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Monday, July 14, 2008

Where To Find The Sexiest Girls In The World (Outside The US)


Photo by Celeste

Rarely do travel guides step up to the question every traveler, male and female alike, cannot help but consider when exploring new terrain: are the locals hot?

In advance of choosing your next great escape, you may want to remember the following list, just so your decision will be fully informed. And so, in no particular order, the top 10 cities in the world for hottest girls…

Mendoza

No one is sure what causes it. The wine? The weather? The water? Whatever it is, it so happens that there is a staggering number of beautiful girls in the tranquilo little town of Mendoza, Argentina.

The majority of hot Mendocina women epitomize what you would expect from a smoking hot Latina: Brunette, olive skin, sharp, dark eyes and hourglass curves.

Go out on a Friday or Saturday night in January and there’s a good chance seven out of ten girls you see at the bars will be insanely beautiful.

Havana

photo by ~chicchun~

Mixing it up like nowhere else west of Tel Aviv, many Cubans can trace ancestry to several ethnicities. Tall women with striking features.

Havana nights live up to their reputation; the music will stir your soul. This is no place to be a shy gentlemen, but if you can’t open up with a few words of Spanish you’re sunk.

Tokyo

Tokyo’s twenty-something generation is full of movers and shakers. Tokyo is the original mega city, sporting funky styles you’ve never heard of.

Even though it can look a bit like consumerism gone mad, Japanese fashion is grounded to the features and body types of its wearers.

Expect a lot of big beautiful eyes, sleek raven hair, and legs to die for. Contrary to popular myths, Japanese women are very approachable and often speak English.

Dubai

That’s right, Dubai! It’s not all shopping and golf. With a population drawn from all over the region and the wider world, the ladies of Dubai certainly cause jaws to drop.

As in many predominantly Muslim cities, women find ways of expressing feminine allure in spite of their hair and bodies being largely covered.

Makeup and shoes are rarely worn with such tantalizing effects as they are in Dubai.

Istanbul

photo by El Cabron

A city that spans two continents and is home to some of the most beautiful women in the world. Forget any preconceptions of belly dancers, the women of this city are dynamic, modern and crazy diverse.

Aside from the archetypal Arabian Nights look, you will also find blonds and even the occasional red head. True to Mediterranean fashion, Istanbul residents are meticulous about appearances.

Most Turkish in Istanbul have a smattering of English and maybe a few other languages as well. Bar hopping is the way to go in this town. Can’t find a date at the traditional music café? Try the death metal bar next door.

Prague

Prague’s turbulent history has done nothing to quash its appeals. More often than not, Czech women feature in top ten lists of world beauties and with good reason.

Not a capital of style exactly, but certainly well turned out and proud. Prague’s streets teem with blonde haired, blue eyed beauties. A touch of old Europe.

Zagreb

photo by a tai.

Anyone who believes that Parisians are the world’s most serious people about their appearance has never been to Croatia.

In ads, store fronts, everywhere, there is a sense that fashion is not to be taken lightly–and with a population this hot, it’s hardly surprising.

Take typical northern Italian beauty, mix in a dash of Balkan mystique and even a little Greek charisma and you have an approximation of the hugely appealing Croatians.

Amsterdam

Amsterdamers are quick to brag that their city has a massive mix of nationalities. Indeed you will hear crazy statistics about up to 40% of the city’s population hailing from elsewhere.

A few days cycling around this city will have you gaping, trying to figure out which international city some of these angels just flew in from…and then there’s the native Dutch! Tall, fit, friendly, cultured, and usually multi-lingual. Do you need anything else?

Seoul

Be warned, there are already legions of white men trailing around Seoul, laboring under the misapprehension that they are the fairest of them all.

You would do well to adopt a different approach. Though parts of Seoul are ultra-modern, older values are important here and Koreans take relationships seriously. But if East Asian beauty floats your boat you’ve come to the right place.

Don’t confuse westernized with western here- Seoul style is singular and unique. And if anyone tells you that Korean women are docile and humble, you have been misinformed.

You wanna make an impression on a Korean woman? Be prepared to look silly–at least sloppy serenades and grandiose romantic gestures live on somewhere.

Singapore

It’s all about the accent. Singaporean English (Singlish) is at once sophisticated, endearing, cute, and sexy. Somewhere between public school Londoner, New Delhi socialite, and urban Chinese, this is English as it should be spoken.

Singapore’s year round humidity and relative affluence means that the summer range of fashion is constantly updated and the ladies of this micro-state are always a step ahead of it. Fashion-conscious, self aware, and demure, Singapore is smoldering!

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Smoking is 'good for your memory and concentration'

smoking

Smoking can aid concentration and the memory, offering hope of a nicotine pill to help Alzheimer's sufferers

Smoking can help boost memory and concentration, say scientists. The discovery offers hope of a nicotine pill that mimics these effects to treat Alzheimer's disease.

Experts are developing drugs that copy the active ingredients in tobacco that stimulate the brain without causing heart disease, cancer, stroke or addiction.

The move follows the discovery that nicotine can boost the intelligence and recall ability of animals in laboratory experiments.

The researchers, who present their latest findings at a brain conference today, hope that the new drugs, which will be available in five years, could have fewer side effects than existing medicines for dementia.

But they stress the new treatment would not be a cure for Alzheimer's disease. At best it will only give patients a few extra months of independent life.

Tobacco has long been known to have a stimulating effect on the brain. Victorian doctors recommended smoking as a means of sharpening the wits and boosting concentration.

However, the deadly side effects of cancer, stroke and heart disease, mean its benefits have been neglected by medical research.

Professor Ian Stoleman, from the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London, has shown that nicotine can improve the performance of rats in an intelligence and memory test.

"The substances that we call drugs have, in the majority of cases, do have a mixture of beneficial and harmful effects and nicotine no exception to this," he said.

"When we started this work 10 years ago we didn't think that we would find beneficial effects on cognitive performance on normal subjects.

"But we were able to find an effect in the sense of the acute administration of nicotine producing small improvements in performance of tasks in normal rats."

His team trained rats to respond to a brief flash of light by standing in an area of a cage. If they moved to the right spot, they were rewarded with a food pellet.

After they mastered the task, the rats responded correctly around 80 per cent of the time. But after being injected with nicotine, the success rate went up 5 per cent.

The difference was much starker when the rats were distracted with loud noises. Then they got the task right 50 per cent of the time without nicotine - but 80 per cent of the time with it.

Prof Stolerman's team have studied how nicotine alters the brain's circuitry to boost memory and concentration - and identified some of key brain receptors and chemical messengers - such as dopamine and glutamate - that are involved.

They also found differences in the chain of events that leads to boosted brain power - and the chain of events that leads to addiction.

"We believe that by building on these differences it may be possible for medicinal chemists to devise compounds that produce some of the beneficial effects of nicotine," he said.

The findings are being presented today at the Forum of European Neuroscience in Geneva.

Drugs companies have been working for 10 to 15 years to develop compounds based on nicotine that produce only beneficial effects. The new discoveries could lead to a new drug - based on nicotine - within "a few years".

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Sitting Too Close to the Computer Screen Can Make You Go Blind

guy-staring-at-laptop-screen

SCREEN BLINDNESS: Staring at screens may make you forget to blink but it probably won't make you nearsighted.
©ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/ANA BLAZIC

You roll your head, hoping to loosen the knots in your neck, and shut your eyes. After rubbing them you settle back into staring, hunched inches away from the computer screen. Despite the brief reprise your vision remains cloudy, causing the words on the monitor to blur. At this point, you need to know: With each further click on the keyboard, video watched on YouTube, and e-mail sent—are you damaging your vision?

Ophthalmologists, optometrists and other eye professionals note a seeming link between myopia, also called nearsightedness, and "near work"—visual activities that take place at a distance of about 40 centimeters (16 inches) from the eye—such as reading a book. Staring at a computer screen qualifies as well, though monitors usually are around 50 centimeters (20 inches) away.

But only a small—and mysterious—subset of people see myopic progression from near work, whether they are focusing on a computer or accounting books. "We are not very clever in identifying who [is affected] yet," says James Sheedy, a professor at the Pacific University College of Optometry in Oregon.

The fact that near work doesn't lead to myopia in all of us, however, doesn't mean sitting close to a computer screen causes no problems. Though for most it is not permanently damaging, computer near work leads to an uncomfortable, at times debilitating, list of symptoms collectively known as eyestrain.

Eyestrain, says Mark Bullimore, a professor at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, results from staring at a screen over long periods of time. Such activity causes eye exhaustion: burning, dryness and muscle aches—all unpleasant and potentially incapacitating symptoms while they last.

The simplest way to understand why eyestrain develops—and learn how to prevent it—is by looking at the way our built-in binoculars show us the fine print. When we "see" something, light reflects from an object through the cornea, the transparent, dome-shaped layer covering the eye. The cornea and the crystalline lens (a transparent, round, flexible structure behind the iris) then bend the wavelengths so they hit the rods and cones—photoreceptors on the retina that gather incoming light information. This innermost layer at the back of the eye is responsible for collecting and then moving light information, via the optic nerve, to the brain, which produces an image.

Staring closely at a screen forces our ciliary muscle, which controls the shape of our lens and therefore how well we focus, to remain contracted, without rest. This is demanding—and tiring—for the poor little muscle. Up close focusing also stops us from blinking.

Blinking is essential because it spreads tears over the surface of the eye; if blinking stops, the corneal surface dries out. When this happens, the cornea becomes cloudy, causing "foggy" vision, according to Sheedy. The normal blink rate is around 20 times per minute but using a computer can drop it to as low as seven, though experts believe this has no long-term effect.

Staring at a screen—surrounded by glaring peripheral lights—also causes us to squint, says Dennis Robertson, an ophthalmology professor at the Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn.

And though squinting cuts down on glare and prevents exorbitant amounts of light from assaulting your eyeballs (which solves some of the problems created by not blinking), it's exhausting. Freezing the muscles around your eye into a tense, squinched position all day long is just as tiring as it would be to hold a stomach-crunch for nine hours.

These eyestrain symptoms usually only last a few hours, dissipating as we allow ourselves time to blink and focus on things farther away. But once they start, they hamper productivity and, more importantly, make us grumpy. All is not lost, however. We can fix these burning, aching, dried out sensations one ergonomic workstation at a time.

Invest in one of today's nonglare computer screens, and don't be afraid to change your computer's brightness, contrast or text size, all of which will alleviate eye stress. Also, position your screen slightly lower than your eyes; the top of your monitor should be level with your eyebrows. For physiological problems, hit your doctor up for a pair of corrective lenses.

Finally, eliminate any glaring peripheral light. To find out what lights are bothersome, Sheedy recommends performing the hand-as-visor trick: Shield your eyes with your hand, and see if that makes the tension in your face and shoulders dissipate. If it does, manually adjust the lamps you blocked out as bothersome. As for watching TV, experts recommend laughing along with your favorite sitcom from a comfortable distance. (Finally, a reason to be a couch potato.)

But by far the simplest and best expert advice for eliminating eyestrain from any type of medium: take regular breaks. Go on, walk over to the water cooler, even if you aren't thirsty; and by all means, move your easy chair at least two feet from the television. Above all: don't forget to blink.

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Dick Cheney Thinks Threats to Public Health Are None of Our Business

As if the Bush Administration was not already the worst Presidency in the history of the United States of America.

As if Dick Cheney didn’t already have a reputation for being a maniacal puppeteer.

Now, new statements by Jason Barnett, the former associate deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency have revealed that Vice President Cheney’s office sought to delete testimony by the CDC in congressional hearings last fall. Cheney’s people specifically asked for the removal of data in congressional testimony which proves the negative health consequences for human beings as a result of climate change. At stake is pan-industry regulation by the EPA under the federal Clean Air Act.

And we know what that means, don’t we? *gasp* Big businesses would have to make costly changes to ensure they aren’t spewing pollutants into the air and making innocent people sick! Good thing they have the Vice President looking out for their interests. If only we, the people, had the same benefit.

Obviously the Bush administration is claiming that the revisions (a full 6 out of 14 pages deleted) were “routine”. I don’t know if that is supposed to reassure voters, or warn us that the administration routinely tries to pull the wool over our eyes.

The World Health Organization states on their website:

If our understanding of broad relationships between climate and disease is realistic, then climate change may already be affecting human health.

They list several health issues tied to global warming, including:

  • increased allergen levels
  • increased transmission of infectious diseases
  • effects on food production
  • drought and famine
  • population displacement due to natural disasters, crop failure, water shortages
  • destruction of health infrastructure
  • conflict over natural resources
  • direct impacts of heat and cold (morbidity)

So many people are “waiting out” the Bush administration, which thankfully, is quickly running out of time. But I have a feeling that we’ll be feeling the effects of the dishonesty, greed, and extortion of this administration for years to come. Especially, it seems, when it comes to our environment.

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Autism Genes Are Linked to Early Learning

Most studies of autism link it to genetics. The condition is often referred to as the "geek syndrome" because some studies have shown a high incidence of autism in areas like California's Silicon Valley, where highly technical people are having children together. Scientific studies have backed up the idea that autism is genetic, identifying several genes that seem implicated in the disorder. Now a new study has revealed that many of the genes associated with autism are — luckily — ones whose functioning can be modified in early childhood. Autism genes are associated with early learning and are essentially designed to be reprogrammed — so, given the right learning environment, children born with autism could rewire their brains and be spared the worst effects of this disorder.

A co-author of the study, Christopher Walsh, told Scientific American:

We're showing, on the one hand, that autism seems to have a large genetic component. But, the genes that are involved are actually those that are involved in responding to the environment and learning.

Often, autistic children have problems with the genes that help them learn by forming synapses between neurons in the brain. Either the genes are deleted or dormant.

The Scientific American article continues:

Walsh says the team believes these deletions—which in most cases found here only remove some, but not all, of the DNA that makes up a gene—may mean that the genes can regain some of their normal function. In fact, some of these genes may just be switched off. "This presents the possibility that in some kids we could get the gene going again without necessarily having to put it back in the brain," he says . . . Walsh notes that many children diagnosed with autism tend to show vast improvement when they are placed in environments that allow them to practice learning repetitively. He says that these activities essentially train the neurons to make up for their lost function. "Our work reinforces the importance of early intervention and behavioral therapy," he says. "The more we understand about genetics the more we understand how important the environment is."

This is one of the first studies to offer genetic evidence for the idea that children with autism can actually reformat their brains if placed in the right environment. There has been anecdotal evidence that autistic people can benefit from specialized learning environments, but it was never clear what the genetic basis for these recoveries might be.

Autism Genes that Control Early Learning
[via Scientific American]

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The 10 Machines You Must Avoid at Your Gym

Defenders of stationary equipment argue that machines are designed to limit what you can do wrong. But seated machines often put heavier loads on the back and joints than is necessary, and almost always miss the mark when it comes to replicating the movements found in everyday life, according to Ultimate Back Performance and Fitness, by Stuart McGill, PhD, a professor of spine ­biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario. For this list of exercises, we consulted McGill; Nicholas DiNubile, MD, author of FrameWork: Your 7-Step Program for Healthy Muscles, Bones, and Joints; and trainer Vern Gambetta, author of Athletic Development: The Art & Science of Functional Sports Conditioning.

Seated Leg Extension Machine 1 Seated Leg Extension
What it’s supposed to do: Train the quadriceps
What it actually does: It strengthens a motion your legs aren’t actually designed to do, and can put undue strain on the ligaments and tendons surrounding the kneecaps.
A better exercise: One-legged body-weight squats. Lift one leg up and bend the opposite knee, dipping as far as you can, with control, while flexing at the hip, knee, and ankle. Use a rail for support until you develop requisite leg strength and balance. Aim for five to 10 reps on each leg. (If you are susceptible to knee pain, do the Bulgarian split squat instead, resting the top of one foot on a bench positioned two to three feet behind you. Descend until your thigh is parallel to the ground and then stand back up. Do five to 10 reps per leg.)

Seated Military Press Machine 2 Seated Military Press
What it’s supposed to do: Train shoulders and triceps
What it actually does: Overhead pressing can put shoulder joints in vulnerable biomechanical positions. It puts undue stress on the shoulders, and the movement doesn’t let you use your hips to assist your shoulders, which is the natural way to push something overhead.
A better exercise: Medicine-ball throws. Stand three feet from a concrete wall; bounce a rubber medicine ball off a spot on the wall four feet above your head, squatting to catch the ball and rising to throw it upward in one continuous motion. Aim for 15 to 20 reps. Alternative: Standing alternate dumbbell presses. As you push the right dumbbell overhead, shift the right hip forward. Switch to the left side.

Seated Lat Pull-Down Machine 3 Seated Lat Pull-Down (Behind the Neck)
What it’s supposed to do: Train lats, upper back, and biceps
What it actually does: Unless you have very flexible shoulders, it’s difficult to do correctly, so it can cause pinching in the shoulder joint and damage the rotator cuff.
A better exercise: Incline pull-ups. Place a bar in the squat rack at waist height, grab the bar with both hands, and hang from the bar with your feet stretched out in front of you. Keep your torso stiff, and pull your chest to the bar 10 to 15 times. To make it harder, lower the bar; to make it easier, raise the bar.

Seated Pec Deck Machine 4 Seated Pec Deck
What it’s supposed to do: Train chest and shoulders
What it actually does: It can put the shoulder in an unstable position and place excessive stress on the shoulder joint and its connective tissue.
A better exercise: Incline push-ups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps. If this is too easy, progress to regular push-ups and plyometric push-ups (where you push up with enough force that your hands come off the ground), and aim for five to eight reps.

Seated Hip-Abductor Machine 5 Seated Hip-Abductor Machine
What it’s supposed to do: Train outer thighs
What it actually does: Because you are seated, it trains a movement that has no functional use. If done with excessive weight and jerky technique, it can put undue pressure on the spine.
A better exercise: Place a heavy, short, looped resistance band around your legs (at your ankles); sidestep out 20 paces and back with control. This is much harder than it sounds.

Seated Rotation Machine 6 Seated Rotation Machine
What it’s supposed to do: Train abdominals and obliques
What it actually does: Because the pelvis doesn’t move with the chest, this exercise can put excessive twisting forces on the spine.
A better exercise: Do the cable wood chop, letting your heels turn freely with your torso. Aim for 10 to 12 reps.



7 Seated Leg Press
What it’s supposed to do: Train quadriceps, glutes,
and hamstrings
What it actually does: It often forces the spine to flex without engaging any of the necessary stabilization muscles of the hips, glutes, shoulders, and lower back.
A better exercise: Body-weight squats. Focus on descending with control as far as you can without rounding your lower back. Aim for 15 to 20 for a set and increase sets as you develop strength.

Smith Machine 8 Squats Using Smith Machine
What it’s supposed to do: Train chest, biceps, and legs
What it actually does: The alignment of the machine—the bar is attached to a vertical sliding track—makes for linear, not natural, arched movements. This puts stress on the knees, shoulders, and lower back.
A better exercise: Body-weight squats. See “Seated Leg Press.”

Roman Chair Machine 9 Roman Chair Back Extension
What it’s supposed to do: Train spinal erectors
What it actually does: Repeatedly flexing the back while it’s supporting weight places pressure on the spine and increases the risk of damaging your disks.
A better exercise: The bird-dog. Crouch on all fours, extend your right arm forward, and extend left leg backward. Do 10 seven-second reps, and then switch to the opposite side.

Roman Chair Machine 10 Roman Chair Sit-up
What it’s supposed to do: Train abdominals and hip flexors
What it actually does: The crunching motion can put undue stress on the lower back when it is in a vulnerable rounded position.
A better exercise: The plank. Lie facedown on the floor. Prop up on your forearms, palms down. Rise up on your toes. Keep your back flat and contract your glutes, abdominals, and lats to keep your butt from sticking up. Hold this pose for 20 to 60 seconds.

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13 Things Your Waiter Won't Tell You

1. Avoid eating out on holidays and Saturday nights. The sheer volume of customers guarantees that most kitchens will be pushed beyond their ability to produce a high-quality dish.

2. There are almost never any sick days in the restaurant business. A busboy with a kid to support isn't going to stay home and miss out on $100 because he's got strep throat. And these are the people handling your food.

3. When customers' dissatisfaction devolves into personal attacks, adulterating food or drink is a convenient way for servers to exact covert vengeance. Waiters can and do spit in people's food.

4. Never say "I'm friends with the owner." Restaurant owners don't have friends. This marks you as a clueless poseur the moment you walk in the door.

5. Treat others as you want to be treated. (Yes, people need to be reminded of this.)

6. Don't snap your fingers to get our attention. Remember, we have shears that cut through bone in the kitchen.

7. Don't order meals that aren't on the menu. You're forcing the chef to cook something he doesn't make on a regular basis. If he makes the same entrée 10,000 times a month, the odds are good that the dish will be a home run every time.

8. Splitting entrées is okay, but don't ask for water, lemon, and sugar so you can make your own lemonade. What's next, grapes so you can press your own wine?

9. If you find a waiter you like, always ask to be seated in his or her section. Tell all your friends so they'll start asking for that server as well. You've just made that waiter look indispensable to the owner. The server will be grateful and take good care of you.

10. If you can't afford to leave a tip, you can't afford to eat in the restaurant. Servers could be giving 20 to 40 percent to the busboys, bartenders, maître d', or hostess.

11. Always examine the check. Sometimes large parties are unaware that a gratuity has been added to the bill, so they tip on top of it. Waiters "facilitate" this error. It's dishonest, it's wrong-and I did it all the time.

12. If you want to hang out, that's fine. But increase the tip to make up for money the server would have made if he or she had had another seating at that table.

13. Never, ever come in 15 minutes before closing time. The cooks are tired and will cook your dinner right away. So while you're chitchatting over salads, your entrées will be languishing under the heat lamp while the dishwasher is spraying industrial-strength, carcinogenic cleaning solvents in their immediate vicinity.

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Could Google Monopolize Human Knowledge?

By GREGORY M. LAMB

Should a single company be left in charge of putting all of the world's books online?

books online
(Getty/ABC News)

An impressive list of world-class libraries and book publishers don't seem to mind. In 2004, they signed on as partners with Google, the Internet search and advertising colossus based in Mountain View, Calif.

Yet some observers have strong concerns about Google Book Search and how the collected thinking of human history will be accessed in the future.

Those anxieties rose late last month when Microsoft announced that it was withdrawing from a rival book-scanning project headed by the nonprofit Internet Archive (archive.org).

About 750,000 books and 80 million journal articles scanned by Microsoft were removed from its servers, but many remain accessible elsewhere, including on servers maintained by the Internet Archive, which has about 440,000 books online.

Microsoft, which said it still intends to give publishers digital copies of their scanned books, may have made a rational business decision from its perspective.

But the sudden shift also showed how vulnerable a digitizing project is when it relies on a for-profit company, says Brewster Kahle, executive director of the Internet Archive. Nothing would stop Google from also suddenly shutting down its online book effort or limiting access to it, he says.

If money gets tight, "there's a meeting behind closed doors, and there's a notice put on the Web site that it's shut down," he says. "That's what happens."

Internet access to books is becoming more important, some observers say, as portable book readers, such as Amazon's Kindle, become more common and as more people expect to find all their reading needs online.

"I wouldn't say Google is 100 percent of the digital book world, but it's getting near 90 percent," says Siva Vaidhyanathan, a cultural historian and media scholar at the University of Virginia, who writes a blog called "The Googlization of Everything."

Internet Archive has funds to scan 1,000 books per day through the end of the year, Kahle says, including those at the Library of Congress. He's exploring new partnerships that would allow the project to continue into 2009 and beyond.

"It's not the end," he says, but he concedes that now would be a great time for the next Andrew Carnegie -- the 19th-century industrialist turned library-building philanthropist -- to step forward and leave his or her own legacy by financing an open, nonprofit, worldwide digital library.

"The best works of humankind are not on the Net yet," he says.

Google has partnered with more than two dozen libraries, including those at Harvard, Stanford, Oxford and Princeton universities and the New York Public Library. The company uses what amounts to a VIP library card -- taking books on loan, scanning them, and then returning them to the library unharmed, says Jon Orwant, engineering manager of Google Book Search. The digitization costs the libraries nothing.

In a separate deal with book publishers, Google scans new books with a less gentile approach. The spines are chopped off and the pages fed through an optical scanner.

Google won't say how many books it has scanned so far, but it's certainly in the millions. The company estimates there may be more than 100 million book titles in the world today.

So far, Google isn't aggressively trying to make money off its book pages, though a few ads and links to buy hard copies from the publisher do appear. Keeping users inside Google's online "universe" seems to be the company's long-term motive.

Books published before 1923 have gone out of copyright and can be scanned freely, downloaded, or printed. Google obtains permission from publishers regarding how much of a new book it can display. Though only short "snippets" of these books usually can be viewed, the whole text is still searchable, helping readers decide if it contains information that is useful to them.

Another controversial aspect of Google's stewardship involves the quality of the digitization. After books are scanned, a process called optical character recognition (OCR) converts each page into a digital file whose words can be read by a computer, which makes it searchable.

Computer programs do a good job with OCR on new titles, but older books with yellowed pages, faded print, or graffiti can prove to be a problem. Google's final product is "less than 100 percent" accurate, Orwant concedes.

"Google is doing a very, very poor job. ... Their OCR is very inaccurate, the image quality is very poor," says Lotfi Belkhir, CEO of Kirtas Technologies.

The company, in Victor, N.Y., bills itself as the world's leader in converting books into digital form.

"You find cut-off text," Belkhir says. "You find dirty text. You find incomplete pages."

He predicts that much of what Google has digitized so far will need to be rescanned someday to bring it up to acceptable quality.

Mr. Belkhir is contacting libraries that had been working with Microsoft and says they are receptive to letting Kirtas pick up where it left off.

Google's Orwant defends his project.

"We certainly believe we're doing the world a very good service," he says. "We're digitizing all this content. We're making it as open as the laws allow."

Google always gives a digital copy back to its partners, Orwant says. "We're never the only people with a copy."

And because Google's contracts with the libraries are nonexclusive, the libraries are free to work with others to scan their collections as well.

But that's not enough for critics.

"I don't blame the company, but the question is, 'What do we as citizens want out of our information system?' " says Vaidhyanathan at the University of Virginia.

"If we assume that a healthy, diverse, and accessible body of information is essential to science, politics, creativity, literature," he says, "then we really have to step back and say, 'Do we really want to put this one company in the position of being the filter for the world's information?' "

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Mitsubishi’s Electric Car Will Be Released in 2009 for $37,500



It seems our favorite media darling, the Chevy Volt, will have bit of competition when it comes time for it’s eventual release in 2010. Though we’re not sure if it will make it to the US (like the Smart Car EV), we do know that Mitsubishi’s iMiev will make it to market a year earlier than the Volt and be priced lower.

The iMiev, which we start hearing about earlier in the year, has already been slated by Mitsubishi for commercial sale in Japan in 2009, a full year before the Volt is intended to hit US shores. There are also unconfirmed rumors that the iMiev may also make it to the US after a run of a few years in Japan. However, what’s really interesting about the iMiev right now is that Mitsubishi has just released a price figure of what $37,496 US, which is about $2,500less than we often hear talked about as the price point for the Chevy Volt.

Despite the similarities in pricing and release date, the two cars are very different beasts. The iMiev is based on a current Kei-car produced by Mitsubishi for Japan, and has a 47kW electric motor powered by a 330-volt lithium ion battery pack. The car will have a top speed of 80 mph and an all electric range of about 100 miles. Charging will take place via a normal power outlet and should take about 14 hours to completely charge the battery, though there is all a 220V charge option, which only takes 7 hours.

On the other hand, the Volt will feature a sportier 120kW motor and 100+ mph top speed, but will only have an electric range of 20 or 40 miles (depending on the speculation and model selection), after which is will switch over to your standard dinosaur burning engine like in most cars these days. Chevy claims that most people never drive over 40 miles in a day, but I’m sure these Volts will be burning enough fossil fuels that calling them “electric cars” will leave a bitter taste in some peoples’ mouths. I think series hybrid or plug-in hybrid is much more appropriate.

While you’re getting hyped up for the iMiev, check out this test drive video from Popular Mechanics:

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Volkswagen's 235-MPG Bullet-Shaped Hybrid - Updates



You may feel a little like batman when you get behind the wheel of VW’s upcoming hybrid, but your super power will be in the MPGs. Back in May we talked about VW’s plans to build a diesel-electric hybrid based on their One-Liter Car, with a release date of 2010. We have a few updates about their zippy little car.

The electric and diesel propulsion systems together are expected to get a whopping 235 miles per gallon, that much we know. We also hear that the fuel savings is maximized with a few little tricks – the engine shuts off at stop lights, for instance, the body is very light weight (the concept car weighs 640 pounds, with a body made of carbon fiber), and the aerodynamics are superb (the concept car’s drag coefficient is about half that of an average car).

Dimensions are about 11.4 feet long, 4.1 feet wide and 3.3 feet tall – talk about itty bitty! It’s not far off in size from their three-wheeler idea. But apparently it’s safe, as VW reports that the One-Liter Car is as safe as a GT sports car registered for racing, and comes complete with airbags and crunch control. Yeah, but that doesn’t do much to put your mind at ease when you’re essentially sledding down the road at high speeds.

Because the concept car is made of carbon monocoque, VW planned to wait intil the price of the material dropped to a reasonable amount, which they guessed would be in 2012. However, they’ve decided the cost is competitive enough to go ahead and get cracking, though that means the sticker price may fall between $31,750 to $47,622, according to Britain's Car magazine’s “well placed source.”

We’ll see how all these little nuggets given to us change as the car comes closer to release. It sounds like it’ll be a fun and efficient little car, but I have a hard time seeing Americans riding to work together tandem-style.

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Save Gas: Inflate Tires With Nitrogen

Gas mileage is king these days. People are buying fuel-efficient cars, taking less road trips, anything to reduce money spent on gas. But one of the real culprits may be under-inflated tires, which can decrease gas mileage up to 10 percent.

Tennesse-based GoNitroTire takes tire efficiency one step further, providing a product to fill your tires with nitrogen instead of oxygen. We discussed this technology with GoNitroTire Founder Ken Lawton:

Product Overview

GoNitroTire offers two different products:

1. The UltraFill 99+ system that allows you to replace the oxygen in your tires with up to 95 percent nitrogen
2. The TireXtender aerosol top-off product for refilling your tires with nitrogen when they lose pressure

Where it's Found

You can find an affiliate for the UltraFill 99+ system through GoNitroTire's site. TireXtender is available at many automotive stores. This technology is currently utilized by both NASCAR and the airline industry for their tires.

Eco-Benefits of Nitrogen-Filled Tires

There has been some debate about whether nitrogen powered tires will improve gas mileage. However, Lawton points out several other benefits of tires filled with nitrogen:

1. Nitrogen makes up almost 80 percent of our air, making it a naturally-occurring element that we're exposed to every day
2. Because it is a dry gas, nitrogen is more stable than oxygen and will cause less leaks and rust
3. Nitrogen lasts longer in your tires (up to six months without a top-off), allowing you more leeway with tire pressure
4. You can expect up to 30 percent better tire wear if they are properly inflated with nitrogen, meaning less tires to dispose of (use Earth 911 to find out where to recycle tires near you)
5. Nitrogen can also be used to fill non-car tires, so you can improve the life of bicycle and motorcycle tires

Decision to Start GoNitroTire

"I had been aware that NASCAR was using nitrogen in its car tires," says Lawton. "After a little investigation I learned that fleet groups were also taking advantage, and I wondered why consumers were not aware of it. GoNitroTire started to help with the transition from these specialized groups to consumers."

Special Disposal Procedures

Lawton says that recycling tires is the same process whether they're filled with oxygen or nitrogen. He also wishes to dispel the theory that nitrogen-filled tires are more prone to explosion.

"The parallels to nitrous oxide are misleading," says Lawton. "Nitrogen does not support combustion, making it even safer than oxygen when it comes to blown tires."

The TireXtender comes in an aerosol can, and you can find out where to recycle aerosol cans using Earth 911.

Eco-Evolution of Company

"With more concern about gas prices, the advocacy has been very gratifying," says Lawton. "We've identified who the biggest beneficiaries are of this technology, and are excited for more consumers to learn about the benefits of nitrogen-filled tires."

He adds that one of the major goals was the creation of the top-off product so do-it-yourself (DIY)ers can maintain their tires. His new goal is to make nitrogen available everywhere, and the build out will start this year.

Most Exciting Part of Running GoNitroTire

"I like that we are a big part of helping consumers save money," says Lawton. "We are giving back through savings on driving and car care while helping the environment at the same time. The environmental impact of driving is very important to me."
Favorite of the Three R's

"I would say recycle because of how many tires (over 300 million) are disposed of annually in the U.S.," Lawton explains. "We have a graphic of a football field covered in disposed tires that really shows the environmental footprint of what we landfill."

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The painter who sees through the eyes of the blind

How do you see the world when your eyesight fails? One young painter is helping us understand a major cause of blindness

Artist Adam Hahn paints portraits of people with macular degeneration as they see themselves.
Image :1 of 5

When Don Curran first saw the portrait that Adam Hahn had painted of him, with part of his face a dark blur of confusion, he was delighted. Ten years ago, Curran was working as an airline executive when he was found to have the progressively blinding eye disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Now, thanks to the portrait, the world can understand just how he sees.

In AMD the light-sensing cells in the macula, the central area of vision, stop working and eventually die. The disease is thought to be caused by a combination of genes, environmental factors and age. It might seem an incongruous inspiration for visual art, but Hahn was inspired by his late grandmother's experience to paint a series of 17 portraits of AMD sufferers the way they would see themselves.

“Grandma had macular degeneration. It was my way of trying to understand how she saw the world and how it affected her,” says Hahn, 29, who studied at Glasgow School of Art. The painting project, now on exhibition in Kent,offered a way to comprehend the mystery of her condition. “While she was alive she never talked about her sight or how it affected her,” he says. “People with macular degeneration don't tend to talk about what they see. I think it's because it's a very personal experience and they don't want other people to know because it might upset them.

“The condition is very disabling at the beginning, but people do accept it and get on. With macular degeneration you will always have some degree of vision; you rely on using the peripheral vision that you have left.”

To learn more about AMD and to find sitters, Hahn sought help from the Macular Disease Society, and from Peter Coffey, a research scientist at the University College London Institute of Ophthalmology, who is working on a day surgery stem-cell cure for the disease (see box below).

“It's not just a black hole”“I asked the patients what they saw and where things came into focus, and what they perceived in the void at the centre of their vision,” says Hahn. “It's not just a black hole, as the medical journals say. Everyone has their own unique experience of this blurred nothingness.”

He photographed each sitter and manipulated the image to represent how they would see it. He then showed it to them and, by using their remaining peripheral vision, they suggested adjustments. “It was imperative that I got it scientifically accurate,” Hahn says.

“Then I incorporated it all into the painting process. Each time I went over the painting, I diminished the clarity, so there was a sense of a degenerative process. All these people came to see their finished portraits for the first time at the exhibition's opening and I was pleased to hear them say that I had got it spot on. It's encouraging to know that I captured their world through their eyes.”

Curran, the past chairman of the charity AMD Alliance International, says Hahn's representation of his impairment is “outstanding”. He took photos of the portraits and blew them up on his computer at home, “so I could see them better through the corner of my eye”.

The 70-year-old, who lives in Chislehurst, Kent, was a vice-president of United Airlines in Hong Kong when the disease was diagnosed. Now he works voluntarily for the AMD charity.

“Most of us who have the condition had gone through life with healthy vision for many years, so have had to readjust the way we live. I had incredible suicidal depression when I first developed it but, well, I just had to get over it. I had never heard of the disease before having the diagnosis, but 25 per cent of over-75s have it in the Western world.

“One of the biggest difficulties we have lies in explaining its impact to others. I spend a lot of time trying to show how difficult it is living with central-vision blindness, and how the condition varies between each individual,” he says.

“I am about to speak at an international congress in Hong Kong and I am going to use some of Adam's portraits on PowerPoint. Even clinicians and pharmaceutical companies don't understand how it can cause such depression. Simple blindness is far easier to comprehend than this kind of partial-sightedness.”

Coffey says that AMD is nearly four times more prevalent than Alzheimer's but is little discussed. “Even in the health service, the problem can be misunderstood. The impact of the disease is thought to be as bad as a stroke or chronic pain, yet the psychological support that you would get for those diseases is not there for people who suffer from AMD.

“When I saw the exhibition, I looked at one painting and just knew it was a patient of mine. I knew what his level of visual acuity was like. It was quite startling to see this person and see his portrait as he sees himself.

“A lot of clinicians could benefit from seeing these pictures.”

Adam Hahn - Paintings of Macular Degeneration is on display at the Mascalls Gallery, Paddock Wood, Kent, until July 17. mascallsgallery.org ; 01892 839039. AMD Alliance: amdalliance.org

Stem-cell research sheds light on a cure

Peter Coffey's work on stem-cell surgery for AMD, at the University College London Institute of Ophthalmology, has brought him to the point where he hopes that a quick and widely available curative therapy will be available by 2011.

His team first worked on giving autologous cell transplants, taking a patient's cells out of a healthy area of their own eyes and transplanting them under the macula. But extracting the cells involves a long, complex operation and carries serious risks. But recently it has been found that stem cells may be turned into eye cells, which saves surgeons from having to remove patients' own eye cells.

“In animal studies this has been achieved successfully and we believe we can do the transplantation in humans in 45 minutes, so it could be performed as an outpatient procedure,” Coffey says. “We have got to go through the European regulatory process to get approval for the operation and then into a final long-term animal study to make sure that the sight improvements are long-lasting and safe.”

He says that the first trial in humans could be performed between 2009 and 2010. “We are also talking to pharmaceutical companies to try to ensure that this system does not have to take a further two or three years to get into British hospitals, because the actual surgical operation itself is an already standard procedure.”

The famous masters whose eyes failed them

Adam Hahn is not the first painter to document the impact of AMD. Georgia O'Keefe, the American painter, contracted the disease in the 1970s; some of her later work featured black disc-like masses in the centre of the canvas.

Other eye disorders are believed to lie at the heart of some of the world's most famous paintings. Michael Marmor, a Stanford University ophthalmologist, reported in the Archives of Ophthalmology that both Degas and Monet, founders of Impressionism, became more abstract in their work as their eye problems increased.

Shading and details became less refined

Degas had retinal eye disease that frustrated him for the last 50 years of his career. Monet complained of cataracts interfering with his ability to see colours for ten years before he had surgery to have them removed.

Marmor claims that his experience of treating hundreds of patients with similar conditions shows that both artists' works were the product of visual problems. “Degas' works in the 1870s were drawn quite precisely with facial detail, careful shading and attention to the folding of ballet costumes and towels,” he says. But by the 1880s and 1890s, the shading and details became progressively less refined.

Monet wrote of his frustration with his deteriorating vision, describing how he was forced to memorise where colours were placed on his palette. In 1914 he wrote that colours no longer had the same intensity: “My painting is getting more and more darkened.” Marmor says: “Cataracts also blur vision but, more importantly for a painter like Monet whose style was based on the use of light and colour, they can affect the ability to see colours.”

Was Turner's eyesight affected too?

Likewise, Michael Lamensdorf, an ophthalmologist in Sarasota, Florida, believes that Turner's fuzzy landscapes were the result of bad eyesight. He compared the fine detailing and clear blues in the 19th-century painter's earlier work with his later work, which is limited to reds. “In my opinion, Turner developed a dense, red-brown cataract that blocked out all the blue and green colours,” he argues.

Such medical views are, however, greeted sceptically by many art historians and critics, who prefer to believe that the artists' development was driven by intellect, instinct and inspiration, rather than ocular degeneration.

AMD - The lowdown

What is it? Gradual deterioration of the macula (part of the retina, responsible for detailed vision such as reading and writing). “Dry” age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common, and means that visual cells simply stop functioning, causing gradual loss of vision. “Wet” AMD is caused by the growth of new blood vessels behind the retina, which can bleed, leading to scarring and possible sight loss. Who does it affect? It is more common in women and smokers.

Symptoms Blurred vision, sensitivity to light, a blank or dark patch in field of vision.

Treatments Wet AMD can be treated by laser surgery if caught early; there is currently no fully approved treatment for dry AMD.

Further information amdalliance.org;rnib.org.uk; thelondonproject.org

To view more of Adam Hahn's paintings visit: www.adamhahn.co.uk;mascallsgallery.org

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