Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Who will verify the verifications?"

"Who will verify the verifications?"
Quote by Andrew Berman

In a world where it is increasingly easy to fake almost anything, people are forced to rely heavily on verifications. Unfortunately, verifications are becoming easier to fake as well. This begs the question, "Who will verify the verifications?"

Sarah Palin Wikipedia Page Altered

Having a Wikipedia entry altered is not generally news. With a site where the information is based solely on who was last as apposed to who is right, changes are a frequent occurrence. That is another reason that Wikipedia is not a reliable research source as mentioned in Berman Post: Stop Citing Wikipedia

What makes this alteration notable is the timing. Shortly before John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, about 30 alterations were made to portray her in a more favorable light. Who ever made the changes did so from an account that was created almost exclusively to make these changes.

There is no evidence that the McCain campaign was behind this, but safe money would say that they did. If so, it would show that the McCain campaign has become significantly more tech savy. Still no where near the level of the Obama campaign, but making strides in the right direction.

"Someone — and apparently it was just one person — felt like the existing biography wasn't appropriate for a vice-presidential candidate.

On Friday, 15 minutes before the rumor that John McCain had picked Palin as his running mate, a Wikipedia editor discovered 30 mostly favorable changes had been made to the Alaska governor's profile.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Double Sided Transparent Touch Screen Debuts

Teraokaseiko Co Ltd just exhibited a display that has touch sensory input on both sides. In other words, it is a two sided touch screen display. The transparent material used allows you to see straight through it if you want to see where the person on the other side is touching the display. Possible uses of the technology are abundant, but the two obvious ones that come to mind are gaming and use with maps.

"Teraokaseiko Co Ltd exhibited a touch panel display that can be operated by touching either side of the display at Sign & Display Show 2008, which is taking place from Aug 28 to 30, 2008, at Tokyo Big Sight (Fig 1).

The display was made by attaching a resistive touch panel to the both sides of a transparent inorganic EL panel developed by Teraokaseiko.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Little Things That Matter From the Official Gmail Blog

Google has unveiled their newest round of improvements.

1) New email options for calendar invites - now with the same email guest list you created for an event you can email only people who said yes, no, maybe, and those that did not respond. Any combination of the categories just mentioned can be achieved by checking the right boxes.

2) Simplified process of adding an event to a friends calendar - All you have to do is type their name into the "Add a friend's calendar" box which will be match against your address book. Click on their name and the calendar is added.

3) Creating a new event by dragging - Dragging to select the time for an event is not new. What is new is a "gutter space" which solves the problems created from trying to create overlapping events.

4) Customizable reminder times - Gone are the days where you were forced to select your reminder time for an event from a shot list of ridged options. Now you can customize the time from as little as five minutes to as long as four weeks.

To read the original post head over to the Official Gmail Blog at

Coco Cola is Testing a 100 Flavor Dispensing Fountain

Walk in to any number of fast food restaurants and your likely to see a fountain soda dispenser. Order a drink and you get to chose between about eight drinks. To put that a different way, if you go into that restaurant every day it would be just over a week before you would have to repeat one of your choices.

Coco Cola is testing a 100 flavor fountain. When a restaurant has one of the new machine you would have to eat there daily for more than three months before you were forced to repeat a flavor. It may actually be longer than that with swapping or adding flavors as easy as swapping out print cartridges.

"Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co., the world’s largest beverage firm, is working on a proprietary fountain system that can dispense more than 100 beverages from a single unit.
The new dispenser, which fits in about the same space as a current eight-valve machine, uses high-concentrate ingredients to store more beverages. Adding a new brand is “about as easy as changing a print cartridge,” the company said in a press release.

John McCain has Slected Sarah Palin to be his Running Mate

News is breaking that John McCain has selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate for the 2008 presidential election. She will be the first women to appear on the republican presidential ticket in history. This is a smart political move by McCain hoping to court disenfranchised Hillary Clinton supporters.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

YouTube Announces Closed Captioning Feature

YouTube just announced a new feature that allows people to add closed captioning to their videos. This is a move that will allow people to increase their audiences both to people who are deaf and those that speak another language. As useful as this tool will be, I believe they should have just put this effort into their technology that automatically transcribes videos ( Once they role that out for all the videos on their website they can automatically add closed captioning to all the videos instead of requiring users to do it manually. They could use their translation technology to add the automatic closed captioning in different languages.

"Here at YouTube, we're always trying to find new ways to enrich your viewing experience and to help video creators reach a wider audience. As part of this goal, we've added a new captioning feature which allows you to give viewers a deeper understanding of your video. Captions can help people who would not otherwise understand the audio track to follow along, especially those who speak other languages or who are deaf and hard of hearing."

Why Flies Are So Hard to Swat

Why Flies Are So Hard to Swat, because they can comprehend a situation and react in roughly 100 milliseconds. That is what Caltech Scientists have just discovered. Combine that reaction time with nearly 360 degree field of view and you could have some trouble ridding yourself of your uninvited guest.

"Using high-resolution, high-speed digital imaging of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) faced with a looming swatter, Dickinson and graduate student Gwyneth Card have determined the secret to a fly's evasive maneuvering. Long before the fly leaps, its tiny brain calculates the location of the impending threat, comes up with an escape plan, and places its legs in an optimal position to hop out of the way in the opposite direction. All of this action takes place within about 100 milliseconds after the fly first spots the swatter."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Barack Obama is Now Officially the 2008 Democratic Nominee For President

Not much of a surprise here, but everything is now official. No more "presumptive" in front of the phrase "Democratic Nominee." Congratulations Barack Obama.

Google Suggest Goes Live

With Google Suggest (link is to the FAQ page) when you start typing in a search query into Google, you will get real time suggestions. The one time Google Labs experiment has graduated and is now a default feature. The feature helps eliminate spelling errors, reduce required key strokes, but most importantly helps to formulate queries.

"Today we're excited because Google Suggest will be "graduating" from Labs and available by default on the homepage. Over the next week, we'll be rolling this out so that more and more of you will start seeing a list of query suggestions when you start typing into the search box.

We find that by providing suggestions upfront, we can help people search more efficiently and conveniently. Below are some great ways Google Suggest can help simplify your searching.

Google Launches a 2008 United States Presidential Election Site

In an effort to aggregate information on the United States 2008 Presidential Election, Google has launched The site is well put together and easy to browse. News, video, quotes and blogs are clearly tabbed along with the candidates. The information is continuously updates so the news does not get stale.

"Can't make it to Denver or Minneapolis? Go to our conventions site to view the latest news, videos, photos and blog posts. See what the candidates are saying about the issues that concern you by using Elections Video Search, which lets you search across all of the candidate speeches and videos by word. If you want to see what the Obama or McCain campaigns and other political journalists are reading, check out Power Readers in Politics and subscribe to get daily snippets. You can also interact with a wide variety of political mash-ups in the Google Maps Elections Gallery. If you're a teacher, inform your students about the political process with our Election Toolkit for Teachers. If you happen to be running for office yourself, or are blogging about various campaigns, go to our Campaign Toolkit to find out how you can use online tools to raise money, follow the campaign trail or spread your influence."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who Won the Beijing Olympics

Now that the dust has settled and the 2008 Olympics have come to a close, who should be declared the winner? Michael Phelps won the individual competition in my book, but lets talk geopolitically. This question of winner here becomes much more difficult.

Clearly however, the contest comes down to the United States and China. First a look at the medal count totals from the Official site of the games (

United States:
Gold - 36
Silver - 38
Bronze - 36
Total - 110

Gold - 51
Silver - 21
Bronze - 28
Total - 100

Impressive stats by any measure, but what metric should be used to determine the winner. Major news agencies in China think it is all about the number of gold metals. Using That standard China wins with 51. Major news agency in the United States have been using a total medal count. By that Standard the United States wins with 110.

Either measure does not seem accurate. Surely it is not just about gold metals, but to say that a bronze is of equal value to a gold does not seem right. That has led some to give each metal a value and do a bit of calculating; three points for gold, two for silver, and one for bronze.

Now for the math:
United States - (36x3)+(38x2)+(36x1) -> 108+76+36 -> 220
China - (51x3)+(21x2)+(28x1) -> 153+42+28 -> 223
Using this metric China wins by a very slim margin.

This metric does not seem right either. I think that a gold is more impressive than both a silver and bronze combined. Hence the values I use are five points for gold, three for silver, and one for bronze.

This requires another round of math:
United States - (36x5)+(38x3)+(36x1) -> 180+114+36 -> 330
China - (51x5)+(21x3)+(28x1) -> 255+63+28 -> 346
Using this metric China wins by a slightly larger, though still slim, margin.

To total that up, China wins using three of the measurements, while the Unites States wins with just one. The story is not over yet. Controversy regarding the possible use of athletes that were to young to legally compete in female gymnastics threaten four of the medals won by china; two gold and two bronze. Take away those medals and calculating the increase of the Unites States score, the Chinese total is less the the United States in both above calculated metrics. China would still have the most gold metals, but the United States would be judged the winner with the three other measurements.

Ultimately, it is up to you to determine for yourself who the winner is using the measurement you think is right.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Closing Ceremony for the Beijing Games

The Olympic games came to a close in spectacular fashion. As dazzling as the opening ceremony was, the closing ceremony was at least as amazing. I do not recall an opening or closing on par with what the Chinese produced.

My slight detraction from the opening regarding the camera angles did not reoccur in the closing. They kept the shots wide enough to appreciate the harmony and synchronicity of motion, and had shots zoomed in just enough to be able to see the details. Neither was over played, and the transitions allowed for a greater appreciation of each.

If you missed it, it is worth finding a copy to watch.

Obama Chooses Senator Joseph Biden to be his Running Mate

The VP speculation game is now at an end. Barack Obama announced that his running mate will be Joseph Biden. It was not that big of a surprise as he was in most annalist's top three along with Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton. Biden is a relatively safe choice with good foreign policy experience, but he does have his problems. In his past campaign, Biden never got any real traction, and it is not clear that he has a large contingent that he is bringing to Obama. He does not seem to do much for party unity either. Joseph Biden would also seem to represent a "Washington Insider" which Obama has been campaigning against. The apparent contradiction may present some problems.

Had he chosen Hillary Clinton, Obama may more effectively have courted the disenfranchised voters who supported her. At the same time, her choice would likely have alienated a significant portion of others who do not like her. This is not to say only with in the Democratic Party, but in a general elections as her negatives are relatively high. If Bill Richardson had been chosen it is likely that Obama would have secured most of the Latino vote, but it could present to much of a minority ticket to some. Joseph Biden seems to be the more middle line choice. He does not bring a large group of people with him, but he also is not likely to alienate a large group against the campaign.

A bigger question to pose is if the VP choice even matters. To some extent it does. The right choice can give a boost to the campaign, and the wrong choice can hurt it. Most of the time however, it really does not make much of a difference. Examples of the potential effects can be found in the paragraph above, but the effects may be over blown.

Can you imagine Barack Obama saying, "Well...I don't have much foreign policy experience, but not to worry because my running mate does!"? He would never say such a thing with any degree of seriousness, nor likely float it as a joke for fear of its use in political ads. If Obama wins then the foreign policy decisions fall to him, not to his VP. You can (and should) surround yourself with many smart people, but at the end of the day it is the person on top that has to make the final call. In this sense, Biden's foreign policy experience does not do much to bluster the Obama campaign. Instead, it may serve to highlight just how little experience Obama has.

Some people are trying to make the comparison between President George Bush and Dick Cheney in terms of the foreign policy discrepancy between the two as an example of why what Obama is doing is not bad. No judgment is being made here and now at the Berman Post, just observations. It is up to you to determine the good or bad. The first observation is the slight humor from Obama supporters using President Bush as an example of something good which they are copying, when they have spent the majority of references to Bush as someone who has done nothing right. The second and more important observation is the geopolitical climate. Most people did not put foreign policy concerns as high in 2000 as they do now. President Bush's first election happened before 9/11 when the country woke up to and realized the world is a dangerous and some people will stop at nothing to destroy us. Today, that notion is entrenched firmly in most voters consciousness.

The reality is that this pick, minus any serious revelations or gafts, will have little effect on the outcome of the race. The choice was essentially a wash and keeps the pressure to win for the Democrats firmly planted on Obama's shoulders, right where it has been.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Moodstream by Getty Images is a website that either conforms to, or helps shape, you mood. Its hard to tell exactly what it is or what it does.

When you first get to the web site it loads a bunch of images to cycle through and starts playing music. you can tweak the type of images you see manually or load one of the presets. Then, stare and listen. You can alter the settings at any time. This qualifies as one of those sites that you just have to visit to truly understand.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Post Secret (redirects to is a website were you can read peoples most deep, dark secrets. It started off with people anonymously mailing in postcards with their secrets. Now people can send emails and video confessions.

If you like the website, they have a number of books you can order.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stop Citing Wikipedia

Wikipedia has its place in a research assignment. That place is as a source to gather other sources, not as a source itself. The reason stems from the very essence of Wikipedia is. Namely, an open source "dictionary." Dictionary has to be in quotes, because its open source nature precludes it from being true. Any of the big dictionaries or encyclopedias have a process. A word or term is brought to their attention, they review all the information on it they can find, then carefully determine its meaning. That meaning is generally enshrined until society as a whole changes it. In effect, that means that words usually are not completely changed, but occasionally given addendum's.

Wikipedia has a much different process. In the most ideal situation, someone locates either a mistake or gap in the knowledge base at Wikipedia and on the spot corrects or adds the information. Even under these ideal situations, the person doing the correcting or addition could be wrong. Indeed, the person may end up accidentally taking correct information and changing it to make it false. Ideally again, someone else would come along and fix it, but the same problems apply to that person as well.

The practical effect is that Wikipedia can be compared to a editing "free style brawl" with both sides convinced they are correct. Worse yet, people can intentionally falsify the information. They could do this to maliciously attack someone, or to make their side look unassailable. Just look at the pages of any hot button political issue and the point becomes readily apparent.

My first experience with Wikipedia was when I was doing a research paper for a class. The first page I came across tried to convince me that the Confederates (US Civil War) had the worlds first nuclear submarine. Thankfully, I knew that was false outright, and did not take the information to heart. Thankfully, may be a stretch because for someone that studied history, especially war history, this was obviously not true. The thankfully should be directed more to the fact that my first experience with Wikipedia was on a topic I knew enough about to know that what was on the screen was wrong.

As A side note: Leonardo da Vinci is generally credited as being the first to design/conceptualize a submarine. The Americans had the worlds first working submarine during the Revolutionary War, but the Confederates were the first to sink a ship with a submarine during the Revolutionary war. That sub was not nuclear powered, it was powered by the strength of the men inside. The worlds first nuclear submarine was deployed by America during the Cold War, roughly a century after this Wikipedia said it was developed.

The fact that the pages can be changed, and do change often makes it problematic to site. You say "X" sourcing Wikipedia. Someone who reads your work decides to investigate or do some research themselves and starts checking your sources. Since the time you took "X" from Wikipedia and the time that your reader checks your source, someone has changed "X" to "Y". Now you look either foolish or sloppy. This can be a problem from a number of websites, but is especially acute at Wikipedia.

There are uses for Wikipedia once you get past the notion that you should never site directly from it. This goes back to how the website is ideally supposed to work. People adding new pages or correcting information are supposed to cite where that information came from. While not everyone does, enough do that their are often a few more reputable sources that are linked to from the Wikipedia page. Thus, while Wikipedia makes a for a poor choice as a source itself, it can often save you time in finding other sources that are more acceptable to use in a serious writing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Google for Tamil (Language) Reader / Writers

Google is making it easier for people who read and write in the Tamil language to get around the internet. Users can type in English and it is automatically translated into the equivalent sounding words in the Tamil language. They are offering this function in a number of services including Search, Blogger, and Orkut.

"The global nature of our mission is reflected in the phrases the "world's information" and "universally accessible." To this end, you may have recently read about our 40-language initiative and the story of a community coming together to develop Google search in the Maori language.

Following on this theme, we'd like to highlight a few new products that enable a better online experience for Tamil speakers around the world.

First, we just released Google News in Tamil. Like other Google News editions, we gather stories from the various Tamil news sources on the web and present an automatically- generated summary with links to the most important stories in each section.

We recognize that it can sometimes be hard to enter Tamil text with existing keyboards. Our transliteration technology enables the conversion from English text to phonetically equivalent text in Indian languages. For example, using transliteration, you could type "vanakkam" and we would convert it to Tamil script as வணக்கம். We have embedded this technology in several Google products to make it easier to enter text in Tamil.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

See What John McCain and Barack Obama are Reading

Want to know what John McCain and Barack Obama are reading? Well, only they can tell you what they actually read, but Google offers them a way to show us a list of what they want us to think they read. Each candidate has their own page which they share items in Google Reader.

A list of some of the "Power Readers" who you can follow what they read is available at

To jump directly to John McCain's page go to

For Barack Obama head on over to

"Today we announced that both the Obama and McCain campaigns as well as political contributors from Newsweek to POLITICO are sharing news with Google Reader this election season. You can see their most recently shared items at, or add the feeds from your favorite campaign or journalist to Reader to keep up with newly posted items and comments."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Free the Airwaves

"Free the Airwaves!" Who could be against that? Well, the FCC, maybe. The idea behind Free The Airwaves is to use the unused "fuzzy white space" between the channels on old TVs. If it is allowed, it could revolutionize wireless internet and communication. The catch is that the FCC believes that it may interfere with TV reception. Since TV transmissions is soon transferring from analog to digital, this will open up some of the spectrum which may be used for data transfer allowing an increase in speed. Google has thrown its weight behind the idea. This sounds like a good idea, as long as they can work out all the kinks this could be a big step forward for wireless communication.

"For quite some time we've been talking about the potential of the unused airwaves between broadcast TV channels ("white spaces") to provide affordable, high-speed wireless Internet connectivity nationwide. For this to happen, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must allow unlicensed use of this spectrum.

If you care about the future of the Internet, now is the time to take action. The FCC has completed its field testing and is expected to make a ruling in the coming months. With this in mind, today we're launching Free The Airwaves, a new effort to bring users together around this important issue.

Google is not alone in this push. Some of the "heavy weights" can be found at

Monday, August 18, 2008

If you have ever looked at the cover of a magazine and thought, "It should be me on that cover" then Mag My Pic is the perfect website for you. Their, you can upload your picture and put it on the cover of one of the magazines they have available. If that sounds interesting to you, head over to the website and give it a try.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Google to Fill in the Blanks on Google Maps

The recent conflict in Georgia has sent some to Google Maps to look at the conflict zone. Those that went found nothing, and some wondered if Google intentionally removed information from the map because of the conflict. Google announced that the information was never their in the first place because it did not feel it had complete enough information on some of the areas in that region.

"The recent conflict in Georgia has raised some questions about how Google Maps has handled mapping in that part of the world. The most obvious question is, why doesn't Google Maps show any cities or roads for Georgia, or its neighbors Armenia and Azerbaijan? The answer is we never launched coverage in those countries because we simply weren't satisfied with the map data we had available. We're constantly searching for the best map data we can find, and sometimes will delay launching coverage in a country if we think we can get more comprehensive data. Some of our customers have asked if we removed map data from any of these countries in response to the recent hostilities in that region and I can assure you that is not the case. Data for these countries were never on Google Maps in the first place.

But this has generated a lot of feedback that we are listening to and learning from. We're hearing from our users that they would rather see even very basic coverage of a country than see nothing at all. That certainly makes sense, and so we have started preparing data for the handful of countries that are still blank on Google Maps. Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, as well as other significant regions of the world will benefit from this effort.

In the meantime, much of this data, including cities in Georgia and other surrounding countries, can be found in Google Earth.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

All My Faves has a simple philosophy, "why search". To try and make sure that you do not need to do any more searching, they created a web page that has some of the more popular websites broken down by topic, and then listed using their logo. No more typing in the wrong URL, no more need to use a search engine to try and hunt down your favorite sites. Just go to All My Faves, and click on the logo of the website you are looking for. The site can also help you find some new sites. Simply find the section with the topic you are looking for and you will be presented with a list of websites you may not have known about. They add sites regularly, so the listed websites are generally current, useful and/or entertaining. Head on over and take a look.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Google Calendar Now Available in 38 Languages

After adding eight new Languages, Google Calendar is now available in thirty eight Languages.

"One of our goals at Google is to give everyone the information they want in the language they speak. We've been hard at work making Google products available in as many languages as possible. Recently we launched Google Calendar in eight more languages, bringing our total number of supported languages to 38 (and closing in on Gmail's 50). The new languages are Latvian, Romanian, Filipino/Tagalog, Serbian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Hindi and Indonesian.

To use Google Calendar in your preferred language, just sign in, click Settings in the upper right hand corner and look for Language.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Homepage or Personalized Start Page

Any page can be you personalized start pages or homepages, including the Berman Post. Your homepage is likely the page you will visit or see most frequently. People chose their homepages accordingly. Some simply chose Google or Yahoo as their start page. Below is a list of websites that either have customizable start pages and/or already created pages that they hope you will find useful as is. That means you can chose what shows up on the page to ensure that your likely most view web page is as relevant and helpful as possible.

Top Picks
If your web email provider provides a customizable homepage that is the top pick

Massive List

All My Faves

Awesome Start





Its A Start

Its My Links



My Earth Link

My Excite

My Live

My Yahoo









Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stream Videos From Your Cell Phone

The following sites allow you to stream video to the internet directly from your cell phone without the need to load the video on your computer. Streaming video from your cell phone is very data intensive. Many of the sites recommend you have an unlimited data plan. That advice should be followed as those that use this service with a data plan that is not unlimited (or one with a lot of data) may find expensive overage charges on their next bill. Note that not all of the websites have service available for all cell phones.

Top Picks

No "Top Pick" but their is are rumors that You Tube will be launching this service by the end of this year. If they do so, they will be the top pick. That is assuming that you want to get your video out to the largest possible audience since they have the most members and viewers.

Massive List


Comet Now




Live Castr


Tuesday, August 12, 2008 is a simple, user friendly website that allows you generate an Email icon. All you have to do is type in your email address and select from their list of popular email providers. If you do not use one of their listed services, you can customize your own filling in all of the information and choosing some colors.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Jib Jab is one of the more popular political humor websites. They are equal opportunity "haters" going after who ever the easiest, or who ever has the highest profile. Despite going for the "low-hanging-fruit" they also manage to throw in a few "high brow" jokes as well. To fully appreciate the humor, you have to have a decent grasp on current events. Though, if you care enough to try, you can usually figure out what the current events were by watching some of their videos.

If you have never visited the site before, you should start on the originals ( page

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Large Hadron Collider's "Big Ring" is Turned on

The world's most powerful particle accelerator has been turned on for testing this weekend. It will become fully operational on September 10th if everything stays on schedule. Their was a myth going around that it would create a black hole that would destroy the world, but that has been soundly debunked. For more head on over to Popular Mechanics at

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bernie Mac, Dead at the Age of 50

Bernie Mac died today as a result of complications from pneumonia. He was famous for being a stand up comedian, movie actor, and television star.

Associated Press
"Bernie Mac blended style, authority and a touch of self-aware bluster to make audiences laugh as well as connect with him. For Mac, who died Saturday at age 50, it was a winning mix, delivering him from a poor childhood to stardom as a standup comedian, in films including the casino heist caper "Ocean's Eleven" and his acclaimed sitcom "The Bernie Mac Show.""

Yahoo to Give Consumer Control Over Privacy

Yahoo announced that they were going to let users opt out of customized adverting. Users will be able to increase their privacy through the opt out program. This move may prompt a similar move from Google. Google however will have more trouble implementing something like this because their revenue stream system is more dependent on personalized ads in search results.


"Today Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) announced that it will offer users greater choice in how they manage their privacy online by enabling them to opt-out of customized advertising on This new option expands Yahoo!'s existing opt-out program for customized advertising served by Yahoo! on third party networks."

Legal Performance Enhancers at the 2008 Olympics

Wired has a gallery of legal performance enhansing gadgets being used at the 2008 olimpics. If you like sports and/or tecnoligy it makes for a good read. Head on over to for pictures and descriptions.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Lucky Number Eight Works Out Well For the Olympics

In China the number eight is considered lucky. The word for eight in Mandarin, "ba," sounds very similar to the word for wealth. Trying to garner as much luck as possible, the opening ceremony started at the time with the most eights in it. The ceremony began at 8:08:08 p.m. on 8-8-08. It is the date and time with the most eights in it for the next 80 years.

The plan worked. The opening ceremony was spectacular. My only real complaint was the camera angles. When you have masses of people moving in sync, do not zoom in on a select five. Pull out and let the viewers see the synchronicity the performers practiced for so long to perfect.


"Eight is a lucky number in China. The word for it -- ba -- sounds so close to the word for wealth that many people believe eight is a number that is linked to prosperity.

So it is no surprise that the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games begin at 8:08:08 p.m. on 8/8/08.

John Edwards Admits to Extramarital Affair

In what became a big story in part because of the virtual media black out of it, John Edwards has now admitted to having an affair. He still denies that he is the father of the child who he had an affair with insisting that the father is one of his former aids. He has yet to take a paternity test, but claims to be willing to in order to prove that he is not the father.

If you have not been following this story from the beginning, head over to Deceiver ( who have been doing a good job of covering this.

ABC News
"In an interview for broadcast tonight on Nightline, Edwards told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff he did have an affair with 44-year old Rielle Hunter, but said that he did not love her.

Edwards also denied he was the father of Hunter's baby girl, Frances Quinn, although the one-time Democratic Presidential candidate said he has not taken a paternity test.

Google Helps People Keep Updated With the Beijing Olympic Games

Google's new Gadget (as seen in this blog post) is going to make it easy to keep track of the standings and keep up to date with the schedules. You can embed the gadget into your website or add it to your Google Homepage.

Google Blog

"I’m happy to present the 2008 Summer Games on Google, a site that features a number of our products to help you stay updated on Summer Games happenings. And it's available in 66 countries and 31 languages, from Australia to Uruguay, and from Arabic to Vietnamese.

We collaborated with a data provider to make it easy for you to keep current on event schedules and get updates on results, as well as track medal counts with an iGoogle gadget. You can also get schedules and results on Google search results. (Check out the results for water polo.) We're also including the newest Summer Games highlights through Google News. The Summer Games Google Maps lets you view medal and event information based on your favorite regions and sports, and there's a 3D video of the various Games venues you can tour:

Also, be sure to check out this cool collection of 3D stadiums and venues in Beijing created with Google SketchUp. Read more about these efforts on the Lat Long Blog.

Maximum Capacity on an Elevator Means Just That

When you see a sign on an elevator saying no more that "X" people or "Y" pounds, believe it. Those signs are not put their as jokes, they are their to make sure the elevator runs smoothly.

A group of Texas cheer leaders did not take that message to heart. Despite signs saying no more than 15 people or 3,000 pounds, 26 cheer leaders crammed themselves into the elevator. While the elevator successfully descended to the first floor, upon reaching the first level the girls learned the door was stuck. Some of the girls called for help and no one was seriously hurt. Hopefully next time they will listen to what the sign says.

Dallas News

"Police and firefighters were called to the University of Texas' Jester Hall to free 26 cheerleaders who had crammed themselves into an elevator.

A group of 14- to 17-year-olds attending Texas Cheer Camp in Austin decided to see how many girls they could squeeze into the elevator around 6 p.m. Tuesday, campus police said.

The elevator successfully descended from the fourth floor to the first, but the doors refused to open.

Former President Clinton's Plan to Fight AIDs - Fidelity

Former President Clinton's talked about how to fight the spread of the AIDs virus. The crux of the plan was monogamy. Such is an obvious way to stem the spread of the disease considering the alternative. AIDS is primarily spread through sexual relations, so the more partners you have the more likely you are to get the disease. By the same token, the more partners you have, the more people you are likely to spread the disease to if you are already infected.

This idea is nothing new. Perhaps more noteworthy than the message is the messenger. Anyone who can remember scandals and/or that stained blue dress probably can not help but smirk a little. I will admit that when I first read the story I to could not contain a little smile. Beyond the smirk, Former President Clinton should also be commended for saying what needed to be said despite what he had to know would be the consequences. Look for jokes about this on the comedy shows over the next few days.

The Independent

"Bill Clinton made a plea yesterday for a new emphasis on monogamy as a key element in the battle against Aids.

The former US president, not noted for his ability to keep his own marriage vows, said it was very important to change people's attitudes to sex.

I Am Rich - iPhone App Disappears Update

To update readers from yesterdays post (Berman Post: I Am Rich - iPhone App Disappears), the LA Times is reporting that eight people bought the "I Am Rich" app before it was removed. It also reports that the app was taken down by Apple. For anyone trying to do the math, that is roughly $5,600 for the developer. The other roughly $2,400 go to Apple as they collect %30 for store upkeep.

"Eight iPhone owners have joined an elite clan: Their Apple gadget is running a program that cost nearly $1,000.


Apple apparently had some problems with I Am Rich. After initially approving it for distribution, the company has since removed it from the store. Heinrich, a German software developer, has yet to hear back from Apple concerning the removal. "I have no idea why they did it and am not aware of any violation of the rules to sell software on the App Store," Heinrich said in an e-mail with The Times today.

Russia Invades Georgia

Russia and Georgia are at war. Russia sent their military into South Ossetia, a potential breakaway province in Georgia following a Georgian military strike capturing the province capital, Tskhinvali, in order to gain greater control in the region. Georgia responded and their is now an open war between the two countries.

This is a serious situation and is likely to go from bad to worse unless someone (read the United States, potentially/hopefully with support from the rest of the world) steps in. Efforts in that regard are already underway but have yet to make a serious impact.

This conflicts stems from a reawakening Russia who desire to once again be a major player on the world stage. Oil pipelines, or more specifically oil pipeline routes play a major part as well.

America has strong and growing ties with Georgia who applied for NATO membership. Israel is also reportedly playing a role having as Georgia commissioned privet security firms for training, bought weapons from Israel as well. Russia has made threats against Israel in an effort to stop them from helping Georgia, but Israel insists they are only helping out in matters of defense.

It is clear that this situation is a tinderbox which has now been lit. If something is not done, and soon, we could all be looking at some serious problems.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Verizon Wireless Buys Rural Cellular

After more than a year of negotiating, Verizon Wireless has officially bought Rural Cellular for more than $2.5 billion. The purchase price includes assuming some of Rural Cellular's debt. The FCC, as a condition of the deal going through, has required licenses to be sold in six markets for improved competition. Verizon Wireless apparently accepted the deal.

PR Newswire
"The acquisition will expand Verizon Wireless' network coverage to many
rural markets around the country and increases the company's customers by
more than 625,000.

The purchase will increase Verizon Wireless' licensed coverage area by
4.7 million people, and will add licenses covering markets in Maine, New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, Alabama, Mississippi, Minnesota, North Dakota,
South Dakota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

When it comes to buying books people have a dilemma. Many like the experience of walking through a book store. Walking through the aisles, you can come across a book your were not looking for originally. Some people just like seeing the wide selection spread out in front of them. So, while the brick and mortar book store experience may be preferable to that of the online book store, the virtual book store is usually cheaper. While some resort to walking around a real world book store, write down the necessary information, then order the book(s) online, it seems their should be an easier way. This is where Zoomii comes in.

Zoomii allows you to have the experience of browsing trough a real world book store on your computer. If you see something that catches your eye, once click pulls up information about the book. Another click and the book is added to your Amazon shopping cart. The dilemma is a bit closer to being resolved.

I Am Rich - iPhone App Disappears

The iPhone app we reported on yesterday (Berman Post: I Am Rich - iPhone App)which proclaimed "I Am Rich" is no longer available. It is unclear if Apple removed the app or the owner took it down. Regardless, it is doubtful that anyone will miss it terribly. Anyone who does will likely have a knockoff app to fill the void shortly, potential example of which were put forth in the last post.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

BlackBerry Bold Now on Sale, in Germany

Any thought that the BlackBerry going on sale in Chile are being put to rest now that the phone is on sale in Germany. The price is just under 130 Euros, or roughly $200.

To see for yourself, head over to T-Mobil's German page at,4855,2963-_10060-0-1-0,00.html. Announces

My Space recently announced a new website, My Debates. Right now the website redirects to When it does finally launch, it promises to bring the debates to the masses with a yet unprecedented web presence for the political debates.

Will it live up to the hype? We will have to wait for the launch to find out.

Color Changing Crystal Reveals Shock Wave Trauma

Shock wave trauma from explosions is a common battle field injury. They are becoming increasingly common with the terrorists favoring IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and suicide bombings. Such trauma is difficult to detect, especially relating to potential brain injuries. Enter the new crystal. This crystal's color changes based on its structure. When a shock wave condenses the crystal through the impact force exerted by the shock wave, its color changes. Eventually, looking at the color of the crystal will allow for a quick rough estimate of potential brain trauma suffered by the wearer.

New Scientist

"A colour-changing crystal device worn on a soldier's uniform could reveal the intensity of bomb blasts they have been exposed to, helping doctors to treat brain injuries that are too subtle to be detected by brain scans.


Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia have developed a device based on a photonic crystalline material. The crystal's colour is determined by its structure, so when a shock wave from a blast hits the crystal, changing the structure, its colour will change too.


The team's next step will be to develop a method to quantify the colour changes and translate this into a measure of neurological damage.

New Knife Can Blow You Up, Sort Of

A new knife by Wasp promises to blow up what ever you manage to sink your knife into. It works by using air pressure released toward the tip of the blade. Wasp's about page explains:

"This weapon injects a freezing cold ball of compressed gas, approximately the size of a basketball, at 800psi nearly instantly. The effects of this injection will drop many of the world's largest land predators. The effects of the compressed gas not only cause over-inflation during ascent when used underwater, but also freezes all tissues and organs surrounding the point of injection on land or at sea. When used underwater, the injected gas carries the predator to the surface BEFORE blood is released into the water. Thus giving the diver added protection by diverting other potential predators to the surface."

Given the time frames and pressures involved here the mass freezing claim seems a bit dubious. Given the roughly basketball sized hole created in the victim, lack of freezing should not take away from its effectiveness. Their website has a video demonstration using a couple of watermelons. Their does not appear to be much freezing in the video, but it is clear that the lack freezing would not matter much.

I Am Rich - iPhone App

A new iPhone app proclaims boldly, "I Am Rich." For just under $1,000 ($999.99 to be exact), you can be the proud owner of a glowing red stone. The app does not do much. It is their just so you can show people who are then supposed to be impressed that you have it. It is doubtful that anyone will be impressed with whomever waists their money on this. Some people will be impressed with the creator who may have found a way to make a lot of money with almost no work. Others will hate the creator for much the same reason.

Knockoffs seem extremely likely.

Some ideas:
I am super rich - $10,000
I was rich - $500,000
I am Bill Gates rich - $1,000,000,000
I am so poor I had to get the free one - free

Update: Berman Post: I Am Rich - iPhone App Disappears

Gmail Enables Web Clip Customization

Google has made it easy to change the web clips featured toward the top of its Gmail interface page. Not only can you chose from a list of feeds, but you can add your own.

Gmail Blog

"Just click on the 'Web Clips' tab to see a list of your current subscriptions, browse popular feeds by topic, and select the ones that interest you. You can also add your own URLs to get your favorite blogs and other news right above your inbox."

Google Has Forgotten About the Gmail Trash Bin/Tab

It is easy to understand. With Gmail recently crossing the seven gigabytes (7000 MB) of storage mark, their is really very little reason to delete anything that is not spam. Since spam ends up under the spam tab, it does not bring any attention to the trash bin.

A visit to the forgotten trash bin starts off with the message, "(messages that have been in Trash more than 30 days will be automatically deleted)" which is all well and good, and does not give the impression that the page has been forgotten about. The next line does. It says, "No conversations in the Trash. Who needs to delete when you have over 2000 MB of storage?!"

2000 MB (two gigabytes)!?! Google is selling themselves short. They now offer more than 3.5 times more than that. This just goes to show how forgotten the trash bin really is. Who knows, maybe this post will act as a reminder to Google. An update will certainly follow if I notice a change.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Paris Hilton responds to a John McCain Campaign Add That Used Her Picture

Recently, John McCain put out an add mocking the celebrity status of Barack Obama. The ad titled "celeb" was nothing special in my book and I do not think it will help McCain out much.

Paris Hilton, who was featured in the ad, has released a campaign add of her own. The add was released on Funny or Die and can be found at This is probably the best ad I have seen this campaign season. Paris Hilton for President? If she can pull off ads like this on a regular basis; just maybe.

While you may think such political humor does not require a response, the McCain Campaign did put out a statement. McCain's spokesman said that Paris Hilton agrees with his energy policy and that her energy plan is more substantive than Obama's.


"McCain's spokesperson Tucker Bounds tells TMZ that on the subject of energy, Paris is deeper than Barack. He says, "Sounds like Paris is taking the 'All of the Above' energy approach that John McCain has advocated -- both alternatives and drilling. Perhaps the reality is that Paris has a more substantive energy plan than Barack Obama.""

Stop Asking For Personal Information And Just Give us Your Quote

I was doing some research for my boss today regarding on-site shredding for some very old files that had to be discarded securely. To that end, research and phone calls were made in an effort to secure quotes for the job. Most of the phone calls when as you would expect.

"Hello is this... Can you tell me your pricing structure for... Thank you for you time."

One phone call when much differently. Instead of giving me a simple answer, this man kept asking me for information about the small company I work for. These were not questions that you would need for a quote. Where is the job, how big is is, when is it; these are all valid necessary questions. They were extraneous questions that had no bearing on what their costs and consequently rates would compute to. It is not that they were necessary inappropriate question, I just did not see the need to tell him such information.

If he has my number, why does he need another to the office? Why does he need to know where the office is located if the job is not at the office, but at a storage facility some distance from here? Why does he need to know the name of the company I work for. Admittedly, there was no reason why I should not have told him the answer to these question (especially the last one). Why however, should I have to? There were many phone calls to be made and on a very truncated schedule.

Figuring we were at an impasse, with him wanting more company info and I just wanting a quote to put into the chart for my boss, I told him politely to have a nice day and ended the call. He called back a few minutes later trying once again to get the information which he was not going to get. The request was made once again, "Sir, I am not going to give you that information, but you know more than enough to give me a quote. Would you like to give me a quote for the job?" He responded that he had never had anyone refuse to give him this information, and that was not how he does business. Then he said, "How do I know you are not working for one of my competitors trying learn what my rates are?"

Seriously, he really said that. It was all I could do to not laugh out loud, but their was no containing the massive smirk across my face. My response was to say, "Excuse me sir, did you just accuse me of industrial espionage?" He did not like the word choice of accused, but seemed fine enough with the industrial espionage label. It goes almost without saying, but he never got the information and never gave me a quote.

Who knew that the professional shredding industry was so cut throat. In all seriousness, its inconceivable that this man really thought that asking for this information would prevent his competition from finding out what his prices were. He could have thought that the call was some sort of prank, but that is unlikely given the specificity of the job the quote was for. Plus, if it was a prank you would think the goal would be to waist as little time as possible. He certainly spent more time in this back and forth than if had just given a quote and hung up the phone.

Were his prices cheaper than the rest? Your guess is as good as mine. When I tried to call back it would not let me through; and I tried a few times. The thought on my part was not to punish the company for this one man's actions. Also, my job was to find the best deal for my boss. If it turned out to be this company then that is the one we would have used. Did they block my number or were they having phone issues? I do not know, what I do know is that they lost potential business.

I would think that the company would be eager to give us a bid. This is what they do, and no one is going to hire them without knowing the approximate cost. What difference does it make to them to have all this information, unless and until they get the job and need it for billing purposes? Companies are supposed to satisfy the customer. Especially in an industry such as professional shredding, the real money is in repeat customers and referrals.

Should I have given him the info? Maybe, but if I had any resistance to giving the info was it worth the loss of a potential client to insist one it?

I am getting tired of giving out personal information to get answers to questions which you would think the company would want to give you anyway. When you go to a company and ask for a quote you are doing half of their job for them. They usually have to find clients before they can get a job. You found yourself for them, why would they not jump at the chance to get a client without being forced to expend the energy of finding someone?

Should you be forced to give out massive amounts of personal information to get a quote? Should you be forced to give out any information more than what is absolutely necessary to get an accurate quote? I do not believe you should. Maybe its just me, but I think a lot of people agree with me.

As always, feel free to sound off below with a story of your own or what you think on the matter.

Personal Experience

Every now and again something strange happens. It is not always news worthy, nor does it really fall under any existing label. I do feel it is important to distinguish between things learned vs experienced. Hence, the new label titled "Personal Experience." Do not expect diatribes about where I eat and how I entertain myself. Instead expect note worthy oddities that have occurred usually with some other commentary. You will understand more when you read the next post with this label which will appear before the end of the day.

Gorilla Discovery Bananza

Roughly 125,000 Western Lowland Gorillas have been discovered in Republic of Congo (Africa). To put this in some perspective, before this discovery it was thought that around 50,000 Western Lowland Gorillas existed world wide. That translates into an increased population estimate of about than 250%, or 175,000 total.

Such a massive find highlights how much left their is to explore on our own planet. If 100,000 plus Gorillas could have hid from us for so long, imagine what else may still be out their waiting to be discovered. Not just small creatures, but massive creatures that the western world may not know about.


"An estimated 125,000 Western lowland gorillas are living in a swamp in equatorial Africa, researchers reported Tuesday, double the number of the endangered primates thought to survive worldwide.


The last census on the species, carried out during the 1980s, estimated that there were only 100,000 of the gorillas left worldwide. Since then, the researchers estimated, the numbers had been cut in half.

WCS survey teams conducted the research in 2006 and 2007, traveling to the remote Lac Tele Community Reserve in northern Republic of Congo, a vast area of swamp forest.

Delta Airlines Will Become the First Major US Airline to Offer Wi-Fi on Thier Entire Domestic (Mainline) Fleet

This had happen eventually. Delta beat its competition to the punch. Do not be surprised when the other airlines announce that they too will have internet availability on their flights. It will not stop an mainland domestic flights either. Before long, you will likely be able to fly almost anywhere in the world on a internet enabled flight. Indeed, it may be harder to find a flight with out internet access a few years from now.

The price seems a bit high. Roughly $10 for a flight less than three hours, and about $13 for flights over three hours. You would think that given the amount of money people pay for tickets, the internet service could be included much the same way as some of the refreshments. Some people will undoubtedly use the service. They range from business professionals to people who are simply bored.

There is an obvious potential problem here if a person where to browse some, lets just say "inappropriate" websites. You know, the kind of websites you do not want to see, and you certainly do not want your children to look at. The plane is not exactly a privet place, but there is always that one person who ends up pushing the envelop. Its unclear how they will deal with that, but it should make for an interesting read.

Delta Airlines

"Delta is joining with Aircell®, a 17-year leader in airborne communications for business and commercial aviation, to install the company’s Mobile Broadband Network on the carrier’s domestic fleet. The system, Gogo™, will enable Delta customers traveling with Wi-Fi enabled devices, such as laptops, smartphones and PDAs, to access the Internet, corporate VPNs, corporate and personal e-mail accounts, as well as SMS texting and instant messaging services. Gogo will be available to customers for a flat fee of $9.95 on flights of three hours or less, and $12.95 on flights of more than three hours."

BlackBerry Bold Now on Sale, in Chile

The long awaited BlackBerry Bold may finally be here. Engadget reports:

"Movistar's Chilean outpost has now become -- somewhat surprisingly, may we add -- the very first carrier in the world to launch the BlackBerry Bold and put it into subscribers' hands. The carrier's making sure everyone knows what a coup they've managed to pull off, too, proudly proclaiming "FIRST ONES IN THE WORLD" with a red banner draped across the Bold's image on Movistar's site."

The cost in US dollar figures is just under $600. It is unclear when the Bold will be sold in the United States, but hopefully this is an indication that the answer is soon. The website that shows the Bold on sale is -

New Technology From Obscura - VisionAire

What do you get when you combine holographic projection with a motion interface for control, the future .... hopefully. Obscura Digital is showing its latest and greatest in a video demonstration. This technology is better seen then read about. Follow the links below to see the video.


"The system just senses where the presenters hands are and allow him to interact. Multiple people could be doing this too.


Basically, we were looking for a new way to allow a presenter to interface with visual data. This uses our standard multi-touch framework and integrates it with the Musion system we have in house. The result is a truly interactive way to give presentations.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Google May be Opening a Human Translation Service Center

Google may be working on a human run translation center with both paid and volunteer. No word on when it will be opening or if their will be a fee. Read the story at Blogoscoped. Small excerpt below.

"Google is working on a new service called Google Translation Center. Just a short while ago, we noticed that “center” had been added to Google’s robots.txt file, and now co-editor Tony Ruscoe discovered the link to the working frontpage... though logging in fails right now. According to the Google explanations on the frontpage and their product overview page, we can see this is meant to be a translation service which offers both volunteers and professional translators... and I suppose at least the professionals will want to get paid. In that regards, the service is in the field of sites like (a service by the company which Tony works for, incidentally, and which I’m often using for some of my sites)."

The Ashes of Gordon Cooper and James Doohan Were Lost Yesterday During SpaceX's Falcon One Failed Launch

The Ashes of Gordon Cooper and James Doohan Were Lost Yesterday During SpaceX's Falcon One Failed Launch. James Doohan is best know for his role on Star Trek playing "Scotty," the Chief Engineer. This launch was the second attempt to put "Scotty's" ashes into orbit. The first attempt failed, but his ashes were recovered. Gordon Cooper was one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts.

The rocket was carrying three small satellites. They belonged to the DOD and NASA as well as the ashes of about 200 people.

ARS Technica

"Space X hasn't just lost a rocket, though. The flight was carrying a trio of small satellites belonging to NASA and the DoD. Perhaps less seriously, but probably more newsworthy, the ashes of over 200 people were also on board, including a pair of rather well known astronauts, one actual, one fictional. They were Gordon Cooper, one of the original Mercury 7, and "Scotty" himself, James Doohan."

Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Drugs & Sex for Sale 24/7" - Landlord's Sign

One landlord, fed up with the rampant crime taking place outside his rental(s), posted the sign "Drugs & Sex for Sale 24/7". This is an interesting way to try to clean up his neighborhood. The landlord says that the police come quickly when called, but the criminals scatter only to return when the cops leave. It will be interesting to see if this approach works.

Fox News,2933,396601,00.html

"One Cincinnati landlord is so exasperated by street crime outside his building that he's posted a large sign announcing "Drugs & Sex For Sale 24/7."

John Wallen says most tenants have fled his apartment building because of drug-dealing and prostitution on the street.

The large sign that he put up on Friday urges passers-by to call the City Council to help get the area cleaned up.

Senior Al Qaeda Commander Al-Masri (Midhat Mursi) is Killed

This successful airstrike shows that while terrorists may be able to hide in the mountains border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the lawless area just over the Pakistan border, that the hiding place is no longer completely safe. This strike will send a clear message to terrorists that the noose is starting to tighten, and they are going to run low on places to hide.

Fox News,2933,396625,00.html

"Al Qaeda confirmed in a Web statement Sunday the death of a senior commander known as a top explosives and poisons expert, who is believed to have been killed in a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan last week.


Al-Masri, an Egyptian militant whose real name is Midhat Mursi, had a $5 million bounty on his head from the United States. He is accused of training terrorists to use poisons and explosives, and is believed to have trained homicide bombers who killed 17 American sailors on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.

He is also believed to have helped run Al Qaeda's Darunta training camp in eastern Afghanistan, until the camp was abandoned amid the 2001 U.S. invasion of the country. There he is thought to have conducted experiments in chemical and biological weapons, testing materials on dogs.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Google Continues to Explain Their Search Quality

If you are curious why Google does what it does, search experience related, their latest post on their blog makes for an interesting read. Small excerpt below. Follow the link to read their whole post on their blog.

Google Blog

"A few weeks back Udi Manber introduced the search quality group, and the previous posts in this series talked about the ranking of documents. While the ranking of web documents forms the core of what makes search at Google work so well, your search experience consists of much more than that. In this post, I'll describe the principles that guide our development of the overall search experience and how they are applied to the key aspects of search. I will also describe how we make sure we are on the right track through rigorous experimentation. And the next post in this series will describe some of the experiments currently underway."

Major Advance in Solar Power Energy Storage

A recent MIT break through has the potential to bring efficient solar power to the masses. Solar power has a few problems up front, namely they are relatively inefficient and expensive. Perhaps most problematic is that they only work when the sun is shining. That means on a cloudy day or at night time they do not produce any electricity. What is needed is a way to efficiently store energy from solar panels. While batteries work, they are to large and expensive. This has kept solar power relegated to a day time only power source if the sun is shining.

This MIT break though involves the "back end" of solar power, energy storage. Instead of using batteries to store the excess energy, it is used to create fuel for a fuel sell. That is to say that the excess energy is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The real break through is in a new catalyst that allows this process to take place at room temperature in PH neutral water. That means simple tap water can be used. When the sun is not shining the fuel cell kicks in to provide electricity.

The new storage method could be used with other renewable energy generators (like wind), but since solar energy has the almost limitless potential that is what will likely benefit the most from this new discovery.


"Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today's announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.


The key component in Nocera and Kanan's new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity -- whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source -- runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Google Homepage Breaks the One Hundred Language Mark

Google intends on making all the worlds knowledge searchable. Translation efforts are a natural extension of that. In their efforts, Google has one hundred languages available on their Google Homepage.

Google Blog

"You may have read a couple of weeks back about our 40-language initiative and our broader goal of making the world’s information accessible in as many languages as possible. For this reason we were extremely pleased last week to take part in an event in Rotorua, New Zealand for the launch of the Google homepage and search interface in the Maori language. I want to emphasize “take part in”, because much of the hard work that made this announcement possible came from a dedicated team of volunteer translators across New Zealand.

In conjunction with our active effort to make all of our products and services available in 40 languages, beginning in 2001 we began a program known as Google in Your Language, which is designed to give anyone the tools to translate Google services into languages in which they are fluent. Thanks to this program, as well as our other efforts to localize our products, the Google homepage itself now appears in more than 100 languages.

Scientists Have a New Theory on the Early Universe

The first stars to come into being in this universe have long since vanished. The universe is thought to be about 14.5 billion years old, and these early stars might only have burned for a few million years. Assuming both to be true (which current science believes), direct observation of early stars is obviously not possible. The only way to study or learn about them is to use thought experiments and build models. This research represents a leap forward in that effort.

Wired News

"Star light, star bright. The first star grew fast, but began slight. The first cosmological object formed in the universe was a tiny protostar with a mass of about 1 percent of our sun, according to U.S. and Japanese researchers who spent years developing a complex computer simulation of what it was like after the Big Bang that formed the universe.

This protostar was surrounded by a giant mass of gas and it grew to 100 times the sun's mass over about 10,000 years, according to Naoki Yoshida of Nagoya University in Japan. That is very rapid growth on a cosmic scale.


The study may prove to be a "Cosmic Rosetta stone" suggested Volker Bromm, an assistant astronomy professor at the University of Texas.

Bromm, who was not part of the research team, said in a commentary that the findings could help researchers finally unlock the problem of understanding star formation, much as the Rosetta stone led to the understanding of ancient Egyptian writing.

Google Apps Education Edition Breaks One Million Users

This is an impressive achievement that is almost certain to continue to grow. Giving Google Apps to schools seems an obvious win-win. The school get a reliable suite of web products that many students are already familiar with. They also get what is likely a more reliable and easier to manage suite of web products. In return Google is able to reinforce and/or spread its brand to the students. Google also receives some positive PR (public relations), and with the new or continuing users the now standard add revenue stream.

Google Blog

"Google Apps is rapidly gaining momentum in education. We now have more than a million people on campuses worldwide actively using Google's suite of email, calendar and docs to share information and study. This makes perfect sense. Schools have always been a proving ground for innovative ideas. And as we prepare for the new school year, we are happy to welcome more than a dozen universities across the U.S., joining the thousands of other schools that have already embraced cloud computing in education."

Google Explains its Customized Search Results Referencing How They Use User Data

Google is rolling out new features to help users understand their customized search results. The customization here pertains to location, recent searches, and web history (if you have web history enabled). All this seems an effort to try to elevate users privacy concerns by showing the need and use for Google to collect aggregate data.

Google Blog

"As we continue to refine our search algorithms to deliver more relevant results, we strive to be as open as possible about how we use data to improve your search experience. Today, we're rolling out a new feature in Google Web Search that will help you better understand how your search results are already customized.
This new feature doesn't change anything at all about how you search on Google and the results you get; it just gives you more of a behind-the-scenes look at how we customize your search experience. We consider this to be an important step in our commitment to transparency, and we hope you find it informative and useful.
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