Britons are drunk in three-quarters of their Facebook photos

A recent survey has shown that the average Briton is drunk in over three-quarters of the photos on their Facebook profile. The average British Facebooker admits that they are under the influence of alcohol in 76% of photographs in which they are “tagged” on the social networking site. The survey also revealed that 93% of users have removed tags from photographs because they are “too embarassing”, with 8% feeling that such photos could get them into “serious trouble” at work.   

This may give the British population a reputation of being a nation of binge-drinkers, but it is worth considering that a majority of photos on Facebook are at social events or nights out – and alcohol will invariably be served at such events.

“We’re all guilty of going out and having a good time, but nowadays the photos inevitably catch up with us online, so we wanted to look at how much these photos dominate our presence on social media sites … The thing to remember is that most photos are taken on special occasions or get-togethers with friends and family,” said Rebecca Huggler of MyMemory.com, which carried out the survey.  

Full story: Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/8958714/Britons-drunk-in-three-quarters-of-Facebook-photos.html 

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Isaac Newton’s handwritten manuscripts to be published online

 Handwritten work by Sir Isaac Newton is being made available to view on the internet for the very first time. Cambridge University has so far digitised over 4,000 pages of Newton’s work – but that is still only around one-fifth of the contents of Newton’s university archive. The university is publishing pages from his college notebook, as well as annotated drafts from his masterpiece, the Principia Mathematica.  

This is all part of a project called Cambridge Digital Library, which will make public the works of great scientists. Figures such as Darwin and Rutherford shall also have their manuscripts put online in due course for the world to see. 

Writing on the Digital Library’s webpage, Cambridge University Librarian Anne Jarvis says: “Cambridge University Library contains evidence of some of the greatest ideas and discoveries over two millennia. We want to make our collections accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world with an internet connection and a thirst for knowledge.”

Full story: Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/dec/12/isaac-newton-principia-mathematica 

Digital Library official page: http://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/

South Korean prison to be guarded by robots

A prison in South Korea is going to use five-foot tall, four-wheeled, friendly-faced robots to keep an eye on the inmates.

The robots will start work with a one-month trial, commencing in March. It will consist of three prototypes beginning their duties in a prison in the city of Pohang. The project will cost around 1bn Won (£554,000) in total.

The robots will work mainly in night-time shifts. They are able to alert human guards if they find any problems: they contain technology that is sophisticated enough to detect violence and even notice suicide attempts. They are also able to help prisoners connect with officers, as the robots have cameras mounted on their torsos which allow “remote conversation”.  

Should the trial be a success, the future of prison security may well end up being controlled by robots.

Full story: POPSCI http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-11/robotic-guards-will-soon-patrol-south-korean-prison

8.4 million people in Britain will not read this blog post

The office of National Statistics has revealed that more than 8.4 million adults in Britain (16.8% of the adult population) have never used the internet.

This is the surprising finding of official figures published this month, which also revealed a sharp increase in the number of non-internet users in the UK.

These numbers say more about a lack of accessibility, rather than a lack of technology, in Britain. For instance, 4.25 million of the 8.4 million non-internet users have a disability (36.3% of the disabled population), while 72.4% of people over 75 years of age have never ventured online.

“A growing gap exists between those who are online and those who are not, as the internet becomes more of an essential utility for consumers … The Government must provide even more targeted support to those who lose out the most,” said Jonathan Stearn of Consumer Focus.

The Government aims to have everyone in the UK using the internet by 2015.

Full Story: Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/8893705/More-than-8.4m-Britons-have-never-used-web.html

Earth and giant asteroid have near miss

An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier whistled past planet Earth at 30,000 miles per hour yesterday.

As you can probably tell, judging by the lack of an apocalypse on Tuesday, and the fact you are still here, the giant lump of cosmic rock did not hit our planet. However, it is the closest an asteroid has passed by planet Earth in over 200 years.

NASA had been tracking the asteroid – named 2005 YU55 – and confirmed that it had come to within 201,700 miles of our planet. That may sound somewhat distant from us – but that is well over four hundred times closer than the distance to the sun.

The next visit by a large asteroid will occur in just under 20 years: we have a regular visitor to our planetary neighbourhood named the Apophis asteroid. It has been calculated to have a near miss with Earth in the year 2029, and again in 2036.

NASA can give incredibly precise forecasts of these things. On 13 April 2029, Apophis will pass by Earth and come to within just 18,300 miles of our planet. Put a note in your diary and remember to look up at the sky.

Full story: BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15572634

CERN scientists prepared to retry neutrino experiments; Jim Al-Khalili prepared to eat boxer shorts

We reported on this blog last month that the laws of Physics had apparently been broken, as scientists at CERN had seemed to make neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light. Einstein’s theory of relativity – along with our entire understanding of the Universe – would have to be completely re-written.

This has turned out to be a controversial and unpopular finding; the validity and reliability of the test have been heavily questioned by Physicists. It is for this reason that the scientists at CERN are set to fine-tune and repeat the test, to make sure they haven’t just made a mistake.

In the original test, a beam of neutrinos were sent on a 720km underground journey from Geneva to San Grasso, and were recorded to turn up sixty-billionths of a second faster than a beam of light would have done. This led to the conclusion that the speed of light (the speed limit of the Universe) had been broken.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Physicist and TV presenter (pictured left), believes the result is an error and will be proved wrong. Summing up the general attitude of Physicists everywhere, he confidently announced to the media: “If the Cern experiment proves to be correct and neutrinos have broken the speed of light, I will eat my boxer shorts on live TV.”

The test is scheduled to be repeated before the end of this year. This gives the CERN scientists time to refine their method and calculations, and (as expected by many) conclude that neutrinos cannot travel faster than light. It also gives Professor Al-Khalili some time to invest in some chocolate boxer shorts, just in case.

Full story: The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/oct/28/physicists-check-neutrinos-faster-light?CMP=twt_iph

Scientists develop artificial skin made of transparent nanotubes

Scientists at Stanford Universityhave developed the prototype of synthetic skin that is stretchy, transparent, and highly sensitive. It is made from spray-on carbon nanotubes, suspended in liquid, applied to a layer of silicon. The nanotubes act as springs and are able to measure the force being applied to them.

The “skin” could be fitted to robots to mimic the sensation of feeling and sensitivity. However, its inventors have broader, more human ambitions for its application.

“The ultimate dream of this type of research is to restore functionality to lost skin, or amputees, or injured soldiers or burn victims,” said Stanford’s Darren Lipomi, author of the paper describing the new sensor.

Full story: POPSCI http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-10/stanford-skin-lab-develops-new-skin-sensor-made-clear-nanotube-springs

Radio station slammed for its “win a baby” competition

It’s normally tickets or vouchers or cash for that one lucky listener who can provide the correct answer. Radio phone-in competitions don’t tend to make the news but a Canadian radio station has done so, after taking its prize much further. However, in the eyes of fertility campaigners, it is way too far. 

Ottawa’s Hot 89.9 FM advertised its competition last month with posters of babies all across the city carrying slogans such as “Are you my mommy?”  and “She could be yours!”. The rules were simple. The most convincing candidate who could produce 100 words to a panel of judges on why they most deserve a baby would win three rounds of fertility treatment worth $35,000.

Fertility campaigners are appalled at the contest, angrily branding it “tacky” and “distasteful”. Jan Silverman, Toronto fertility counsellor, said she objected to “commodification of babies, turning babies into products”. However, she felt the contest had one silver lining, as it raised awareness about fertility issues and the cost of the treatment, which is faced by one in six Ottawa couples.

Full story: Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/07/win-baby-competition-canada-radio

Did soap bubbles ever look so beautiful?

Here is a photograph that has been circulating the science news in the last couple of days, simply because it is so unusual, so intriguing, and so beautiful.

It is a photo from a research paper titled Visualization of flow patterns past various objects in two-dimensional flow using soap film. The researchers point out that a simple soap bubble is possibly the most powerful and effective medium when it comes to researching fluid dynamics.

The authors explain: “Although many advanced experimental flow visualizations, such as particle image velocimetry or laser Doppler velocimetry, have been developed and used in fluid dynamics research, the use of flowing soap films has remained as an educational tool and economical visualization technique to study fluid-structure interaction and hydrodynamic instability in two-dimensional fluid flows. Making use of the optical properties of the soap film and high-speed photography, the wake evolution and vortex patterns behind different bodies can be tracked and captured.”

This photograph is – as many writers and bloggers have noted – “a beautiful reminder that Physics is everywhere, even in soap”.

To see a large version of the photo, in very high resolution, click here: http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/io9/2011/10/soapfilmsbest.jpg
Many people may want to use this as desktop wallpaper.

Irish pensioner dies of “spontaneous combustion”

A pensioner found dead at his home in Galway has been ruled by a coroner to have died of spontaneous human combustion. The cremated remains of Michael Faherty were discovered near his fireplace in December last year, but post-mortem examinations revealed a blaze from the fire was not the cause of death.  

Instead, it has been ruled that Mr. Faherty died of spontaneous combustion – the first ever case of its kind in Ireland. Spontaneous human combustion consists of a living person’s body becoming ablaze without an external source of ignition.

There are many theories that attempt to explain the phenomenon. For instance, it has been claimed that abnormal concentrations of gas inside the body can cause ignition without a spark. There is also the “wick effect” – a hypothesis suggesting that a small external flame source chars the victim’s clothing, splits their skin, and releases fat from underneath the surface of the skin. This in turn is absorbed into the burned clothing, acting as a wick while the poor soul literally becomes a human candle. 

However, spontaneous combustion remains largely misunderstood.  

Full story: UTV http://www.u.tv/News/Man-dies-from-spontaneous-combustion/f47b5389-3fd2-4c45-a8d3-8035f00f5a31