2 comments Monday, April 14, 2008

Babies and toddlers who sleep for less than 12 hours a day and watch too much television are twice as likely to be overweight by the time they are three, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School's Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention found that sleeping less than 12 hours a day and watching more than two hours of television had a 16 percent chance of becoming overweight by age 3.

"Mounting research suggests that decreased sleep time may be more hazardous to our health than we imagined," says Elsie Taveras, MD, assistant professor in Harvard Medical School's Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention and lead author on the study.

"We are now learning that those hazardous effects are true even for young infants," she added.

The study team identified 915 mother-infant pairs from Project Viva, a long-term study of the effects of diet and other lifestyle factors on maternal and child health over time.

nfant weight and measurements were taken at several in-person visits up to three years of age. Mothers reported how many hours their child slept per day on average at 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years postpartum. Parents were also asked to report the average number of hours their children watched television on weekdays and weekends.

The combination of low levels of sleep and high levels of television viewing appeared to be synergistic and was associated with markedly higher BMI scores and increased odds of becoming overweight.

"Although previous studies have shown a similar link between sleep restriction and overweight in older children, adolescents, and adults, this the first study to examine the connection in very young children," says Matthew Gillman, MD, SM, Harvard Medical School associate professor and director of the Obesity Prevention Program in the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention. Gillman is also the study's senior author.

According to the researchers, these study results support efforts to reduce television viewing and to promote adequate sleep in efforts to prevent and reduce unhealthy childhood weight-gain.

Children who are overweight are often at higher risk for obesity and related conditions, such as hyperlipidemia, hypertension, asthma, and type II diabetes, later in life.

"Getting enough sleep is becoming more and more difficult with TV, Internet, and video games in the rooms where children sleep," says Dr. Taveras.

"Our findings suggest that parents may wish to employ proven sleep hygiene techniques, such as removing TV from children's bedrooms, to improve sleep quality and perhaps sleep duration," she added.

0 comments Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Middle-aged men who ate seven or more eggs a week had a higher risk of earlier death, US researchers reported on Wednesday.

Men with diabetes who ate any eggs at all raised their risk of death during a 20-year period studied, according to the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study adds to an ever-growing body of evidence, much of it contradictory, about how safe eggs are to eat. It did not examine what about the eggs might affect the risk of death.

Men without diabetes could eat up to six eggs a week with no extra risk of death, Dr. Luc Djousse and Dr. J. Michael Gaziano of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School found.

"Whereas egg consumption of up to six eggs a week was not associated with the risk of all-cause mortality, consumption of (seven or more) eggs a week was associated with a 23 percent greater risk of death," they wrote.

"However, among male physicians with diabetes, any egg consumption is associated with a greater risk of all-cause mortality, and there was suggestive evidence for a greater risk of MI (heart attack) and stroke."

They urged more study in the general population.

Eggs are rich in cholesterol, which in high amounts can clog arteries and raise the risk of heart attack and stroke.

One expert on nutrition and heart disease said the study suggests middle-aged men, at least, should watch how many eggs they eat.

"More egg on our faces? It's really hard to say at this point, but it still seems, if you're a middle-aged male physician and enjoy eggs more than once a day, that having some of the egg left on your face may be better than having it go down your gullet," said Dr. Robert Eckel of the University of Colorado and a former president of the American Heart Association.

"But, remember: eggs are like all other foods - they are neither 'good' nor 'bad,' and they can be part of an overall heart-healthy diet," Eckel wrote in a commentary.

The Harvard team studied 21,327 men taking part in the much larger Physicians' Health Study, which has been watching doctors since 1981 who have agreed to report regularly on their health and lifestyle habits.

Over 20 years, 1,550 of the men had heart attacks, 1,342 had strokes, and more than 5,000 died.

"Egg consumption was not associated with (heart attack) or stroke," the researchers wrote.

But the men who ate seven eggs a week or more were 23 percent more likely to have died during the 20-year period.

Diabetic men who ate any eggs at all were twice as likely to die in the 20 years.

Men who ate the most eggs also were older, fatter, ate more vegetables but less breakfast cereal, and were more likely to drink alcohol, smoke and less likely to exercise - all factors that can affect the risk of heart attack and death.

2 comments Sunday, April 6, 2008

A top Australian neurosurgeon of Indian origin says cell phones use is a greater threat to human health than smoking, which kills 5.4 million people each year.

Dr Vini Khurana, a neurosurgeon at the Canberra Hospital, told UK's Independent newspaper that there is growing evidence that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer. This, however, does not mean that smoking is better for health than using cellphones.

Dr Khurana says the cellphone threat is greater because far more people use cellphones than smoke worldwide, some of them starting use at the age of 3 years. Over 3 billion people use cellphones, which is three times higher than the one billion people who use tobacco.

In India, 250 million people use cellphones, second only after US's 256 million users. The threat came from cell phone radiation having the potential to heat the side of the head or thermo-electrically interact with the brain, while Bluetooth devices and unshielded headsets could convert the user's head into potentially self-harming antenna, said Dr Khurana.

He said there have been increased reports of brain tumours associated with heavy and prolonged mobile phone use, particularly on the same side as the person's "preferred" ear for making calls. Since cell phones were often a necessity, he says, people should use them as little as possible and called on the phone industry to make them safer.

The World Health Organisation says that cellphones are safe but admits there are "gaps in knowledge" that need further research about health impact in the longterm. Three large international reviews have investigated and found no conclusive link between use of cell phones and brain cancer, tumours of the brain or leukaemia, and other cancers.

9 comments Monday, March 31, 2008

Internet addiction can make you mental

Is the internet your best friend? If so, beware.

Like any other addiction, addiction to the internet – manifested as excessive interest in online gaming, e-mailing, chatting and pornography – can be a “'clinical disorder” that requires psychiatric intervention.

Dr Jerald Block, of the Oregon Health and Science University, the United States, insists that too many hours spent on the internet can cause a compulsive-impulsive disorder.

Dr Block writes in an article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry: “The internet addicts exhaust emotions that they could experience in the real world on the computer through any number of mechanisms: emailing, gaming, and porn. Computer use occupies a tremendous amount of time in their life. Then if you try to cut the cord in a very abrupt fashion, they’ve lost essentially their best friend.”

Dr Jerald Block lists four noteworthy symptoms “that are sure to assure you or perhaps people around you that you are an internet addict.” They are:

  • When you are unable to keep track of time or are neglecting basics such as eating or sleeping.
  • Craving and display of withdrawal symptoms, including anger, tension or depression when a computer cannot be accessed.
  • A rising need for better computer equipment and software.
  • Negative effects such as arguments, lying, fatigue, social isolation and poor achievement.

Like any addiction, unfortunately, internet addiction is resistant to treatment and involves several risks and often has high relapse rates, writes Dr Block.

His study revealed that a number of children are quitting their school or are perhaps showing weak academic progress because of their internet addiction. Even adults have been found to leave their jobs to sit in front of their internet-enabled computer screens for long periods.

Though addiction to the internet is prevalent practically throughout the world, says Dr Jerald Block in his article, it is widespread and concentrated in China and Korea.

According to statistics, an average South Korean student in high school spends an astounding 23 hours a week gaming on the internet. What is worse, another 1.2 million people are at an impending risk of internet addiction and may seriously need counseling and similar measures to help cure them of this addiction, writes Dr Block.

In China 13.7% of teenagers – or, about 10 million – are reported to be addicted to the internet.

0 comments Saturday, March 29, 2008

Samsung Electronics is all set to unveil magic with its newly created LCD panel that can produce independent images on each side of a mobile LCD display. This is a first in the technology. The new creation is set to debut at the Consumer Electronics Show, which opens in Las Vegas on January 8.

What is so unique about this is that the new double-sided LCD can show two entirely different pictures or sets of visual data simultaneously on the front and back of the same screen. Other conventional double-sided LCDs can only show a reverse image of the same video data, said Samsung. With this, the double-sided LCD is seen as replacing two display panels with one, thereby reducing overall thickness of mobile products by at least 1mm.

According to the company, the double-sided mobile display is proof of its commitment to equip customers with advanced display technology that accelerates the trend toward slimmer mobile products. Samsung expects good demand as it readies for mass production of the LCD in the first half of 2007.

Samsung has explained that the new LCD panel makes use of its new double-gate, thin-film transistor architecture. Thethin-film transistor gates are electronic components that convert the necessary voltage at the pixel level, which controls the liquid crystal alignment needed to reproduce on-screen images. The double-sided display makes use of amorphous silicon gate technology.

With the new Samsung mobile display requiring just one backlight as compared to two by rival gadgets, the scene is totally tech advanced. While one side of the panel operates in a transmissive mode, the other works in a reflective mode.

1 comments Friday, March 28, 2008

Microsoft is all set to release its next PC operating system after Windows Vista, internally coded as "7", within the next three years.

The company is busy working out details of the new Windows version, 7, according to several sources cited by news reports. So far Microsoft has not provided any details about the new operating system by the company. The sources also said that Microsoft is planning to announce a "predictable release schedule" for Windows 7. Microsoft may disclose a more "iterative" process of information disclosure to business customers and partners.

Microsoft took almost five years to develop and ship the Windows Vista, the latest offering from Microsoft. Windows Vista was shipped to businesses in November 2006 and to consumers in January 2007.

Just like Windows Vista, Microsoft will ship Windows 7 in both consumer and business versions. Windows 7 will also be available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Microsoft also confirmed that the company is planning to complement Vista with a subscription version, but declined to provide neither the specifics nor the timeframe.

At the moment, the company is working on the Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista, which is expected before the end of 2007.

Microsoft usually gives codenames for its flagship operating systems before release. Windows Vista was earlier codenamed Longhorn when it was in the development phase. Windows 7 was earlier known by the code name Vienna. Microsoft is hoping that the development of Windows 7 will be over by 2010 and will announce a specific release date when it is sure that the quality bars are met.

0 comments Wednesday, March 26, 2008

According to a report by the US-based Nemertes Research, the internet could be jammed with excessive data by 2010.

According to Nemertes, the reason for this could be that bandwidth usage is outpacing infrastructure build outs. The result could be such that the phenomenon could take the form of web pages taking longer time to load and interruptions in videos that are downloaded or streamed. The report by Nemertes was partly funded by the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) which campaigns for universal broadband in the US, a report said.

The study has also warned that if nothing is done about this impending danger, the situation after 2010 would resemble that of the dying days of dial-up access.

Analysts have called for an investment of around US$100 billion in the global internet infrastructure so that a level of gridlock can be prevented. This gridlock would otherwise make it almost impossible to use rich media sites like YouTube, they pointed out.

The warning that has been sounded reverberates sharply and it is clear that the next Google, YouTube or Amazon might not even arise. The reason would not be that there would be lack of demand, but due to an inability to fulfill that demand. An estimated investment needed to prevent the clogging
of the Internet would come anywhere near $137 billion globally.

With such a situation staring in the eyes of the internet dependent world, it has become a necessity that steps to build out network capacity or potentially face internet gridlock that could wreak havoc on Internet services be initiated as soon as possible.

4 comments Monday, March 24, 2008

Zune gets ready to zap iPod

MS Zune pictureMicrosoft Zune could turn out to be the ultimate iPod killer that the portable music market has been waiting for. Microsoft last week released details of Microsoft Zune, the 30GB music media player which will be on sale in North America on November 14. Microsoft hopes the Zune will cash in on the festival gifting season which starts in November.

However, it will take some time for Zune to reach Indian shores. Europe and India are expected to see their first Zunes in early 2007, if all goes according to plan. The Microsoft Zune (see photos) is targeted straight at the heart of Apple's consumer gadgets business, dominated by the iPod line of portable players. Apple, which reinvented the portable entertainment market with the iPod, inspired a thousand imitators, all clamouring for a share of the portable music player market. Some like Creative and iRiver have been successful at slowly chipping away at the iPod market. In the years since the first iPod launch, iPod's marketshare has slowly dwindled from 92% to the current 70%. That's without a Zune for competition, mind you.

Surely, Apple has stuff to worry about. As an avid iPodder, I would like to believe that the music and video player market will continue to be led by Cupertino, but the wrinkles are already showing up on Appleskins. Why?

Microsoft Zune accessories

Zune Home A/V Pack
Zune Travel Pack
Zune Car Pack
Zune AV Output Cable
Zune AC Adapter
Zune Sync Cable
Zune Car Charger
Zune Dock
Zune Wireless Remote for Zune Dock
Zune Dual Connect Remote
Zune FM transmitter With AutoSeek
Zune Gear Bag
Zune Premium Earphones

The Microsoft Zune has design (see photos and pictures alongside) that comes closer to the Apple iPod than many other music player wannabes. Zune is admittedly thicker and bulkier than the iPod, but its extra size can be forgiven by the fact that the Zune sports a color screen of 3 inches, which is 44% bigger than the iPod screen. According to Microsoft, Zune will be able to detect whether the image on screen is portrait or landscape and adjust the view accordingly.

Importantly, Microsoft plans to do a one-up on Apple with Zune's wi-fi connectivity. One of the major drawbacks of iPod (Apple should have thought of it before Microsoft came up with Zune) is that the process of loading music on to iPod is still cumbersome. First, we in India cannot buy music from iTunes, Apple's online music store. Second, even if you have legitimately-bought music CDs, the process of music transfer to iPod is not user-friendly, requiring creation of playlists and such like. Zune hopes to do away with this using inbuilt wi-fi capability, so that your Zune can send and receive music files from other Zunes in the vicinity. Zune has in-built ZuneTags, which will be used like MSN profiles. The player will be able to "find" other Zunes within a certain range and quickly and easily transfer files back and forth.

This feature of Zune, more than anything else, is expected to endear it to the portable music lover. Apple has self-restricted the iPod from becoming an instrument of music piracy by barring Pod-to-iPod music transfer, but Zune breaks the ranks here.

Besides communication with other Zunes, the Microsoft media player will also be able to talk to the Microsoft Xbox 360, the new generation game machine from Microsoft. The company is also planning to roll out several 'packs' to connect to the Xbox, a car and for travel purposes. Microsoft will ensure that the synchronisation of music files will be easier with the Windows operating system. I would be surprised if Windows Vista does not have features which will recognise a Zune plugged in.

Just like the iPod, Microsoft will open an online music store for Zune, from where you can buy and download music. In its attempt to integrate the Zune with the Xbox, Microsoft will starting a Zune Marketplace on the lines of iTunes and the Xbox MarketPlace, where Microsoft Points can be used to trade in music. The fee per music piece is fixed at $.99 - same as what iTunes charges you. In fact, Zune's pricing means that it is targeted to take on the Apple iPod. Zune will come for $249.99, but with more features. Analysts tracking the Microsoft portable music player say that the company will lose approximately $50 per Zune it sells. However, Redmond is determined to take on iPod with a revenge, forget a few million dollars.

Microsoft Zune Tech specs

30GB digital media player

Wireless functionality

Bright, three-inch LCD video screen that works in portrait or landscape mode

Built-in FM tuner

Three colors: black, brown and white.

Preloaded content including songs, music videos and film shorts

Dynamic music service

Zune Marketplace to let users buy songs

Zune Pass subscription at $15 a month gives access to millions of songs

Microsoft Points for 79 points per track

Up to 7,500 songs, 25,000 pictures or 100 hours of video

Audio files: Unprotected WMA, MP3, AAC; Photos: JPEG; Videos: WMV, MPEG-4, H.264

Zune software can automatically import existing music, pictures and videos from iTunes

Zune will play all common music formats, including WMA and AAC. It will display pictures in JPG format and movies in WMV and MPEG formats. The bigger screen of Zune is also expected to make the iPod killer live up to its name.

Another interesting feature in Zune is an FM receiving facility (radio signals transmitted in RBDS format). Apple should have preempted this feature. Microsoft MarketPlace will also offer music which can be "rented" for a month for $15. This is not a popular concept now, but things may change.

Zune handy music player is also likely to have more programming than the iPod. Currently, Video iPods can be used to play Disney movies, due to an arrangement between Apple and Disney. To counter this, Microsoft has already lined up A&E, Animal Planet, the BBC, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, The Biography Channel, Cartoon Network, CBS, Discovery Health Channel, Discovery Kids, E Entertainment Television, Fuel TV, FX, HGTV, The History Channel, Fine Living TV Network, Fox, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, PBS, Speed, Spike, Travel Channel, TV Land, VH1 and others. iPod Video sure has some stiff competition ahead.

I wish iPod retained its market dominance for emotional reasons, but I fear the Zune is going to give my Nano a run for its money.


Electronics giant Hitachi has announced details of its soon-to-shipped, 1 TB hard drive. The proclamation comes soon after a brief statement by Seagate, which yesterday confirmed that it will also deliver a 1 TB drive within the next three months. Hitachi has said it will ship the product during the first quarter.

Hitachi plans to sell the 7K1000 for about $400 retail, which compares to about $450 for Seagate's 750 GB drive.To elaborate on the product, as many as 18 terabyte drives would be enough to store the entire contents of the Library of Congress, which currently holds about 18 million books.

1 TB is also enough to store more than 300,000 6-megapixel images, 250,000 MP3s, 1000 hours of standard definition video or 250 hours of high-definition video.

While Hitachi is using five 200 GB platters to reach 1 TB, Seagate will be using four 250 GB platters, which indicates that Seagate will be announcing a new storage density record in commercial hard drives of more than 180 Gb/in2.

The 1 TB drive proves that the industry has overcome serious concerns of how to keep increasing hard drive storage densities and is looking towards hard drives with multiple terabytes of storage capacity. Compared to a $10,000/MB price in 1956, a capacity of 1 GB is priced today at about 40 cents, according to experts.

1 comments Friday, March 21, 2008

Media players in personal computers are vulnerable to hacking as online criminals can attach malicious code and infect computers, a research group based in San Francisco, the United States, has found.

As a result, audio and video downloads can be turned into digital weapons that hackers could use to hijack or corrupt computers.

David Thiel, a senior security consultant with iSEC Partners, announced his findings at the Black Hat hacker conference in Las Vegas, the United States.

According to Paul Proctor, vice-president (research) with Gartner Incorporated, the findings could pressure companies to investigate flaws in their media players and patch them quickly.

Online sharing of videos and music, which is at the centre of today’s internet lifestyle, gives hackers dangerous new avenues for attacking computers, security specialists say.

Malicious code can be hidden in video streamed or downloaded from websites such as YouTube or songs streamed from social-networking websites, including MySpace.

The potential for attack is pretty severe, David Thiel warned. “Any MySpace page you go to, you can’t get it to stop playing music at you. You will probably start seeing malware installs this way just like we see through images.”

The kinds of malware (malicious software) that can be ‘injected’ through video or music files run the gamut from programs meant to be annoying to code that takes command of infected machines for ‘bot armies.’

Thiel said stream formats are good for containing exploit code and are quite dangerous because of the widespread use of it with kids online these days, and they are used so constantly.

Applications vulnerable to hackers include those used for MP3 music files, a speech feature in Microsoft’s Xbox Live online video game software, and internet telephony.

Security specialists at Black Hat say the popularity of ‘user-generated content’ – considered a defining characteristic of today’s Web 2.0 internet – opens users to betrayal and attack online. Web 2.0 is a trust model, with users controlling the content.

Says a specialist: “You are building this gigantic network of friends. You have to trust that I am who I say I am and that the content is what I say it is. Trust is sometimes taken advantage of.”

Malware-tainted video or audio files uploaded to social-networking websites can be rapidly sent to members by automated programs.

In 2006, it was revealed that hackers use RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds to distribute malicious code to thousands of people instantly.

David Thiel believes that music recording labels and movie studios will use flaws in media files to insert stealth coding that tracks or disables pirated songs, shows or movies. Media software applications vulnerable to hacking are being used in ‘smart’ mobile telephones as well as cars and home multi-media systems.

It is imperative that computer users educate themselves regarding protecting software and dangers lurking on the internet, another specialist insisted. People should bear in mind that websites in certain countries such as Russia are often lures set up by cyber criminals, and websites offering content such as sex videos frequently hide computer viruses, he said.

0 comments Thursday, March 20, 2008

Intel has launched Atom, its new processor for mobile internet devices. The Atom is less than 25 square millimeters in size. A review report said that the 45nm-process chips have a thermal design power specification in the 0.6 to 2.5 Watt range and will scale to speeds of 1.8GHz. The Atom, which was earlier codenamed Silverthorne and Diamondville, is based on a new micro-architecture, making it the company's smallest and lowest power processor as of date.

Intel has clarified that Atom is its smallest processor built with the world's smallest transistors. Adding that the Atom is a small wonder, the company has said that it is a fundamental new shift in design, small yet powerful enough to enable a big internet experience on these new devices. The components maintain compatibility with Intel's Core 2 Duo instruction set and offer support for multiple threads.

Aimed at the fast growing mobile personal computing industry, Intel says that the chip has potential for future applications in consumer electronics devices, embedded applications, and thin clients. Seeing a demand for a new category of low-cost, internet-centric mobile computing devices and basic desktop PCs growing, the company plans to release the first batch of Atom processors in early 2008. Intel has made the Atom family of processors based on a new microarchitecture, which is meant for smaller devices with lower power consumption.

Meanwhile, Intel has also announced the Centrino Atom processor technology aimed specially at mobile Internet devices. It includes the Intel Atom processor, a low power companion chip with integrated graphics, a wireless radio, as well as thinner and lighter designs.

1 comments Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Those people who are short generally live longer than the tall ones. This could be because of a rare gene mutation that limits a particular growth factor, a new study has suggested.

And, this particular mutation has been found mostly among women.

This mutation, according to Dr Nir Barzilai, lead researcher and director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, seems to reduce the activity of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), resulting in short stature but longer life.

Why exactly this might lengthen someone’s life is not yet known, but the researchers say that the finding might prove useful in developing anti-aging

In the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr Nir Barzilai wrote, “We found that people of a hundred years old have mutations in a gene that is related to the growth hormone pathway. We think this is important, because that’s what now happens in nature. The pony lives longer than the horse, the small dog lives longer than a large dog. Apparently, it’s true for humans also.”

Based on these findings, it might be possible to develop drugs that can prevent aging and age-related disease, Dr Barzilai added.

In the study, Dr Barzilai’s team searched for the particular gene mutation among a population of northern or eastern European Jews, or Ashkenazi Jews, who were aged between 95 and 110, as well as their offspring. They also matched these offspring with people who had no history of longevity in
their family.

The researchers found that this particular mutation was more common among those who were centenarians and also their offspring.

The same research team had reported in December 2006 that a particular gene variant that is linked to longevity is also associated with improved mental function in the elderly.

Dr Barzilai said that growth hormone, which changes the tone of the skin and fat distribution and increases muscle mass, is a very popular anti-aging
therapy. But, he added, “The new study as well as other studies suggest that, for the purpose of aging and longevity, growth hormone might do exactly the opposite. In the short run, growth hormones are going to have positive effects, but certainly in elderly people I would suggest, and this study supports the notion, that we will kill them sooner rather than later.”

Dr Nir Barzilai, who was born in Israel, said he decided to study Ashkenazi Jews because of their unique characteristics. “While they do not have a longer-than-normal life span, they offer very limited genetic diversity, owing to centuries of enforced isolation and oppression in Europe,” he explained in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

0 comments Monday, March 17, 2008

The bald can now take heart: a new research has identified a gene associated with loss of hair that could, in turn, lead to new drugs to treat baldness.

The particular gene has been blamed for a rare hereditary form of hair loss called hypotrichosis simplex – a condition that affects 1 in 200,000 people.
Those suffering from hypotrichosis simplex start getting bald in childhood.

It was after six years of research that an international team, headed by scientists at the University of Bonn, Germany, succeeded in identifying the
gene hypotrichosis simplex that is responsible for the rare hereditary form of hair loss.

This is the first research of its kind to identify a receptor that plays a role in hair growth and hair loss.

A healthy person loses about 100 hairs a day, which is not a problem provided the lost hairs are replaced and the losses occur evenly around the head. However, when hair loss goes beyond this point, it can become a problem for those affected, particularly a psychological one.

The condition affects both men and women. The sufferers usually begin going bald in childhood and the process of hair loss advances with age.

In the new study, reported in the journal Nature Genetics, Regina Betz, of the University of Bonn and leader of the study, writes, “There is a very good
chance of developing a therapy to treat hair loss based on this finding.”

The researchers used DNA samples from 11 members of a Saudi Arabian family that had the rare condition and found a mutation in the P2Y5 gene prevented proteins called growth receptors on hair follicle cells from forming properly. The DNA samples helped the researchers to understand some of
the fundamental mechanisms of hair growth and hair loss.

The study of the samples showed that a substance needed to stimulate hair growth could not attach to the defective receptors and may help explain hair loss, the researchers said. The finding, the researchers added, could also lead to making drugs that could boost hair growth.

They now hope that their will lead to new therapies that could treat various forms of hair loss.

1 comments Saturday, March 15, 2008

Those “addicted” to Harry Potter, the titular hero of the Harry Potter series of books, have the same level of addiction as drug addicts have and suffer from almost the same withdrawal symptoms.

The book series has come to an end with the title Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The hard-to-believe finding is the result of research by Professor Jeffrey Rudski of Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania, the United States, and colleagues.

In the study, appearing in the Journal of General Psychology, the researchers compared the craving for cigarettes to the "craving” by fans for Harry Potter books, the phenomenally best-selling and popular creations by J K Rowling.

They wrote in the Journal of General Psychology, “After finishing the series, 10% of fans spent over four hours a day on Harry Potter-related activities, experiencing withdrawal symptoms like interference with appetite and sleep, engaging in less physical activity, having a lower sense of well-being and being more irritable. And, 20% of the fans are on the verge of addiction.”

“An addiction to a drug,” added Prof Jeffrey Rudski, “is no different from an addiction to the child wizard Harry Potter or the internet or pornography. Some readers can become so engaged in the series and the ancillary world that grew out of it that they report behaviors that truly fit definitions of addiction or dependence. In short, addiction to a drug is no different to an addiction to Harry Potter.”

The seventh and final book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, published in the summer of 2007, sold a record 400,000,000 copies. Of the 4,000 Harry potter fans polled, many admitted to having spent up to 4 hours a day on “Potter-related activities.”

The Mirror newspaper of the United Kingdom quoted one Harry Potter fan as lamenting, after knowing that the character would not appear in any more books: “I feel like someone close to me has died.”

The Harry Potter series began in 1997 with the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. After the colossal commercial success of the character the world over, movies based on series began to be made starting 2001.

In the movies, Daniel Radcliffe plays Harry Potter.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installment in the movie version of the series, will be released in November 2008.

2 comments Thursday, March 13, 2008

China to send flying robots to Antarctica

Robots that can move on ice and snow will be deployed by China for the first time in an Antarctic expedition. The use of robots is expected to reduce the risks and costs in scientific research as they can work normally no matter how bad the weather is.

The expedition that will begin in October 2007, will also use a robot capable of low-altitude flying like a mini-helicopter, said a report. The tank-like robot, which can move on ice, weighs 200 kg and can carry 40 kg of weight and pull 100 kg of objects with a maximum working radius of 25 km.

Equipped with a differential global positioning system (DGPS) and a meteorological observation device, the new robots will have the capability to automatically stride across ice crevices and snowy slopes. The report added that another robot that will be deployed weighs 20 kg and can carry five kg of weight and fly at a speed of 50 to 100 km per hour. It can continually fly for one hour. This device will come equipped with an infra-red radiometer for observing ice on the sea and an aerial camera.

The Chinese expedition team, consisting 219 explorers, will start their journey to the Antarctic in October 2007 from Shanghai. They will set up two seismic stations in Antarctica to measure tremors and tectonic movements on the continent. They will also try to find whether there is ice as old as 1.5 million years on the continent during the expedition. This will be the 24th expedition for Chinese scientists to Antarctica.



Sony has come up with a music player that dances to its own tunes. The new rolling egg-shaped digital music player swivels, flaps its ends, and flashes colorful lights in time to music and is priced at US$354.

Christened the Rolly, which weighs just 300 gram and will hit the markets in Japan on September 29, 2007. The Rolly comes with stereo speakers, 1 Gigabyte of internal flash memory, and a battery good for about five hours of music.

Small enough to sit on a palm, Rolly comes with sensors that recognize which way is up, allowing volume to be controlled by turning the player clockwise or counterclockwise, and tunes to be switched by pushing or pulling it on the floor.

The Rolly turns and stops flapping its wings, and spins to become a blurry circle. Sony has said that packaged moves to tunes will be available as downloads from the company website and users can also use a special program on a personal computer that analyses music to come up with simple choreography that appears to match the rhythm of the songs.

The motion programs would be sent to the Rolly from the PC by Bluetooth. The Rolly, which plays MP3 files, Sony's own audio format called Atrac as well as songs from CDs, can store more than 600 songs.

The Rolly is already seeing some some robotic competition, in Japan, from a rolling machine that moves to music from the hit iPod players of rival Apple Inc. The device comes from Japanese robot maker ZMP Inc.'s Miuro, which looks like a white ball caught between an egg, wheels about in time, with music from any iPod able to lock onto the machine.


SpaceShipTwo (SS2) is a sub orbital spacecraft currently under development by The Spaceship Company (a joint venture between Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites). It forms part of Tier 1b, a two-stage to suborbital-space manned launch system. Virgin Galactic plans to use this for their space tourism venture. The ship in development has been christened VSS Enterprise. The name is an acknowledgement to the USS Enterprise from the Star Trek television series.

SpaceshipTwo and White Knight Two

It is based on SpaceShipOne, developed by Scaled Composites which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004 for launching a privately-funded reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. The SpaceshipTwo is designed to carry six passengers and two pilots to an altitude of approximately 110 km (360,000 ft). This will be 10km higher than the altitude achieved by SpaceShipOne. The officially defined “boundary of space” is 100km. The SpaceshipTwo will reach a speed of approximately 4000 kmph, using a single hybrid rocket motor, which runs on a rubber-based solid fuel and nitrous oxide oxidizer.

Burt Rutan, SpaceshipTwo designerFor returning to earth, the SpaceshipTwo uses a technique called feathered reentry. In this system, the spacecraft itself changes the shape of its wings so as to make it less streamlined. This causes more atmospheric gas particles (which are still present at 100km altitude) than otherwise, to hit the spacecraft, increasing drag. This allows the reentry deceleration to occur at a higher altitude and greatly reduces the forces and heating on the structure. Also, the ship, in the feathered configuration, will align itself automatically such that the pilot has a less-critical flight control task. Burt Rutan describes this as "care-free reentry". This is different from the shuttle which re-enters at speeds in excess of 25000 kmph which necessitates heat shields. At approximately 60,000 feet, SpaceshipTwo’s wings are re-configured into their original position allowing for an unpowered (glide) landing back at the spaceport.

SpaceshipTwo picture

The spacecraft is launched mid-air and is carried to launch altitude aboard its mother-ship, the WhiteKnightTwo(WK2). WK2 is an aircraft with a wingspan similar to a B29 bomber ( around 43m) , powered by 4 Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines. It will carry the SpaceshipTwo to an altitude of 15200 m (50000 ft), from where it is dropped. The spacecraft will then fire its hybrid rocket motor to boost it to space.

The spaceline is expected to start operations in late 2008 or early 2009. 100 tickets were initially made available at a cost of $200000 each. After the first 100, the price will drop to $100000 and after the first year, it will drop to $20000. The flight will last 2 ½ hours. Passengers will experience 5 minutes of weightlessness and will be able to experience it unhindered by any seat-belts. There are also a large number of portholes from which the passengers can observe the curvature of the earth. During the initial boost phase, the passengers will experience accelerations of 3 to 4 Gs and up to 6 Gs (for a very short period) during reentry.

SpaceshipTwo photo

The SpaceShipTwo craft along with its mothership will take off from the Mojave Spaceport in California during testing. Spaceport America (formerly Southwest Regional Spaceport), a $200 million spaceport in New Mexico partly funded by the government will become the permanent launch site when commercial launches begin. Weekly launches are planned.

The craft is currently 60% completed and is expected to be finished in June 2008 with first test flights in July. The Scaled Composites SpaceShipThree is a proposed orbital spaceplane to be developed by Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites if SpaceShipTwo is successful. Early reports suggest it will be capable of orbital flight, and possibly able to dock with space stations. SS3 would be part of Scaled Composites/Virgin Galactic's Tier Two program of orbital spaceflight.

SpaceshipTwo flight profile image
SpaceshipTwo interior photo with Burt Rutan

SpaceshipTwo under construction picture


Microsoft Lucid Touch screen

Microsoft's LucidTouch see-through touchscreen unveiled

10 March 2008

The recent Microsoft Techfest showcased a range of new technologies including LucidTouch, a mobile device that allows the user to control the application by touching the back of the see-through device.

Banking on technology called pseudo-transparency, LucidTouch makes use of overlaying an image of the user’s hands onto the screen and created the illusion of the mobile device itself being semitransparent. This pseudo-transparency allows users to accurately acquire targets while not occluding the screen with their fingers and hand.

The device, part of Microsoft's annual display of research projects at the company, reportedly supports multi-touch input, allowing users to operate the device simultaneously with all ten fingers. This device actually sees, reflects and responds to the user’s fingers touching the back of the device.

Though seen as a large handheld computer with a small video camera attached on an arm about a foot's length off the back of the device, the current form of LucidTouch has a technology that enables it could easily change now that the concept is proven. LucidTouch boasts of a touch sensor layer on its back which senses when a user's fingers are touching it. The camera attached behind it sends an image of the user's fingers to the device, where the image is overlaid lightly, like a shadow, on the screen.

In the future, the camera arrangement in the prototype might be replaced by a couple of other technologies, including one that another group is working on that would use infrared to pick up finger movements.


Yamaha YZF-R15 will debut in India in the later half of 2008 at an expected price of Rs 90,000 on-road Delhi.

3 March, 2008

The YZF-R15 wil be the first motorcycle in India with six gears after the old venerable Yamaha RD 350. Good that the new one too is coming from Yamaha. After the iconic Yamaha RX 100 which came to India in the 90s (or was it before that?) Yamaha has consistently managed to play the mileage game instead of the performance game. And lost.

Yamaha YZF R15 150 cc motorcycle photo

The new direction is what everyone has been waiting for from Yamaha. Forget the six gears – the greatest thing about the Yamaha YZF R15 is its looks. Very like the Yamaha R1 superbike, which is also now available in India anyway as a high priced flagship motorcycle. The Yamaha YZF-R15 was shown to the Indian pubic for the first time at the Auto Expo. And it took the collective breath of India's motoring press away.

Yamaha YZF R15 motorcycle in black

The YZF-R15 is India's first fully faired motorcycle. So far the closest we have come to a full fairing in India is the Karizma and the Pulsar models – which have that half fairing. But the fully faired YZF-R15 can make the Karizma and Pulsar models pee in their fairings.

This one is pretty much international, extremely well designed – and get this – there will be a little piece of plastic that will fit snugly over the rear seat giving your r15 motorcycle that single-seater look. What else have we got? You get a steel Deltabox twin-spar frame, digital speedometer and tachometer, tubeless tyres, clip-on handlebars.

You have the close ratio six speed gearbox, 150ccs, liquid cooling, and a massive 18-22 bhp (massive by Indian standards). The 4-valve engine will use fuel injection, and you get both emission haven and power too. Stopping power is provided by the single disc brakes in front and back. Front suspension is traditional, but you have a monoshock at the back.

And them most important factor – price. No official figures have been given so far, but rumors say it would cost Rs 90,000 max on-road in Delhi – add a couple of thousands more for Mumbai. What are the negatives that might creep in by the time the YZF-R15 hits the road?

For one the price might be higher. That would be a dampener for many. Two, expect Hero Honda and Bajaj Auto to try and out-punch the Yamaha YZF-R15 – both in price and power. If Yamaha can really manage a price of 90,000 on road for a 18-22 bhp motorcycle, sure Bajaj and Hero Honda too can do the same. And that might steal a bit of the the YZF-R15's thunder. No matter, we don't think they will easily match the R1-esque looks of the YZF-R15. Expect news on the final pricing and launch dates by June-July 2008.

After the big news of the upcoming launch of the Yamaha YZF-R15, almost nothing else seems woth your while – and then you see the Yamaha FZ. More than a decade back, I rode around on the streets f Mumbai, shit-scared, on a BMW F650 Funduro. The bike cost more than 4 lakhs, and was an unqualified disaster when it came to sales. But it had a stance which reminded Mumbaikars of a horse – and collected a crowd wherever I parked it.

The Yamaha FZ – they call it a prototype – reminded me of the F650 with its color scheme and upright stance. But the FZ looks more modern for sure. Yamaha says that the FZ is just a prototype. Nobody in the motoring press believes them. Chances are, this 150 cc air-cooled motorcycle will make it into production towards the end of 2008.

You have basically the same engine as the YZF-R15 Yamaha on this motorcycle, but this is more a road-and-track motorcycle than the YZF, which has racing pretensions even in the 150 cc guise. So what you have is a motorcycle that will take on the Pulsars directly, and will tempt the owners of the regular econo-miser 150 cc motorcycles. The Yamaha FZ will hav a 5-speed gearbox which will put some 16-18 bp on the road – enough to become the performance 150cc king. The expected price (absolutely unconfirmed, and based on rumors, etc etc) is Rs 70,000 on-road in Delhi.

One advice: If you can hold on to your motorcycle purchase decision for a while, do so till you hear about the YZF R15 and the FZ from Yamaha. They might both be path-breaking motorcycles in India, and you don't want to feel bad about not buying them. Wait for a bit, it'll be worth it.


Yamaha FZ 150 motorcycle will debut in India in later half of 2008 at an expected price of Rs 90,000 and Rs 70,000 on-road Delhi.

Yamaha FZ 150 motorcycle India photo

3 March, 2008

After the big news of the upcoming launch of the Yamaha YZF-R15, almost nothing else seems worth waiting for – and then you see the Yamaha FZ 150 cc motorcycle. You can see the official photo f the FZ 150 above - you know what I am talking about.

More than a decade back, I rode around on the streets f Mumbai, shit-scared, on a BMW F650 Funduro. The bike cost more than Rs 4 lakhs, and was an unqualified disaster when it came to sales. But it had a stance which reminded Mumbaikars of a stallion. Crowds gathered wherever I parked it.

The Yamaha FZ revealed for the first time at Auto Expo 2008 – they call it a prototype – reminded me of the F650 with its color scheme and upright stance. But the FZ looks more modern for sure. Yamaha says that the FZ 150 is just a prototype. Nobody in the motoring press believes them. Chances are, this 150 cc air-cooled motorcycle will make it into production towards the end of 2008.

You have basically the same engine as the YZF-R15 Yamaha on the Yamaha FZ 150, but this is more a road-and-track motorcycle than the YZF, which has racing pretensions even in the 150 cc guise.

yamaha FZ 150 photo

So what you have is a motorcycle that will take on the Pulsars directly, and will tempt the owners of the regular econo-miser 150 cc motorcycles. The Yamaha FZ 150 will have a 5-speed gearbox which will put some 16-18 bp on the road – enough to become the performance 150cc king. The expected price (absolutely unconfirmed, and based on rumors, etc etc) is Rs 70,000 on-road in Delhi.

One advice: If you can hold on to your motorcycle purchase decision for a while, do so till you hear about the YZF R15 and the FZ from Yamaha. They might both be path-breaking motorcycles in India, and you don't want to feel bad about not buying them. Wait for a bit, it'll be worth it.