US doctor is offering British couples the chance to choose the sex of their child

invitrofertilization1
In vitro fertilization process.

A US doctor is offering British couples the chance to choose the sex of their child at his New York clinic, a procedure that is illegal in the UK. Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, of Fertility Institutes, his New York clinic, provoked anger earlier this year when he said his fertility clinic could allow parents to produce “designer babies”.

He gave prospective parents the ability to choose eye, hair, skin colour and gender. In the United States, the law allows him to use pre-implentation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to allow parents to know an embryo’s sex.

Read moreUS doctor is offering British couples the chance to choose the sex of their child

Panasonic’s Tiger-Resistant Laptop

Don’t believe manufacturers’ claims. We put Panasonic’s Toughbook through real survival tests.

tiger-toughbook

BURLINGAME, Calif. — Call it the James Bond of laptops.

We dropped the Panasonic CF-30 “Toughbook,” kicked it, stood on it and tried to back over it with a Volkswagen JettaTDi. (That left a mark–on the pavement.)

We poured Diet Coke on the keyboard. Then we used the lid to crush the can.

You might think this is unnecessary testing for a laptop. Advertising is always brimming with over-the-top claims. We’ve heard about “durable” notebooks before. But the ones we lug to press conferences seem to be as touchy as a bunch of squirrels. Surely, Panasonic’s claims of toughness are, well, over-the-top.

We found, however, that Panasonic’s Toughbook performed as promised. Fair enough. So we came up with some tests that were decidedly unfair.

We used the Panasonic Toughbook to serve Doritos. Then we crushed the chips to dust between the keyboard and the screen, the same screen we used as a dartboard. The darts poked holes in the screen’s protective coating, but the display underneath remained undamaged. Not a single dead pixel.

So we presented the $3,460 Toughbook to Nalin, a white tiger who lives at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, Calif. Nalin treated it like a cat toy, knocking it to the ground, gnawing on the screen and licking every inch of its surface. He must have smelled those Doritos.

The tiger chewed off five keys, but that turned out to be just cosmetic. We could still type without them, and were able to glue four back on later (we made sure Nalin didn’t swallow anything). The fifth just snapped back into place.

elephant-toughbook

Next, Liz, a 10,000-pound Asian elephant, stepped on it, stood on it, dropped it onto a concrete slab, stood on it again–balanced on three legs–and then tossed it around some more. Liz put two small cracks in the laptop’s magnesium alloy lid and popped the hard drive out.

The drive slid right back in to the Toughbook’s chassis, which rebooted without a glitch. The screen was undamaged, although it was hard to see through the tiger hair and congealed drool.

That’s when we remembered: We’re allergic to cats.

Five days later, we turned from tests to something better described as execution: We took the laptop to the Jackson Arms firing range in South San Francisco to shoot it with a Ruger Mark III .22 pistol from 15 yards.

Dell declined to loan us a rugged laptop to shoot, saying they didn’t have the “inventory excess to participate this time around.”

Panasonic, meanwhile, was about to have one less notebook. We removed the battery to minimize the mess, and aimed.

Goodbye, Mr. Toughbook.

Or so we thought. We put a bullet through the laptop. Then we booted it up. We were able to log in. Our test file was still there. The screen had a hole in it, but was still usable.

Read morePanasonic’s Tiger-Resistant Laptop

Lethal military robot warriors will get a guide to ethics

When and what to fire will be part of hardware and software ‘package’

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Lethal military robots are currently deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ground-based robots like QinetiQ’s MAARS robot (shown here), are armed with weapons to shoot insurgents, appendages to disarm bombs, and surveillance equipment to search buildings. A Georgia Tech computer science professor is developing a package of software and hardware that tells robots when and what to fire.

Smart missiles, rolling robots, and flying drones currently controlled by humans, are being used on the battlefield more every day. But what happens when humans are taken out of the loop, and robots are left to make decisions, like who to kill or what to bomb, on their own?

Ronald Arkin, a professor of computer science at Georgia Tech, is in the first stages of developing an “ethical governor,” a package of software and hardware that tells robots when and what to fire. His book on the subject, “Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots,” comes out this month.

He argues not only can robots be programmed to behave more ethically on the battlefield, they may actually be able to respond better than human soldiers.

“Ultimately these systems could have more information to make wiser decisions than a human could make,” said Arkin. “Some robots are already stronger, faster and smarter than humans. We want to do better than people, to ultimately save more lives.”

Lethal military robots are currently deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ground-based robots like iRobot’s SWORDS or QinetiQ’s MAARS robots, are armed with weapons to shoot insurgents, appendages to disarm bombs, and surveillance equipment to search buildings. Flying drones can fire at insurgents on the ground. Patriot missile batteries can detect incoming missiles and send up other missiles to intercept and destroy them.

Read moreLethal military robot warriors will get a guide to ethics

The soldier of the future will communicate through telepathy: Pentagon

Pentagon Preps Soldier Telepathy Push

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Forget the battlefield radios, the combat PDAs or even infantry hand signals. When the soldiers of the future want to communicate, they’ll read each other’s minds.

At least, that’s the hope of researchers at the Pentagon’s mad-science division Darpa. The agency’s budget for the next fiscal year includes $4 million to start up a program called Silent Talk. The goal is to “allow user-to-user communication on the battlefield without the use of vocalized speech through analysis of neural signals.” That’s on top of the $4 million the Army handed out last year to the University of California to investigate the potential for computer-mediated telepathy.

Before being vocalized, speech exists as word-specific neural signals in the mind. Darpa wants to develop technology that would detect these signals of  “pre-speech,” analyze them, and then transmit the statement to an intended interlocutor. Darpa plans to use EEG to read the brain waves. It’s a technique they’re also testing in a project to devise mind-reading binoculars that alert soldiers to threats faster the conscious mind can process them.

Read moreThe soldier of the future will communicate through telepathy: Pentagon

HyperRocket: 125 mpg, 100+ mph 3-wheel motorcycle


What does a Ford Motor Company fuel economy technical expert do for fun at the end of the day?

He heads home to his own shop and custom builds an aerodynamically efficient, two-passenger, 3-wheel motorcycle capable of 125 mpg (US) at 65 mph (1.9 L/100 km @ 105 km/h) and a top speed of over 100 mph (161 km/h).  And then after using it for 3,200 miles (5,150 km), he puts it on eBay to make room in his garage for the next version which will be a plug-in hybrid.

Related article: Volkswagen introduces world’s most economical car

“After working [on] improving conventional production car/truck fuel economy I wanted to try something with fewer constraints,” says EcoModder member John (HyperRocket).  Now there’s an understatement.

(It kind of makes you wonder how many house painters go home at the end of the day, budding Picassos, to toil on masterwork canvases…)

His street legal, 2-seat, tandem vehicle is registered as a motorcycle and was engineered for both high efficiency and fun:

  • the drivetrain is from a Kawasaki Ninja: a 250cc liquid cooled, four stroke, DOHC 2 cylinder tuned with an exhaust gas analyzer for best efficiency & driveability
  • six speed manual transmission
  • weight: 505 lbs
  • excellent 0.16 coefficient of drag, calculated through GPS-based coast down tests
  • HID projector headlight up front, and LED’s elsewhere (front turn signals are integrated into the side mirrors for aerodynamics)
  • safety features include 4 point seat belts, roll bar and front mounted IMPAXX crash foam as now used in NASCAR sides

Read moreHyperRocket: 125 mpg, 100+ mph 3-wheel motorcycle

World’s first electric car built by Victorian inventor in 1884

This picture shows what may be the world’s first electric car – built by a Victorian inventor in 1884.


Thomas Parker: He is in the light suit in the front of the car.

Sitting aboard is Thomas Parker, who was responsible for innovations such as electrifying the London Underground, overhead tramways in Liverpool and Birmingham, and the smokeless fuel coalite.

Last week the government announced it wanted to create a mass market in electric cars in order to cut down carbon emissions.

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Solar-powered cooker nabs climate prize

Prize for ‘Sun in the box’ cooker

At the heart of the idea is a simple black painted box…

A cheap solar cooker has won first prize in a contest for green ideas.

The Kyoto Box is made from cardboard and can be used for sterilising water or boiling or baking food.

The Kenyan-based inventor hopes it can make solar cooking widespread in the developing world, supplanting the use of wood which is driving deforestation.

Other finalists in the $75,000 (£51,000) competition included a device for streamlining lorries, and a ceiling tile that cools hot rooms.

Organised by Forum for the Future, the sustainable development charity founded by Jonathan Porritt, the competition aims to support concepts that have “moved off the drawing board and demonstrated their feasibility” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but have not gained corporate backing.

With as many people as there are in the developing world today, they can’t just cook using trees – they’ll finish off all the trees
Jon Bohmer, Kyoto Energy

“The Kyoto Box has the potential to transform millions of lives and is a model of scalable, sustainable innovation,” said Peter Madden, the forum’s chief executive.

It is made from two cardboard boxes, which use reflective foil and black paint to maximise absorption of solar energy.

Covering the cooking pot with a transparent cover retains heat and water, and temperatures inside the pot can reach at least 80C.

As many as two billion people in the world use firewood as their primary fuel.

Read moreSolar-powered cooker nabs climate prize

China accused over global computer spy ring

• Dalai Lama and foreign ministries bugged
• Cambridge researchers point finger at Beijing

An enormous electronic espionage programme run from servers in China has been used to spy on computers in more than 100 countries, according to two reports published at the weekend.

The reports, published by the universities of Cambridge and Toronto, detail a “murky realm” where cyber spooks infiltrate email, take over humble desktop computers and use them to spy on organisations, individuals and governments.

The reports name the system GhostNet, and claim that it has been used to attack governments in south and south-east Asia as well as the offices of the Dalai Lama. In two years, the reports suggest, the operation infiltrated 1,295 computers in 103 countries.

Read moreChina accused over global computer spy ring

The Living Robot

Researchers have developed a robot capable of learning and interacting with the world using a biological brain.


Credit: Kevin Warkwick

Kevin Warwick’s new robot behaves like a child. “Sometimes it does what you want it to, and sometimes it doesn’t,” he says. And while it may seem strange for a professor of cybernetics to be concerning himself with such an unreliable machine, Warwick’s creation has something that even today’s most sophisticated robots lack: a living brain.

Life for Warwick’s robot began when his team at the University of Reading spread rat neurons onto an array of electrodes. After about 20 minutes, the neurons began to form connections with one another. “It’s an innate response of the neurons,” says Warwick, “they try to link up and start communicating.”

For the next week the team fed the developing brain a liquid containing nutrients and minerals. And once the neurons established a network sufficiently capable of responding to electrical inputs from the electrode array, they connected the newly formed brain to a simple robot body consisting of two wheels and a sonar sensor.

Read moreThe Living Robot

Volkswagen introduces world’s most economical car

While we don’t have a great deal of information available at this stage, we do know that …

Volkswagen is set to reveal the world’s most economical non-hybrid car to shareholders attending the 42nd annual general meeting of Volkswagen AG in Hamburg.

The single-seater is capable of 0.91 litres per 100km (or 258mpg in the old measure) and can manage a top speed of 123km/h.

The prototype, as shown here, was built in conditions of such great secrecy that little more is known about the car, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted after next week’s meeting.

6 Mar, 2009

Source: CarAdvice