Episode 219

posted in: Show Notes


Save as WWF, Save a Tree : Home
A new green file format: WWF
The WWF format is a PDF that cannot be printed out. It’s a simple way to avoid unnecessary printing. So here’s your chance to save trees and help the environment. Decide for yourself which documents don’t need printing out – then simply save them as WWF.

the WWF is a PDF, but one in which the option to print is completely negated. The WWF was first released for Mac users, but a Windows version has just become available. Once the software is installed, users can open and save documents in the WWF format, and the software includes a converter feature for files in other formats. To help spread the green word, a page is automatically added to the end of WWF files to explain the format to new users, but this can also be disabled.

Review of media classification ordered to take account of technology changes | The Australian
Review of media classification ordered to take account of technology changes review of media classification announced by the Gillard government today has been driven by dramatic changes in media technology.
Details of the review – to be conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission – were announced by Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor.

Comments on the terms of reference will be taken until January 28, 2011 with a full report from the commission due on December 9.

National broadband users will have to pay for back-up batteries | The Australian
National broadband users will have to pay for back-up batteries An increase in the number of premises covered by the NBN could push the cost of supplying back-ups above $163 million, up $13.5m from earlier estimates.

USERS of the National Broadband Network will have to dip into their own pockets to purchase replacement battery back-ups after the government decided a one-off free unit would suffice.

Battery back-ups are crucial. In case of a power outage, they ensure emergency phone calls can still be made over the new fibre network that will replace Telstra’s copper lines.

Once the free back-ups run out of juice, people would have to pay a retail price of about $40 to buy new lead batteries — expected to last three to five years. “Maintenance of the battery, including replacement, will be the responsibility of the end-user or retail service provider,” the plan says.
NBN Co has the buying power to purchase the batteries at wholesale rates — expected to range from $8.20 to more than $13.50

Home owner package to start at $53 a month | The Australian
Home owner package to start at $53 a month NBN Co will charge broadband retailers a uniform national wholesale fee of $24 a month for the cheapest internet package.

NBN Co business case, which was released yesterday, forecasts consumers will pay about $55 for the basic internet service with speeds of 12 megabits per second and a monthly data allowance of 50GB.

Wholesale prices for NBN Co service packages range from a $24-a-month plan to $150 for super-fast fibre broadband offering speeds of up to 1000Mbps.

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said the business case offered “no nirvana of cheaper broadband for Australians”.
“It’s supposed to deliver universal and affordable broadband, and yet the broadband price that they’ve talked about today is comparable – it’s certainly no cheaper than many comparable prices (today),” Mr Turnbull said.
NBN Co boss Mike Quigley said householders would have a choice of whether the NBN connection box was located inside or outside their home. Mr Quigley said if the householder wanted the box inside their house, they would have a choice of where it was located at no extra cost.woopee doo

NBN to repay taxpayers ‘with interest’, says Julia Gillard, citing business plan | The Australian
NBN to repay taxpayers ‘with interest’, says Julia Gillard, citing business plan THE National Broadband Network business case proves taxpayers’ $27.5 billion investment in the plan will be repaid with interest, Julia Gillard has declared.

Building the network will take nine and a half years, with a rollout peak of 5900 premises a day during construction, but some 1.7 million homes, businesses and schools are expected to be connected by June 2013.
The business plan forecasts an internal rate of return of 7 per cent, based on a 70 per cent takeup of the network by businesses and homes.

Microsoft to challenge iPad tablets | The Australian
Microsoft to challenge iPad tablets Steve Ballmer, the chief executive, will introduce the new devices at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He is also expected to unveil some features of Windows 8 software, the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system for personal computers.

BBC News – Kevin Macdonald’s YouTube movie nearing completion
Kevin Macdonald’s YouTube movie nearing completion 24 July this year was the chance to produce a small part of cinematic history.

Kevin Macdonald, the Scottish director famed for The Last King of Scotland and Touching the Void, invited the vast YouTube community to spend a few moments filming their day.
Their clips were then collated and are currently being edited together by a team based in London’s Soho district.
Some 5,000 hours of footage – 80,000 individual clips – have been sculpted into an hour and a half of feature film due to be premiered at January’s Sundance Film Festival.
Mr Macdonald realised that while it would be easy to get floods of content from the wealthy, tech-savvy youth of the Western world, for the film to truly represent the world they would have to reach out to less-enabled communities.
“For Life In A Day to be truly representative we felt we had to then do something about that. We went out and bought 400 plus cameras.
“Then we sent those cameras out to parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America – they were distributed to people in quite remote parts of the world.
“So some of the material is really extraordinary for that reason.”
Despite all of the clips arguably having no relation to each other – other than the day of filming – Mr Macdonald has made some attempt to tie them all up as smoothly as possible.
“It was a full moon that day.
“So with the first opening sequence with the moon in various different countries – Malawi, South Africa, Australia.

BBC News – Twitter raises $200m in new finance
Twitter raises $200m in new finance Twitter has raised $200m (£129m) in new finance, in a deal that values the social networking service at $3.7bn.

It has 175 million registered users and 300 employees.

BBC News – Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook named Time’s person of 2010
Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook named Time’s person of 2010 Time magazine has picked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as its annual Person of the Year, the figure it believes had the most influence on events in 2010.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange earlier won a Time readers’ poll on 2010’s most influential person.
The annual feature has been a fixture since the 1920s, with the winner appearing on the front cover of Time.

Do Not Call register fees to rise – Telco/ISP – Technology – News – iTnews.com.au
Do Not Call register fees to rise subscribers weren’t limited to big telemarketers but also included telcos, banks, travel agencies and small businesses “that seek to increase business in slow periods by telemarketing or fax marketing”

Businesses that checked off 20,000 numbers faced a $1 increase.
But those checking 100 million numbers against the list would face a rise of $2000 – not the $14,000 increase initially estimated.
They were necessitated by lower-than-expected demand for subscriptions to the list in 2008-9 and 2009-10, which saw the register recover $200,000 less than anticipated, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Microsoft sneaks out Security Essentials 2.0 – Security – Technology – News – iTnews.com.au

Microsoft sneaks out Security Essentials 2.0

Includes revamped anti-virus engine and firewall integration

The antivirus engine has benefited from the same upgrade applied to Microsoft’s paid-for Forefront Client Security suite for businesses.
The new engine offers “efficient threat detection against the latest malware and rootkits” and “protection against ‘unknown’ or ‘zero day’ threats through behaviour monitoring and emulation”, according to Microsoft.
One reason why Microsoft might not have decided to draw attention to the upgrade is the new integration with the Windows Firewall. Users are now asked whether they want to turn on the Windows Firewall during installation

Microsoft Security Essentials 2.0 is available for download here. It was not currently being offered via the software’s own upgrade mechanism.


Say hello to Carlos, the $60,000 robot programmed to smash a pinata at your command | News.com.au

Say hello to Carlos, the $60,000 robot programmed to smash a pinata at your command

All your childhood dreams come true


All your childhood dreams come true

See a robot bashing a pinata.

MAR robot design engineer Hossein Kordbacheh at Carlos’s control desk. Picture: Charles Brewer Source: news.com.au

DEEP inside a concrete warehouse in western Sydney, there’s a giant robot bashing a pinata.
His name is Carlos.
Carlos lives at the Machinery Automation and Robotics (MAR) building in Silverwater, alongside a mannequin wearing Aviators and a caftan, called Sanchez, and a design engineer named Hossein Kordbacheh.
Hossein has programmed Carlos to destroy a huge pinata at the command of strangers on the internet.
Behind a yellow link chain, Carlos gets to work with a variety of weapons including a golf club (which he broke, twice) an axe, a sword and a cricket bat.
Sanchez just stands there, holding a computer screen displaying the name of internet users and some of their messages, such as “Yippee-ay-yay mofos!” and “Howzat!”
The whole set-up is part of a marketing campaign for Vodafone. To enter a competition, Facebook users can install an app that will let them order Carlos to take a swing.
The engineers at MAR have programmed Carlos to emulate human movement. He has a wrist, an elbow and a shoulder which move according to the requests of the Facebook users.
Carlos can perform several different swings, from the “Slam Dunk” to “The Tornado”, which includes a wind-up.
“Robots can do anything. It depends on a company like us, on how we program the robots. This is called ‘action implementation’,” says Mr Kordbacheh.
Carlos is valued at up to $60,000 and would usually be doing something a bit more constructive, like welding metal together or moving things around. MAR is a company that programs robots to perform those sort of tasks.
So far in his role as pinata-basher, Carlos is doing quite well. However Mr Kordbacheh has had to tweak some of his moves.
“We increased the intensity by 20 per cent on the second day,” said Chris Gross, the social media manager for Vodafone.
“We kind of got the robot shifting around to make sure the whole pinata is getting bashed, so it’s not just one spot over and over again. We really try to give it a good whacking.”
Tomorrow Vodafone will let the people on Facebook vote for which weapon Carlos should use next — the axe or the sword.
Mr Gross said he expected the pinata to be broken by tomorrow. Inside is 4kg of confetti and bon-bons.

Recycle your mobiles or the duck gets it. Oh, wait, it’s the other way around… | News.com.au

Recycle your mobiles or the duck gets it. Oh, wait, it’s the other way around…

Oxfam Unwrapped and MobileMuster are asking Australians to recycle their old mobile phones, in return for the donation of a duck to a struggling family in Mozambique. Picture: Oxfam Source: Supplied
RECYCLE your old mobile phones this summer and give a duck to a family that needs it.
Yes, a duck.
For every two phones you recycle with MobileMuster this holiday season, a duck will be donated to a struggling family in Mozambique.
The “Old Phones, More Ducks” campaign, run in conjunction with Oxfam Unwrapped, has already kicked off and will wind up on January 11.
Oxfam Australia spokesperson Leigh Stewart said the gift of a duck could make a huge difference to families living in poverty.
“Families can use the eggs for food and can sell the excess at market to supply the family with a regular and reliable source of income,” she said.
Australians are sitting on an estimated 16 million unused mobile phones, with owners forgetting to recycle them after they switch to a new one.
MobileMuster recycling manager Rose Read said a similar campaign last year saw almost half a tonne of handsets donated.
“We do it over Christmas time because a lot of people are buying new phones and people are buying gifts for each other,” she told news.com.au.
To take part in the “Old Phones, More Ducks” campaign, visit replypaid.mobilemuster.com.au.

Vodafone’s Infinite ads remain on TV – Communications – News

Vodafone’s Infinite ads remain on TV

Optus has failed to have Vodafone’s TV commercials for its “Infinite” mobile plans removed from the airwaves in the Federal Court today.
(White noise image by Ben Leto, CC2.0)
Optus took Vodafone to court claiming that the TV and print advertisements for the carrier’s “Infinite” mobile phone plans were misleading to consumers. Optus argued that Vodafone didn’t make it clear that certain calls, texts and access to social network websites were not covered by the “Infinite” plan.
At a hearing of the case in front of Justice John Nicholas on Friday, the two telcos came to an agreement over print advertisements: Vodafone signed an undertaking to update the print advertisements to make the exceptions clearer. Justice Nicholas took the weekend to decide whether to make a ruling to suspend TV advertisements until a hearing could take place.
This morning, Justice Nicholas dismissed Optus’ request to suspend the advertisements in a short hearing in the Federal Court.
Optus has not confirmed whether it plans to pursue the matter further at this stage.

Vodafone CEO says sorry for 3G woes – Communications – News

Vodafone CEO says sorry for 3G woes

Vodafone Hutchison Australia CEO Nigel Dews has issued a personal apology to customers today after technical glitches and a botched network upgrade impacted 3G service levels nationwide.
Dews issued the apology on the official Vodafone blog, telling customers how very sorry he was for the service (or lack thereof) customers had experienced.
“Having customers who are happy with their service and their network experience is central to us, but unfortunately in recent weeks, some customers have had a disappointing and frustrating experience, which I am very sorry for,” Dews said.
“Looking at your comments on various blogs including here on our own, it’s clear we could have done a better job at keeping you across what’s been happening,” he admitted.
Dews asked customers who were still experiencing technical troubles on their service to contact Vodafone customer support. However, he advised those seeking support to expect lengthy waits and to take advantage of the call-back feature if they were short on time.
Vodafone users have been raging against the carrier on social networks and on blogs around the internet once the 3G issues took hold.
At the start of the month, a Vodafone social representative told Whirlpool forum users that the issue stemmed from an uncovered software fault on the network which had affected data throughput, and that users could expect a fix by the end of November. Vodafone continued to experience issues with slow 3G connections well past the deadline.
In his apology, Dews attempted to deflect negative sentiment by pointing to the telco’s plans to upgrade its 3G networks to provide a boost in service.
Consumer action group ACCAN has been baying for Vodafone’s blood for the last month, advising affected customers via Twitter on how to get out of their contracts.
Meanwhile, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) chairman, Graeme Samuel said that customers could not simply walk out on their commitment to the carrier despite the service interruptions.
“Contrary to some media reports, the ACCC does not advise consumers that they are entitled to walk away from their contracts as a means of addressing their concerns,” he said.

Telstra deal finalised in January: Conroy – Communications – News

Telstra deal finalised in January: Conroy

The $11 billion deal between Telstra and the National Broadband Network (NBN) Company to decommission its copper network and move customers onto the NBN will be finalised in January, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said this morning.
The deal was supposed to be finalised by the end of this year for Telstra shareholders to vote on in June 2011, but Conroy told Radio National this morning that the Coalition’s blocking of the telco reform Bill was to blame for the delay.
“One of the things that held up this final negotiation was Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott kept blocking the Bill for nearly a year,” he said. “Once that was completed in the last few days of parliament in November, that has meant that NBN Co and Telstra are absolutely beavering away to try finalise this before Christmas. I think they haven’t quite made that, they’re reconvening in the first week of January to try and finalise it.”
Conroy responded to criticism about the timing of the release of the business case, being just days before Christmas, stating that the cabinet’s decision on points of interconnect on the NBN meant NBN Co had to revise the document. The business case was intended to be released last week, but Conroy said it was delayed due to the deaths of asylum seekers near Christmas Island.
“They reworked the business case and gave it to us last week and we had intended to release it on Friday and we had everything in place but with the Christmas Island tragedy, we postponed the release because we didn’t believe we should be trying to push a government policy in the middle of that tragedy,” Conroy said.
The business case released yesterday outlines that by 2025, NBN Co expects 70 per cent of Australian households to be using services on the network. Conroy said this figure was estimated by subtracting the percentage of vacant homes, wireless-only homes and Optus hybrid-fibre coaxial (HFC) cable customers who would not be on the NBN in 2025.
“About 13 per cent of homes will be wireless-only homes. That’s about a doubling of homes now. The estimate of 12 per cent, that’s the estimate of homes that aren’t occupied. The remaining four to five per cent is the remaining HFC cable,” he said.

Microsoft ditches anti-piracy tool – Security – News

Microsoft ditches anti-piracy toole

In what can be considered a small victory for those who dislike additional security checks after purchasing software, Microsoft has quietly discontinued the use of its Genuine Advantage checker tool for Microsoft Office.
The anti-piracy measure, called Office Genuine Advantage (OGA), required that users verify the legitimacy of their Office software before being able to download add-ons and templates from Microsoft, as well as download software updates Microsoft deemed “non-critical”.
The OGA program had been put into place in late-2006 as a follow-up to Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage tool, which does similar checks to make sure copies of Windows are not pirated in order to receive updates and security patches.
ZDNet Australia’s United States sister site discovered the end of the OGA program and reported that Microsoft has done little to alert users to the end of the product other than mention it in a knowledge base article. Additionally, a page called “Benefits of genuine Office” remains up on Microsoft’s Office site, detailing what the company considers advantages of using genuine software.
One program that appears not to be shelved as part of OGA’s end of life is Microsoft’s policy of replacing counterfeited software with genuine copies in cases where customers believed they were buying the real thing. That program, which also began in 2006, aimed both at helping people who had accidentally bought fakes, as well as providing Microsoft with leads on piracy sources. Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the program was still in place, and how users will be expected to differentiate a real from a fake product.
The removal of OGA does not mean a lapse in the front line security Microsoft employs to keep software pirates at bay. Users still need to enter in a 25-character activation key when first installing the software in order to unlock its license. Just like in its Windows operating system, users that skip this step are still able to use the software, but with reduced functionality.

Soyuz TMA-20 rocket blasts off carrying three crew to the International Space Station | Space,

Soyuz TMA-20 rocket blasts off carrying three crew to the International Space Station

Soyuz TMA-20 blasts off from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome early this morning. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

The rocket will carry three crew members to the International Space Station. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

  • Soyuz rocket blasts off from Baikonur
  • Carrying three crew to space station
  • Pictures: The Soyuz TMA-20 mission

A RUSSIAN Soyuz rocket carrying a crew of three to the International Space Station has blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Soyuz TMA-20 rocket, with a Russian, an Italian and an American aboard, took off in the night sky at 10.09pm Moscow time (6.09am AEDT).
It lifted off on schedule from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in the Kazakh steppe, spitting out a plume of fire and smoke and disappearing into the star-lit sky.
The launch had gone according to plan and the craft successfully went into orbit, the Russian Mission Control said.
The spacecraft is due to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) at 11.12pm Moscow time on Friday (7.12am Saturday AEDT).
The commander of the crew is Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, who is on his first space flight.
Joining him are Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency, who has made one space flight before, and NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, who has two space missions under her belt.
Mr Kondratyev, who has been waiting 13 years for his first flight, promised his crew would do everything to live up to expectations during their five-month stay in space.
“Our crew is very closely-knit, we have known each other for a long time, we have repeatedly served together as backup astronauts,” Mr Kondratyev said in comments released by the Russian Space Agency.
“I assure you that we will do our best to implement the programme with maximum quality,” he was quoted as saying.
At 1.88m, Kondratyev’s team member Mr Nespoli may be the tallest astronaut to have been sent into space aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft and Russia’s rocket company Energia had to make a special seat for him.
“A big man — a big seat,” Energia head Vitaly Lopota said in comments posted on the website of the Russian Mission Control.
The three-member crew is to join NASA’s Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka abord the ISS.
The last launch at Baikonur in October was attended by convicted spy Anna Chapman, a member of the Russian spy ring involved in a high-profile swap with the US in the summer.
The burden on the Russian space programme is set to grow in coming months as NASA withdraws the space shuttle from service, meaning that the Soyuz craft will for several years be the only vehicle for transporting humans to the ISS.
Today’s flight comes after the spacecraft suffered damage to its container in transit on its way to Baikonur.
Engineers spotted the damage to the Soyuz TMA-20’s transport container after it was shipped by rail to the Baikonur cosmodrome.
In another blow to the country’s space programme, three Russian navigation satellites crashed into the Pacific off the US state of Hawaii after the rocket carrying them failed to reach orbit earlier this month.
Space officials have said the rocket carrying the payload failed to reach its initial low-earth orbit of 180km.
The satellites were then to have been boosted into a permanent 19,130km orbit — but instead splashed back down into the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
The failure proved an embarrassing setback for a system that was meant to restore the country’s status as a space and scientific research superpower.

‘Berlin Patient’ is still free of HIV three years after deadly stem cell transplant | Space,

Berlin Patient’ is still free of HIV three years after deadly stem cell transplant

A giant ribbon displayed on the lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on World AIDS Day. Picture: AFP Source: AFP
A US man is still HIV-free more than three years after receiving a stem cell transplant, suggesting the first cure has been found for the virus that causes AIDS, German doctors say.
While the highly lethal technique used on the man known as the “Berlin Patient” would not work for most of the 33 million people with HIV worldwide, scientists say the research shows important progress toward a universal cure.
“Our results strongly suggest that cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient,” said the study in the peer-reviewed journal Blood, a publication of the American Society of Hematology.
The process began in 2006 when a US man in his 40s, who had been HIV positive for more than a decade, sought treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, a lethal blood cancer.
After a first round of chemotherapy failed, his German doctor, Gero Hutter, thought he would see if he could perform a bone marrow transplant using a donor with a rare genetic mutation that is naturally resistant to HIV.
About one in 100 Caucasian people, or 1 per cent of the population, have the mutation which prevents the molecule CCR5 from appearing on the cell surface.
Since HIV enters the cell through CCR5 molecules, when they are absent HIV cannot penetrate.
The process was not easy, but after rejecting dozens of potential donors Dr Hutter finally found a match and performed the bone marrow transplant using stem cells from the HIV-resistant donor in February 2007.
Dr Hutter’s first study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009, showed no sign that HIV had re-emerged even though the patient had ceased anti-retroviral therapy to suppress it.
The latest findings show that, three years later, the patient continues to show no trace of either the AIDS-causing virus or leukemia.
But given that around 30 per cent of patients die when attempting bone marrow transplants, AIDS experts sounded a note of caution.
“I think we need a lot more research to try to replicate this without putting a patient’s life in danger,” said Karen Tashima, director of the HIV Clinical Trials Program at The Miriam Hospital in Rhode Island.
“Since we have good anti-retroviral therapy that can control the virus, it would be unethical to give somebody such an extreme treatment.”
Lead study author Kristina Allers acknowledged that the process would not work for most people.
“Nevertheless, as the study tells us that HIV cure is in principle possible, it gives new hope for scientists in the HIV cure research,” Allers said.
“So the next challenge is to translate our findings into a strategy that can be applied without being life-threatening.”
Indeed, US researchers are already working on ways to replicate the same process in the cells without going the same risky route.
“I am very excited about it,” said David Baltimore, a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1975.
Dr Baltimore is the founder of a biotech company that is working on developing its own stem-cell HIV/AIDS therapy that works functionally the same as the German team’s, and is in the process of organizing clinical trials, he said.
“What we are trying to do is treat a patient’s own cells so there is no immunological problem,” he said.
“The fact that the one patient who was treated then was effectively cured is I think a very strong argument that you want to continue this kind of approach to the HIV problem.”
Jay Levy, an AIDS and cancer researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, described the latest research as evidence of a “functional cure”.
“I mean, one person is not sufficient. It is an encouraging first step but you really need to show it again,” he said.
“I always look on this as a direction for future approaches, recognise what the problems are and then see if we can do better, and I have faith in my scientific colleagues to come up with something better.”
Dr Levy and his team are also looking at ways to manipulate a patient’s own stem cells so that they do not express the receptors that allow HIV infection, much like the CCR5 mutation.
“Three years is not enough… We will know that in 10 years,” said Dr Levy regarding the study’s assertion that a cure has been found.
“It is too early to say you’ve cured, but my Lord, they have done a nice job.”

Periodic table updated with fluctuating weights for 10 elements including carbon and hydrogen |

Periodic table updated with fluctuating weights for 10 elements including carbon and hydrogen

The periodic table hanging in a high school classroom. Picture: Flickr user Randy304 Source: Supplied

YOU know the periodic table that hung on the wall of every science class you took at school?
As of today, it’s wrong. Or more precisely, it’s inaccurate.
One of the biggest changes in decades is set to be made to the periodic table, with the atomic weight of 10 elements altered to better reflect how they occur in nature.
For more than a century, scientists have assigned a standard single value to the atomic weights of elements. Now they say those numbers aren’t as static as first believed.
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) has decided that the weights of 10 elements will now be expressed as ranges instead of a single value, with an upper and lower limit.
The elements are hydrogen, lithium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, sulphur, chlorine and thallium.
“For some elements — not all of them — instead of just plopping a value and saying ‘here it is’, (we’re giving them) an, if you like, ‘uncertainty range’,” Professor Brynn Hibbert of UNSW told news.com.au.
“We actually give a starting and ending mass for the element that we believe encompasses all normal sources that you’ll find in the world, and we think this is the better way of doing it.”
You might think such a change is purely scientific, but it actually has some big consequences for research and industry.
Precise measurements of the presence of isotopes in carbon can be used to determine the purity and source of foods like vanilla and honey.
Sports dopers should particularly beware — measuring the atomic weight of carbon in human testosterone is how they test for performance enhancing drugs.
All synthetic testosterone is created from soya beans. The new weightings mean scientists will be able to test more accurately for the levels of carbon and hydrogen in the urine of athletes.
“You measure the carbon and hydrogen ratios in the urine of a cyclist and you find that the testosterone molecules and the ones that come from this testosterone (soy) root all have one profile and all the other molecules that come from your usual cholesterol have a different one,” Prof Hibbert said.
“It sticks out like a sore thumb, and that’s how we’ve been able to catch a lot of people in a lot of areas.”
Our pollution levels could also be higher than we think. The weight of nitrogen, chlorine and other elements are used to measure pollution levels in streams and groundwater.
However while they may be important, the changes aren’t out of the blue. Prof Hibbert, who is the secretary of the analytical division of IUPAC, said the periodic table was revised more often than people thought.
“These things come periodically, every now and then. We review it, and we don’t always make changes to every single element when we do,” he said.
“When we met four years ago we changed the atomic weight of zinc and this caused a bit of furore at the time, because we changed it by a relatively large amount.
“I know it makes for good copy, but the world hasn’t just suddenly decided, like Pluto, ‘we’ve got fed up with a couple of elements so we’re going to chuck them out’.”
Prof Hibbert said it was premature to say the update would change the way chemistry was taught and text books weren’t going to suddenly go out of date.
“No, of course not. For most calculations, people will just carry on as before,” he said.
“A lot of things you do don’t require that kind of precision, so we’re not going to change the first year chemistry text book and probably half my colleagues won’t notice that this has happened at all.
“The world won’t in fact grind to a halt as the result of it, but, for people at my end who do worry about these things, then yes, there will be some changes in the way we do calculations.”

Facebook face recognition finds friends in photos | News.com.au

Facebook face recognition finds friends in photos

Facebook says it is introducing facial recognition software to identify people in uploaded photos. Source: The Courier-Mail
FACEBOOK is using facial recognition software to let people automatically identify their friends in photos.
The new “tag suggestion” feature is designed to make “tagging” people in uploaded photos quicker.
“While tags are an essential tool for sharing important moments, many of you have said tagging photos can be a chore,” said Facebook engineer Justin Mitchell in a blog post.
“When you or a friend upload new photos, we use face recognition software — similar to that found in many photo editing tools — to match your new photos to other photos you’re tagged in.
“We group similar photos together and, whenever possible, suggest the name of the friend in the photos.”
Users who don’t want to be automatically suggested in photos can disable the feature by adjusting their privacy settings.
Mr Mitchell said more than 100 million “tags” were added Facebook photos every day.
The new feature is due to roll out to US users “over the next few weeks”. Mr Mitchell did not say when or if it would roll out to international users.

Japan pushes the limits with ambitious space plans including building a robot base on the Moon |

Japan pushes the limits with ambitious space plans including building a robot base on the Moon

One of Japan space agency JAXA’s grand plans is a robot base on the Moon. Source: AFP

DESPITE its shoestring budget, Japan’s space programme has boldly reached for the stars, pioneering solar-powered galactic travel, exploring a distant asteroid and planning a robot base on the Moon.
The past year has seen Japan’s space agency JAXA chalk up several world firsts, including the safe return of a deep-space probe that picked up asteroid dust from a potato-shaped space rock on an epic seven-year odyssey.
The Hayabusa (Falcon) ended its 5-billion-kilometre mission when it burnt up on re-entry over the Australian outback.
Hayabusa had already safely parachuted to Earth a disc-shaped container with the particles inside.
Because asteroids are thought to date back to the dawn of our solar system, it is hoped the extra-terrestrial grains from asteroid Itokawa can help reveal secrets from as long as 4.6 billion years ago.
The Hayabusa mission — costing less than ¥200 ($2.41) per Japanese citizen over 10 years (¥20 billion) — has boosted interest in the space programme, and in science and technology, said project leader Junichiro Kawaguchi.
“Space development doesn’t foster industries directly but it can nurture people who will contribute to industries in the future,” he said.
“It brought about an immensely bigger educational effect.”
Earlier this year JAXA, which stands for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, also stunned earthlings everywhere when it sent a “space yacht” floating through the black void, without leaving a hint of a carbon footprint.
The kite-shaped Ikaros — short for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun — is propelled forward by sun particles bouncing off its fold-out wings, which are thinner than a human hair.
There have been set-backs too. Last week the Akatsuki (Dawn) probe narrowly missed its entry point to the orbit of Venus, where it had been due to observe the toxic atmosphere and blistering volcanic surface for two years.
Ground control put on a brave face after the mishap, vowing to try again when the probe and Venus have their next rendezvous in six years.
If Akatsuki makes it, it will get a close-up glimpse of what is often called our sister planet — similar in size and age to Earth but shrouded in sulphuric acid clouds and baking at 460C.
JAXA’s mission are far more ambitious than its budget would suggest.
The agency has no manned missions and operated on 339 billion yen ($4 billion) this fiscal year — less than one-tenth of the NASA budget, and less than half the annual cost of Europe’s space programme.
Space officials are now fighting back against any further government belt tightening as they plan a follow-up probe to Hayabusa in 2014, which would explore an asteroid named 1999JU3.
JAXA says it hopes its probe would find “organic or hydrated materials” on the asteroid, and to find out whether “there is any relation to life on Earth”.
The science and technology minister, Yoshiaki Takagi, last month vowed that “we will strive to secure the budget so that we can offer maximum support” for the Hayabusa-2 project.
His ministry has requested a 100-fold boost to the research budget for Hayabusa-2 to some three billion yen next year.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan sounded sympathetic when he said last month that Japan “must be committed” to space projects.
In future the space agency may take on an even more ambitious task.
An expert panel advising the minister for space development has called for sending a wheeled robot to the Moon in five years — having first considered a two-legged humanoid, which was rejected because of the Moon’s bumpy surface.
It envisions building the first lunar base by 2020, which could be staffed by advanced robots, as a key stepping stone for Japan’s space exploration, a field where Asian competition is heating up.
“It is extremely important to probe the Moon… as we now see the dawn of ‘the Age of Great Voyages’ in the solar system,” the panel said, pointing out that “China, India and other countries are aiming to probe the Moon”.
The Japan Government’s Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy believes a successful space programme does much to lift Japan’s profile on Earth.
“Our country’s space technology, its achievements and human resources are truly diplomatic resources that would boost our influence and position in the international community,” it said in a policy report.
“We will promote them as a source of our soft power.”

All internet porn will be blocked to protect children under UK Government plan | News.com.au

All internet porn will be blocked to protect children under UK Government plan

The UK government will talk with ISPs about blocking all internet porn unless adults opt-in to access it / AFP Source: AFP

THE UK Government plans to combat the early sexualisation of children by blocking internet pornography unless parents request it.
The move is intended to ensure that children are not exposed to sex as a routine by-product of the internet. It follows warnings about the hidden damage being done to children by sex sites.
The country’s biggest broadband providers, including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, are being called to a meeting next month by Communications Minister Ed Vaizey and will be asked to change how pornography gets into homes.
Instead of using parental controls to stop access to pornography — so-called “opting out” — the tap will be turned off at source. Adults will then have to “opt in”.
The new initiative is in advance of the imminent convergence of the internet and television on one large screen in the living room.
It follows the success of an operation by most British internet service providers (ISPs) to prevent people inadvertently viewing child porn websites.
Ministers want companies to use similar technology to shut out adult pornography from children. Pornography sites will be blocked at source unless people specifically ask to view them.
TalkTalk, which includes Tiscali and the British version of Aol.com, is already introducing a new free service early next year called “bright feed”, which allows people to control the internet so that all devices are automatically covered without the need to set up individual controls.
Homeowners can either specify which adult sites they want to receive or put a cinema-style classification on their feed to restrict what is received according to age ranges, such as U, 12 or 18.
A survey by Psychologies magazine this summer found that one in three children aged 10 in Britain had viewed pornography on the net.
Mr Vaizey said: “This is a very serious matter. I think it is very important that it’s the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children.
“I’m hoping they will get their acts together so we don’t have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years.”
Claire Perry, the Tory MP for Devizes and a keen lobbyist for more restrictions, said: “Unless we show leadership, the internet industry is not going to self-regulate.
“The minister has said he will get the ISPs together and say ‘Either you clean out your stables or we are going to do it for you.’
“There is this very uneasy sense for parents of children that we do not have to tolerate this Wild West approach. We are not coming at this from an anti-porn perspective. We just want to make sure our children aren’t stumbling across things we don’t want them to see.”
Previously the Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) had told MPs that such a blanket ban would be expensive and technically difficult to operate.
But Miranda Suit, cofounder of the charity Safermedia, which held a conference on internet porn at the Commons last month, said: “Technically we know it can be done because the ISPs are already removing child porn after the Government put pressure on them.
“In the past, internet porn was regarded as a moral issue or a matter of taste. Now it has become a mental health issue because we now know the damage it is causing. We are seeing perverse sexual behavior among children. Legislation is both justifiable and feasible.”
She quoted the example of two underage brothers sentenced to at least five years’ detention this year for a sadistic sex attack on two other boys in South Yorkshire. The brothers were said to have had a “toxic” home life where they were exposed to pornography.
This weekend some ISPs appeared ready to introduce an “opt in” clause voluntarily. Andrew Heaney, executive director of strategy and regulation for TalkTalk, said: “Our objective was not to do what the politicians want us to do but to do what was right by our customers.
“If other companies aren’t going to do it of their own volition, then maybe they should be leant on. Legislation is a sledgehammer but it could work.”
A spokeswoman for Virgin Media said: “We already have an opt-in approach on mobiles. We’ve taken this approach as mobiles are taken out of the home — and kept in a pocket — whereas parents can control what happens within the home and online.
“We’re able to block sites, so it would be possible to do the same on the internet. It is just about finding the right approach.”
A spokesman for BT, which has a “clean feed” system to block access to illegal sites, said: “We do what we can to protect children.”
The ISPA did not return calls to London’s Sunday Times.

‘Austerity’ ranked as most searched word of 2010 on merriam-webster.com online dictionary |

‘Austerity’ ranked as most searched word of 2010 on merriam-webster.com online dictionary

‘Austerity’ is defined as enforced or extreme economy. Source: Supplied

  • Debt crisis saw ‘Austerity’ the most searched
  • ‘Ebullient’ was popular during the Chilean miners’ rescue
  • “Austerity clearly resonates with many people”

INDICATIVE of the tough economic and political events of 2010, “austerity” ranked as the word of the year, topping the list of the most searched words on Merriam-Webster.com.
“Austerity” – defined as “enforced or extreme economy” – was the most looked-up term throughout the year but particularly when Europe’s debt crisis gained attention in the spring.
“Austerity clearly resonates with many people,” Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large at Merriam-Webster, said in a statement Monday.
“We often hear it used in the context of government measures, but we also apply it to our own personal finances and what is sometimes called the new normal,” he added.
The number two most looked-up word was “pragmatic,” followed by “moratorium” in third place, and “socialism” coming in at number four.
“Ebullient” came eighth on the list based on its popularity in October as the rescue of 33 trapped Chilean miners was broadcast worldwide.

Last year’s list was topped by ‘admonish’ -meaning to express disapproval in a gentle manner – and in 2008 everyone wanted to know what a ‘bailout’ was, seeing as all the big banks were getting one.
Top Ten Words of the Year for 2010
1. austerity
2. pragmatic
3. moratorium
4. socialism
5. bigot
6. doppelganger
7. shellacking
8. ebullient
9. dissident
10. furtive

National broadband network to cost users at least $56 a month for basic plan | News.com.au

National broadband network to cost users at least $56 a month for basic plan

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy wants everyone to hear that he’s released the business case. Picture: Gary Ramage Source: The Daily Telegraph

Senator Conroy launching work on a key NBN node in Mount Isa in Queensland. Picture: Liam Kidston Source: The Australian

NERDS rejoice!
Customers will pay at least $56 a month to access the Federal Government’s national broadband network, roughly the same as it costs now, but with faster download speeds.
To get super-fast broadband access that enables video uploads in minutes, you’ll have to pay about $80 a month.
The plans are likely to be bundled with services like VoIP, which lets you make phone calls over the internet, and IPTV, or internet TV.
The NBN business plan, released yesterday, revealed the Government’s ambitious network would cost $36 billion, with taxpayers contributing $27.5 billion that will eventually be refunded.
However, the NBN will borrow a further $13.4 billion from financial markets, beginning in 2015. The network will be completed by the end of 2020 — later than first expected.


Early 2011 Work begins in the Tasmania stage 2 communities of Sorell, Deloraine, George Town, St Helens, Triabunna, Kingston Beach and South Hobart.

March 2011 Construction of the fibre network in the first five sites to be completed.

April 2011 Start of a mainland user trial.

June 2011 Telstra and NBN Co finalise infrastructure-sharing deal.

June 2011 Interim NBN satellite services to remote locations start.

Sep 2011 NBN Co to offer first retail deals.

Feb 2012 NBN able to support commercial services.

August 2012 Retail offers widen.

2015 Long-term satellite services start.

It will deliver fibre-to-the-premise to 93 per cent of homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces, with speeds of up to one gigabit per second.
The remaining 7 per cent of the country would be covered by either a wireless service or by satellite, with speeds of up to 12 megabits per second.
For the Government to meet its financial commitments, 70 per cent of Australia’s 11 million premises will have to subscribe.
Under the NBN, the slowest internet speeds Australians will have access to is 12mbps with an upload speed of one megabit per second, setting a household back between $53 and $58 a month.
In an OECD league table comparing internet access prices at the end of 2009, Australians paid on average $US76.69 with the median being $US56.12 — despite the current network being incapable of delivering the speed offered by an NBN.
NBN Co estimated “medium use” consumers who opt for 25mbps with upload speeds of 5mbps would pay between $62 and $68 a month, while “high use” users of 50mbps with upload speeds of 20mbps will pay $78 to $85 a month.
It’s those users who will be able to download and upload videos in 180 seconds, where currently an ADSL connection takes around three hours to upload a one gigabit video.
“This is the telecommunications development of our century,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.
Broadband speed and prices in 2009

Table shows the average advertised speed of broadband plans, as well as their average price, by country. Ranked by highest speeds. Prices adjusted for each country’s purchasing power. Data captured by OECD in October 2009.


Speed (Mbps)

Price (USD, PPP)




























New Zealand


















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