Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why It's Getting Harder and Harder to Remember Things as You Get Older

The older we get, the more difficulty we seem to have remembering things. We reassure ourselves that our brains' "hard drives" are too full to handle the new information that comes in daily. But a Johns Hopkins neuroscientist suggests that our aging brains are unable to process this information as "new" because the brain pathways leading to the hippocampus become degraded over time. As a result, our brains cannot accurately "file" new information.





It's something we just accept: the fact that the older we get, the more difficulty we seem to have remembering things. We can leave our cars in the same parking lot each morning, but unless we park in the same space each and every day, it's a challenge eight hours later to recall whether we left the SUV in the second or fifth row. Or, we can be introduced to new colleagues at a meeting and will have forgotten their names before the handshake is over. We shrug and nervously reassure ourselves that our brains' "hard drives" are just too full to handle the barrage of new information that comes in daily.

According to a Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, however, the real trouble is that our aging brains are unable to process this information as "new" because the brain pathways leading to the hippocampus -- the area of the brain that stores memories -- become degraded over time. As a result, our brains cannot accurately "file" new information (like where we left the car that particular morning), and confusion results.

"Our research uses brain imaging techniques that investigate both the brain's functional and structural integrity to demonstrate that age is associated with a reduction in the hippocampus's ability to do its job, and this is related to the reduced input it is getting from the rest of the brain," said Michael Yassa, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in Johns Hopkins' Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "As we get older, we are much more susceptible to 'interference' from older memories than we are when we are younger."

In other words, when faced with an experience similar to what it has encountered before, such as parking the car, our brain tends to recall old information it already has stored instead of filing new information and being able to retrieve that. The result? You can't find your car immediately and find yourself wandering the parking lot.

"Maybe this is also why we tend to reminisce so much more as we get older: because it is easier to recall old memories than make new ones," Yassa speculated. 

The study appears in the May 9 Early Online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Yassa and his team used MRI scans to observe the brains of 40 healthy young college students and older adults, ages 60 to 80, while these participants viewed pictures of everyday objects such as pineapples, test tubes and tractors and classified each -- by pressing a button -- as either "indoor" or "outdoor." (The team used three kinds of MRI scans in the study: structural MRI scans, which detect structural abnormalities; functional MRI scans, which document how hard various regions of the brain work during tasks; and diffusion MRIs, which monitor how well different regions of the brain communicate by tracking the movement of water molecules along pathways.)

Some of the pictures were similar but not identical, and others were markedly different. The team used functional MRI to watch the hippocampus when participants saw items that were exactly the same or slightly different to ascertain how this region of the brain classified that item: as familiar or not.

"Pictures had to be very distinct from each other for an older person's hippocampus to correctly classify them as new. The more similar the pictures were, the more the older person's hippocampus struggled to do this. A young person's hippocampus, on the other hand, treated all of these similar pictures as new," Yassa explained.

Later, the participants viewed a series of completely new pictures (all different) and again were asked to classify them as either "indoor" or "outdoor." A few minutes later, the researchers presented the participants with the new set of pictures and asked whether each item was "old," "new" or "similar."

"The 'similar' response was the critical response for us, because it let us know that participants could distinguish between similar items and knew that they're not identical to the ones they'd seen before," Yassa said. "We found that older adults tended to have fewer 'similar' responses and more 'old' responses instead, indicating that they could not distinguish between similar items."

Yassa said that this inability among older adults to recognize information as "similar" to something they had seen recently is linked to what is known as the "perforant pathway," which directs input from the rest of the brain into the hippocampus. The more degraded the pathway, the less likely the hippocampus is to store similar memories as distinct from old memories.

"We are now closer to understanding some of the mechanisms that underlie memory loss with increasing age," Yassa said. "These results have possible practical ramifications in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, because the hippocampus is one of the places that deteriorate very early in the course of that disease."

The team's next step would be to conduct clinical trials in early Alzheimer's disease patients using the mechanisms that they have isolated as a way to measure the efficacy of therapeutic medications.

"Basically, we will now be able to investigate the effect of a drug on hippocampal function and pathway integrity," he said. "If the drug slows down pathway degradation and hippocampal dysfunction, it's possible that it could delay the onset of Alzheimer's by five to 10 years, which may be enough for a large proportion of older adults to not get the disease at all. This would be a huge breakthrough in the field."

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Daniel Kish Uses Sound To See

Daniel Kish has been sightless since he was a year old. Yet he can mountain bike. And navigate the wilderness alone. And recognize a building as far away as 1,000 feet. How? The same way bats can see in the dark.


The first thing Daniel Kish does, when I pull up to his tidy gray bungalow in Long Beach, California, is make fun of my driving. “You’re going to leave it that far from the curb?” he asks. He’s standing on his stoop, a good 10 paces from my car. I glance behind me as I walk up to him. I am, indeed, parked about a foot and a half from the curb.

The second thing Kish does, in his living room a few minutes later, is remove his prosthetic eyeballs. He does this casually, like a person taking off a smudged pair of glasses. The prosthetics are thin convex shells, made of acrylic plastic, with light brown irises. A couple of times a day they need to be cleaned. “They get gummy,” he explains. Behind them is mostly scar tissue. He wipes them gently with a white cloth and places them back in.

Kish was born with an aggressive form of cancer called retinoblastoma, which attacks the retinas. To save his life, both of his eyes were removed by the time he was 13 months old. Since his infancy — Kish is now 44 — he has been adapting to his blindness in such remarkable ways that some people have wondered if he’s playing a grand practical joke. But Kish, I can confirm, is completely blind.

He knew my car was poorly parked because he produced a brief, sharp click with his tongue. The sound waves he created traveled at a speed of more than 1,000 feet per second, bounced off every object around him, and returned to his ears at the same rate, though vastly decreased in volume.

But not silent. Kish has trained himself to hear these slight echoes and to interpret their meaning. Standing on his front stoop, he could visualize, with an extraordinary degree of precision, the two pine trees on his front lawn, the curb at the edge of his street, and finally, a bit too far from that curb, my rental car. Kish has given a name to what he does — he calls it “FlashSonar” — but it’s more commonly known by its scientific term, echolocation.

Bats, of course, use echolocation. Beluga whales too. Dolphins. And Daniel Kish. He is so accomplished at echolocation that he’s able to pedal his mountain bike through streets heavy with traffic and on precipitous dirt trails. He climbs trees. He camps out, by himself, deep in the wilderness. He’s lived for weeks at a time in a tiny cabin a two-mile hike from the nearest road. He travels around the globe. He’s a skilled cook, an avid swimmer, a fluid dance partner. Essentially, though in a way that is unfamiliar to nearly any other human being, Kish can see.

This is not enough for him. Kish is seeking — despite a lack of support from every mainstream blind organization in America — nothing less than a profound reordering of the way the world views blind people, and the way blind people view the world. He’s tired of being told that the blind are best served by staying close to home, sticking only to memorized routes, and depending on the unreliable benevolence of the sighted to do anything beyond the most routine of tasks.

Kish preaches complete and unfettered independence, even if the result produces the occasional bloody gash or broken bone. (He once fractured the heel of his left foot after leaping from a rock and has broken a couple of teeth.) He’s regarded by some in the blind community with deep veneration. Others, like a commenter on the National Federation of the Blind’s listserv, consider him “disgraceful” for promoting behavior such as tongue clicking that could be seen as off-putting and abnormal.

Kish and a handful of coworkers run a nonprofit organization called World Access for the Blind, headquartered in Kish’s home. World Access offers training on how to gracefully interact with one’s environment, using echolocation as a primary tool. So far, in the decade it has existed, the organization has introduced more than 500 students to echolocation. Kish is not the first blind person to use echolocation, but he’s the only one to meticulously document it, to break it down into its component parts, and to figure out how to teach it. His dream is to help all sight-impaired people see the world as clearly as he does.

Kish, here biking in Long Beach, preaches total independence. Photo courtesy Daniel Kish
 
It begins with the lid of a pot. “Stand up,” Kish instructs, then guides me to the center of his living room and ties a blindfold around my head, while mentioning, in a schoolteachery tone, that I should not for an instant think that wearing a blindfold represents the experience of being blind. A blindfold almost always causes someone who can see to feel frightened, confused, and disoriented. Kish is none of these things.

“Now wait here,” he says. Though he was born and raised in Southern California, Kish has an odd, almost foreign-sounding accent — a bouillabaisse of Canadian, British, and relaxed Los Angeleno. He says it’s a result of his many travels. “I’m a natural mimic,” he explains. Kish is 5-foot-7, thin and fit, with an impressive mane of dark brown hair and a meandering winestain birthmark on his left cheek.

I hear him walk into his kitchen, his bare feet padding faintly on the hardwood floor. “I’m very particular about feeling life and air around my feet,” he once wrote in the journal he braille-typed and shared with me. I’m barefoot as well. Kish asked me to remove my shoes, which is one of his many little rules you quickly learn to adopt. Like: He’s Daniel Kish, and anyone who calls him “Dan” more than once may be struck with withering disdain. And don’t disturb him during his sleep time — lately, he’s been sleeping just two hours twice a day, usually from 5 to 7 in the morning and again from 5 to 7 in the evening. He often stays up all night dealing with World Access logistics. He lives alone and does not have a significant other. He plays a lot of Celtic hymnal music.

I listen as Kish opens a cabinet and rummages amid his pots. He returns and stands behind me. “Make a click,” he says.

It’s a terrible click, a sloppy click; what Kish calls a “clucky click.” Kish’s click is a thing of beauty — he snaps the tip of his tongue briefly and firmly against the roof of his mouth, creating a momentary vacuum that pops upon release, a sound very much like pushing the igniter on a gas stove. A team of Spanish scientists recently studied Kish’s click and deemed it acoustically ideal for capturing echoes. A machine, they wrote, could do no better.

My click will work for now. Kish tells me that he’s holding a large glass lid, the top to a Crock-Pot, a few inches in front of me. “Click again,” he says. There’s a distinct echo, a smearing of sound as if I’m standing in my shower. “Now click,” he says. The echo’s gone. “I’ve lifted it up. Can you tell?”

I can, quite clearly. “Click again,” he instructs. “Where is it?” I click; there’s no echo.

“It’s still lifted,” I say.

“Try again,” says Kish. “But move your head, listen to your environment.”

I turn my head to the right and click. Nothing. Then I click to the left. Bingo. “It’s over here,” I say, tilting my head in the direction of the lid.

“Exactly,” says Kish. “Now let’s try it with a pillow.”

There are two reasons echolocation works. The first is that our ears, conveniently, are located on both sides of our head. When there’s a noise off to one side, the sound reaches the closer ear about a millisecond — a thousandth of a second — before it reaches the farther ear. That’s enough of a gap for the auditory cortex of our brain to process the information. It’s rare that we turn the wrong way when someone calls our name. In fact, we’re able to process, with phenomenal accuracy, sounds just a few degrees off-center. Having two ears, like having two eyes, also gives us the auditory equivalent of depth perception. We hear in stereo 3-D. This allows us, using only our ears, to build a detailed map of our surroundings.

The second reason echolocation works is that humans, on average, have excellent hearing. We hear better than we see. Much better. On the light spectrum, human eyes can perceive only a small sliver of all the varieties of light — no ultraviolet, no infrared. Converting this to sound terminology, we can see less than one octave of frequency. We hear a range of 10 octaves.

We can also hear behind us; we can hear around corners. Sight can’t do this. Human hearing is so good that if you have decent hearing, you will never once in your life experience true silence. Even if you sit completely still in a soundproof room, you will detect the beating of your own heart.

—-

Kish does not go around clicking like a madman. He uses his click sparingly and, depending on his location, varies the volume. When he’s outside, he’ll throw a loud click. In good conditions, he can hear a building 1,000 feet away, a tree from 30 feet, a person from six feet. Up close, he can echolocate a one-inch diameter pole. He can tell the difference between a pickup truck, a passenger car, and an SUV. He can locate trail signs in the forest, then run his finger across the engraved letters and determine which path to take. Every house, he explains, has its own acoustic signature.

He can hear the variation between a wall and a bush and a chain-link fence. Bounce a tennis ball off a wall, Kish says, then off a bush. Different response. So too with sound. Given a bit of time, he can echolocate something as small as a golf ball. Sometimes, in a parking garage, he can echolocate the exit faster than a sighted person can find it.

I accompanied Kish on several occasions as he cruised the busy streets of Long Beach. The outside world is an absolute cacophony. Every car, person, dog, stroller, and bicycle makes a sound. So do gusts of wind, bits of blowing garbage, and rustling leaves. Doors open and close. Change jangles. People talk. Then there are the silent obstacles — what Kish calls urban furniture: benches, traffic signs, telephone poles, postal boxes, fire hydrants, light posts, parked vehicles. Kish hears the sonic reflections from his click even in a place teeming with ambient noise. “It’s like recognizing a familiar voice in a crowd,” he says. The load upon his mind is undoubtedly immense. Yet he casually processes everything, constructing and memorizing a mental map of his route, all while maintaining an intricate conversation with me. It’s so extraordinary that it seems to border on the magical.

When we walk into a restaurant — never a simple choice with Kish, since he’s a strict vegan — he makes a much quieter click. Kish describes the images he receives as akin to a brief flick of the lights in a dark room; you get enough essential information — tables here, stairway there, support pillars here — to navigate your way through. “It becomes as ridiculous for blind people to run into a wall as it is for sighted people,” he once wrote in his FlashSonar manual. He strolls casually across the restaurant, making one or two more clicks as we approach our table, then sits down. It’s both smooth and subtle. Kish says that it is rare a sighted person even notices he’s making an unusual noise. Almost all blind people instantly do.

What people do notice about Kish is his long white cane. His blind person’s cane. Using echolocation, Kish could get around without one. For most of his youth, in fact, he never carried a cane, seeking to avoid the stigma attached to it. Now, as he approaches middle age, he’s come to believe that whatever can conveniently provide him with more information about his environment he will use. Echolocation’s chief liability is that it is not good at detecting holes in the ground, or small dropoffs, which a cane can do. There are also some figure-ground issues with echolocation — a park bench can “disappear” when it’s directly in front of a stone wall — and a cane, in essence, increases the length of your arm by as much as five feet.

Kish also keeps aware, during the day, of where the sun is striking him — a good way to determine direction — and how the cracks between sidewalk blocks line up; if you remain steadily perpendicular to them, you’re not veering.

When it’s all put together, says Kish, he has very rich, very detailed pictures in his head.

“In color?” I ask.

“No,” he says. “I’ve never seen color, so there’s no color. It’s more like a sonar, like on the Titanic.”

—-

At his high school graduation in 1984, Kish was voted "most likely to succeed." Photo courtesy Daniel Kish


Kish can hardly remember a time when he didn’t click. He came to it on his own, intuitively, at age two, about a year after his second eye was removed. Many blind children make noises in order to get feedback — foot stomping, finger snapping, hand clapping, tongue clicking. These behaviors are the beginnings of echolocation, but they’re almost invariably deemed asocial by parents or caretakers and swiftly extinguished. Kish was fortunate that his mother never tried to dissuade him from clicking. “That tongue click was everything to me,” he says.

He has a vivid recollection of sneaking out his bedroom window in the middle of the night, at age two and a half, and climbing over a fence into his neighbor’s yard. “I was in the habit of exploring whatever I sensed around me,” he writes in his journal. He soon wondered what was in the yard of the next house. And the one after that. “I was on the other side of the block before someone discovered me prowling around their backyard and had the police return me home to completely flummoxed parents.”

Kish was born in Montebello, California, into a difficult family situation. His younger brother, Keith, was also born with retinoblastoma — it’s genetic, though neither of Kish’s parents had the disease. Doctors managed to save enough of Keith’s eyesight so that he doesn’t need echolocation. He’s now a middle school English teacher. Kish’s father, who worked as an automobile mechanic, was a physically abusive alcoholic, and his mother left him when Kish was six.

“I was a violent kid,” says Kish. He frequently got into fistfights. “I rarely lost. My strategy consisted of immobilizing opponents before they could hit me too often.” He went to mainstream schools and relied almost exclusively on echolocation to orient himself, though at the time neither he nor his mom had any concept of what he was doing. “There was no one to explain it, there was no one to help me enhance it, and we all just kind of took it for granted,” he says. “My family and friends were like, ‘Yeah, he does this funny click thing and he gets around.’ ” They called it his radar. Navigating new places, he says, was like solving a puzzle.

He rode his bike with wild abandon. “I used to go to the top of a hill and scream ‘Dive bomb!’ and ride down as fast as I could,” he says. This is when he was eight. The neighborhood kids would scatter. “One day I lost control of the bicycle, crashed through these trash cans, and smashed into a metal light pole. It was a violent collision. I had blood all over my face. I picked myself up and went home.”

He was raised with almost no dispensation for his blindness. “My upbringing was all about total self-reliance,” he writes, “of being able to go after anything I desired.” His career interests, as a boy, included policeman, fireman, pilot, and doctor. He was a celebrated singer and voracious consumer of braille books. He could take anything apart and put it back together — a skill he retains. Once, when I was driving Kish to an appointment with a student, the GPS unit in my car stopped working. Kish examined the unit with his hands, instructed me from the passenger seat how to get to the nearest Radio Shack, and told me which part to buy (the jack on the power cord was faulty). He was named “best brain” in middle school and graduated high school with a GPA close to 4.0. He was voted “most likely to succeed.”

He attended the University of California Riverside, then earned two master’s degrees — one in developmental psychology, one in special education. He wrote a thesis on the history and science of human echolocation, and as part of that devised one of the first echolocation training programs. The ability of some blind individuals to perceive objects well before they could touch them was noted as early as 1749 by French philosopher Denis Diderot. He theorized it had something to do with vibrations against the skin of the face. In the early 1800s, a blind man from England named James Holman journeyed around the world — he may have been the most prolific traveler in history up to that point, Magellan and Marco Polo included — relying on the echoes from the click of his cane. Not until the 1940s, in Karl Dallenbach’s lab at Cornell University, was it irrefutably proven that humans could echolocate.

The thesis was the first time Kish really studied what he’d been doing all his life; it was the beginning, as he put it, of “unlocking my own brain.” He then became the first totally blind person in the United States (and likely the world) to be fully certified as an orientation and mobility specialist — that is, someone hired by the visually impaired to learn how to get around.

—-


 Kish teaching echolocation. Photo courtesy Daniel Kish


It was never Kish’s goal to run a foundation dedicated to the blind. He planned to be a psychologist. But he could not ignore the fact that few blind people enjoyed anything close to his freedom of movement, and he had grown weary of society’s attitude toward the blind. “I am belittled, patronized, disrespected, invaded, restricted, and presumed weak, vulnerable, or otherwise incapacitated,” he wrote in his journal. It still drives him crazy when he’s congratulated for simply crossing the street or preparing dinner.

In a letter he posted on his website a few years ago, Kish responded to a public school program in New Jersey called Kindness Beats Blindness, in which hundreds of middle school students were blindfolded while others led them around, to develop sympathy for the blind. “I have felt beaten and pummeled by many things,” he wrote, “misplaced kindness foremost among them.” When I asked Kish about the letter he said, “I have a reputation for being a pain in the ass.” One of his closest friends sometimes refers to him as “the bridge burner.”

Young people, says Kish, are especially hard-hit. “Most blind kids hear a lot of negative talk. ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t move. No, here, let me help you.’ The message you get, if you’re blind, is you’re intellectually deficient, you’re emotionally deficient, you’re in all ways deficient.” A few sighted people have commented to Kish that they’d rather be dead than blind.

So in 2001 he started World Access for the Blind. One of its missions is to counter every no that blind people hear. Blindness, Kish says, should be understood — by both the blind and the sighted — as nothing more than an inconvenience. “Most of my life,” he writes, “I never even thought of myself as blind. In fact, I saw myself as smarter, more agile, stronger, and generally more capable than most other boys my age.”

World Access operates on what Kish calls “an annual budget of silliness” — less than $200,000 a year. (Kish himself makes only “a survival wage.”) He depends on the “blind vine,” the chattery network of the visually impaired, to spread the word. When a potential student, or a parent of a student, agrees to hire World Access, either Kish or one of three other World Access teachers — all blind or visually impaired — will pay a visit, whether it’s on the other side of Los Angeles or the other side of the world.

Lessons can consist of private meetings a few times a month, or an intensive week of training for students farther afield. He’s visited a group of blind students in northern Mexico three times and traveled to Scotland eight times. In all, Kish has taught in 14 countries, including Armenia, South Africa, Switzerland, and Ukraine. Blind students or organizations in more than a dozen other nations, from Afghanistan to Guatemala, are now on his waiting list. The chief focus of World Access classes is setting students on the path to complete autonomy. Echolocation is an essential element of what Kish terms “a holistic approach” that also includes lessons on comfortable social interactions, confident self-image, and nonvisual conversational cues (a head turn can be noted by the sound of hair swishing; arm gestures by the whisper of skin brushing against clothing; the shift of someone’s body by the creaking of furniture).

World Access doesn’t turn anyone away for lack of resources. But there are a couple of reasons why the organization hasn’t trained more students. The first is Kish’s general ethos about how blind children should be raised. “Running into a pole is a drag, but never being allowed to run into a pole is a disaster,” he writes. “Pain is part of the price of freedom.” This attitude is not wildly popular, especially in a safety-first nation like the United States. Also, echolocation is not easy to master. Kish compares it with piano lessons — anyone can learn basics; very few will make it to Carnegie Hall. Only about 10 percent of the people who learn echolocation, he admits, find their abilities immediately enriched.

And then there is resistance from mainstream organizations. The National Federation of the Blind, the largest blind organization in America, does not endorse Kish’s work. “Let’s just say he’s unique,” says John ParĂ©, the federation’s executive director for strategic initiatives, clearly straining to be polite. ParĂ© believes that for most people, echolocation is not worth the tremendous effort required to grasp it. “We urge people to learn how to use a long white cane,” he says. According to Kish, a colleague once overheard members of the federation refer to him as Clicker Boy. “The blindness field is firmly based in tradition and dogma and is very slow to evolve,” says Kish. “It’s been traditionally dominated by sighted people who feel the need to tell blind people what to do.”

The same afternoon I first visit Kish, I also meet Brian Bushway and Juan Ruiz. Bushway became blind at age 14 due to a genetic condition known as optic nerve atrophy and was introduced to Kish soon after. Ruiz was born blind and was one of Kish’s first students; Kish began working with him while preparing his echolocation thesis. They both told me, individually, that Kish’s teaching transformed them, allowing them to feel at peace with their blindness and at one with the world.

Bushway and Ruiz are now in their late 20s and have become instructors with World Access. They often hang out at Kish’s home, forming a foul-mouthed and funny little gang. (Bushway: “You know why echolocators get all the girls? ’Cause they’re skilled with their tongues and comfortable in the dark.”) They’ve become so adept at echolocation that, in many ways, they have surpassed their teacher — at least in terms of fearlessness, sociability, and willingness to run into poles. They’re the next generation of echolocators, ready to take Kish’s work and see how far they can push it.



————————————————————————-—-



If you happen to be blind and want to live a bold, stereotype-smashing life, there will be blood. I witness this firsthand when I spend a day mountain biking with Bushway and Ruiz. (Kish, acceding to the realities of near–middle age, stays home.) We ride on a roller-coastery ridgetop trail in the Santa Ana Mountains, above the town of Mission Viejo. Clipped to the rear fork of each of our bikes is a plastic zip tie, attached so that the end flicks through our spokes, creating a constant snapping sound that lets Bushway and Ruiz know where the other bikes are. But to determine where the trail is going, and where the bushes and rocks and fence posts and trees are, the boys rely on echolocation.

Bushway is a fearless biker. He often flies down the dirt trail in aerodynamic form, hands off the brakes, clicking as fast and as loud as he can. “Your brain is on overload,” he says to me during a water break. “You feel like you can hear every bush, every tree. Your body is hyperaware.” I try and warn them when the trail presents a serious consequence, like a long drop-off on one side or a cactus jutting out. But mostly I’m just along for the ride. It’s difficult to believe, even though it’s happening right in front of me. It’s incredible.

And then, suddenly, it’s not. When I look behind me and see that Ruiz has drifted back, I stop and wait for him. I’m just standing there, silently, and before I realize what’s happening, he is bearing down on me. I shout, and he pulls the brakes, but it’s too late. He smashes into me and crushes his left hand between his handlebar and the back of my seat post. He falls off his bike and rolls about in pain, clutching his hand. There’s a trickle of blood, though nothing seems broken. I feel terrible, but Ruiz says it’s his fault — he should have echolocated my bike, even if I wasn’t moving. We finish the ride, with Ruiz using only one hand.

The next day I join Kish and Bushway as they teach Sebastian Mancipe, who is 15 and has been working with World Access for three years. When he started, he rarely came out of his bedroom. He had little interaction with the outside world. He developed infant glaucoma and was blind by age three months. His parents moved from Colombia to the United States to give him a chance at a better life. His mother, Viviana, saw a brief appearance by Kish on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not television show, and soon hired World Access to work with Sebastian.

He now rides a skateboard. He ice-skates. He’s popular at school, stocked with friends and a busy social life. I follow as Kish and Bushway stroll around Sebastian’s neighborhood, in a busy section of Burbank. He’d obviously mastered the echolocation basics — the pot lid, the pillow, general shapes. Kish and Bushway encourage him to push his skills further. “A tree,” says Kish, clicking a couple of times, “is like a bush on a pole.” They walk on. “A tree without a bush on top is probably a telephone pole.” They pass a parking lot. “A large object that starts out low at one end, rises in the middle, and drops off again at the other end — that’s a parked car.”

Back at home, I ask Sebastian’s mother about the impact World Access has had on her son. “It was an awakening,” she says. “He believes he can do anything. To see Sebastian as a normal child…” She can’t complete the sentence before the tears come.



—-



The longer the waiting list for his services grows, the more conflicted Kish feels. He knows what he’s doing is important. But what he really wants, as more people clamor for his time, as the frequent-flier miles add up, is to hand over the reins of World Access and run away from it all.

He’s essentially a loner. “My constitution,” he says, “is that of Grizzly Adams.” In 2003 he purchased a 12-foot by 12-foot cabin deep in the Angeles National Forest. It was built in 1916; he paid $10,000 for it. To get there he’d take a taxi to the end of the road and hike in. “My only company,” he wrote in his journal at the time, “is a small family of mice.” He explored the wilderness. “I taught myself how to negotiate tricky, winding trails with sharp switchbacks, how to cross rushing streams on slippery stones. I’ve gone for miles and days without meeting another soul.”

He was once asked by a colleague what he thought the biggest problem was with being blind. “My biggest barrier is people,” he answered. “Especially sighted people.” He has never once in his life had a girlfriend or, for that matter, a boyfriend. When I ask him, via e-mail, to explain why, his response is three words: “Lack of interest.”

Two tragedies, nearly 20 years apart, have bookended his adult life. The first was the death of his dog, a black lab named Whiska. This was in 1990. She was run over by a car while Kish was walking with her. Kish has always blamed himself for the accident. “I loved Whiska with an intensity that completely distorted my better judgment,” he wrote. “I spoiled her rotten and took over her job. She forgot to watch for traffic, because I’d always done that for her.” He had nightmares for a year after the accident. “The chain’s just dangling and there’s no dog. I’ll never forget that moment.” Not long after, he got another dog, but soon started traveling and gave him away. That was his last pet.

The second tragedy occurred in January 2007 when his cabin burned down. He’d had a wood-burning stove installed, and the wrong materials were used for the chimney. The fire was fast-moving and horrific — “my last memories of my cabin are the ominous crackle and rumble of advancing flames” — and Kish had no idea if it would engulf the entire canyon, incinerating him as well. The disaster haunts him; he keeps a chunk of melted glass from the cabin in his home in Long Beach. “A piece of my own heart has gone up in flames,” he wrote. He plans to one day return to the woods, perhaps permanently. “I find people,” he says, “to be incredibly draining.”



—-



Kish has an idea. Beyond the pot lid and the pillow, beyond the mission of World Access, there is something he has been quietly working on for more than a decade. If his wish is fulfilled — if someone else takes over World Access and he’s able to escape from life’s perpetual rush hour — it may prove to be his true legacy. What Kish envisions is the next leap in human echolocation. His idea is to become more like a bat.

Bats are the best. Some can fly in complete darkness, navigating around thousands of other bats while nabbing insects one millimeter wide. Bats have evolved, over millions of years, to possess the ideal mouth shape and the perfect ear rotation for echolocation. They can perceive high-frequency sound waves, beyond the range of human hearing — waves that are densely packed together, whose echoes give precise detail.
There is evidence that humans could be that good. Bats have tiny brains. Just the auditory cortex of a human brain is many times larger than the entire brain of a bat. This means that humans can likely process more complex auditory information than bats. What we’ll require, to make up for bats’ evolutionary head start, is a little artificial boost.

Actually, two boosts. We need a way to create batlike sound waves, and we need to be able to hear those waves. In pursuit of these goals, Kish has spent time in New Zealand with Leslie Kay, who worked on underwater sonar for the British Navy during the Cold War. For nearly 50 years, Kay tinkered with ideas for helping the blind to see with sound. He eventually introduced, after many weeks of consultation with Kish, a product called the K-Sonar, a flashlight-size machine that attaches to a blind person’s cane and emits ultrasonic pulses. The pulses are then digitally translated into tones humans can hear, through earphones. “Flowers actually sound soft,” says Kish. “Stones sound hard and crisp. It pretty much represents the physical environment as music.” The problem is range: The K-Sonar can detect a postage stamp from 15 feet, but not the side of a barn from 30 feet.

If money were no object, Kish believes that blind people could essentially mimic bats within five years. A next generation of K-Sonar, using the input from a global consortium of scientists that Kish has been corresponding with, should have a nearly limitless range. Our hearing, Kish says, can be increased tenfold through surgical augmentation — basically, inner-ear microphone implants. Combine the two and it’s possible that the blind will be able to take up tennis. Kish figures it would require $15 million to prove whether or not his idea is feasible. He fears he’ll never get the opportunity.

“It’s virtually impossible to gather funding for experimental devices for the blind,” he says. “The blind population is seen as a lost cause.” Kish’s patience is running thin. He is still reaching out to scientists and studying scholarly journals and pondering ways to conjure the money. But more and more these days, he finds himself daydreaming about rebuilding his cabin and devoting himself to playing music, to writing. Let the new crop of echolocators take over the research and the networking and the panhandling. So for the foreseeable future, at least, Kish will continue to click in his usual way. And the sighted world will continue to not notice.





This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of Men’s Journal



READ MORE - Daniel Kish Uses Sound To See

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Color Looks To Reinvent Social Interaction With Its Mobile Photo App (And $41 Million In Funding)

$41 million. From Sequoia Capital, Bain Capital, and Silicon Valley Bank. Pre-launch.

That’s how much a brand new startup called Color has to work with. Your eyebrows should already be raised, and here’s something to keep them fixed there: this is the most money Sequoia has ever invested in a pre-launch startup. Or, as the Color team put it, “That’s more than they gave Google.”

But the founding team goes a long way toward explaining it. Headed by Bill Nguyen — who sold Lala to Apple in late 2009 — the company has attracted a wealth of talent. It has seven founders including Nguyen and company president Peter Pham, who previously founded BillShrink. And its chief of product is DJ Patil, who was previously LinkedIn’s chief scientist.

So what exactly is Color?

Update: The application is now available for the iPhone at Color.com. Android is coming tonight.

At first glance, it looks like another mobile photo app, like Path, Instagram, or PicPlz. You take snapshots with your mobile phone (the app supports both Android and iOS at launch) and they appear in a stream of photos. And there aren’t even any of those trendy lenses to spruce up your images. Sounds pretty basic, right?


Color Demo from Color Labs, Inc. on Vimeo.


But the beauty of Color stems from what it’s doing differently. Unlike Instagram and Path, there isn’t an explicit friend or following system — you don’t browse through lists of contacts and start following their photo stream. Instead, all social connections in the application are dynamic and established on-the-fly depending on whom you’re hanging out with. And your photos are shared with everyone in the vicinity. In some senses this is the Twitter of photo apps — it’s all public, all the time (I’m ignoring Twitter’s protected tweets, since most people don’t use them). Another way to look at it: it’s almost the complete opposite of Path, which is built around sharing photos with an intimate group of friends.

It’s difficult to explain what Color does with a bullet list of features, so I’ll try painting an example that hopefully demonstrates how it works.

Say you walk into a restaurant with twenty people in it. You sit down at a table with four friends, and start chatting. Then one of your friends pulls out their phone, fires up Color, and takes a snapshot of you and your buddies.

That photo is now public to anyone within around 100 feet of the place it was taken. So if anyone else in the restaurant fires up Color, they’ll see the photograph listed in a stream alongside other photos that have recently been taken in the vicinity.

In a crowded area these streams of photos will get noisy, so Color also has some grouping features. Tell it which four people you’re eating with, and Color will create a temporal group with a stream of just the photos you and your buddies have taken. But here’s the twist: because everything on the service is public, you can also swipe to view other groups, to see what the tables next to you are snapping photos of. And you can always jump to the main stream, which shows a mishmash of photos taken by everyone.

It takes some time to wrap your head around, and my time with the app was limited, so I can’t really vouch for how well it works. But there’s some very interesting technology that’s working behind the scenes to make Color more than just a simple group photo app.

First are the social connections, called your Elastic Network. All of your contacts are presented in a list of thumbnails ordered by how strong your connection is to that user. Whenever Color detects that you’re physically near another user (in other words, that you’re hanging out), your bond on the app gets a little stronger. So when you fire up the app and jump to your list of contacts, you’ll probably see your close friends and family members listed first. But if you don’t see a friend for a long time, they’ll gradually flow down the list, and eventually their photos will fade from color to black-and-white.

These social connections are important because they’re the only way to view a stream of photos beyond those have been taken near you. If you fired up Color in that restaurant example from earlier, you’d only be able to see photos that had been taken by friends and strangers within 100 feet of that restaurant. That is, unless you jump to your social connections. Tap on your best friend’s profile photo, and you’ll then be able to see all of the photos that have recently been taken within 100 feet of them. In other words, Color is trying to give you a way to see everything that’s going on around you, and everything that’s going on around the people you care about.

The Groups feature also makes use of this elastic network. In the restaurant example above, the application would likely already know who your friends were based on your previous interactions and would automatically place them in the same group — you wouldn’t have to manually do it yourself.

Color is also making use of every phone sensor it can access. The application was demoed to me in the basement of Color’s office — where there was no cell signal or GPS reception. But the app still managed to work normally, automatically placing the people who were sitting around me in the same group. It does this using a variety of tricks: it uses the camera to check for lighting conditions, and even uses the phone’s microphone to ‘listen’ to the ambient surroundings. If two phones are capturing similar audio, then they’re probably close to each other.

So far I’ve described a compelling and unique photo app with some neat tricks. But how exactly is Color going to make “wheelbarrows of cash”, as Nguyen says?

At this point the company is still very early on, but it eventually plans to offer businesses a self-serve platform for running deals and ads as part of the Color experience (you fire up the app to see the photos being taken around you, and you also see the special of the day, for example).

But that’s just the start. Nguyen has visions of fundamentally changing some aspects of social interaction and local discovery with the app, which he considers part of the so-called Post-PC movement. Using all of the data being collected (remember, the app is taking advantage of all of your phone’s sensors), Color hopes to eventually start recommending nearby points of interest, and maybe even interesting people.

There are still plenty of questions, even about the existing service. This kind of voyeurism — you’re sharing photos with the world and looking at photos from strangers — could take a while to get used to. People may reject it entirely. Or it may be completely addictive. There’s really no way to tell until people start using the app in the wild.

The future is unclear, but promising. And with this much money in the bank and a staff of 27, Color has plenty of time to hone in on what works.

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READ MORE - Color Looks To Reinvent Social Interaction With Its Mobile Photo App (And $41 Million In Funding)

RIP Elizabeth Taylor

Oscar winning actress Elizabeth Taylor died today at Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Hospital. She was 79.

"She was surrounded by her children: Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd, and Maria Burton," Taylor's publicist, Sally Morrison, said in a statement.
In the same statement, Michael Howard Wilding, 58, memorialized his mother:
"My Mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love," he said. "Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world. Her remarkable body of work in film, her ongoing success as a businesswoman, and her brave and relentless advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS, all make us all incredibly proud of what she accomplished. We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts."
In addition to her children, Taylor is survived by 10 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Morrison said that a private family funeral will be held later this week. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that contributions be made to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and said that those wanting to send personal messages can log on to Taylor's official Facebook page.

Taylor, a two-time Academy Award-winning actress who became notorious for her seven marriages and sometimes eccentric behavior, had reported health problems in recent years and appeared frail in public appearances. Six weeks ago, she was hospitalized with congestive heart failure. Though she had recently suffered a number of complications, her condition had stabilized and it was hoped that she would be able to return home.

 In October 2009, Taylor said she was having a heart procedure done. Via Twitter, she said it was "very new and involves repairing my leaky valve using a clip device, without open heart surgery so that my heart will function better."

The actress' past health setbacks included a fall from a horse during one of her early film shoots, bouts with pneumonia and skin cancer, a tracheotomy, treatment for alcohol and painkiller addictions, and lung, hip, brain and heart surgeries. She had anywhere from 30 to 40 surgeries, according to biographers.


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American Idol 2011: Why Motown?

I have to say I’m more than a little disappointed with the rebirth of themes for the idol contestants for season 10 of American Idol especially after Nigel promised this was NOT going to happen.  I mean seriously!  Motown?  Don’t get me wrong, I know there’s been many awesome songs and singers come out of the motor city but we’re talking decades ago with this genre.  How are potential idols suppose to show us what type of artist they plan to become when they have to choose these type of songs?  How will they make these songs their own?  I thought Nigel said before the show even started that the contestants would get to choose more current songs and even get the chance to put together a video.  

For the majority of the contestants this will be fine because they’re going to sing sappy ballads anyway but what about Scotty McCreery and James Durbin?  How are they suppose to find their niche singing Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye?  Jacob Lusk should rule this week and come out on top since this is right up his ally with song choice.

In other news, Nigel Lythgoe has tweeted that he doesn’t class X Factor as a talent show and says the following about Simon Cowell:  ”In a way, I’m delighted Simon’s left American Idol. He’s given us the opportunity to refurbish it,” he said. “Everyone said that it would be the end. And what’s happened? The ratings are equal to last year’s, we got 30 million votes the other evening, and if we lost 50% of our audience we would still be the number one show.”  Let’s see if Simon fires back later on today.

What do you think about the motown theme week and do you think the contestants will make the songs their own?

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READ MORE - American Idol 2011: Why Motown?

Mansion Owners Upset with Megamansion

Bill Christopher of Urban Concepts holds an artist's rendering of the 42,681-square-foot "megamansion" planned for Benedict Canyon. The 5-acre property would also include a "son's villa," guest house, staff quarters, gatehouse and other amenities. (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times / March 22, 2011)

They say his planned 85,000-square-foot family compound pushes the bounds of common sense and decency.

Nobody in wealthy Benedict Canyon can say for sure what his name is or where he's from, but the owner of a pricey 5.2-acre property on Tower Lane is fast becoming persona non grata among an exclusive club of Los Angeles homeowners.

In a neighborhood whose residents include Bruce Springsteen, Jay Leno, Michael Ovitz and David Beckham, this mystery landowner is preparing to build an 85,000-square-foot family compound, fit for royalty.

The proposed complex is an eclectic mix of European architecture in the coveted 90210 ZIP Code. Although the area teems with mansions boasting swimming pools and tennis courts, residents say the scale of this "megamansion" pushes the bounds of common sense and decency.

If the owner gets his way, the real estate will host a 42,681-square-foot main house, a double-winged "son's villa" of more than 27,000 square feet, a 4,400-square-foot guest house, a 5,300-square-foot staff quarters and a 2,700-square-foot gatehouse. Those and other proposed structures would occupy a combined area larger than Griffith Observatory.

"It's commercial-scale construction, like building a Wal-Mart in the heart of a quiet residential neighborhood," said Martha Karsh, who lives with her husband, Bruce, just east of the site.

In an area known more for gated estates than block parties, the controversy has so far united more than 150 residents. Through e-mails, house gatherings and phone calls, opponents have built support for their cause. Next, they plan to mount a door-to-door campaign and launch a website.

They seem to have a worthy adversary, one with deep pockets and expensive lawyers and who may even be a senior Saudi prince. Instead of disclosing his identity, the owner has created a special business, Tower Lane Properties Inc., to purchase three adjoining plots for $12 million. A team of lawyers, architects, intermediaries and sales brokers have been hired to manage the project, and all have signed secrecy agreements.

"We're not trying to be deceptive," said attorney Marc E. Petas, a Tower Lane Properties representative in Los Angeles. "It's just a matter of maintaining privacy."

City planning documents list Mansour Fustok of London as the president of Tower Lane Properties, with Rutter Hobbs & Davidoff Inc., a Century City law firm, as the "in care of" contact.

Fustok, a former brother-in-law to Saudi King Abdullah, is uncle to Prince Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz al Saud, one of King Abdullah's sons. Rutter Hobbs attorney Olivia Goodkin, who served as the initial registered agent for Tower Lane Properties, has represented companies controlled by Saudi royal family members in the past.

A Tower Lane Properties representative told residents during a project presentation at one of their homes that the owner is a single father of three whose family would occupy the grounds only occasionally. Project opponents point out that Prince Abdulaziz is divorced and has three children.

Reached at his home in London, Fustok said he was prohibited from naming the owner and described the proposed development as "just a normal Mediterranean-style house." He insisted that the owner would comply with all building regulations and environmental reviews.

"All I'm trying to say is a very nice family is going to live over there," Fustok said. "It's a 5-acre lot altogether. It is far from everybody. … You buy a lot of land, you think you have the right to build on it.

"To face something like this, objecting to everything, it is too much," Fustok said. "Mrs. Karsh and Mr. Ovitz are the ones causing this mayhem and delaying things and so on."

Ovitz declined to be interviewed, but an associate who asked to remain anonymous described his position this way: "He just wants his neighbors to obey the law. It isn't personal or project-specific."

Residents of the canyons above Sunset Boulevard have defeated foreign royalty before. In the early 1990s, the sultan of Brunei proposed a 59,000-square-foot estate on Tower Road in Beverly Hills, near the Tower Lane site in Los Angeles. Sidney J. Sheinberg, a former entertainment industry executive, and the late actor Jack Lemmon were among those who complained loudly enough to quash the plan.

Ovitz himself sparked a neighborhood furor when he proposed a 28,000-square-foot megamansion on property straddling the Los Angeles-Beverly Hills border, but he fared better than the sultan after a battle that lasted several years. The former Hollywood agent-turned-investor's sleek, art-filled structure sits a stone's throw from the proposed Tower Lane development.

Royally owned or not, the site in dispute has had a colorful past.

The gates at the top of winding Tower Lane, a private road, open onto what must have seemed a remote wonderland in the late 1920s when movie director King Vidor hired Wallace Neff to design a 17-room, 8,010-square-foot Spanish Colonial hacienda.

In 1996, movie producer Jon Peters bought the Vidor estate for about $6.2 million. He razed the house and submitted plans for a new residence, but he never pulled permits. Instead, he built a 16-car underground garage as well as an unpermitted horse barn and other illegal structures. He also erected a 500-foot-long retaining wall that violates the original permit. Residents call it an eyesore.

The Karshes and the Benedict Canyon Assn. homeowners group have asked the city to conduct an environmental review and to require the owner of 9933-41 Tower Lane to strictly adhere to municipal codes before allowing the project to proceed. The Los Angeles Planning Commission will consider their appeals at its April 14 meeting. (Bruce Karsh is president and co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management, a senior creditor in the bankruptcy case of Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times.)

The opponents contend that the city ignored "numerous, glaring omissions" in the property owner's application and say the owner has tried to evade rules limiting retaining walls in an area with steep hillsides. Most significant, critics contend that the owner has attempted to "piecemeal" the development to avoid a full-project review under the California Environmental Quality Act. An environmental review would evaluate the potential effects of years of extensive grading, hauling and construction.

The city of Beverly Hills has also taken an interest because trucks will haul thousands of loads of construction debris along its streets.

To residents like Sheinberg, who battled against the sultan of Brunei's proposed estate years ago and who lives in a 7,800-square-foot country-style home, the thought of an even larger complex rising amid the hills is troubling.

"It's hard for us to understand," he said, "why anyone needs an 80,000-square-foot compound."

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READ MORE - Mansion Owners Upset with Megamansion

policeman and dog






READ MORE - policeman and dog

WOW.....Amazing Bus




















READ MORE - WOW.....Amazing Bus

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Amazon Appstore for Android goes live, welcomes newcomers with free Angry Birds Rio

In spite of Apple's grumbling, Amazon's proceeding full steam ahead with the rollout of its Appstore for Android. The switch has just been flipped and early adopters will be welcomed with a free copy of Angry Birds Rio, whose Android launch Amazon scooped all to itself. Beyond day one, Rio will be a $0.99 app, but others will take its place as the online retailer is aiming to serve one usually-paid app for free each day. A total of around 3,800 applications are available at launch and you'll be able to get on board via either a dedicated Appstore app on Android (sideload link available below) or Amazon's web interface. The latter offers you a 30-minute Test Drive facility, where you can try out a program you might fancy for your phone before purchasing. Service looks to be US-only for now -- sorry, international users.

Update: The web Appstore has gone down. Don't panic, we're sure it's just teething troubles and not a smiting by the Cupertino ninja collective. In the mean time, the app still looks to be working okay.

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READ MORE - Amazon Appstore for Android goes live, welcomes newcomers with free Angry Birds Rio

China warns of "humanitarian disaster" in Libya

China warned of a "humanitarian disaster" in Libya and expressed "deep concern" at reported civilian casualties as it renewed calls on Tuesday for an end to fighting in the North African country.


China "opposes causing even more civilian casualties through the use of armed force", Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a regular news briefing. "We again call on all sides to observe an immediate cease-fire."
"We've seen reports of how the use of armed force is causing civilian casualties, and we oppose the wanton use of armed force leading to more civilian casualties and more humanitarian disasters," she said.
Western powers began strikes against Libya over the weekend in a U.N.-mandated campaign to target air defences, enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians from Muammar Gaddafi's forces.
Jiang would not say directly whether the air attacks on Libya were in violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution.
In last week's vote, 10 countries supported the resolution and the other five council members abstained. Those included China and Russia, which refrained from using their veto power.
China's official newspapers on Monday stepped up Beijing's opposition to the Western air attacks on Libya, accusing nations backing the strikes of breaking international rules and courting new turmoil in the Middle East.
Though Beijing is unlikely to go beyond verbal sparring with Western governments over the strikes, its opposition could win points with Arab and other nations that may become more alarmed if the air attacks continue and bring more casualties.
China's handling of Western pressure on Libya has laid bare the quandaries facing Beijing in the Middle East, an important source of oil for the world's second-largest economy.
At the weekend, Saudi Arabia's Aramco announced its latest proposal to supply crude oil to a refinery in southwest China, where Beijing is building an oil pipeline that slices through Myanmar.
About half of China's crude imports last year came from the Middle East and North Africa.
China wants to diversify its supplies, but Arab countries and Iran hold so much of the world's reserves that they are sure to remain major suppliers.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Writing by Ben Blanchard, Editing by Ian Geoghegan)


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Sunday, March 20, 2011

prevue fetal visualization device by melody shiue

Melody Shiue, an industrial designer of the University of New South Wales has designed a product called, PreVue. It is an e-textile based device that employs latest stretchable display technology over the abdominal region, letting other family members to connect with the fetus in its context. Not only PreVue gives you the chance for interacting and watching the baby's growth inside, it as well serves as a tool to understand the personality of the baby. You can see the baby rolling, snoozing, yawning and smiling, bringing you closer until the day it finally lies into your arms.

Designer : Melody Shiue









The product represents design excellence and certainly deserves an Australian Design Award as it paves way for fetal-maternal bonding in order to keep the mothers in an optimistic state of mind. Establishing early bonding essentially sustains the maternal relationship post-birth and helps delivering a healthy child. The father also gets an opportunity to watch the current activity of his child and participate in the process of bonding. The fetus will be able to recognize the mother's voice by the 18th week. Studies reveal that when mothers sing a specific song throughout pregnancy, they can use the same tune to appease a crying baby. This means, adaptive learning starts effectively in uterus, so mothers can stimulate a mild extent of education to the fetus via music and gently tapping over the belly and watch the responsive expressions as well as reflexes of the fetus through a contextual screen.



READ MORE - prevue fetal visualization device by melody shiue

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Supermoon": Biggest Full Moon in 18 Years Saturday



It may not be faster than a speeding bullet, but tomorrow the moon will make its closest approach to Earth in 18 years—making the so-called supermoon the biggest full moon in years.

And despite Internet rumors, the impending phenomenon had no influence on the March 11 Japan earthquake and tsunami (see pictures).

The monthly full moon always looks like a big disk, but because its orbit is egg-shaped, there are times when the moon is at perigee—its shortest distance from Earth in the roughly monthlong lunar cycle—or at apogee, its farthest distance from Earth.

Likewise, because the size of the moon's orbit varies slightly, each perigee is not always the same distance away from Earth. Friday's supermoon will be just 221,566 miles (356,577 kilometers) away from Earth. The last time the full moon approached so close to Earth was in 1993, according to NASA.

The March 19 supermoon, as it's called, will be visible "pretty much any time during the night," said Geza Gyuk, astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

"Look for the full moon as it rises above the eastern horizon as the sun sets below the western horizon—it will be a beautiful and inspiring sight," he said via email.

(See "Year's Biggest Full Moon, Mars Create Sky Show [2010].")

Though the supermoon will be about 20 percent brighter and 15 percent bigger than a regular full moon, the visual effect may be subtle, added Anthony Cook, astronomical observer for the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

"I doubt that most people will notice anything unusual about this full moon," Cook said.

"Because the total amount of light is a little greater, the biggest effect will be on the illumination of the ground—but not enough to be very noticeable to the casual observer."

Japan Earthquake Not Linked to Supermoon

Such a lunar close encounter can cause slightly higher than normal ocean tides and localized flooding—especially if there is already a storm surge, astronomers say.

A supermoon may even have some impact on seismic activity because of the stronger gravitational interaction between the moon, the sun, and Earth.

Even so, there is no clear evidence that any of these phenomena influenced the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

(Read more: "Can the Moon Cause Earthquakes?")

"The earthquake in Japan happened when the moon was close to its average distance to Earth—there was nothing extreme about its position or phase," Cook said.

"While some earthquakes seem to have tidal connections, this isn't one of them."

(Take a moon myths and mysteries quiz.)

There's no need to get worked up over a supermoon, Adler Planetarium's Gyuk added.

"We survived 2008 [an almost supermoon year] and 1993 just fine," he said by email.

"Just keep in mind even this 'extreme' supermoon is not really that extreme!"

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READ MORE - "Supermoon": Biggest Full Moon in 18 Years Saturday

Mega Millions winning numbers worth $172 million

BY BOB HOLT
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

New Jersey's lottery players will be thinking green two days before St. Patrick’s Day. A whole lot of green.

The grand prize in Tuesday’s Mega millions drawing stands at $172 million. A winner would have the choice to take annual payments of roughly $6 million for 26 years or walk away with a cash option lump-sum payment of $108.9 million.

In this past Friday night's Mega Millions drawing, there was no jackpot winner, but according to lotterypost.com, 11 lucky players matched the first 5 numbers for a $250,000 prize, one of them coming from New Jersey.

The 40-year-old New Jersey Lottery outdoes many other states’ comparable operations in sales and in the amount of revenue it provides to the state. In 2010, despite a poor economy that has hurt casino and racetrack gambling, the state lottery broke all of its previous revenue records.

MEGA MILLIONS WINNING NUMBERS FOR TUESDAY, MARCH 15, 2011:

10, 11, 12, 28, 43 and Mega ball 45

In June 2010 the state Treasury Department and acting director of the state Lottery Commission, Carole Hedinger announced that total profits for the previous 12 months had exceeded $2.6 billion for the first time.

Not all states shared such good fortune: The Press of Atlantic City reported last year that a study by the Rockefeller Institute for Government, based in New York, found in the same period that some lotteries, such as those in Oregon and West Virginia, lost as much as 15 percent of their revenue. Neighboring Pennsylvania, which has expanded casino gambling, saw a drop last year, too, of about $22 million, or nearly 1 percent of revenue.

But money can create just as many problems as it solves if you’re not careful. There are too many stories of people winning the lottery which turn into nightmares.

Craig Wallace, a senior funding officer for a company that buys lottery annuity payments in exchange for lump sums, told bankrate.com, "In New Jersey, they manipulate the reality of the situation to sell more tickets. Each winner takes a picture with a check that becomes a 3-foot by 5-foot stand-up card. The winner is photographed standing next to a beautiful woman and the caption reads: 'New Jersey's newest millionaire.'"

Evelyn Adams won the New Jersey twice in 1985 and 1986, for a total of $5.4 million. Today the money is all gone and Adams lives in a trailer.

"Everybody wanted my money. Everybody had their hand out. I never learned one simple word in the English language — 'No,' said Adams.

Tuesday's Mega Millions jackpot will be the 12th drawing since the last jackpot prize winner. If no one wins on Tuesday, Friday’s Mega millions drawing could conceivably approach $200 million.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Ab Hancer




I suspect that this is not a real product, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is. It’s probably as effective as a six pack abs tattoo.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The World's Smallest Aquarium




Small fry: The tiny fish tank was made by a Russian artist who specialises in miniatures



 Here is the perfect home for small fry: the world's smallest aquarium.

Created by Russian artist Anatoly Konenko, who specialises in miniatures, the tiny tank is made of glass, contains tiny stones and plants and is home to a group of tiny fish.

It is just 30mm wide, 24mm high and 14 mm deep - enough to hold just 10ml of water, or about two tablespoons' worth.

The water has to be applied using a syringe so as not to disturb the landscape the Siberia-artist lovingly created.

Konenko, who calls his art 'micro-miniatures', even made a minuscule fishing net which he used to place the fish, baby Danios.

The adults are usually a favourite with more normal sized tanks but the tiny fish look at home in Konenko's construction for which he has since added a specially built air pump.



In the net: Anatoly Konenko made a small net to match, and tiny Danios fish swam around in the tank, which takes only two teaspoons of water to fill

Something fishy: The tank is just 30mm wide, 24mm high and 14 mm deep

Konenko is also a painter and is in the Guinness World Records book for making the world's smallest book.

He said: 'I've been doing microart for 30 years, doing the smallest things in the world.

'This tank was made out of curiosity.'

He works using a microscope for most of his work and has won awards in his home country and round the world.




READ MORE - The World's Smallest Aquarium