubic shape. (F.J. Llanes-Estrada and G.M. Navarro/

Via: MIT Technology Review

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The Sexperience 1000 shows a (statistical) view of what goes on in the bedroom

16 Aug

Age and virginity

The bedroom is a private place, and what goes on in the bedroom usually stays in the bedroom. However, the Sexperience 1000 (by Mint Digital and Lingobee), using data from the "Great Britain Sex Survey," provides a statistical picture of what people do or have done.

The collection of small icons represents a sample of 1,000 people, and each icon represents an individual. They're color-coded by age and gender. Mouse over to see the age and the area they're from. From there, you can scroll through each question, such as, "At what age did you lose your virginity?" and the icons move around to their proper category.

Because the individual that each icon represents stays consistent throughout, you can loosely follow individuals as you flip through questions and categories. For example, people were asked what sexually transmitted diseases they've had. Select different diseases — Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, etc — and there are a few people who seem to have been exposed to a lot of things.

Then there's the filters on the right that let you zoom in on the demographic you're interested in. Again, the icons sort themselves in a way that is useful.

One caveat: The sample of 1,000 people is supposed to be a demographic representative of the UK population, however, that sample itself is taken from another sample of 7,500 people who watch The Sex Education Show. So the answers to some of the questions are probably skewed. Plus, people often lie about sex. Still though, it's worth a look.

[The Sexperience 1000 | Thanks, Andy]


Mac Lion not as natural as it seems

15 Aug

I work with a lot of browser windows and other documents. It used to be a nice feature (in Mac OS X Leopard) to click and hold an icon to see all the windows of that type in an expose style view. To get the same view now, I had to first – google for the answer, then read through a forum, then learn to double click with 2 fingers. At this point it is starting to feel like I’m learning sign language. I don’t think you can justify this “natural”.

Suggestion. If we think of the icon as a stack of things of that type: a stack of browsers – then the natural thing to “scatter them across the desk to look at them” would be a click and toss movement. Click the icon and lightly toss it upward to see the windows.

As for the natural scrolling…pushing the page versus “scrolling” the page. It will take a while to adapt to that. I decided to wait a week before having an opinion. But when I went into the Apple store this weekend to pick up my new laptop, I literally thought the mice we upside down at first.

But after the first full day, I’m still finding it very hard to adapt.


The Myth of Joyful Parenthood

15 Aug

Sure, the soccer uniforms, piano lessons and college tuition add up--but there is nothing like being a parent. Or so we tell ourselves, according to a study in the February issue of Psychological Science . When parents are faced with the financial costs of a child, they justify their investment by playing up parenthood’s emotional payoffs.

Psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Ontario gave parents in the study a government report estimating that bringing up a child to age 18 costs more than $190,000. Then half the parents read an additional report about the financial help grown children pro­-vide their parents. Those who read only about the high price tag were more likely to agree with statements idealizing the emotional benefits of parenthood, such as “There is nothing more rewarding in this life than raising a child.”


Showcase of Skyline Photography

15 Aug

Skylines and cityscapes are a common subject for photographs, and they are even frequently mimicked in web and graphic design (see Web Design Trends: Skylines and Cityscapes). Each city has it’s own unique characteristics, and in this post we’ll showcase 30 photographs of various skylines. This showcase includes HDR photos, night photos, water reflection photos, and more.

skyline photography

New York City by Fiorenzo Carozzi

skyline photography

Prague by Ian Britton

skyline photography

Venice by Vladimir Sklyarov

skyline photography

Sydney by leafinsectman

skyline photography

Seattle by Brent Smith

skyline photography

New York City by haley727

skyline photography

New York City by Fabien Bravin

skyline photography

Rotterdam by Bas Meelker

skyline photography

Auckland by Jannis Gundermann

skyline photography

Montreal by YuppiDu

skyline photography

San Francisco at David Scarbrough

skyline photography

St. Louis by jonmega

skyline photography

Singapore by Sebastian Kisworo

skyline photography

Montreal by slack12

skyline photography

Miami by vgm8383

skyline photography

Detroit by James Marvin Phelps

skyline photography

Hong Kong by Jim Trodel

skyline photography

Sydney by Peter Nijenhuis

skyline photography

Hong Kong by Brendan

skyline photography

Louisville by Kara B

skyline photography

Atlanta by Kay Gaensler

skyline photography

Sydney by Paul Hocksenar

skyline photography

Chicago by Isaac Singleton

skyline photography

Miami by HellFire Design

skyline photography

Miami by Matthew Paulson

skyline photography

London by Jim Trodel

skyline photography

Toronto by Abi K

skyline photography

Sydney by Corey Leopold

skyline photography

New York City by Geof Wilson

skyline photography

Toronto by Remi Carreiro

For more inspiration from photography please see:

Royalty-Free Graphics


Laser sparks revolution in internal combustion engines

12 Aug

For more than 150 years, spark plugs have powered internal combustion engines. Automakers are now one step closer to being able to replace this long-standing technology with laser igniters, which will enable cleaner, more efficient, and more economical vehicles.

In the past, lasers strong enough to ignite an engine’s air-fuel mixtures were too large to fit under an automobile’s hood. At this year’s Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics (CLEO: 2011), held in Baltimore May 1 – 6, researchers from Japan described the first multibeam laser system small enough to screw into an engine’s cylinder head.

Equally significant, the new laser system is made from ceramics, and could be produced inexpensively in large volumes, according to one of the presentation’s authors, Takunori Taira of Japan’s National Institutes of Natural Sciences. [via]

Laser sparks revolution in internal combustion engines - [Link]


Singapore will soon become more garden than city [Urban Design]

11 Aug
In a recently proposed 10-year development plan, Singapore aims to go from being "a garden city" to "a city in a garden." The proposal marks the latest milestone in the city's decades-long effort to become an eco-city. More »

Can we believe our eyes?

10 Aug

Several days ago, one of our customers submitted a sample (SHA1: fbe71968d4c5399c2906b56d9feadf19a35beb97, detected as TrojanDropper:Win32/Vundo.L). This trojan hijacks  the hosts “” and “” (both social networking sites in Russia)and redirects them to, but achieves this in an unusual way.

A common  method used to hijack a website and redirect it to a site of the attacker’s choice is to add an entry in the Windows hosts file located in the %SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc directory. However, when we open this file on an affected computer, it doesn’t contain any entries related to “” and “”, as you can see in the following example:


But when we show hidden files, we can see another “hosts” file. It is hidden, as in the following example:


There are two files with exactly the same name, “hosts”, in the etc directory! How can this happen?

As we know, it is not possible for a directory to contain two files with the same name. When we copy the file names to notepad, save them as a Unicode text file and open them with a hex editor we see the following (the upper is for the first “hosts” file, the lower is for the second “hosts” file):

For Unicode (UTF-16), the 0x006F is the same as 0x6F in ASCII, which is the character “o”. But what’s the 0x043E in Unicode? We can find it in Unicode chart table (Range: 0400-04FF). The following is part of this table.


We can see that Unicode 0x043E is a Cyrillic character, and it looks very much like the English character “o”.
So the hidden “hosts” file is the real hosts file in fact. When we open this file, we can see that two entries have been added to the end of the file:


Mystery solved!

This is not the first time we’ve seen a hacker using Unicode characters to mislead people. In Aug 2010, a Chinese hacker disclosed a trick with a Unicode control character used to mislead people into running an executable file. Hackers use Unicode control characters 0x202E (RLO) to reverse parts of a special file name, which changes the look of the file name in Windows Explorer.

For example, there is a file named as “picgpj.exe”, as the following:

The “gpj.exe” part of this name is specially crafted. When inserting an RLO character before “gpj.exe” in this name, the whole name appears as the following:

Hackers also usually use a picture as the file icon. Unwary people treat this file as a picture, and blindly double-click to open it, thus running the executable. Obviously, this type of trick is useless for Unicode aware programs, but it is not easy for the eyes of people to identify the problem.

Can we believe our eyes? The answer is... not always.

Zhitao Zhou