Japan scientists can 'read' dreams

 

Scientists in Japan said they had found a way to "read" people's dreams, using MRI scanners to unlock some of the secrets of the unconscious mind.

Researchers have managed what they said was "the world's first decoding" of night-time visions, the subject of centuries of speculation that have captivated humanity since ancient times.

In the study, published in the journal Science, scientists at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories, in Kyoto, western Japan, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to locate exactly which part of the brain was active during the first moments of sleep.

They then woke up the dreamer and asked him or her what images they had seen, a process that was repeated 200 times.

These answers were compared with the brain maps that had been produced by the MRI scanner.

Researchers were then able to predict what images the volunteers had seen with a 60 percent accuracy rate, rising to more than 70 percent with around 15 specific items including men, words and books, they said.

"We have concluded that we successfully decoded some kinds of dreams with a distinctively high success rate," said Yukiyasu Kamitani, a senior researcher at the laboratories and head of the study team.

"I believe it was a key step towards reading dreams more precisely," Kamitani told AFP.

 

AFP, photo by adam_erlebacher 

Solar plane makes debut with eye on global trip PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 03 June 2014 11:27

 

 

A sun-powered plane made a successful test flight on Monday, clearing a vital hurdle towards its goal of a round-the-world trip next year, its pilot and mission chiefs said.

Solar Impulse 2 carried out a flight lasting two hours and 15 minutes, half an hour longer than scheduled, German test pilot Markus Scherdel said.

"Everything worked as expected," Scherdel told a press conference at an air base in Payerne, central Switzerland.

"Of course, we have to do more testing, but it's a good start and I'm looking forward to flying the airplane the next time."

Built from carbon fibre, the 2.3-tonne plane has four 17.5-horsepower electrical motors powered by 17,248 solar cells studding its fuselage and 72-metre (234-feet) wingspan -- as long as that of an Airbus A380.

It is the successor of Solar Impulse, a record-breaking craft that in 2010 notched up a 26-hour flight, proving its ability to store enough power in lithium batteries during the day to keep flying at night.

The forerunner was put through its paces in Europe, crossed the Mediterranean to reach Morocco and traversed the United States last year without using a drop of fossil fuel.

The goal with Solar Impulse 2 is to fly non-stop for more than 120 hours -- five days and five nights -- enabling it to cross the Pacific and Atlantic legs of its global mission.

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 June 2014 11:30
 
School proms in Bulgaria, a vanity fair in EU's poorest country PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 03 June 2014 11:10

 

 

Honking limousines and cheerful shouts by boys in suits resound across downtown Sofia as girls in lush evening gowns totter around on high heels or dance to loud music.

At the end of May, thousands of graduating high-school students, aged 18 to 19, hold their extravagant proms -- a vanity fair in the EU's poorest country.

Bulgaria's average monthly salary stands at about 400 euros ($545) and over 12-percent unemployment has left many families struggling to make ends meet.

But even the poorest make sure to put something aside -- often two or three months' salary -- for this expensive tradition. Parents often go into debt ensuring the children get to enjoy their "big night out", as well as the traditional, wedding-like reception for their relatives that goes with it.

"It's terribly overdone but everyone does it," student Stefka Drenova said in her splendid hairdo and strapless sequin dress one recent evening.

 

"I would not have minded wearing a T-shirt but that would have made sense only if it was done by everyone," said Hristina, wearing a studded silver-and-blue bodice that glittered in the evening sun.

Preparations for the prom start early in the school year.

"The restaurant has been booked since last October, dresses dominate all talk and as the feast draws nearer, girls have hairstyle and make-up trials to avoid any fault on D-Day," Rositsa Lozanova, a high-school literature teacher, told AFP.

 

The prom tradition dates back to the days of communism but is becoming "more and more exotic" with every passing year, said Nikolay Ovcharov, casting a proud glance at his daughter standing nearby in a bright yellow tulle dress.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 June 2014 11:15
 
Citigroup 'to pay $7 bn subprime mortgage settlement' PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 14 July 2014 12:51

 

Federal regulators and Citigroup are set to announce Monday a $7 billion settlement to resolve charges that the bank sold faulty mortgage-backed securities ahead of the 2008 financial crisis, US media reported.

The deal ends months of negotiations between US Treasury Department investigators and Citigroup, people briefed on the matter told The New York Times.

Citigroup initially proposed paying $363 million, while the Department of Justice was seeking $12 billion and threatening to sue the bank.

Bank of America is reportedly in talks with the Justice Department on a similar deal for $12 billion or more. That would follow a $9.5 billion settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency over mortgage-backed securities sold by BofA to mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 14 July 2014 12:57
 
Massa in spectacular smash at German GP PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 21 July 2014 13:30

 

 

Felipe Massa, starting on the second row, somersaulted spectacularly out of the German Grand on Sunday after his Williams was bumped at the first bend.

Massa's car came to rest in the safety gravel. The Brazilian walked away unscathed but clearly frustrated after the accident triggered when Kevin Magnussen's McLaren clipped the rear of his car.

"Big crash for Felipe but he is out the car and heading back to the garage," Williams said on its Twitter account.

Magnussen continued, although the Danish driver reported damage to his front right tyre.

The race restarted after a brief interlude when the safety car appeared, with Mercedes' Nico Rosberg leading from pole.

Massa has suffered wretched luck this campaign.

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 21 July 2014 13:48
 
Archaeologists discover Roman 'free choice' cemetery PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 21 July 2014 13:50

IMG_4177

 

 

 

Archaeologists in Italy have uncovered a cemetery in the 2,700-year-old ancient port of Rome where they believe the variety of tombs found reflects the bustling town's multi-cultural nature.

Ostia "was a town that was always very open, very dynamic," said Paola Germoni, the director of the sprawling site -- Italy's third most visited after the Colosseum and Pompeii.

"What is original is that there are different types of funeral rites: burials and cremations," she said this week.

The contrasts are all the more startling as the tombs found are all from a single family -- "in the Roman sense, in other words very extended", Germoni said.

The discovery is the latest surprise at Ostia after archaeologists in April said that new walls found showed the town was in fact 35-percent bigger than previously thought, making it bigger than ancient Pompeii.

Ostia, which was founded in the 7th century BC and is believed to have covered an area of 85 hectares, was once at the estuary of the Tiber River and is now about three kilometres (two miles) from the sea because of silting.

The place where the latest burials were found is inside a 15,000 square metre park close to a Renaissance castle on the edge of the main excavated area of the town, which had docks, warehouses, apartment houses and its own theatre.

The port was founded by Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome, to provide his growing city with access to the sea, ensuring it would be supplied with flour and salt and to prevent enemy ships from going up the Tiber.

Around a dozen tombs have been found so far at the site, some of them including lead tablets with inscriptions containing curses to ward off potential looters.

The cemetery "shows the free choice that everyone had with their own body, a freedom people no longer had in the Christian era when burial became the norm," Germoni said.

 

Last Updated on Monday, 21 July 2014 14:07
 
Dreaming of a Dream House PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 10 July 2014 13:22

Home sweet home. We do love our houses whether it is located in a quiet suburb, center of the city or on top of a hill. It is a comfort zone for most people, a place where you can hide from all the tussles of life. It is not just a mere piece of structure built to protect its owners from the natural elements of the planet. It’s a place where we feel loved, cared, respected and most importantly, one can be freely himself.

Since most of us live in a regular type of abode, I cannot help fantasizing about living in a luxurious mansion, with 10 bedrooms to accommodate all the family members, an infinity pool, a modern home theater system and a gym, a huge one. Well, since I am still dreaming about it, let me share the following most expensive houses bought by those who can afford it.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 November 2010 11:06
 
Japan imports tonnes of whale meat from Iceland, Greenpeace says PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 09 May 2014 15:08

 

 

Environmentalists on Friday lashed out after Japan imported 2,000 tonnes of frozen whale meat from Iceland, in what they say is continued defiance of world opinion over the hunting of the mammals.

Packages containing meat from fin whales were unloaded Thursday from a vessel that had travelled from Iceland to Osaka, western Japan, said Junichi Sato of Greenpeace Japan.

The ship left Iceland in March carrying a cargo equivalent to almost all the whale meat imports from the north European country for the last six years, environment groups and news reports said.

An official at the port in Osaka confirmed the arrival of the ship.

"The ship, named Alma, arrived on May 7 and we were informed in advance that it would carry whale meat to be unloaded at Osaka port," he told AFP.

Greenpeace said it was puzzled by the size of the cargo.

"We don't know why Japan had to import such a huge volume of whale meat," accounting for about two thirds of the nation's annual consumption, Sato said.

"No matter what, we oppose such shipments," he added.

 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 09 May 2014 15:11
 
Germany inflict historic 7-1 World Cup rout on Brazil PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 09 July 2014 09:38

 

 

Germany inflicted a historic 7-1 rout on hosts Brazil on Tuesday to reach the World Cup final as Miroslav Klose became the all-time leading scorer in the history of the tournament.

Brazil have never suffered such a big defeat in any international tournament and never put on such a shambolic defensive performance as during an 18 minute first half period when Germany scored four goals, three of them in just 179 seconds.

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 July 2014 09:41
 
Slovak architect turns billboards into homes for the homeless PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 11 July 2014 16:45

 

 

As some European cities install spikes on pavements to prevent homeless people bedding down for the night, one architect in Slovakia plans to give them a proper abode -- made from billboards.

The Gregory Project uses advertising hoardings, usually placed along roads in a V-shape to be visible from both directions, to create small but functional homes for the homeless by adding a third wall and a roof.

Slovak architect Michal Polacek told AFP he hopes his novel design will "help the homeless to return to normal life, find a job and eventually find a better place to stay".

Polacek's one-bedroom triangular homes include a kitchen and bathroom and are powered by solar panels or connected to the same network that lights the billboards at night.

He says the cost of building the homes can be covered by billboard advertising revenues.

"I was inspired by a friend who once pointed at a billboard and said 'Hey, I could live up there!' and also by the desire to help those less fortunate," Polacek added.

He has yet to construct his design but says it is available as a free, open-source platform for anyone wanting to use it.

 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 11 July 2014 16:48
 
Samsung finds 'evidence' of child labour at China plant PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 14 July 2014 12:57

 

Samsung said Monday it temporarily suspended business with one of its suppliers in China over the suspected use of child workers, following criticism that its monitoring of illegal labour practices was ineffective.

The South Korean electronics giant launched an investigation into the Dongguan Shinyang Electronics Co. after the rights monitoring group China Labor Watch (CLW) reported the factory was employing workers under the age of 16.

"Following the investigation, Samsung decided to temporarily suspend business with the factory in question as it found evidence of suspected child labor at the worksite," the company said in a statement.

Samsung said the Chinese authorities were also looking into the case, and added that if it was proved the factory hired children illegally the business suspension would become permanent.

"Furthermore, Samsung will strengthen its hiring process not only at its production facilities but also at its suppliers to prevent such case from reoccurring," it said.

The company stressed that it maintained a "zero-tolerance" policy on child labour and conducted regular inspections of its suppliers to ensure its implementation.

"It is unfortunate that the (CLW) allegation surfaced despite Samsung's efforts," it said.

In its report, the New York-based watchdog had cited other violations at the same factory, including unpaid overtime wages, excessive overtime and a lack of social insurance and training.

Samsung said it had audited Dongguan Shinyang Electronics three times since 2013, including an inspection last month.

The executive director of China Labor Watch, Li Qiang, challenged Samsung's commitment, saying its monitoring system was ineffective.

"Samsung's social responsibility reports are just advertisements," Li said.

 

- 'Inadequate' labour practices -

 

Samsung has put its energy into audits and the production of these reports, but these things are meant to appease investors and do not have any real value for workers," he added.

The world's largest maker of mobile phones and flat-screen TVs has more than 200 suppliers in China and there have been repeated allegation over working practices in recent years.

A previous CLW report published in 2012 claimed workers at some plants were required to put in excessive overtime and could not sit down while working.

It also reported that one supplier, HEG Electronics in Huizhou, had hired children aged under 16.

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 14 July 2014 13:08
 
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