Episode 193

posted in: Show Notes


Kevin Rudd’s Google love moment
Kevin Rudd’s Google love moment

 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has published a letter in Tasmanian newspaper the Mercury, talking about how technologies such as Google Maps and Skype are examples of the benefits that high-speed broadband can bring to Tasmania — especially through the rollout of the National Broadband Network that is shortly to bring fibre broadband to homes and businesses.

Microsoft unveils Nintendo Wii ‘killer’ | The Australian
Microsoft unveils Nintendo Wii ‘killer’


Called Kinect, the motion sensor hooks up to any Xbox 360 games console and makes it possible to play games without a physical controller. The system scans motion through 50 pivot points around a player’s body such as fingers, elbows, knees and the neck.

The Kinect sensor has a range of between one and a half to three metres and also incorporates voice recognition. It can simultaneously track up to six players.

Microsoft has so far only announced a ship date for Kinect of November 4 in the North American market, although it is understood Australia will be in the first batch of other countries to get the device and Microsoft Australia has been preparing the local retail channel for a kick-off with a marketing budget understood to be larger than that for the local launch of the Xbox 360 in March 2006.


Foxconn cuts off suicide compensation | The Australian
Foxconn cuts off suicide compensation


Workers rallied outside a Honda plant in southern China yesterday amid a rash of new strikes in cities on the east coast and in the west of the country.

After erecting nets to save jumpers, and agreeing to a pay rise of up to 100 per cent for its 400,00 workers, Foxconn – which makes consumer electronics, including Apple’s iPhone and iPad – has begun locking doors and windows in its plant and dormitory buildings to prevent further suicide attempts.

Most Chinese migrants working in the industrial east send money home to family in the rural inland. Foxconn reportedly claimed to have “concrete evidence” that some of the suicide victims took their life to guarantee compensation for families.


Sydney suicide on YouTube to stay | The Australian
Sydney suicide on YouTube to stay

 YouTube Australia won’t remove video of a man about to leap to his death at a Westfield shopping centre in Sydney.

DURING the last 30 minutes of his life, a crying 46-year-old man clutched a teddy bear as he prepared to jump from a balcony ledge on the top floor of one of Sydney’s busiest shopping centres on Wednesday.

It was a scenario all too common in Australia, which has one of the highest suicide rates in the Western world.

YouTube Australia said the video would not be removed because it didn’t violate the site’s guidelines.

The video was accessible to all and sundry for nearly 24 hours but YouTube slapped an age-restriction block after being alerted by The Australian.

A YouTube spokeswoman said it was a “very sad story and our heart goes out to those affected” but decisions to remove content was made in accordance with its standards. In this case the video didn’t breach those protocols.

Speaking to The Australian yesterday, Mr Tardiff said he posted the video online because he believed Westfield was trying to cover up its failure in handling the situation.

He said it took Westfield 25 minutes to clear the area beneath the man. He said the centre should have been evacuated because while no one else was physically injured, many were traumatised by witnessing the man’s fall.

Twitter tells ‘David on Demand’ what to do – CNN.com
Twitter tells ‘David on Demand’ what to do

 On June 21, David Perez will give up free will for seven days.

If you go to his Twitter account — @davidondemand — and tell him to do something during that time, he’ll do it, as long as it’s legal.

You’ll also be able to watch Perez’s every move that week on a live webcam attached to his thick-frame glasses. So you won’t have to take his word on the fact that he’s following through with the Twitter commands. You’ll be able to watch, in real time, as the internet turns him into a helpless puppet.

“Everything I see, you will see,” the 29-year-old said in an interview on Friday. “And everything I do will be controlled through Twitter.”

And what about when he has to use the restroom?

“Obviously, no one wants to watch me pee, so I’ll point [the glasses] toward the ceiling,” he said.

Reporting on the Gulf oil spill from your cell phone – CNN.com
Reporting on the Gulf oil spill from your cell phone

 As the Gulf oil spill spreads, news about it is coming from all kinds of places — including regular people with cell phones.

Here are a few ways that you can participate in “crowdsourced” reporting efforts about this unfolding disaster and response efforts.

The Oil Spill Crisis Map, a project of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (an environmental advocacy group) and Tulane University students, includes hundreds of field reports filed by people throughout the Gulf region. This map was built using the free open-source software Ushahidi, which was created in Kenya in 2008 specifically with cell phones in mind. You can submit a spill-related report from a cell phone or computer:

Text message (SMS) or multimedia message (MMS): Send your message to 504-272-7OIL. Text messaging works on even the most basic cell phones.

E-mail: bpspillmap@gmail.com. Many cell phones, even simple inexpensive models, can send/receive e-mail.

Twitter: Include the hashtag#BPspillmap in your “tweet.” There are Twitter apps for any smartphone, or you can post via Twitter’s mobile web site from any phone with even rudimentary web-browsing capability. You also can configure your Twitter account so that you can tweet via text message.

Web form: This page should display adequately enough to use in most mobile web browsers.

+ iphone and android apps

Five fake Twits worth following – Oddware – Technology – News – iTnews.com.au
Five fake Twits worth following

 By Liam Tung – it news

BP’s Global PR  http://twitter.com/bpglobalpr

The latest fake account to capture the Twitterverse is BP’s Global PR. With no shortage of official commentary to bounce off as BP fumbles through its response to the Deepwater Horizon mess, the fake tweet stream has gathered over 150,000 followers on a meagre 250 Tweets over 52 days.

Godwin Grech  http://twitter.com/godwingrech

Infamous former Treasury official, Godwin Grech, who had supplied Twitter fan and one time Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull with poor information in the so-called Utegate affair, is another fake account worth following. 

According to the jokers behind this fake account, Godwin Grech works at 7-Eleven these days and muses about his customers. His biography states that he is a “Fake Former Treasury wonk with skills in creative writing. Moving to Melbourne, the knifecrime capital of the world.” 


Fake Stephen Conroy

Long time fake Twitter account Fake Stephen Conroy – which gained notoriety after former Telstra employee, Leslie Nassar, took over the account –  is still going strong after a few months of relative quiet.


Fake Fielding 

FakeFielding, the parody of Family First Senator, Steven Fielding, capitalises on the politician’s penchant for non-sequiturs, nonsense and poor spelling.


Not really Centrelink

Since 24 May 2010, centrelinkgovau has been actively responding to tweets about the Government agency several times per day.

Despite its disclaimer, centrelinkgovau has taken some users by surprise. Yesterday, one user asked (in capital letters) “WHY IS CENTERLINK FOLLOWING ME. I’ve never even interacted with Centerlink!!”

centrelinkgovau wrote simply: “We just like freakin’ dudes out.”

The account is characterised by dry, cold responses. When one user wrote “i love not being able to go to centrelink. I click a button & saves me 2 hrs of my life”, it responded “Centrelink. Making rejection faster”.

NSW pollies’ Twitter debate billed a world first – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
NSW pollies’ Twitter debate billed a world first

 voters in western Sydney prepare to go the polls for Saturday’s Penrith by-election, New South Wales’ political leaders are gearing up for what is being billed as a world first election debate on Twitter.

the Premier is making herself available tomorrow to discuss the issues affecting the Penrith electorate.

She is participating in a pre by-election Twitter debate with Barry O’Farrell and the Greens MP Lee Rhiannon.

“This takes debating to a whole new level and brings a whole new section of the community into the political arena,” Ms Keneally said.

“Getting a response across in 140 characters or less will be a challenge – but I look forward to answering questions from the families and businesses of Penrith.”

Barry O’Farrell is also looking forward to the Twitter debate – but says he would have preferred to take on the Premier at public meetings held in places like Newcastle, Wollongong and western Sydney.

The debate takes place between 11:15 and 11.45am Wednesday 16 06 10. Twitter users can follow and contribute to the discussion using the Twitter hashtag – #Penrithdebate.

Govt wants ISPs to record browsing history – Communications – News
Govt wants ISPs to record browsing history


The Attorney-General’s Department yesterday confirmed to ZDNet Australia that it had been in discussions with industry on implementing a data retention regime in Australia. Such a regime would require companies providing internet access to log and retain customer’s private web browsing history for a certain period of time for law enforcement to access when needed.

Currently, companies that provide customers with a connection to the internet don’t retain or log subscriber’s private web browsing history unless they are given an interception warrant by law enforcement, usually approved by a judge. It is only then that companies can legally begin tapping a customer’s internet connection.


industry sources said the regime being considered by the Australian Government could see data held for much longer than EU Directive time of 24 months — it would be more like five or ten years.

Surveillance state near, warns Australian Pirate Party
Surveillance state near, warns Australian Pirate Party

 Currently, ISPs will only allow this level of monitoring on users’ behaviour with a warrant — they normally do not retain this degree of data by default.

“Exploiting the emotional issue of sexual child abuse, and under the guise of national security, the government is pushing for the introduction of what can only be considered a stepping stone towards a surveillance state,” said the party’s secretary Rodney Serkowski in a statement issued late last night.

The issue is being discussed on Twitter under the #ozlog hashtag

Japanese space probe crashes to Earth – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
apanese space probe crashes to Earth

 The capsule, which was launched back in 2003, successfully re-entered the earth’s atmosphere overnight, creating a fireball across the desert sky.

Australia’s first ever space landing ends a seven-year, five billion-kilometre journey to an ancient far-flung asteroid to collect the first ever asteroid material to be brought to Earth.

The Japanese Exploration Agency JAXA, along with teams from NASA and the Australian National University, will try to recover the capsule to see if it contains asteroid samples.


A twitter post from JAXA (Japanese Exploratory Agency) overnight said they could confirm the position of the capsule at the Woomera Prohibited Area.

Scientists hope the samples could lead to further discoveries into how planets are formed and may shed light on the history of our solar system.

It is hoped the asteroid samples could reduce the threat of future asteroid collisions.



Technology Review: 3-D Without the Glasses
3-D Without the Glasseshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd3-eiid-Uw

3D Effects without glasses.



Alternative Energy Source


Electric Car

Microsoft unveils Xbox ‘Kinect’ motion controller


Microsoft has revealed final details of its Xbox 360 hands-free motion control system, which it has rebranded Kinect.

The device, which was originally codenamed Project Natal, was showcased ahead of the opening of the E3 games expo, which starts on 15 June in LA.

Microsoft has said Kinect will hit shelves before the end of the year.

It will face competition from Sony’s PlayStation Move controller and Nintendo’s upgraded WiiMotion Plus.

Both are expected to feature at the E3 expo, which runs from 15-17 June.

Kinect was shown off at a glitzy event alongside compatible games, which support the new hands-free interface and, in some cases, the facial and voice recognition capabilities.

These ranged from jumping and flying games to a yoga simulator and Star Wars shooter, in which players control a virtual light sabre and use hand gestures to control action on the screen.

I was not quite convinced that Microsoft’s technology would deliver for hard-core gamers

Rory Cellan-Jones technology correspondent Read Rory’s thoughts in full

There was also a virtual pet, which can be controlled and played with using Kinect. Microsoft says it will release the full details of its games at another media event on 14 June.

Another Kinect game that was demoed on the night was Dance Central from MTV Games which allows the player to coordinate their dance moves in time to an on-screen prompt.

Although less than two minutes of it was shown, with No Doubt’s Hella Good track thumping in the background, it illustrated the various new markets that Microsoft hope its new controller will expand into.

Although an exact release date for Kinect has yet to be announced, some retailers have already published web pages in anticipation.

Game says it will be available on pre-order from 13 June 2010.

Apple threatens Google’s core business


 APPLE has emerged as a real threat to Google’s core business by making early inroads into the mobile advertising market.

Two months ago, Apple launched iAds.

Newly released figures show that already the advert-selling service for portable devices has collected $US60 million ($71m) of commitments for mobile adverts in the second half of 2010. Apple has secured deals with brands such as Unilever, General Electric and Citigroup.

This may be small change compared with Google’s annual revenues of about $US23.7bn, 99 per cent of which comes from online advertising, but analysts argue that the significance of Apple’s running start in the market should be underlined by the combination with its brand name and platforms, such as the iPhone and iPad.

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Some point to an increase in people surfing the web on phones and believe that the majority of future revenues will come from advertising on mobiles rather than PCs.

Colin Gillis, financial analyst for BGC, said: “You’ve got a company (Apple) that executes, that knows how to deliver and is now firmly in the space.”

He said that mobile advertising potentially could account for 10 per cent of Apple’s revenue over the next two years. In 2009, Apple reported revenues of $US36.5bn.

The rivalry between the two companies escalated further this week when Google complained that Apple had locked the search giant out of advertising on Apple’s devices.

It emerged that Apple had tweaked its terms with developers making apps for its products. Under new rules, apps may not collect statistical information for advertising, or any other reason, without Apple’s explicit permission.

Commentators said that the regulations would mean that companies such as Google and Microsoft could not provide advertising services within apps.

The move prompted a furious response from Omar Hamoui, the founder of AdMob, now Google’s mobile advertising division.

He wrote on his personal blog: “The terms hurt both large and small developers by severely limiting their choice of how best to make money. Let’s be clear. This change is not in the best interests of users or developers. In the history of technology and innovation, it’s clear that competition delivers the best outcome.”

Apple declined to comment on this issue when contacted by The Times.

However, when asked recently about the growing tensions with Google, Apple’s chief executive Steve Jobs said: “Well, they’re competing with us. We didn’t go into search.”

Google is making inroads into Apple’s mobile business with Android, its mobile operating system. According to Gartner, the researcher, it has about 10 per cent of the smartphone market, compared with Apple’s 15 per cent.

Analysts say that the battle over operating systems is crucial: the company that can secure the largest market share will, they argue, gain the lion’s share of mobile advertising revenue.

US competition regulators to investigate Apple


THE US Federal Trade Commission will investigate whether Apple’s business practices harm competition in the market for software used on mobile devices, people familiar with the situation said.

For weeks, the FTC has been engaged in negotiations with the Department of Justice over which agency would review allegations by companies that say they’re being shut-out of one of the most important emerging computing platforms.

Adobe Systems has been engaged in a public feud with Apple over its decision to ban Adobe’s Flash video technology from Apple devices. This week, Google complained Apple’s new rules on developers could bar Google and other rivals from selling ads inside iPhone and iPad applications, such as games.

Apple has also banned software developers from using other companies’ tools to develop software for its devices.

Both Apple and the FTC declined to comment.

This may not be the only antitrust investigation Apple faces. Justice Department lawyers recently contacted companies about Apple’s practices in the music business. The Justice Department could forge ahead with that inquiry independent of the FTC’s investigation, said people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department is already investigating whether Apple and a range of other tech companies improperly agreed not to poach each other’s employees.

As it transforms from a niche player in the market for personal computers into a media and consumer electronics giant, Apple has drawn increasing scrutiny from antitrust enforcers. Apple recently surpassed Microsoft’s market value, a sign of its growing power in the technology industry.

Apple also has clout in the media world: It controls around 70 per cent of online music sales and has more of the overall music market than Wal-Mart Stores, according to market research NPD Group.

Some industry representatives are coming to Apple’s defence.

“The iPhone was just introduced three years ago, and all of a sudden (Apple is) being accused of being a monopolist? To me, it’s absurd,” said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, in an interview. “They don’t even have a dominant position in smart phones — that’s Blackberry.”

However, some antitrust enforcers say that if they wait until a tech company has cornered a market it may be too late. The technology sector has powerful “network effects” that, some say grant outsize advantages to first movers and make it particularly difficult for competitors to break in.

The FTC will have a wealth of information to mine for its probe. It recently completed a six-month investigation of Google’s $US750 million ($882m) acquisition of AdMob, giving its lawyers knowledge of the mobile-ad market that Apple has also entered.

Despite initial reservations about the deal, the FTC cleared the acquisition last month, in large part because of Apple’s entry into the mobile ad market in the latter stages of the probe. The move focused the FTC’s attention on the ways in which Apple might give its own ad network advantages on its mobile devices. The concerns about Apple’s potential market power helped sway the five commissioners against blocking Google’s deal.

“The Commission has reason to believe that Apple quickly will become a strong mobile advertising network competitor,” the FTC said last month. “Apple not only has extensive relationships with application developers and users, but also is able to offer targeted ads…by leveraging proprietary user data gleaned from users of Apple mobile devices.”

It added that Apple’s ownership of the iPhone software development tools, and its control over the developers’ license agreement, “gives Apple the unique ability to define how competition among ad networks on the iPhone will occur and evolve.”

Foxconn cuts compensation payouts in new move to halt suicides


THE giant Taiwanese manufacturer of the iPhone has said it will no longer pay extra compensation to families of employees who kill themselves, after a spate of suicides at its sprawling south China factory.

Foxconn, the world’s largest maker of contract electronics goods, will cease condolence payments of 100,000 yuan ($17,293) and provide only the officially stipulated amount of one tenth of that sum.

Posters at the huge complex near southern Shenzhen, where more than 300,000 workers live, cited evidence that some of those who killed themselves may have, in part, done so to win compensation for their families.

The posters read: “The act is wrong. Life is precious. To prevent such tragedies, Foxconn is to cease releasing compensation other than that provided by law.”

Other efforts by the company include an offer of counselling services and the installation of safety nets around the plant, an official said.

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Related Coverage

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It is not the first time that Foxconn, which is owned by Hon Hai Precision Engineering, has hinted that the payouts may have been a contributing factor in the suicides.

At the annual shareholder meeting in Taiwan this week, Terry Gou, the chairman, displayed a handwritten letter from a worker to his parents.

“Now I am going to jump from Foxconn,” he wrote. “You don’t need to be broken-hearted, because Foxconn will pay some money in compensation. This is the only way your son can repay you.”

Rules in Shenzhen require compensation of 10,000 yuan in cases of employee suicide.

However, a Hon Hai spokesman said that the company had been paying up to 300,000 yuan – the equivalent of ten years’ salary – to the families of some workers and that each case was different.

Foxconn, which also manufactures iPads and products for companies such as Sony, Nokia and Dell, has been accused of overworking its staff and imposing excessively rigorous rules on employees.

However, Mr Gou has said that none of the deaths – of which there have been at least 11 this year – was directly work related and that he was cleared by Chinese authorities of any wrongdoing in the period running up to the suicides.

The company announced this week that it would increase the monthly salary for its Shenzhen assembly line workers to 2000 yuan from October – doubling their pay.

Foxconn cuts off suicide compensation


 CHINA’S labour-market unrest is spreading after electronics maker Foxconn, where 10 suicides appeared to trigger a round of strikes, said it would end compensation to victims’ families.

Workers rallied outside a Honda plant in southern China yesterday amid a rash of new strikes in cities on the east coast and in the west of the country.

After erecting nets to save jumpers, and agreeing to a pay rise of up to 100 per cent for its 400,00 workers, Foxconn – which makes consumer electronics, including Apple’s iPhone and iPad – has begun locking doors and windows in its plant and dormitory buildings to prevent further suicide attempts.

Most Chinese migrants working in the industrial east send money home to family in the rural inland. Foxconn reportedly claimed to have “concrete evidence” that some of the suicide victims took their life to guarantee compensation for families.

Related Coverage

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“The act is wrong. Life is precious,” the company allegedly wrote on posters in the Shenzhen facility. “To prevent such tragedies, Foxconn is to cease releasing compensation other than that provided by law.”

Victims’ families typically received more than 100,000 yuan ($17,300) as compensation for workers who are paid as little as 1200 yuan a month. Following the Foxconn tragedies, workers at a Honda plant in the south held a strike that won wage rises of 24 per cent.

Reports yesterday showed strike action spreading around other parts of China. In Shanghai, a Taiwan computer parts manufacturer affiliated with Foxconn halted production over contract disputes, while in the western city of Xian, Japan’s Brother Industries stopped work at two industrial sewing machine factories because of a strike. Police and workers clashed at two other Taiwanese-owned factories in Jiujiang, in Jiangxi province, and at a rubber factory in Kunshan, Jiangsu.

Geoffrey Crothall, spokesman for the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin, said workers had largely been willing to bide their time and accept their wages during the economic slowdown. But since the economy began to boom again, they have worked longer hours with no appreciable improvement in income, prompting some to take action, he said.

“They see strikes have been successful elsewhere and decide to try their luck.”

Despite Foxconn’s billionaire chief Terry Gou saying he would talk to his customers about raising the price of their product to accommodate wage rises, economists appear sanguine about the effects of pay hikes in China.

“Big wage increases in China are stoking concern about inflation and corporate profitability,” Capital Economic senior China economist Mark Williams said. “But they represent catch-up after two years in which wage growth was weak. Furthermore, double-digit increases should not in themselves be any cause for concern.”

Hayabusa asteroid-sample capsule recovered in Outback

 The Japanese space capsule which landed in the Australian Outback on Sunday night (local time) has been recovered.

The Hayabusa pod was picked up by a helicopter team and transferred to a control centre on the Woomera Prohibited Area.

The canister, which is believed to hold the first samples ever grabbed from the surface of an asteroid, will now be shipped to Tokyo.

The Japanese space agency (Jaxa) says the capsule looks to be intact.

The return was the culmination of a remarkable seven-year adventure, which saw Hayabusa visit asteroid Itokawa in 2005 and attempt to pluck dust from its surface before firing its engines for home.

The $200m mission encountered many technical problems, from being hit by a solar flare to experiencing propulsion glitches. But each time an issue came up, the Japanese project team found an elegant solution to keep Hayabusa alive and bring it back to Earth – albeit three years late.

We’re pretty confident there’ll be something inside the spacecraft

Dr Michael Zolensky Nasa Johnson Space Center

The re-entry on Sunday, at 1351 GMT, produced a spectacular fireball in the Australian night sky.

The main spacecraft broke apart in a shower of light.

As these bright streaks faded, a single point could then be seen racing to the ground. This was the capsule protected against the 3,000-degree heat generated in the fall by its carbon shield.

It took about an hour to locate the capsule by helicopter, its position tracked by radar and a beacon that was transmitting from inside the canister.

It was only when daylight came up on Monday, however, that a recovery team began to approach the 40cm-wide pod which was lying on the ground still attached to its parachute.

Japan unfurls Ikaros solar sail in space


Japanese scientists are celebrating the successful deployment of their solar sail, Ikaros.

The 200-sq-m (2,100-sq-ft) membrane is attached to a small disc-shaped spacecraft that was put in orbit last month by an H-IIA rocket.

Ikaros will demonstrate the principle of using sunlight as a simple and efficient means of propulsion.

The technique has long been touted as a way of moving spacecraft around the Solar System using no chemical fuels.

The mission team will be watching to see if Ikaros produces a measurable acceleration, and how well its systems are able to steer the craft through space.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) said in a statement that its scientists and engineers had begun to deploy the solar sail on 3 June (JST).

On 10 June, Jaxa said, confirmation was received that the sail had expanded successfully. Some thin-film solar cells embedded in the membrane were even generating power, it added.

The deployment took place 7.7 million km from Earth.

Space applications

The principle of solar sailing is a simple one. Photons, or particles of light, falling on a highly reflective, ultra-thin (in this case, just 7.5 microns) surface will exert a pressure.

The force is tiny but continuous, and over time should produce a considerable velocity.

Solar sails will never replace conventional propulsion systems like chemical thrusters, but they do have the potential to play a much greater role in certain types of space mission.

Louis Friedman, from the space advocacy group The Planetary Society, is a big supporter of the technology. The society’s LightSail-1, a much smaller mission than Ikaros, could launch by the year’s end. He told BBC News recently: “The potential that we all seek is the ultra-lightweight, very fast spacecraft that doesn’t use fuel.

“That’s the future of interstellar travel; that’s the long-term goal. The intermediate goals are to be able to use this technology to ‘hover’ in interplanetary space at particular points for monitoring, say, the Sun or monitoring the Earth’s geomagnetic poles or magneto-tail; and then also to fly between the planets without using fuel.”

Already some satellites in geostationary orbit above the Earth use flaps on the ends of their solar panels to catch the pressure of sunlight to maintain their correct attitude.

This leads to a considerable saving on the fuel that would otherwise have to be sent surging through the satellites’ thrusters, and operators have found this strategy can extend the longevity of some missions by many months.

Venus ‘piggy-back’

Deploying a large membrane in space is a challenging task, however.

The circular Ikaros was launched with the sail wrapped around it. The plan was to unbutton the four weighted corners of the membrane and allow them to fly outwards as the central module turned. This was expected to pull the sail taut. A camera mounted on the central hub of Ikaros confirmed the sail had indeed been drawn flat.

Japanese scientists must now hope they can control this huge spinning film. If instabilities develop in the sail, it could start to bend and fold, ruining the experiment.

Ikaros was a piggy-back payload to Japan’s Venus orbiter, Akatsuki.

The pair were boosted in to space on 21 May (JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center.

Akatsuki will arrive at Venus in December. Key goals include finding definitive evidence for lightning and for active volcanoes.


Taking showers ‘can make you ill’

Showering may be bad for your health, say US scientists, who have shown that dirty shower heads can deliver a face full of harmful bacteria.

Tests revealed nearly a third of devices harbour significant levels of a bug that causes lung disease.

Levels of Mycobacterium avium were 100 times higher than those found in typical household water supplies.

M. avium forms a biofilm that clings to the inside of the shower head, reports the National Academy of Science.

If you are getting a face full of water when you first turn your shower on, that means you are probably getting a particularly high load of Mycobacterium avium, which may not be too healthy

Researcher Professor Norman Pace

In the Proceedings journal, the study authors say their findings might explain why there have been more cases of these lung infections in recent years, linked with people tending to take more showers and fewer baths.

Water spurting from shower heads can distribute bacteria-filled droplets that suspend themselves in the air and can easily be inhaled into the deepest parts of the lungs, say the scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Potential threat

Lead researcher Professor Norman Pace, said: “If you are getting a face full of water when you first turn your shower on, that means you are probably getting a particularly high load of Mycobacterium avium, which may not be too healthy.”

While it is rarely a problem for most healthy people, those with weakened immune systems, like the elderly, pregnant women or those who are fighting off other diseases, can be susceptible to infection.

They may develop lung infection with M. avium and experience symptoms including tiredness, a persistent, dry cough, shortness of breath and weakness, and generally feel unwell.

When the researchers swabbed and tested 50 shower heads from nine cities in seven different states in the US, including New York City and Denver, they found 30% of the devices posed a potential risk.

Since plastic shower heads appear to “load up” with more bacteria-rich biofilms, metal shower heads may be a good alternative, said Professor Pace.

Showers have also been identified as a route for spreading other infectious diseases, including a type of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease and chest infections with a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Hot tubs and spa pools carry a similar infection risk, according to the Health Protection Agency.

A HPA spokesperson said: “This is an interesting paper which provides further information about the occurrence of opportunist organisms – germs which do not usually cause infections in humans – in the environment.

“These bacteria, which belong to the same family as TB, can be found in the environment and occasionally in water supplies but rarely cause disease in healthy people.

“Further work will need to look at whether finding these organisms is associated with any increased risk of infection.”


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