Saturday, December 15, 2007

Some 3,800 young people homeless in New York

An estimated 3,800 people under age 24 go homeless each night in New York City, but they blend in so well they are hard for social workers to find, according to the city's first-ever census of homeless youth.

Three-fourths come from minority groups, with black youths accounting for nearly half the total and Latino youths representing a quarter, said the survey, released on Friday

Gay, lesbian and bisexual youths were especially vulnerable, accounting for nearly a third of homeless cases.

"Young people who are homeless take great care to look like everyone else. They're unbelievably creative in their ability to find ways to make it look like they're not homeless at all," said Margo Hirsch, executive director of the Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services, which conducted the survey for the city.

While many homeless youth found temporary shelter with a friend or a relative, some 1,600 reported spending nights on the street, in an abandoned building or in a bus or train.

Selling sex, another 150 spent nights with a clients.

The count was conducted in July and surveyed just under 1,000 youth who were either homeless or at risk for homelessness.

Earlier this year, the New York City Department of Homeless Services reported that 3,755 New Yorkers of all ages, out of a total population of 8.2 million people, were living without shelter on any given night, down from 4,395 in 2005.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


The human calculator: 393 trillion answers - and he picks the right one in 70 seconds

When the answer is 2,407,899,893,032,210 you know the question is tough.

Not so tough, however, that Alexis Lemaire could not work it out in his head.

His challenge yesterday was to come up with the 13th root of a computer-generated 200-digit number.

And, with 393 trillion possible answers to choose from, the PhD student made it almost look easy.

A mere 70.2 seconds later, he cracked it and officially became the world's fastest human calculator.

A slight frown and a stare of deep concentration had been the only sign the 27-year-old "mathlete" was doing anything more than running through the eight times table.

Appropriately, the Frenchman broke his previous world record of 72.4 seconds at the Science Museum in London, where he had a backdrop of Charles Babbage's 1840s Difference Engine No2, the first successful mechanical calculator.

For those in the know, 13th roots are a yardstick in mental arithmetic for mathletes determined to show ever greater feats of brainpower.

A 13th root is - if your maths is no longer at Mr Lemaire's level - a number that multiplied by itself 13 times matches the initial figure.

Lemaire used a computer to generate a massive 200-digit number before working out its 13th root

Mr Lemaire, from Reims, began demonstrating his mental prowess by finding the 13th root of a random 100 digit number.

But this soon became too easy. The first time he tried a 200-digit challenge, it took him 40 minutes.

Since then, he has put himself through a mental training regime that has seen him repeatedly cut his time.

Cracking the answer is, apparently not all about maths, it also owes a lot to memory. Mr Lemaire, who is single, has memorised thousands of combinations of 13th root numbers.

"It's a bit like multiplication tables but with huge digits," he said. "It's a combination of techniques, partly memory and partly maths."

Asked to explain further, he would only say: "I won't give you my secret."

He did, however, agree to try the Daily Mail's 30-Second Challenge, and finished the advanced task in eight seconds.

It was a more than respectable performance - but, for a champion "13th rooter", it didn't seem that impressive.

Perhaps he was still tired after his world record.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Record-busting scorpion was bigger than man

Paris: This was a bug you couldn’t swat and definitely couldn’t step on. British and German researchers reported Wednesday that they had discovered the giant fossilised claw of an ancient sea scorpion that, hundreds of millions of years ago, would have been over 8 feet long - much taller than the average man, and almost as long as a car.

The find, in a quarry near the German town of Pruem, is the biggest specimen of arthropod ever found, they said in a study published by Biology Letters, a journal of Britain’s Royal Society.

“This is an amazing discovery,” said Simon Braddy, from the University of Bristol in England.

“We have known for some time that the fossil record yields monster millipedes, super-sized scorpions, colossal cockroaches and jumbo dragonflies, but we never realised until now just how big some of these ancient creepy-crawlies were”

The 18.4-inch claw was wielded by a species of sea scorpion called the Jaekelopterus rhenaniae, which lived between 460 and 255 million years ago.

Using the claw as a benchmark, the scientists believe its owner was between 7.57 and 8.41 feet long.

Chelicerae - wand-like appendages used to grasp food and bring it to the beast’s mandibles - would have added another 1.6 feet.

“This exceeds the previously-recorded maximum body length of any arthropod by almost half a metre, the chelicerae not included,” their study says.

Despite their name, sea scorpions, known as eurypterids, were not true scorpions. Equipped with long, flat, jointed carapaces, they stalked warm shallow sea waters from around 500 million to 250 million years ago, eventually moving into fresh water.

Biologists delving into Earth’s distant past are divided as to how some arthropods were able to develop into such monstrous size.

Some suggest that they benefit from an oxygen-rich atmosphere, while others argue that they had to get bigger in order to keep up with the super-sizing of their likely prey, the early armoured fish.

“There is no simple single explanation,” said Braddy. “It is likely that some ancient arthropods were big because there was little competition from the vertebrates, as we see today. If the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere increased suddenly, it doesn’t mean all the bugs would get bigger.”

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A new speed record, but not a good one

Olympique Lyon's Czech forward Milan Baros was caught speeding at 168 miles per hour in his Ferrari, a club source confirmed Friday.

Local newspaper Le Progres quoted police as saying the former Liverpool player had broken the record for speeding for that French region, set by a motorcyclist who reached 154 mph in 2000.

Baros was driving on a motorway not far from Lyon on Thursday when he was caught by French police, who confiscated the black Ferrari and took his driving license.

The 26-year-old, sidelined by an injury, had to take a taxi back to Lyon. He faces a heavy fine and a three-year driving ban.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Could Ming the mollusc hold the secret to Nature's greatest mystery?

Growing old and and dying is inevitable yet meet the mighty Ming who has been around for 405 years

Growing old and dying is as inevitable as paying taxes.

However much we may moan and rage or smear ourselves with youth-preserving potions, we'll be lucky to blow out the candles on our 90th birthday cake.

For one of our fellow creatures, however, nine decades is scarcely the length of its childhood. The ocean quahog (a type of deep-sea clam) can, it seems, chug on and on and on for several centuries.

In fact, one specimen that has been dredged from the Atlantic sea-floor off the coast of Iceland has just set a record as the oldest living creature on the planet.

Meet the mighty Ming, whom scientists say has been around for a grand total of 405 years.

And no, he wasn't named after the former Lib Dem leader. This chap was given his title in honour of the Imperial dynasty that ruled China at the time of his birth — at the start of the 17th century.

Record-breaker: Ming was 405 years old when he died

Having seen off Queen Elizabeth I, the English Civil War, the entire Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, two World Wars and the advent of reality TV, Ming was caught last year when scientists from the University of Bangor were dredging the seabed near Iceland as part of a study into climate change.

He was taken back to the laboratory where tests were conducted on his shell to determine his age. As the quahog's shell grows at different rates at different times of the year, it consists of hundreds of distinct layers that can be counted like rings in a tree trunk to give its age.

Researcher Alan Wanamaker found the first layers of Ming's shell were made more than four centuries ago.

That made him 32 years older than the previous oldest recorded creature (another quahog) whose shell is now in a German museum.

But that is not the only reason why scientists have got so excited about the discovery. For although Ming may be small — he'd fit in the palm of your hand — he could hold a mighty secret.

Creatures like him may show us why some species are able to cheat ageing and death for so much longer than others.

And perhaps — just perhaps — he can show us that our own lifespan is not so inevitable after all.

That's the hope of charity Help the Aged, which has given the marine biologists from Bangor University £40,000 to investigate why this animal lives so long.

For if we discover how a living creature can live into its fifth century, then we might be able to do something to extend human longevity as well, or at least make old age a little more palatable.

That is the theory, anyway. In the meantime, we still have to get to grips with just why there are such fantastic differences in the lifespans of different species.

Some Galapagos tortoises, for instance, have been recorded to reach nearly 200 years.

And bowhead whales have been found recently with antique harpoons embedded in their skulls dating from the 1790s.

Unless these were a freak, this means that in the sea today there may be large, intelligent animals that pre-date the invention of the railway engine.

Other Methuselahs include orange roughy, a Pacific fish increasingly popular as food.

These cold-water fish can live to more than 150 years old, meaning that your dinner could date back to a time when Queen Victoria was still middle-aged.

But how do these creatures live so long?

In fact, while the lifespans of different species may seem random, there is a pattern.

Generally, big creatures live longer than small ones — and this goes for plants as well as animals.

At one end of the scale are mice and shrews, which live just a couple of years, while at the other are large animals like rhinos, hippos, giant tortoises, lions and elephants, which have life expectancies measured in decades — or even centuries.

But there are some interesting anomalies.

Humans, for instance, live longer than is to be expected for our size — the record stands at 122 years, achieved by the Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who personally knew Vincent van Gogh and died in 1997.

We certainly do better than our closest relatives, bonobos and chimpanzees, which are lucky to make 70, even in pampered captivity.

Horses and cattle, however, do badly despite their large size, while some parrots live for 70 years or more despite being small.

And fish and molluscs can, as we have seen, survive for centuries.

So, what determines how long a species can live? Biologists used to think that animals (and plants) die because, like machines, they simply wear out.

But unlike machines, animals' bodies are equipped with efficient repair mechanisms.

The question is: why do these fail and what determines how old we are when they do?

The evolutionary theory of ageing, now widely accepted, states simply that animal lifespans reflect the amount of time an organism can expect to survive in the wild before being killed by predators, cold, disease or starvation.

This explains why big animals tend to live longer than small ones — they are simply less likely to be eaten or die of starvation, so their bodies have evolved to age and develop more slowly, as time is not of the essence for them.

The theory also explains the anomalies: bats and birds have long lifespans because they can fly, making them far safer from predators than comparably sized ground-living creatures.

Tortoises, too, live a long time because they are armour-plated — as are clams.

Few things eat whales, or large crocodiles, and it takes a long time for a big animal to die of starvation.

Mice, on the other hand, are so vulnerable to being eaten or squashed that their bodies are designed for speed, not endurance.

They have rapid, high-octane metabolisms that help them do just one thing — make lots of babies, very quickly, before getting eaten.

However, these fast, superheated metabolisms take a toll on their bodies.

Flooded with sex hormones and corrosive sugars, small mammals soon succumb to cancers and other ageing diseases, even if protected in the lab.

But is it possible to use this knowledge to increase human longevity?

Could we tweak our metabolisms in some way so that we could live as long as Ming the clam?

The answer is almost certainly yes, but not any time soon.

Some scientists believe it may be possible to fool our bodies into ticking over more slowly by going on a very low-calorie diet, living in a state of near-starvation.

But in the future, our best hope probably lies with genetic manipulation, combined with drug therapies to defuse the genetic timebombs left in our DNA by our savannah ancestry.

That's all a long way off.

But the good news for our generation is that while the human lifespan is probably unassailable for now, human life expectancy is not.

In other words, the numbers of us who can expect to live close to the current maximum possible age for humans is growing all the time.

A girl, born to affluent middleclass parents in the world's richer countries, now has a life expectancy of more than 85 (80 for boys) and this will increase further.

This alone may cause us problems, as the ratio of pensioners to workers changes dramatically.

What would happen in a world where people lived to be 405 can only be guessed at.

As for Ming? Well, he's already paying the price of fame.

By the time the mollusc had been inspected in the lab, and his record confirmed, he'd passed over to that great ocean bed in the sky.

No one can say it wasn't an impressive innings.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

British Teens Top Pregnancy Rates

The UK has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in western Europe, according to a worldwide report on sexual health.

It ranked Britain as one of the safest countries regarding health risks to women.

But, at 19th safest, the UK still lagged behind countries like Croatia, Estonia, Cuba and the Czech Republic.

The report's authors warned that teenagers, who often had unplanned pregnancies, ran a higher risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Reducing teenage pregnancy and improving sexual and reproductive health are priority areas for the UK Government.

"Teenage pregnancy rates are at their lowest for 20 years. Between 1998 and 2005 the under-16 conception rate has fallen by 12.1%."

She added: "The UK is one of the safest countries in the world in which to have a baby."

The report, released by Population Action International, also found that the lifetime risk of maternal death is more than 250 times higher in developing countries than in developed countries.

It ranked 130 countries, comprising 96% of the world population, into categories from highest to lowest sexual and reproductive risk for women.

Report authors looked at factors including HIV prevalence, teenage birth rates, maternal deaths and infant mortality rates.

The Netherlands had the lowest risk of all, ranked at 130, while the UK was placed at 112.

The highest sexual and reproductive health risk was in Niger, ranked at number one. Chad, Mali, Yemen and Ethiopia are also in the highest risk category.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Weird And Wonderful Ways To Set Records

Remarkable Records

The 2008 edition of the Guinness World Records book features brand new weird and wonderful achievements from around the globe.

Let's start with a category that must be one of the most hotly contested.

It's no wonder he looks chuffed after setting the record for unhooking the most bras.

Who said sofas were for couch potatoes?
And who would have thought there was a record for the fastest furniture?

Now that is some serious squirting.
Don't try this at home or you'll be crying over spilt milk.

"When I grow up I want to be just like you."
The tallest and smallest horses suss each other out.

Here's a record that will make your head spin.
89 times in one minute to be precise.

How many hula hoops could you handle?

The appropriately named Bigfoot 5 makes it into the book as the largest monster truck.

What looks like steps to the sun is actually a tower of milk crates balanced on the chin.

Look Mum, no feet!
Helium balloons are probably not the most reliable form of air travel but they are great for setting a wacky record.

It's not worth walking over hotplates for anything, or is it?

Well maybe if you get your name in the Guinness World Records book...................................

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The world's tiniest baby - born at 24 weeks and weighing just 10oz

Tiny Kimberley Mueller weighed just over 10 ounces when she was born - making her the world's smallest surviving baby.

Her chances of living were rated at worse than 1,000-1 when she was born 15 weeks prematurely.

These incredible pictures published for the first time today show that Kimberley was about the size of a mobile phone at birth.

Now six months old, the miracle baby has been allowed home for the first time.

The size of a mobile phone: Kimberley Mueller weighed just over 10 ounces when she was born in Hanover, Germany - making her the world's smallest surviving baby

But Kimberley, who was just 10.2cm long, spent months on a life support system as doctors in Germany fought to save her.

The tiny mite was kept in an incubator for warmth and drip-fed, while a respirator help her breathe.

British birth experts said it was "incredible" that she had survived.

Now six months, Kimberley has been allowed home for the first time (Above with mother Petra and father Andreas)

Dr Arvind Shah, consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street's Middlesex unit, said: "This is amazing - she must be a little fighter.

"Now we have more sophisticated equipment premature babies do have a better chance of living. But there are obviously huge health risks."

Kimberley's chances of living were rated at worse than 1,000-1 when she was born 15 weeks prematurely

Kimberley's mother Petra Mueller, from Hanover, said: "I was allowed to stroke her with my finger and I always spoke to her.

"It was the nicest thing when she would grip my finger in her tiny hands."

Scientists create the world's first see-through frog

Frogs come in nearly every colour of the rainbow - from the dull greens of British species, to the vivid yellows and reds of their tropical relatives.

But Japanese scientists have gone one step further than mother nature - and created a transparent frog.

The creature's see-through skin allows researchers to see details of its internal organs and blood vessels. They say this could bring huge benefits to medicine, making it easier and cheaper to study diseases such as cancer.

Professor Masayuki Sumida, who led the project at the Institute for Amphibian Biology at Hiroshima University, said scientists could look at the effect of drugs and chemicals on the frog's internal organs and blood vessels without the animals having to be killed and dissected.

'Because the frogs remain transparent from their birth to adulthood, organs of the same frog could be studied throughout,' he said. 'This is simple and cheap when studying, for instance, how certain chemicals influence bones.'

By attaching green fluorescent markers to a stretch of DNA and injecting it into the frog, researchers can also study the behaviour of genes in a living organism.

The transparent frog (pictured) is the offspring of common Japanese brown frogs. It was created through traditional selective breeding, rather than genetic modification, using wild frogs with a mutation that gives them pale skin.

By mating the palest frogs they could find and then breeding from their palest offspring the researchers were able to create the see-through strain.

The scientists say they plan to patent the technique but have yet to perfect the process. Only one in 16 frogs they breed has transparent skin and they have not succeeded in getting the transparent frogs to breed see-through offspring.

Most of the world's natural see-through creatures live underwater. Animals such as jellyfish, sea worms, sea snails and octopuses evolved transparency as a form of camouflage. In an environment where there are few hiding places, being see-through can give them an edge.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Strange facts about the human body

1- Every single day you, unless you are already bald, will lose as many as 100 strands of hair ? that?s 36,500 in a year. This is rather worrying as the average human scalp has 100,000 hairs.

2- A sneeze can blast out of your nose at a speed greater 100 mph.

3- The ashes of the average cremated person weighs 9 pounds.

4- The human body can survive longer without food than without sleep. While starvation takes a few weeks you would die after about 10 days without sleep.

5- An average human drinks about 16, 000 gallons of water in a lifetime.

6- Babies are born with 300 bones, but by adulthood we have only 206 in our bodies.

7- Your heart beats some 37,000,000 times in a year. During your life it�s will beat some two-and-a-half billion times.

8- Every square inch of your body is populated by an about 32 million bacteria.

9- Your largest internal organ is the small intestine at an average length of 20 feet. If cut into pasta size pieces it would serve four.

10- 85% of your brain is water.

11- Three-hundred-million cells die in the human body every minute.

12- The largest human organ is the skin, with a surface area of about 25 square feet.

13- Humans shed about 600,000 particles of skin every hour - about 1.5 pounds a year. By 70 years of age, an average person will have lost 105 pounds of skin.

14- Humans shed and regrow outer skin cells about every 27 days - almost 1,000 new skins in a lifetime.

15- It takes 17 muscles to smile --- 43 to frown.

16- The average duration of sexual intercourse for humans is 2 minutes. ?see pigs

17- It is impossible to kill yourself by holding your breath.

18- The human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood 30 feet.

19- You blink about 84 million times in a year.

20- When you sneeze, all bodily functions stop-- even your heart!

21- 40 people are sent to the hospital for dog bites every minute.

22- Babies are born without knee caps. They don't appear until they are 2 -6 years old.

23- In the course of a lifetime the average person will grow 2 Metres of nose hair.

24- Ladies in nudist camps tend to use more makeup than ladies elsewhere.

25- A team of medical experts in Virginia contends you're more likely to catch the common cold virus by shaking hands than by kissing.

26- The human tooth has 55 miles of canal in it.

27- Nerve impulses to and from the brain travel as fast as 170 miles per hour.

28- People have legs of slightly different lengths.

29- The average cough comes out the mouth at 60 mph.

30- Men / women The average person speaks about 31,500 words per day.

31- Most dust particles in your house are made from dead skin.

32- It is estimated that at any one time, 0.7% of the world's population are drunk.

33- Number of times intestines can wrap round

Scientists ponder future of space exploration

PASADENA, Calif. — In the next 50 years of space exploration, scientists are hopeful that we will find other life in the universe.

Weeks away from the 50th anniversary of space flight, a group of aerospace engineers, space entrepreneurs and astronauts met here Thursday at the California Institute of Technology to reflect on the past and discuss the coming 50 years of space exploration.

The two-day conference, called 50 Years in Space, is marked by the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, astronaut and former U.S. Senator, called that event an "intellectual earthquake" for science and the first trigger of interest in space. To be sure, the United States formed NASA in November of the following year; and in 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced that Americans would land on the moon by the end of the decade. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed the first man on the moon.

More than that milestone, early space flight paved the way for decades of technological innovation and scientific discovery and brought about a multibillion-dollar space industry. Scientists believe that new technology and knowledge about the universe will easily push us further in the years to come.

"The first 50 years have given us a new view of the physical places in the universe, new knowledge; and obviously new technology was essential," Ed Stone, director emeritus of NASA's research center, the Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech, said during a morning keynote speech.

"An unexpected diversity in the universe has given us a new view. That diversity promises that there is so much more to be discovered and beckons us to expand new frontiers into space."

Paul Dimotakis, chief technologist at JPL and professor at Caltech, added that considering that all of the matter on Earth comprises only 4% of what's in the universe, "the next 50 years may well reveal (whether) we have company."

Stone named five frontiers of space: physical, knowledge, technology (developing the capability to travel to space), human and applications. "In the last 50 years, we've made remarkable progress in exploring and pushing those frontiers," Stone said. He gave some examples of new views of the universe brought about by work in those areas. Through the Cassini mission to Saturn, for example, scientists have seen plumes erupting from the surface, posing the question, "Where is this energy coming from?" Stone asked.

In another example, the Mars rover mission, which landed in 2004, has yielded findings from crater bedrocks that indicate there was once a vast amount of water on the planet. "Here on Earth, wherever you find water you find life," he said.

Gentry Lee, chief engineer for the JPL's Planetary Flight Systems Directorate and a science fiction author, said the changes in his profession as space engineer over the last 50 years have been dramatic, especially considering there was no such profession when he was a child.

He attributed one of the biggest changes to computers. At the beginning of the space program, for example, all simulations were done through hardware. Now, 99% of flight simulations are done through software, he said. For the Viking robotic mission to Mars in 1976, for example, the team might have run simulations of entry and landing on Mars all night on a mainframe computer. Now it would take "10 minutes on my desktop," said Lee, who worked on the Viking project for 12 years.

"Where the computer has been a magnificent tool, there is a downside, too," Lee said. "Often the people using the computer programs didn't have a hand in building them, so we as engineers must remember that the computer and processes are tools there to guide us, and not the engineering substance itself."

The one common denominator between now and 50 years ago, he said, is the human factor. "The right processes, tools and computers are not enough, you must have the right people who can tie it all together and reduce the risks," Lee said.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Search startup ready to challenge Google

Barney Pell - President and CEO of Powerset, a new search engine that uses ‘natural-language’ technology to make Web search easier - hopes to demonstrate that Google isn’t as smart as most people think

There’s no business like search business. And this is precisely why a US-based start-up called Powerset is pursuing a particularly challenging goal: It’s aiming to outshine Internet’s search giants, Google, with its own new search software.

After nearly two years of hushed development, the San Francisco-based company is finally providing a peek at a “natural-language” technology that is supposed to make it easier to communicate with search engines.

The algorithms in Powerset are programmed to understand search requests submitted in plain English, a change from the “keyword” system used by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and the owners of the other leading engines.

The distinction means Web surfers will theoretically be able to get more meaningful results by typing more precise search requests in the form of straightforward questions like “What did Steve Jobs say about Apple?” instead of entering an ungrammatical mishmash like “Apple Steve Jobs said.”

Barney Pell, Powerset’s co-founder and chief executive, likens the hit-and-miss-process of searching with keywords to talking to a 2-year-old.

“In one sense, you are happy you can talk to it at all, but you still really want it to grow up so you can hold a real conversation,” he said.

This isn’t the first time a search engine has tried to understand simple English, but Powerset has drawn more attention because its natural-language technology is being licensed from the Palo Alto Research Centre.

Better known as PARC, the Xerox Corp subsidiary is renowned for hatching breakthroughs – such as the computer mouse and the graphical interface for personal computers – that were later commercialised by other companies.

“We have the best natural-language search technology that has ever been developed,” Pell, an artificial intelligence expert, said.

Backed by $12.5 million in venture capital, Powerset is gradually opening its testing ground, dubbed Powerlabs, to 16,000 people who signed up to get an early glimpse at the search engine.

The start-up is so confident that its methods are superior to Google that Powerlabs will present some answers alongside what its rival returns when asked the same questions. Powerset is requiring its users to vote on which engine produced better results before they are allowed to enter another search request.

Search Antecedents

Other search engines have previously promised to understand conversational English with little success.

Ask Jeeves was founded in the 1990s on the premise that Internet search requests should be presented as simple questions. It frustrated users with too many irrelevant answers.

After nearly failing in the dot-com bust, the company embraced the keyword approach to search and abandoned its mascot – a cartoon butler named Jeeves – to distance itself from the days it relied on natural-language algorithms. It is now known simply as

Industry analyst Charlene Li of Forrester Research is sceptical about Powerset’s prospects, too. She doubts Powerset will be able to comprehend all the different ways that people seeking the same type of information can phrase their questions.

For instance, the questions “What caused the collapse of Enron?” and “What caused the downfall of Enron?” typically produce different search results even though they are essentially asking the same thing, Li said. That’s because computers have trouble recognising synonyms and other subtle nuances in language.

“Understanding the meaning of many words is difficult without people involved,” she said.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Google Turns 10

Google is 10Born 10 years ago, the Google Internet search engine has grown into the electronic center of human knowledge by indexing billions of Web pages as well as images, books and videos.

On September 15, 1997 Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two Stanford University students, registered the domain name of “” Google started as a research project by Larry page and Sergey Brin when they were 24 and 23 years respectively. Google's mission statement is to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

From Googol to GoogleInitially, Larry and Sergey Brin called their search engine BackRub, named for its analysis of the of the Web's “back links.” The search for a new name began in 1997, with Larry and his officemates starting a hunt for a number of possible new names for the rapidly improving search technology.

The word is a variation of ‘googol,’ which refers to the number 10 to the power of 100, a term popularised by US mathematician Edward Kasner. Page and Brin incorporated Google one year later, on September 7, 1998, in a household garage in northern California.

Growing in millions
Soon after its launch this search engine became a motor that “absorbed” Web pages across the Internet, at a rate of billions per day.

News of Google spread largely thanks to the efficient way the search engine classified results through algorithms, and it quickly became one of the most used methods to find information on the Internet.

Google has become the most popular Internet search engine in the world outside of China, Japan and Russia, handling more than 500 million visits a day.

Google bank
To search for Internet documents it is necessary to permanently contact each site and memorise its pages, a colossal task for the Google data bank, which is constantly renewed, allowing the users to search for key words. Google needs several weeks to troll the Internet and renew its data bank.

The basis of Google's search technology is called PageRank, and assigns an “importance” value to each page on the Web and gives it a rank to determine how useful it is. However, that's not why it is called PageRank. It's actually named after Google co-founder Larry Page.

Hitting BoursesWhen Google went public in August 2004 its shared initially sold at $85. Today, its shares are valued at $525 and Google has a stock market value worth some $164 billion.

In 2006 Google reached $13.4 billion in revenue -- the third part based on Internet ads -- and profits of $3.7 billion.

In the past years Google has expanded at a breakneck pace, and currently has some 13,700 employees. The company thrives on a culture of innovation. Google asks employees to dedicate 20 per cent of their time to develop ideas for the company.

Page and Brin, now in their mid-30s, each have some $16 billion in personal wealth.

Healthy, wealthy and...

In 2000 Google began to sell ads linked to key words. At the time, as the dotcom bubble was bursting and scores of Web-based operations were declaring bankruptcy, Google was making a healthy profit.

In 2006 Google bought YouTube, the largest and most popular video exchange website, and soon after bought DoubleClick, one of the Internet's most powerful ad services.

Google also launched free e-mail -- Gmail -- as well as a word processing programme, picture editing programmes and a calender that competes directly with products from software giant Microsoft.

Stay away from evil
Despite the company motto of “Don't be Evil,” it seems that the Google's ubiquitous presence increasingly generates hostility. Both Google and YouTube have been sued by media groups that charge that they have stolen content. Its ads are directed at a very specific public based on their Internet searches.

Google's photographing of city streets has also been criticized, but also admired and widely used. The human rights group Privacy International is lukewarm on Google's respect for private data. “At it most blatant it is hostile, and at its most benign is ambivalent,” the group said.

Google goes to moon
Many have heard of Google Earth, but not many know there is a site called Google Moon, which maps the Lunar surface.

Google Moon is an extension of Google Maps and Google Earth that, courtesy of NASA imagery, enables you to surf the Moon's surface and check out the exact spots that the Apollo astronauts made their landings.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Guinness Book of Records Facts

1. Highest walk on air balloon. Mike Howard (Mike Howard) from Britain walked the beam that can extend between two balloons at an altitude of 6522 m. near the city Yovil, County Somersetshir, UK, September 1, 2004 This feat was captured on videotape for the television show "Guinness records : 50 years, 50 of Records."

2. The most stretchable skin. Harry Turner (Garry Turner) from Britain could spread to the abdominal skin to see 15,8 This is due to a rare disease known as syndrome Elersa- Danlosa violation connective tissue, affecting the skin, ligaments and internal organs. Collagen, strengthens skin, and is responsible for its elasticity, damaged, which, among other things, is the weakening of the skin and joints razboltannost. In more severe cases, this can result in the destruction or rupture of blood vessels, leading to death.

3. The longest dog ears.The longest dog ears and see the size 34,9 34,2 cm-right and left, respectively, measured on September 29, 2004 They belong Tiggeru (Tigger), Jr., whose owners Brian and Christine Flessner (Bryan and Christina Flessner) lived in the city of St. Joseph, Illinois.

4. The highest paid attraction in slow decline. The highest attraction slow fall called "Sky Jump" (Leap from the sky) and is located in the tower and entertainment center crossovers Macau. Fall begins with a 61-level towers at a height of 233 m. over land, and continues for 17-20 seconds. Solemn leap committed A. J. Hackett (A. J. Hackett) from New Zealand on August 17, 2005

5. The heaviest apple. The heaviest weighing 1.849 kg apple. Chisato raised Iwasaki (Chisato Iwasaki) for its apple farm in the town of Hirosaki (Hirosaki), Japan, which was thwarted by October 24, 2005

6. An old man, who committed lowering a rope. The oldest person spustivshimsya a rope from a height of more than 30 metres. a britanka Doris Long (Doris Long), which on June 10, 2006 has descend from the building Millgate House-60 m. from the roof to the ground, at the age of 92 years and 24 days (she was born on May 18, 1914). The building is located in an area of St. George in the city of Portsmouth, England.

7. The biggest hamburger, which can be bought. The biggest hamburger weighing 35.6 kg. included in the menu bar grill Bob's BBQ & Grill on the beach in Pattaya, Thailand on July 31, 2006

8. The largest mirror ball. The largest mirror ball is 5.01 m. in diameter. Imaginate Events. His boat Nigel Burrows (Nigel Burrows) from the company Imaginate Events. Shaer was demonstrated in the city of Reading, England, October 13, 2006

9. The quickest office. The quickest office is a table specially equipped to ride on the roads, and moving with a maximum speed of 140 km / h. His boat Briton Edd China (Edd China), and he also has held across Westminster Bridge in London on November 6, 2006 on the Day Guinness World Records.

10. The biggest leap riding on a lion. The biggest leap riding on a lion to a distance of 2.3 m. Askold committed and Edgar Zapashnye (both Russian) - Russian State Circus performers, the circus scene Perm July 28, 2006

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Most notorious viruses in PC history

The computer virus has completed 25 years. The sinister computer programme that still gives computer users jitters has come a long way since the days of 'Elk Cloner', the first computer virus which started circulating in 1982. While some of the early viruses clogged networks, later ones corrupted or wiped documents or had other destructive properties.

More recently, viruses have been created to steal personal data such as passwords or to create relay stations for making junk e-mail more difficult to trace. While the earliest viruses spread through floppy disks, the growth of the Internet gave a new way to spread viruses: e-mail.

Today, viruses have found several platforms: instant-messaging, file-sharing software, rogue web sites; images etc. As these malicious programmes go more sophisticated and their numbers increase on a daily basis, here's a look into some of the most notorious virus attacks over the last twenty-five years.

Elk Cloner (1982)
Regarded as the first virus to hit personal computers worldwide, "Elk Cloner" spread through Apple II floppy disks. The programme was authored by Rich Skrenta, a ninth-grade student then, who wanted to play a joke on his schoolmates.

The virus was put on a gaming disk, which could be used 49 times. On 50th time, instead of starting the game, it opened a blank screen that read a poem that read: "It will get on all your disks. It will infiltrate your chips. Yes it's Cloner! It will stick to you like glue. It will modify RAM too. Send in the Cloner!" The computer would then be infected.

Elk Cloner was though a self-replicating virus like most other viruses, it bears little resemblance to the malicious programmes of today. However, it surely was a harbinger of all the security headaches that would only grow as more people get computers -- and connected them with one another over the Internet.

Brain (1986)
"Brain" was the first virus to hit computers running Microsoft's popular operating system DOS. Written by two Pakistani brothers, Basit Farooq Alvi and his brother Amjad Farooq Alvi, the virus left the phone number of their computer repair shop.

The Brain virus was a boot-sector virus. It infected the boot records of 360K floppy disks. The virus would fill unused space on the floppy disk so that it could not be used. The first "stealth" virus, it hides itself from any detection by disguising the infected space on the disk.

The virus is also known as Lahore, Pakistani and Pakistani Brain. BusinessWeek magazine called the virus the Pakistani flu.

The brothers told TIME magazine they had written it to protect their medical software from piracy and it was supposed to target copyright infringers only.

Morris (1988)
Written by a Cornell University graduate student, Robert Tappan Morris, the virus infected an estimated 6,000 university and military computers connected over the Internet. Incidentally, Morris's father was a top government computer-security expert,

The computers Morris invaded were part of the Arpanet, an international grid of telephone lines, buried cables, and satellite hookups established by the Department of Defense in 1969.

Interestingly Morris later claimed that the worm was not written to cause damage, but to gauge the size of the Internet. An unintended consequence of the code, however, led to the damage caused.

Melissa (1999)
'Melissa' was one of the first viruses to spread over e-mail. When users opened an attachment, the virus sent copies of itself to the first 50 people in the user's address book, covering the globe within hours.

The virus known as Melissa -- believed to have been named after a Florida stripper its creator knew -- caused more than $80m in damage after it was launched in March 1999. Computers became infected when users received a particular e-mail and opened a Word document attached to it.

First found on March 26, 1999, Melissa shut down Internet mail systems at several enterprises across the world after being they got clogged with infected e-mails carrying the worm.

The worm was first distributed in the Usenet discussion group The creator of the virus, David Smith, was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment by a United States court.

Love bug (2000)
Travelling via e-mail attachments, "Love Bug" exploited human nature and tricked recipients into opening it by disguising itself as a love letter. The virus stunned security experts by its speed and wide reach. Within hours, the pervasive little computer programme tied up systems around the world.

The virus which was similar to the earlier Melissa worm, spread via an e-mail with the tantalising subject line, "I Love You." When a recipient opened the attachment, the virus sent copies of itself to his entire address book. It then looked for files with .jpeg, .mp3, .mp2, .css and .hta extensions and overwrote them with itself, changing the extensions to .vbs or .vbe. These files then could not be retrieved in searches.

The bug affected companies in Taiwan and Hong Kong -- including Dow Jones Newswires and the Asian Wall Street Journal.

Companies in Australia had to close down their email systems to keep the virus from spreading (80 per cent of the companies in Australia reportedly got hit). The victims also included Parliaments of Britain and Denmark. In Italy, the outbreak hit almost the entire country. In the United States too, the e-mail systems were shut down at several companies.

Code Red (2001)
Said to be one of the most expensive viruses in history, the self-replicating malicious code, 'Code Red' exploited vulnerability in Microsoft IIS servers. Exploiting the flaw in the software, the worm was among the first few "network worms" to spread rapidly as they required only a network connection, not a human opening like attachment worms. The worm had a more malicious version known as Code Red II.

Both worms exploited a bug in an indexing service shipped with Microsoft Window's NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 operating systems.

In addition to possible website defacement, infected systems experienced severe performance degradation. The virus struck multiple times on the same machine.

Code Red II affected organisations ranging from Microsoft to the telecom company Qwest to the media giant Associated Press.

According to a research firm Computer Economics, the virus caused damage worth above $2 billion.

Incidentally, Microsoft had issued a patch to fix the vulnerability almost a month earlier, however, most system operators failed to install it.

Blaster (2003)
'Blaster' (also known as Lovsan or Lovesan) took advantage of a flaw in Microsoft software. The worm alongwith 'SoBig' worm which also spread at the same time prompted Microsoft to offer cash rewards to people who helped authorities capture and prosecute the virus writers.

The worm started circulating in August 2003. Filtering by ISPs and widespread publicity about the worm curbed the spread of Blaster.

On August 29, 2003, Jeffrey Lee Parson, an 18-year-old from Hopkins, Minnesota was arrested for creating the B variant of the Blaster worm; he admitted responsibility and was sentenced to an 18-month prison term in January 2005.

Sasser (2004)

Another worm to exploit a Windows flaw, 'Sasser' led to several computers crashing and rebooting themselves.

Sasser spread by exploiting the system through a vulnerable network port. The virus, which infected several million computers around the world, caused infected machines to restart continuously every time a user attempted to connect to the Internet. The worm also severely impaired the infected computer's performance.

The first version of worm struck on April 30, 2004. The worms three modified versions have followed it since then, known as Sasser.B, Sasser.C and Sasser.D.

The companies affected by the worm included the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Delta Air Lines, Nordic insurance company If and their Finnish owners Sampo Bank.

Immense knowledge