Thursday, August 12, 2010

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IS THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX IN? The Body Mass Index is the public health agencies' standard for assessing obesity. It measures weight relative to height, but it doesn't accurately calculate body fat. A study published in the journal Pediatrics suggested that neck measurement could supplement the BMI. Researchers examined 1,102 children, recording their height, weight and neck circumference. They found that a 6-year-old boy with a neck measurement bigger than 11.2 inches was 3.6 times likelier to be overweight or obese. For being first to calculate neck measurements that predict higher risk for children being overweight or obese, the researchers "stuck their own necks out". It was Japanese researchers who developed the authentication system for the biometric ATM machine. An infrared light passes through a finger to detect the unique pattern of micro-veins beneath the skin's surface. Then the pattern is matched with a pre-registered profile for verification. "Finger-vein" technology is much more reliable than using fingerprints. Tests indicate a one in a million false acceptance rate, which is as accurate as iris scanning. Although biometric ATM machines are used in many parts of the world, as of 2010 none are used in the U.S. You can "bank on" cost being one reason. China's growing middle class is the reason it is a prime market for companies wanting global growth. Disney has a theme park in Hong Kong and another under construction in Shanghai. Now Disney is opening English language schools in China. Presently there are 11 in Shanghai and Beijing, which will earn $100 million in pretax profits from 2010 to 2015; and 150 more schools are planned. The schools accept children as young as age 1 and cost $2,200 a year for 2 hours of instruction a week. Although the curriculum is heavy in Disney characters, it's obviously no "Mickey Mouse" operation. However, a Netherlands-based architecture firm has a fantasyland plan to build a 10,000-square-kilometer, sustainable island in the Pacific Ocean between San Francisco and Hawaii. The building material is to be 97 million pounds of floating plastic presently polluting the Pacific. The modern Venice setting for "Recycled Island" is to be powered by wave and solar energy and the 500,000 inhabitants will have seaweed for biofuel and fertilizer. The firm hopes to have a prototype for the hollow, plastic, building block by 2011. Whether the architects can surmount all the other problems that are involved will determine whether they are innovators or "blockheads".
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WHAT'S TECHNOLOGY DONE FOR YOU LATELY? Stanford University is at the forefront of bookless libraries. The periodical shelves of the Engineering Library are almost bare. Starting in 2005 most engineering periodicals went online. Students now read them from laptops and mobile devices. Because engineering is a fast changing field - particularly in specialties like software and bioengineering - traditional textbooks are soon outdated. When the new Engineering Library opened in August 2010, there were 85% fewer books. According to a survey by the Association of Research Libraries, American libraries are spending more on electronic resources and less on books. It's 21st century "resourcefulness". The resourcefulness shown by e-mailing doctors helps people stay healthy. According to a study published in Health Affairs, patients with diabetes or hypertension who were in e-mail contact with their doctors experienced better health outcomes. The 2-month study looked at over 35,000 patients and about 500,000 e-mail conversations stripped of identification information. Most e-mails were initiated by patients to discuss changed health conditions or lab tests. Patients who e-mailed scored better on cholesterol and blood pressure tests. According to a Harris poll, in 2010 only 9% of Americans communicate with doctors via e-mail. That's an "unhealthy" percent. Vibrating car seats are healthy. They prevent car accidents by alerting drivers to cars in their blind spots. Unlike visual or audio warnings, touch transmits the location of cars without drivers having to turn their head. Vibrating cell phone motors embedded in the driver's seat create continual soft vibrations. When another vehicle moves behind or beside the car, the vibrations against the driver's back increase in pressure and correspond to the position of the approaching vehicle. However, by continually vibrating instead of activating only in emergencies, the touch system increases driver awareness of all surrounding cars. - creating more "carful" driving". For more careful flying there's the Solar Impulse. The experimental solar-powered plane completed its 24-hour test flight July 7, 2010. The single-seat plane with a wingspan of a Boeing 777 climbed to 28,000 feet and had a top speed of over 75 mph. The Solar Impulse flew at night by recharging its batteries using 12,000 solar cells. By day it was powered by the sun. However, the Swiss-led project's goal isn't to replace jet propulsion. It's to circle the globe in 2013 making only 5 stops to prove new technologies can break dependence on fossil fuels - to give us "higher hopes" for the future.

Knight Pierce Hirst

I may be the only writer who has moved to Los Angeles for the weather.

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