Monday, May 29, 2006

Shatner: Horses Can Help Disabled Kids

The captain who dared to "boldly go where no man has gone before" has targeted a new destination: William Shatner believes he can contribute to Middle East peace by helping disabled children through horseback riding.

The former "Star Trek" actor was in Israel on Monday to promote "therapeutic riding." He hopes to raise $10 million for nearly 30 riding programs in the country.

Shatner said that placing injured people on horseback has been shown to improve their conditions. "We know that the use of a horse in their therapy takes them beyond their handicapped body, their injured body, and into another area of health," he said.

Shatner has long been involved with "Ahead for Horses," a Los Angeles charity that works with physically and mentally disabled children through horseback riding.

He hopes his new fund, launched with the nonprofit Jewish National Fund, will contribute to Mideast peace. He stressed that every citizen of Israel, as well as Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians, will be encouraged to participate.

Shatner and his wife Elizabeth are on their second trip to Israel, where they are visiting many of the riding centers and meeting with people that benefit from the treatment.

Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk on the original "Star Trek" TV series, currently stars in the series "Boston Legal."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Naked on Everest: a peek on the peak?

Where do you have to go to get back to nature?

"The head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association urged the government Saturday to take action against a sherpa who reportedly stripped on top of Mount Everest.

The Himalayan Times had reported Friday that the Nepali climbing guide, whose name it gave as Lakpa Tharke, stood naked for three minutes in freezing conditions on the 29,035-foot summit of the world's highest peak.

If confirmed, he would be the first person known to have stripped atop Everest, considered by Nepali Buddhists as a god.

Ang Tshering Sherpa, head of Nepal's top mountaineering body, said he could not confirm that the incident had happened."

Click on title to read more

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Real Invisibility Cloak

"Imagine an invisibility cloak that works just like the one Harry Potter inherited from his father.

Researchers in England and the United States think they know how to do that. They are laying out the blueprint and calling for help in developing the exotic materials needed to build a cloak.

The keys are special manmade materials, unlike any in nature — or the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These materials are intended to steer light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation around an object, rendering it as invisible as something tucked into a hole in space.

"Is it science fiction? Well, it's theory and that already is not science fiction. It's theoretically possible to do all these Harry Potter things, but what's standing in the way is our engineering capabilities," said John Pendry, a physicist at the Imperial College London.

Details of the study, which Pendry co-wrote, appear in Thursday's online edition of the journal Science."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Table tennis for all ages and abilities

Pingpong offers more benefits per serving

Make sure your read why you shouldn't call it Ping Pong!

"Excitement is reason enough to bat a small, hollow ball back and forth for an hour. But if that doesn't tempt, consider this: Participants in pingpong glean tangible health benefits. They may even lengthen their lives.

Pingpong burns calories — 272 of them an hour for a 150-pound person, according to calorimetric analysis. This is not as many as singles tennis (544) or even doubles tennis (408), but a cool 102 more than would be burned by playing billiards for the same amount of time.

In fact, batting the ball about the table with friends on a regular basis may offer a nice mix of mental, physical and social benefits, says Dr. Gary Small, director of the Center on Aging at the University of California, Los Angeles.

For starters, pingpong provides a deft mental workout ... truly. Such mental stimulation can affect how the brain is wired — perhaps even warding off cognitive decline in future years.
Exercise tends to help the front part of the brain, especially if one is solving complex problems, such as mapping out sophisticated strategies for winning a pitched game of pingpong.

Pick up the paddle and your brain could change quickly. In exercise studies, Small notes, beneficial brain changes are visible with high-tech imaging after only a few weeks.

And there's more. The balance training of paddle games such as tennis or pingpong can help prevent falls, which are common among the elderly.

It helps forge social connections — which increase the chance of living to a ripe old age.

“Unless you are playing pingpong against a wall, it is tremendous to have connection, have fun, and be socially involved with other people,” Small said.

Of course, what you get out of pingpong depends on what you put into it, says Dr. Frank Chen of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation's sports department, who's also on the medical staff of the Oakland Raiders and USA National Rugby.

If you're just banging the ball around in the basement with some buddies, don't expect to drop pounds or gain stamina.

But if you are playing really competitive table tennis, that's different. Concentrated, quick, high-octane play at that level can offer a cardiovascular and aerobic workout, and build strength in the body's fast-twitch muscle fibers.

“You are really working both types of muscle fibers (fast and slow) within the body,” says Chen, an avid pingpong player.

“Pingpong also works very well in terms of building eye-hand coordination,” Chen adds. “It helps build your reflexes because you do need to stay focused at that very high level. You are using your arms, legs and shoulders, basically enhancing speed and strength in all those areas.”

All this, and perhaps, no tennis elbow."

Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis Player Profiles - Xbox

"Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, the debut next generation title from the critically acclaimed developers Rockstar San Diego.

The real sport of table tennis is the second largest participant sport in the world. Rockstar San Diego has translated this global popularity through the choice of characters featured throughout the game. Eleven characters from 11 countries, each uniquely detailed with their own distinct style of play and personality.

The best way to bring your “A-game” is to take the time and “test drive” each of table tennis characters. During this process, you will notice that each of the players is very different in terms of speeds, playing abilities, and personalities. To assist you in finding the character that best suits your style of gameplay please refer to the information below:

Kumi – Osaka, Japan

Aged 23 yrs, 5’2” and 105lbs, Kumi is very quick on her feet and covers a lot of ground in a very short time. Over recent years she has perfected her serve and sidespin shots with the pen hold grip. A very difficult player to beat, she may not have the power behind each shot but she will defend well and her return shots will challenge the best of opponent.

Liu Ping – Beijing, China

An aggressive player at 32 yrs old, 5’9” and 155lbs, Liu Ping will combine his power and his technical strength to test any opponent. A born Table Tennis player, Liu Ping uses the pen grip which gives him phenomenal ball control and enables him to dominate the play.

Haley – Chicago, USA

At 21, Haley is the youngest player in the world of Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, but do not let her youth dictate your opinion. Haley has strength in all areas of the game and on the table, with a great serve, combined with very effective spin and accuracy she can keep up with any of the players on the circuit.

Jesper – Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden has a long and successful history in Table Tennis world tournaments and Jesper at 34 yrs old, 240lbs and 6’2” is a force to be reckoned with.

He can dominate any table with his immense power and good accuracy.

Combine this with his, often intimidating, size and opponents can crumble.

Luc – Versailles, France

At the age of 27, 5’11” and 175lbs Luc has an unorthodox table tennis style and a passionate attitude towards each point, he will often surprises his opponents. A great defender, Luc will cover every part of the table and then offer his heavy backspin shot to test any challenger. This intimidating player will shake up any leader board.

Juergen – Stuttgart, Germany

A very solid, built to last player. With a close to perfect serve, spin, accuracy and quick feet, Juergen is a great all round player. At 29 years, 175lbs is happy to challenge anybody, anywhere, his self confidence and dedication are great strengths which he will always bring to the table.

Solayman – Cairo, Egypt

At 35 yrs 6’3”, Solayman is the oldest player in Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis. With phenomenal power and a strong serve at his hands some points can be over before his opponent can realize. Warning to all, Solayman enjoys embarrassing table tennis players who under estimated his ability due to his age or the fact he wears a knee support.

Carmen – São Paulo, Brazil

With unrivaled accuracy, an intense serve combined with some serious power, this 25yr old, 5’6” Brazilian will push all players that she meets to their limits.

Carmen doesn’t just bring her skills to the game, her passion and commitment is always on show.

Carmen is not here to lose.

Jung Soo – Seoul, Korea

At 6” tall and 23 years old, Jung Soo has a long reach and is extremely quick to cover any distance. He is very hungry to win and will attack any ball which comes his way. With such a powerful backhand he can dominate the court and defeat any competitor.

Mark – Bristol, England

A young, fierce and passionate player with a lot flair and attitude. Mark is a winner and he will use aggressive, powerful forehand shots to make any player work for each point. With high accuracy but low spin he will play fast, deep, side to side shots testing an opponents speed and agility. Even at 22 years old this former tennis player turned table tennis pro he has a deep understanding and competitive edge which helps win matches.

Cassidy – Bangor, Ireland

At age 25 and standing at 5’7, Cassidy has a carefree attitude about the pro table tennis circuit and to outsiders, it may seem like she’s not even serious about her game. But watch out she plays possum at times to get the opposing player over confident. She has all the basic skills and her strength is consistency in her defensive plays, she has the ability to return everything."

Click on the title to see the game in action

Granny is table tennis hit

"A British granny is a hit in Germany after she turned up to compete in an international table tennis championship - at the age of ninety-five.

Dorothy de Low is the oldest competitor at the World Veteran Table Tennis Championships in Bremen, northern Germany.

The pensioner, known as 'Doddy', has become a celebrity in Germany since her arrival, giving a string of radio, TV and newspaper interviews.

She has been playing for 40 years and has already competed in nine previous international tournaments, winning a number of medals including the over-80s world championship in Dublin in 1992, the over-60s women's doubles in New Zealand in 1989 and the women's doubles in Baltimore in 1990.

The British-born woman, who has moved to Australia and now lives in Sydney has this time brought her own coach, Australian table tennis champ Paul Pinkewich, to give her last minute playing tips."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Wrath of Pong!

"It’s an odd recipe for a company that specializes in debauchery: two athletes sporting pastel shorty-shorts, one Nittaku “3-Star” 40-mm ball, a regulation 108-by-60-by-30-inch high-density wood-composite table, and nothing more anti-Jesus than a variety of chops, loops, flips and forehand-pendulum serves. These are just a few of the anodyne ingredients that Rockstar Games has baked into its inaugural Xbox 360 release, the matter-of-factly titled Table Tennis.

You heard right. For its grand entrance into the next-generation arena, the publisher of the Grand Theft Auto series, Midnight Club, Max Payne, The Warriors and Manhunt is turning its immoral gaze toward . . . Ping-Pong. Even the game’s title — with its notable absence of words like “revolver” and “dead” — seems antithetical to Rockstar’s previous modus operandi. No hyperbole, no lofty insinuation toward violence, just the straight-laced “table” + “tennis.”

So what’s the deal? This is, after all, the same company that only a few years back (still riding high on GTA’s success) announced that the rest of the gaming industry was basically retarded — that it was going to revolutionize the marketplace with adult titles, games whose narratives would be driven by sex and violence . . . and sexy violence. Are we to believe that Rockstar has finally bowed to the indignant cries for “responsible” game making from the morality brigade (Jack Thompson et al.)? Is this release some sort of interactive psyllium husk meant to cleanse the colons of those who’ve been nourished on a steady diet of violence, flashy cars, “hot coffee” (a.k.a. simulated virtual sex) and depravity?

Since its inception, most people (whether consciously or not) have understood Ping-Pong’s potent symbolism of friendship and goodwill. By most accounts, the sport emerged as a social hobby in England toward the end of the 19th century. After supping on roasted duck, the idle rich, gassy and bored, would often strip their dining-room tables and whack little cork balls back and forth at one another with crude wooden paddles. Even the early appellations these pioneers gave their newborn pastime — names such as gossima and flimflam — seemed to smack of good-natured fun and brotherhood. But the game’s true potential had yet to be tapped.

Enter William “Willy” Higinbotham. As a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory — a facility erected in Suffolk County, Long Island, for scientists to futz around with particle accelerators and the like — Higinbotham was trying to accomplish something that had never been done: to promote peaceful uses for nuclear energy. This proved a difficult task. People — especially the surrounding Suffolk County community members — seemed simultaneously freaked out and bored with nuclear technology, so much so that BNLdecided to open its doors once a year to the surrounding community in an effort to botheducate them and assuage their nuclear jitters.

Higinbotham noted the poor attendance and boredom that seemed to permeate these affairs. So in an effort to keep visitors’ eyelids open (and to promote a more appealing “interactive experience”), he came up with a hands-on display — a video tennis game using a blip of programmed light that used various trajectory paths on an analog computer. He and his team even added two control boxes (paddles, some called them), each with a knob to hit the balland a button for “serving.” The game, which debuted in 1958, was dubbed Tennis for Two, and it became the basis for one of the most popular video games of all time — Pong. People waited hours in line to play.

It was a surprising lesson. If virtual table tennis could sooth people’s nuclear fears (or at least sufficiently distract them), what else could the sport accomplish? Fast-forward to 1971, when Ping-Pong’s powerful PR muscles were once again flexed — this time in the decidedly nonvirtual realm of U.S.-China diplomacy. The commies hadn’t let an American visitor set foot on China’s mainland since 1949 (the year of the communist takeover). But when the American Ping-Pong team happened to be kickin’ it in Japan for the 31st World Table Tennis Championship, they received a surprise invitation: an all-expense-paid trip to the People’s Republic for what turned out to be an old-fashioned Ping-Pong ass-whoopin’. The era of “Ping-Pong diplomacy” was born. Beyond being an apt metaphor for the relations between the U.S. and China — one that journalists loved to use over and over again — table tennis also came to represent something new: an openness to change.

Of course, change is exactly what the video game industry seems to need these days — and what it’s so inherently averse to. Indeed, part of Rockstar’s prior success was fundamentally based on change: Before anyone else, the company realized the innate appeal of open-ended worlds and constructed games where players could indulge in whatever nefarious pursuits they deemed fit. True, Table Tennis is a gentler, more amiable beast. But the game’s Zenlike simplicity — its “back-to-basics” ethos — may ironically prove to be exactly what the industry and the company need right now.

Racket/paddle-based games, dating all the way back to their earliest electronic iterations (Tennis for Two), have been sine qua non to the video-game landscape. Many of them (Pong, Mario Tennis, Top Spin) have held up incredibly well over the years, but it’s more than just their retro appeal that Rockstar is tapping into here. There’s also something inherently pure and approachable (even for the n00bs out there) about these games. Table Tennis, like its predecessors, is able to simultaneously elicit our traditional competitive spirit while remaining fun and light-hearted (it’s miniature tennis, for Chrissakes). It’s a simple game for a complex piece of equipment — one that anyone can learn (and excel at) without the unreasonable time demands that many games today seem to require.

In the end, Rockstar’s Table Tennis achieves that rarest of feats for a video game — it’s easy to pick up, hard to put down. And at a time when Iran is frontin’ its nuclear ambitions, the gaming industry has lost its mojo and games themselves are becoming increasingly complex and convoluted, couldn’t we all use a little flimflam?"

Did chimp and human ancestors interbreed? - LiveScience -

"The earliest known ancestors of modern humans might have reproduced with early chimpanzees to create a hybrid species, a new genetic analysis suggests.

Based on the study of human and chimp genomes, the scientists believe the split between the human and chimpanzee lines occurred much more recently than previously thought — no more than 6.3 million years ago and perhaps as recently as 5.4 million years ago.

Human and chimpanzee ancestors began branching apart on the primate evolutionary tree about 9 million years ago, scientists say, but there are significant gaps in the fossil record. The new analysis suggests that a full split, which scientists call speciation, wasn't achieved for nearly 4 million years and might have occurred twice."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Record-breaking laser is hot stuff - The record for the fastest rise in temperature has just been topped.

"With the heat of a burning sun, a laser pulse has ripped through pure sapphire, heating it faster than any explosion ever recorded.

The experiment was a blast, say physicists who reckon their laser can drive temperature increases of a billion billion (1018) degrees per second, although they could only keep it going for a couple of hundred femtoseconds (with a femtosecond being 10-15 s). That tops the previous heating-rate record, they say.

The intense heating power of the laser made miniature fireballs, just thousandths of a millimetre in size, at pressures of 10 terapascals (1013 Pa). That's about 20 times the pressure at the Earth's core. Although more powerful lasers have previously managed to create greater pressures, these required large, specialized facilities.

The intense crush also raised the temperature to about half a million °C. 'You have the same parameters in an atomic explosion,' says Vladimir Tikhonchuk, a theoretical physicist from the University of Bordeaux, France.

The success shows that scientists can now simulate the intense condition at the hearts of planets, or possibly even trigger fusion reactions, using a conventional tabletop laser."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Dolphins create their own names

Scientists find evidence for bottlenose equivalents of ‘John’ and ‘Mary’

"A high-pitched 'wee-o-wee-o-wee-o-wee' whistle might not sound like much to you, but it's exactly how a dolphin might introduce itself.

Because sight is limited in the ocean, dolphins create individual 'name' calls to communicate their whereabouts to friends and families.

But it's not as simple as just recognizing a voice, as with most animals. A new study reveals that the calls contain frequency changes that dolphins recognize.

Humans are one of the few species that use sound modulation instead of simple voice differences to identify individuals. For example, a person can recognize the name "John" whether it's being said by Gilbert Gottfried or James Earl Jones.

Scientists have long known that dolphins identify themselves with names, but the belief was that, like some monkeys, the animal's voice was the key ingredient of the call.

A team of researchers led by Vincent Janik of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland temporarily captured seven male and seven female bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay in Florida. Janik and his crew recorded the name calls of each dolphin, and digitally removed the voice features of each call.

They then played the computerized calls and digital versions of other random calls through underwater speakers where the dolphins were held.

In nine of 14 cases, the dolphin would turn more often toward the speaker — an established technique for gauging a dolphin's interest — if it heard a whistle resembling the name of a close relative.

"Every dolphin has its own voice," Janik told LiveScience. "But we removed those features and showed that the animals are actually paying attention to the modulation and not the voice."

Naming game
A dolphin chooses its own name as an infant and uses it throughout its life.

"It seems like the animals hear what's around them, and then they make up their own whistle," Janik said. "They either develop something original ... or they base it on parts of the whistles around them."

Regardless of the method, the young dolphins want to make their call stand apart from the calls of their closest relatives. Communicating by sight is difficult underwater, so dolphins use these calls to let other dolphins know they're nearby. A dolphin will also call out its name if it's lost and distressed, hoping relatives will come to its aid.

Dolphins are some of the most talkative animals around, even though we don't know what they're saying.

"Their repertoire of calls probably numbers in the hundreds," Janik said. "Some of them are food calls, but for most of them we have no ideas what they're for."

The study is detailed this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Hawaiian Waters Grow Crowded With Whales

"Greg Kaufman says his whale-watching boat was doing everything by the book: cruising below 13 knots and staying 100 yards from any visible humpback as a crew member scanned the ocean atop a lookout.

Still, it wasn't enough to prevent the Pacific Whale Foundation vessel from running over a calf that surged from underneath March 9.

It was one of seven confirmed encounters in the current breeding season, which is drawing to a close but already has set a record for such accidents. Between 1975 and 2005, there were 33 reported strikes involving whales and boats among the islands, with no more than three in one single season.

Environmental groups call the trend alarming, but researchers hope it has more to do with a rebound in the endangered species' population than with negligent boaters."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

China Makes Artificial Rain for Beijing

"Chinese weather specialists used chemicals to engineer Beijing's heaviest rainfall of the year, helping to relieve drought and rinse dust from China's capital, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Friday.

Technicians with the Beijing Weather Modification Office fired seven rocket shells containing 163 cigarette-size sticks of silver iodide over the city's skies on Thursday, Xinhua said.

The reaction that occurred brought as much as four-tenths of an inch of rain, the heaviest rainfall this year, helping to 'alleviate drought, add soil moisture and remove dust from the air for better air quality,' Xinhua said.

Though unusual in many parts of the world, China has been tinkering with artificial rainmaking for decades, using it frequently in the drought-plagued north. Last month, another artificial rainfall was generated to clear Beijing after the city suffered some of the fiercest dust storms this decade.

Whether cloud-seeding actually works has been the subject of debate in the scientific community. In 2003, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences questioned the science behind it as 'too weak.'"

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bob Dylan the DJ proves he has just the voice for radio - World - Times Online

"THAT drawling, raspy voice was unmistakable. But this time it was introducing songs, not singing them.
The once-reclusive Bob Dylan made his debut yesterday as a radio DJ in the latest twist of his long career.

For fans accustomed to his terse, mumbled comments at concerts, the singer-songwriter was positively chatty -- revealing a wry humour and even quoting Stevie Wonder in broken Italian.

Hard on the heels of the revelations in his bestselling Chronicles autobiography and the Martin Scorsese documentary No Direction Home on BBC Two, Dylan�s weekly radio show promises new insight into the music legend.

Introducing Slim Harpo's Raining in My Heart, for instance, the twice-divorced Dylan opines: "Slim wrote a bunch of songs with his wife, Lovelle. Boy, I wish I had a wife like that, help me write songs!"

The playlist for Dylan's hour-long show on America's XM Satellite Radio -- only available to British listeners on the web at -- offered clues to the master's musical roots.

The theme of his first show was the weather, a sly joke for the man who wrote about a dozen weather-related titles, including A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall and the protest classic Blowin' in the Wind.

It was, after all, a line in Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues -- "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" -- that gave the Sixties radical group the Weathermen its name.

"Curious about what the weather looks like?" the 64-year-old rock poet growled as the show began. "Just look out your window or take a walk outside."

Dylan's mix of pop, blues, R&B, gospel and country, ranging from Judy Garland and Fats Domino to the Staple Singers and calypso's Lord Beginner, stopped with Jimi Hendrix. As well as lovingly reciting lyrics, Dylan also peppered his introductions with comments on his musical forbears. Presenting Dean Martin’s I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine, he noted that it was also recorded by Elvis Presley and observed: “We forget how much Elvis wanted to be Dean.” Of Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary, he said: “This shows his more gentle side.”

Dylan also reintroduced now forgotten bands such as the Prisonaires, formed by convicts in a Tennessee jail in the 1940s, who had a hit with Just Walkin’ in the Rain. “The Prisonaires’ lead singer, Johnny Bragg, was sentenced to 99 years for rape when he was 11 years old. But, you know, for a black man in Tennessee in the Forties, rape could have meant just looking at the wrong white woman in a wrong way,” Dylan explained.

In 1955 “Johnny Bragg, who was out on parole, was sitting in the back seat of his car with a white girl, who was his wife, which somehow violated his parole and he ended up spending six years back in the lock-up,” he said.

Dylan is the latest star to have his own radio show. The trend began with Steve Van Zandt’s Underground Garage in 2002, and artists as varied as Eminem, Tom Petty and Snoop Dogg play DJ on satellite radio.

Dylan is being deployed by the market-leading XM Satellite, which has more than 6.5 million subscribers, against rival Sirius Satellite Radio, which hired the “shock jock” Howard Stern to build an audience of four million.


Blow, Wind, Blow

Muddy Waters

You Are My Sunshine

Jimmie Davis

California Sun

Joe Jones

Just Walking in the Rain


After the Clouds Roll Away


Let the Four Winds Blow

Fats Domino

Raining in My Heart

Slim Harpo

Summer Wind

Frank Sinatra

The Wind Cries Mary

Jimi Hendrix

Come Rain or Come Shine

Judy Garland

It's Raining

Irma Thomas

Stormy Weather


Jamaica Hurricane

Lord Beginner

A Place in the Sun

Stevie Wonder

Uncloudy Day

Staple Singers

I Don't Care if the Sun Don't Shine

Dean Martin

Keep on the Sunny Side

Carter Family"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Big new asteroid has slim chance of hitting Earth

"A newly discovered asteroid is now the biggest thing known with a possibility of hitting the Earth in this century -- and it is also the one that could hit the soonest.

But the odds of impact currently stand at just one in six million, reducing the fear factor somewhat, and these odds should further diminish with additional observations. This latest addition to NASA-JPL's list of potentially hazardous asteroids was discovered on 27 April 2006.

The asteroid, called 2006 HZ51, has an estimated diameter of about 800 metres and is the one of the largest objects ever to make the list. An object of that size would cause widespread devastation if it did strike the Earth.
HZ51 also has one of the shortest lead-times to a potential impact of any such object yet found, and the shortest of any potential Earth-impactor currently on the list. The earliest of its 165 possible impact dates is just over two years away, on 21 June 2008."