Friday, May 31, 2013
Monday, May 27, 2013
Hong Kong (CNN) -- Parents of a 15-year-old Chinese tourist have apologized after the teenager defaced a stone sculpture in an ancient Egyptian temple with graffiti. The act drew ire in both Egypt and China -- generating a massive online backlash amongst China's unforgiving netizens. Chinese tourist defaces Egyptian temple The vandal carved 'Ding Jinhao was here' in Chinese in the 3,500 year old Luxor Temple. This was photographed by an embarrassed Chinese traveler and shared on weibo, China's micro-blogging site on May 24. "The saddest moment in Egypt. I'm so embarrassed that I want to hide myself. I said to the Egyptian tour guide,'I'm really sorry,'" that traveler wrote on the original weibo post. When will tourists return to Egypt? Tourism takes a hit in Egypt "We want to wipe off the marking with a towel. But we can't use water since it is a 3,500 relic." It didn't take long -- actually, just a day -- before outraged netizens tracked down Ding in Nanjing. Slammed online and exposed further in the mainstream, Ding's parents quickly contacted media outlets. "We want to apologize to the Egyptian people and to people who have paid attention to this case across China," Ding's mother said in a China Daily report. Ding's parents said they shouldered the responsibility of what their son did, adding he had learned his lesson. World's unfriendliest nations for tourists The original weibo post was re-tweeted almost 90,000 times, received over 18,000 comments and was widely distributed across local media. "Reading this disastrous news this morning is heartbreaking. I despise this behavior, especially in Egypt -- the place I love. Now, I just want to say 'Sorry' to Egypt," commented weibo user "Net bug jing jing." "It's a disgrace to our entire race!" said another angry micro-blogger. Tourism in Egypt: Hope amid slow recovery In a state-run Xinhua media report, one of the agency's photographers said local Egyptian staff had worked to try and clean the sculpture. While there was some improvement, the graffiti could not be totally removed. Outbound Chinese tourism has expanded rapidly in recent years. In 2012, Chinese overtook Americans and Germans as the world's top international tourism spenders, with 83 million people spending a record US$102 billion on international tourism. That growth has brought with it a backlash in some industry sectors. (See our report on Chinese tourism: The good, the bad and the backlash) Earlier this month, Beijing called on its nation's tourists to improve their behavior, with Vice Premier Wang Yang stating it was important to project a good image of Chinese tourists. Chinese travelers the world's biggest spenders
Rutgers can't allow AD Julie Hermann to assume post due to her dishonesty Here’s the thing: For argument’s sake, let’s assume the allegations now surrounding newly appointed Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann are true. The letter detailing her alleged abuses of power as women’s volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee are 16 years old, and the players in question have nothing to gain by standing behind their old resentments at being called “whores” and “alcoholics” and “learning disabled.” So let’s say every word of the letter that forced her out is accurate. You can forgive that. You can. For a very long time, this was the accepted culture surrounding serious-minded coaches at every level in every sport. If you weren’t a yeller, you weren’t trying. You weren’t demeaning your players by screaming at them, defaming them, even cursing them; you were motivating them. SHE’S GOTTA GO! Post columnist Mike Vaccaro writes that newly appointed Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann should not be allowed to take the post because of dishonesty, not because of a letter detailing her alleged abuses of power 16 years ago as the University of Tennessee’s women’s volleyball coach. Getty Images SHE’S GOTTA GO! Post columnist Mike Vaccaro writes that newly appointed Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann should not be allowed to take the post because of dishonesty, not because of a letter detailing her alleged abuses of power 16 years ago as the University of Tennessee’s women’s volleyball coach. As long as you weren’t physically abusive, you could get away with anything. Bobby Knight did. Billy Martin did. Woody Hayes did. Sit behind Mike Krzyzewski’s bench sometime. Some of the stuff his staff has called Duke basketball players through the years makes Mike Rice’s observations sound like sonnets. That’s the atmosphere in which coaches of Hermann’s generation were raised, mostly because that’s how they were coached. So, no, you don’t have to admire what Julie Hermann called her players in 1996 or 1997, but if she has seen the errors of her ways, she can be forgiven. And the fact she drifted away from coaching and opted instead for athletic administration — an area in which, by all accounts, she has a sterling reputation — tells you she probably wasn’t entirely comfortable coaching the way she was coaching, either, in which she was essentially impeached by her own players. So, yes, it is possible to forgive an abusive coach for past transgressions. It is possible to learn from the error of your ways, and to realize, however you feel about this, coaches are expected to respect their athletes, and their dignity, in 2013. Though the empty suits who run Rutgers failed to uncover this, or the $150,000 lawsuit won by a former assistant who claimed Hermann fired her getting pregnant — you wouldn’t want these bumbling fools running a video store, let alone a major research university — even that isn’t what’s most troubling here. This is: “Wow.” That was Hermann’s first reaction when a reporter read the accusatory letter written by her players all those years ago. And: “None of this is familiar to me.” This is where it is impossible to believe Rutgers can allow Hermann to assume this job, as she’s supposed to in a few weeks. Rutgers, where the university president twiddled his thumbs rather than investigate charges his basketball coach was physically and verbally abusing players. Rutgers, where nobody bothered to see whether the new coach, Eddie Jordan, actually had earned his degree while being referred to, in every school-sanctioned bio, as a graduate. Rutgers, where a few weeks ago Julie Hermann had the audacity, the shameless gall, to state the following: “It is a new day. It is already fixed.” Fixed? The AD doesn’t have the courage to own up to old mistakes, to admit she, as much as anyone, might be the perfect person to detect red flags among the pool of future coaches with anger issues to be considered at Rutgers. No. She doesn’t even bother to deny the charges. Because she says she can’t remember them. Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up if you locked the 10 most creative screenwriters in the world in a room overlooking the Raritan River. Except at Rutgers, currently led by a president, Robert Barchi, who is either the dumbest smart guy or the smartest dumb guy you’ll ever see, this is what it’s called: business as usual. “Three strikes and you’re out,” former Gov. Richard Codey, a longtime supporter of athletics at Rutgers, told the the Star-Ledger yesterday. “A great university with great students and alumni deserve better. From the mishandling of the Rice situation to the Eddie Jordan thing ... to a woman who can’t remember that every member of her volleyball team called her to leave. You remember that on your death bed. She should go, too. You can’t make this stuff up.” At Robert Barchi’s Rutgers, you don’t have to. Somehow, he kept his job after the Rice fiasco. Somehow, he was kept out of the fire when the Jordan issue flared. If he skates now, along with his AD? You wonder if they’re even trying anymore more @ http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/college/basketball/raise_the_state_ax_ODfMGJYD9G3uwTCu3AWH4H
The ugly truth: Apple vs. PC design commentary The PC world still hasn't come up with an awesome design to challenge the iPad. The clock's ticking. Walk into any Best Buy and you're hit with an ugly truth: PCs aren't pretty. A 15-inch HP Windows 8 laptop that sells for $270 (Best Buy's "Deal of the Day" on Saturday) isn't meant to be pretty. It's meant to be practical. But a $330 iPad Mini is also very practical for a lot of people. And pretty too (consumers and reviewers seem to think so). Pretty and practical are two reasons Apple can sell tens of millions of Minis. Why bring this up? I was struck by a statement from an Intel executive at the chipmaker's London Analyst Summit this week. He was speaking about why consumers aren't upgrading their PCs at the rate they did before and, instead, opting to purchase tablets. "We haven't had products in the marketplace that were compelling in any way...from a form factor point of view," he said. That's brutal honesty coming from the general manager of Intel's Mobile Client Platform division. The PC world isn't very good at giving you both price and pulchritude. HP is getting close, with the $600 Envy x2 tablet-laptop hybrid. But not close enough on price. And while Acer's $400 Iconia W510 tablet is cheap, it's hardly an iPad Mini. Even at higher prices, Apple design is hard to beat. The MacBook Air, when it debuted in 2008, changed laptop design almost singlehandedly. And it's still very popular, starting at $1,000. There are PCs that can compete with the Air, of course. The Acer Aspire S7 touch-screen ultrabook is attractive and has been well received. And ditto for Dell's XPS 13. But so far there's been no "form factor," as the Intel executive put it, that can compete with the iPad. Here's a suggestion: A $400 Surface packing Intel's upcoming quad-core Bay Trail system-on-a-chip. Or even better, $300. That would shake things up. I'm sure readers can think of a lot more ideas. A less expensive Microsoft Surface tablet with new Intel chips could reset the market. more @ http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57586210-37/the-ugly-truth-apple-vs-pc-design/
The $1.3B Quest to Build a Supercomputer Replica of a Human Brain
Even by the standards of the TED conference, Henry Markram’s 2009 TEDGlobal talk was a mind-bender. He took the stage of the Oxford Playhouse, clad in the requisite dress shirt and blue jeans, and announced a plan that—if it panned out—would deliver a fully sentient hologram within a decade. He dedicated himself to wiping out all mental disorders and creating a self-aware artificial intelligence. And the South African–born neuroscientist pronounced that he would accomplish all this through an insanely ambitious attempt to build a complete model of a human brain—from synapses to hemispheres—and simulate it on a supercomputer. Markram was proposing a project that has bedeviled AI researchers for decades, that most had presumed was impossible. He wanted to build a working mind from the ground up.
In the four years since Markram’s speech, he hasn’t backed off a nanometer. The self-assured scientist claims that the only thing preventing scientists from understanding the human brain in its entirety—from the molecular level all the way to the mystery of consciousness—is a lack of ambition. If only neuroscience would follow his lead, he insists, his Human Brain Project could simulate the functions of all 86 billion neurons in the human brain, and the 100 trillion connections that link them. And once that’s done, once you’ve built a plug-and-play brain, anything is possible. You could take it apart to figure out the causes of brain diseases. You could rig it to robotics and develop a whole new range of intelligent technologies. You could strap on a pair of virtual reality glasses and experience a brain other than your own.
The way Markram sees it, technology has finally caught up with the dream of AI: Computers are finally growing sophisticated enough to tackle the massive data problem that is the human brain. But not everyone is so optimistic. “There are too many things we don’t yet know,” says Caltech professor Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at one of neuroscience’s biggest data producers, the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. “The roundworm has exactly 302 neurons, and we still have no frigging idea how this animal works.” Yet over the past couple of decades, Markram’s sheer persistence has garnered the respect of people like Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist Torsten Wiesel and Sun Microsystems cofounder Andy Bechtolsheim. He has impressed leading figures in biology, neuroscience, and computing, who believe his initiative is important even if they consider some of his ultimate goals unrealistic.
Markram has earned that support on the strength of his work at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, where he and a group of 15 postdocs have been taking a first stab at realizing his grand vision—simulating the behavior of a million-neuron portion of the rat neocortex. They’ve broken new ground on everything from the expression of individual rat genes to the organizing principles of the animal’s brain. And the team has not only published some of that data in peer-reviewed journals but also integrated it into a cohesive model so it can be simulated on an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer.
The big question is whether these methods can scale. There’s no guarantee that Markram will be able to build out the rest of the rat brain, let alone the vastly more complex human brain. And if he can, nobody knows whether even the most faithful model will behave like a real brain—that if you build it, it will think. For all his bravado, Markram can’t answer that question. “But the only way you can find out is by building it,” he says, “and just building a brain is an incredible biological discovery process.” This is too big a job for just one lab, so Markram envisions an estimated 6,000 researchers around the world funneling data into his model. His role will be that of prophet, the sort of futurist who presents worthy goals too speculative for most scientists to countenance and then backs them up with a master plan that makes the nearly impossible appear perfectly plausible. Neuroscientists can spend a whole career on a single cell or molecule. Markram will grant them the opportunity and encouragement to band together and pursue the big questions.
And now Markram has funding almost as outsized as his ideas. On January 28, 2013, the European Commission—the governing body of the European Union—awarded him 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion). For decades, neuroscientists and computer scientists have debated whether a computer brain could ever be endowed with the intelligence of a human. It’s not a hypothetical debate anymore. Markram is building it. Will he replicate consciousness? The EU has bet $1.3 billion on it.
Ancient Egyptian surgeons believed that the brain was the “marrow of the skull” (in the graphic wording of a 3,500-year-old papyrus). About 1,500 years later, Aristotle decreed that the brain was a radiator to cool the heart’s “heat and seething.” While neuroscience has come a long way since then, the amount that we know about the brain is still minuscule compared to what we don’t know.
Over the past century, brain research has made tremendous strides, but it’s all atomized and highly specific—there’s still no unified theory that explains the whole. We know that the brain is electric, an intricately connected network, and that electrical signals are modulated by chemicals. In sufficient quantity, certain combinations of chemicals (called neurotransmitters) cause a neuron to fire an electrical signal down a long pathway called an axon. At the end of the axon is a synapse, a meeting point with another neuron. The electrical spike causes neurotransmitters to be released at the synapse, where they attach to receptors in the neighboring neuron, altering its voltage by opening or closing ion channels. At the simplest level, comparisons to a computer are helpful. The synapses are roughly equivalent to the logic gates in a circuit, and axons are the wires. The combination of inputs determines an output. Memories are stored by altering the wiring. Behavior is correlated with the pattern of firing.
Yet when scientists study these systems more closely, such reductionism looks nearly as rudimentary as the Egyptian notions about skull marrow. There are dozens of different neurotransmitters (dopamine and serotonin, to name two) plus as many neuroreceptors to receive them. There are more than 350 types of ion channel, the synaptic plumbing that determines whether a neuron will fire. At its most fine-grained, at the level of molecular biology, neuroscience attempts to describe and predict the effect of neurotransmitters one ion channel at a time. At the opposite end of the scale is functional magnetic resonance imaging, the favorite tool of behavioral neuroscience. Scans can roughly track which parts of the brain are active while watching a ball game or having an orgasm, albeit only by monitoring blood flow through the gray matter: the brain again viewed as a radiator.
Two large efforts—the Allen Brain Atlas and the National Institutes of Health-funded Human Connectome Project—are working at levels in between these two extremes, attempting to get closer to that unified theory that explains the whole. The Allen Brain Atlas is mapping the correlation between specific genes and specific structures and regions in both human and mouse brains. The Human Connectome Project is using noninvasive imaging techniques that show where wires are bundled and how those bundles are connected in human brains.
To add to the brain-mapping mix, President Obama in April announced the launch of an initiative called Brain (commonly referred to as the Brain Activity Map), which he hopes Congress will make possible with a $3 billion NIH budget. (To start, Obama is pledging $100 million of his 2014 budget.) Unlike the static Human Connectome Project, the proposed Brain Activity Map would show circuits firing in real time. At present this is feasible, writes Brain Activity Map participant Ralph Greenspan, “in the little fruit fly Drosophila.”
Even scaled up to human dimensions, such a map would chart only a web of activity, leaving out much of what is known of brain function at a molecular and functional level. For Markram, the American plan is just grist for his billion-euro mill. “The Brain Activity Map and other projects are focused on generating more data,” he writes. “The Human Brain Project is about data integration.” In other words, from his exalted perspective, the NIH and President Obama are just a bunch of postdocs ready to work for him.
more @ http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/05/neurologist-markam-human-brain/
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Apple 1 breaks auction record, goes for $671,400 One of what's thought to be only six working Apple 1 computers -- hand-built by Steve Wozniak -- flies out of a German auction house for a tidy sum. The last one went for $640,000 One of what's believed to be only six still-working Apple 1 computers set a record at auction Saturday, selling for $671,400 in Germany. The machine, built by Steve "The Woz" Wozniak in Steve Jobs' parents garage back in 1976, was sold along with the original owner's manual and a signed letter from Jobs to original owner Fred Hatfield. Breker, the German auction house that handled the sale, sold another Apple 1 in December for $640,000, a substantial jump in price from the Apple 1 sold by Sotheby's in New York last June for $374,500. Auctioner Uwe Breker said the appeal of the machine went far beyond the realm of geekery. "It is a superb symbol of the American dream," he told The New York Times' Bits blog. "You have two college dropouts from California who pursued an idea and a dream, and that dream becomes one of the most admired, successful, and valuable companies in the world." That can-do spirit is reflected in this brief description of the Apple 1's genesis, given in the Sotheby's notes to last June's auction (PDF): When Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs presented the Apple I Computer to the Homebrew Computer Club in 1976, it was dismissed by everyone but Paul Terrell, the owner of a chain of stores called Byte Shop. Terrell ordered 50 computers for $500 apiece, insisting that the circuit boards come fully assembled rather than as DIY kits similar to the Altair, and Jobs and Woz managed to produce the requisite computers in 30 days. They continued production, immediately creating 50 additional Apple 1's to sell to friends and an additional 100 to sell through vendors, at a retail price of $666.66, a number that garnered complaints among conservative Christians, but provided a lucrative 33 [percent] markup. Let's see, 50 computers in 30 days -- that's about 1.67 Apple 1s per day. At today's prices, that would add up to about $1,121,238 for a day's work. Not too shabby. Sotheby's estimates that another 44 Apple 1s exist, in addition to the 6 that still actually work. more info http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57586204-37/apple-1-breaks-auction-record-goes-for-$671400/
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Ohio Man Downloaded Apple's 50 Billionth App and Was Suddenly $10K Richer Brandon Ashmore from Mentor, Ohio, hit the app jackpot Tuesday afternoon when he pressed the download button on a word game app called Say the Same Thing and sent Apple over the 50 billion app download mark, winning the $10,000 prize. Earlier this month Apple announced that it was nearing 50 billion iPhone and iPad app downloads since the launch of the store in 2008, and that it would award the person who downloaded that milestone app with a $10,000 gift card for the App Store. According to Apple, the 50 billion download number does not include redownloads of apps or updates. Steve Jobs announced the launch of the App Store in the summer of 2008 with 500 apps. It now has more than 850,000 iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch apps, with more than 350,00 iPad specific apps. Earlier this month, Apple also celebrated the 10th anniversary of iTunes. RELATED: Apple's Upcoming iOS 7 Said to Have New Look But the store's closest competitor, Google's Android store, isn't far behind. During its Google I/O conference two days ago, Google announced its very own milestone: 48 billion Android downloads from its Google Play Store. Google also announced a host of new features and services for app developers, including ways to build apps that take advantage of the phones' sensors and how to translate apps into other languages. The company also announced new consumer products, including Google All Access Play Music service and its new Hangouts Messaging app. Apple will hold its developer's event on June 10. The company is expected to detail the next versions of its iOS operating system, which is said to be getting a major design overhaul. http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/ohio-man-downloaded-apples-50-billionth-app-suddenly-152550922.html
Saturday, May 4, 2013
In a fiery speech Saturday before cheering supporters, the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre took on advocates for new gun laws and said a national background check bill “got the defeat that it deserved." “We will never surrender our guns, never,” LaPierre, the organization's executive vice president, said on the second day of the gun-rights group’s convention in Houston, Texas. He argued that recent mass shootings, including the killing of 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school in December, have been used “to blame us, to shame us, to compromise our freedom for their agenda.” The gun rights lobby’s convention was part victory celebration, part pep rally as the NRA’s leaders cheered the defeat of a background check bill and said they would oppose any new attempts to pass national legislation on guns. Advertise | AdChoices “Our feet are planted firmly in the foundation of freedom, unswayed by the winds of political and media insanity,” LaPierre said. “To the political and media elites who scorn us, we say let them be damned.” A bill supported by President Barack Obama that would have expanded background checks on gun purchases would have done nothing to stop recent mass shootings, LaPierre said. That bill was defeated in the Senate last month. “The bill wouldn’t have prevented Newtown or Aurora,” LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, said in his speech to several thousand attendees. “It won’t prevent the next tragedy. None of it has anything to do with keeping our children safer in any school anywhere.” Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, co-sponsored the background check bill. Toomey has said the bill failed to pass because members of the GOP did not want to hand the White House a policy victory. LaPierre also referenced the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt as an argument for putting guns in the hands of more Americans. “How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago?” LaPierre said. “Boston proves it. When brave law enforcement officers did their jobs in that city so courageously, good guys with guns stopped terrorists with guns.” NRA officials confirmed to NBC News that LaPierre’s remarks were the first time the organization had brought up the Boston Marathon bombings in connection with their political fight against new restrictions on guns. The annual convention was expected to draw about 70,000 people over three days. As many as 550 exhibitors were packed into the George R. Brown Convention Center, bringing with them racks and display cases filled with handguns, rifles, and other firearms. LaPierre claimed that the NRA’s membership stood at 5 million and said the organization aimed to amass 10 million members. A lifetime membership in the NRA costs $1,000, and the organization was able to claim that both its youngest and its oldest lifetime members were in attendance on Saturday. Wayne Burd of Arkansas was born in 1917, and was recognized for the second year running as the rifle association’s oldest lifetime member. Among the freshest faces present was the group’s youngest lifetime member, Elaih Wagan, a 3-year-old from Austin, Texas. Wagan's grandfather purchased a lifetime membership as a gift for the little girl. NBC News’ Kasie Hunt and Gabe Gutierrez and The Associated Press contributed to this report more @ http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/04/18056499-nras-lapierre-we-will-never-surrender-our-guns?lite
Orb wins 139th Kentucky Derby Orb, running 15th well into the race, made a late charge to win the 139th running of the mud-spattered Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Golden Soul was second, followed by Revolutionary. Late money made Orb and Revolutionary co-favorites at 6-1 at post time. "I was so far behind and I let him stay calm," jockey Joel Rosario said of Orb. "Perfect trip. I stayed on the outside. I didn't want to be too wide." Trainer Shug McGaughey was overcome with emotion, breaking down as he tried to explain his joy. Palace Malice, ridden by veteran rider Mike Smith, broke out to a several-lengths lead about halfway through the race, the lead group tightened, and then Orb made his move. More than 151,000 spectators packed Churchill Downs in Louisville, where rain had fallen much of the day. The Derby is the first jewel of the Triple Crown. The 138th running of the Preakness, on May 18 in Maryland, is the second, followed by the Belmont Stakes, in New York on June 8. Only 11 horses have won the crown, none since Affirmed did in 1978.