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 

Europe launches last resupply ship to space station PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 30 July 2014 08:12



An Ariane 5 ES heavy rocket lifted off from South America bearing Europe's fifth and final robot supply ship for the International Space Station (ISS), mission control said.

The rocket rose from the launch pad at the European Space Agency's base in Kourou, French Guiana at 8:47 pm (2347 GMT) with a payload of more than 20 tonnes, the biggest in ESA's history, it said.

After being placed in orbit, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is scheduled to navigate its way to the ISS by starlight and dock with it on August 12 at a height of about 400 kilometres (250 miles) above the Earth.

Named after Georges Lemaitre, the Belgian astrophysicist who proposed the "Big Bang" theory of how the Universe came into being, the ATV carries nearly 6.6 tonnes of fuel, water, oxygen, food, clothes and scientific experiments for the six ISS crew.


The 10-metre (33-feet) pressurised capsule will provide additional living space and use its onboard engines to boost the altitude of the ISS, which loses height each day through drag from lingering atmospheric molecules.

At the end of its six-month mission, filled with garbage and human waste, the spacecraft will undock and burn up in a controlled re-entry over the South Pacific.

It is the last in a series of ATVs that the 20-nation agency contracted to build and launch as its contribution to the US-led ISS project.

The six-year programme cost 4.2 billion euros ($5.6 billion), but ESA says the ships have been a testbench for technology that will live on in NASA's Orion, a planned capsule-based successor to the space shuttle which was phased out in 2011.



Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 08:27
Seventy years on, Europe remembers Roma genocide PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 04 August 2014 14:06


Krystyna Gil was told by her Roma grandmother to "never forget."

Though she was just a child during World War II, when the Nazis began systematically exterminating Roma in her native Poland, she has done just that.

"I was five years old at the time. I became an orphan. The love of a mother and a father, I do not know what that means," she told AFP.

"My grandmother told me 'never forget'. So even though many years have passed, I still remember."

Gil, now 76, was among more than a thousand who gathered on Saturday at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland to remember the genocide of Roma people carried out by the Nazis.

The ceremony was held on the 70th anniversary of one of the worst mass killings of Roma, when nearly 3,000, many of them children, were taken to the gas chambers at Auschwitz on the night of August 2, 1944.

"We join together here in pain, in memory of the victims," said Roman Kwiatkowski, head of the Association of Roma in Poland.

"Here we consolidate as a people, not only in relation to our past but also our future," he said at the ceremony, held on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust of the Roma.

Around a thousand also marched through Budapest to mark the date. Many of those killed at Auschwitz came from Hungary, where Roma make up between five and eight percent of the country's population of 10 million.

Together with her grandmother, Gil was the only member of her family to survive an anti-Roma pogrom in Szczurowa, a small village in south-eastern Poland, in 1943.

Many others did not survive.

Between 220,000 and 500,000 Roma were murdered by the Nazis -- a tragedy the community refers to as "Pharrajimos", which means destruction in their language.

Of that number, 21,000 met their end at Auschwitz-Birkenau after being forcibly deported from across Europe.




Last Updated on Monday, 04 August 2014 14:09
Sandra Bullock tops list of Hollywood's best paid actresses PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 05 August 2014 13:41




Oscar-winning movie star Sandra Bullock was the best paid actress in Hollywood over the past year, Forbes magazine reported, putting her estimated earnings at some $51 million.

Bullock, 50, won an Academy Award in 2010 for her turn in the football drama "The Blind Side."

Her big payday over the past 12 months is largely thanks to her work in the hit film "Gravity," for which she received a best actress Oscar nomination.

The film, a festival of special effects, is about an astronaut's struggle to survive in orbit after the space shuttle is destroyed.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 August 2014 13:45
All-Conquering Toulon open up French Top 14 post-Wilko era PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 17 August 2014 16:55



Toulon open the defence of their Top 14 crown against Bayonne on Friday with a sprinkling of foreign talent making up for the absence of Jonny Wilkinson and Joe van Niekerk.

The Mourad Boudjellal-financed club won not only the Bouclier Brennus last season, but also the European Cup for a second successive year.

Key squad members Wilkinson and van Niekerk have since both retired, ex-All Black prop Carl Hayman taking over the captaincy of a star-studded team bolstered by the arrival of Wales and Lions full-back Leigh Halfpenny and Australian utility back James O'Connor.

The back-row is boosted by the signings of Georgian giant Mamuka Gorgodze from Montpellier and South African Gerhard Vosloo from Clermont, while France international front-row forwards Fabien Barcella, Guilhem Guirado and Alexandre Menini have been snapped up from relegated Biarritz and Perpignan.

Halfpenny was left in no doubt about the weight of expectation coming in to Toulon.

"It's a huge challenge coming to Toulon, a challenge I was looking for in my rugby career. It's a challenge in rugby and in my life," said Halfpenny, who was elected Player of the Tournament in the 2013 Six Nations and Man of the Series in the British and Irish Lions' triumphant tour of Australia later that year.



"The team here is fantastic, full of quality players from around the world.

"Its success speaks for itself over the last couple of years and I'm very excited to be part of it."

But Halfpenny will certainly not have it all his own way, given the strength in depth of the squad, notably with current full-back Delon Armitage in sparkling form last season.

"Looking at the squad, there's quality in every position, it gives you massive confidence. There's huge competition for places," the Welshman admitted.

Toulon coach Bernard Laporte added: "Six finals in three years and three titles for Toulon, it's fantastic.

"I can understand that it might be tough to get going again after a title, aged 34 or 35, it's human, you no longer have the same hunger or determination.

"The eight newcomers will have to bring their appetite, a desire to integrate into the team and prove they deserve to be in the club."



Halfpenny is one of the latest raft of Welsh players to join the exodus from the Principality as the row between the Welsh Rugby Union and four regions drags on.

Outstanding centre Jonathan Davies has left Scarlets for Clermont, while towering lock Luke Charteris teams up with international teammates Jamie Roberts, Dan Lydiate and Mike Phillips at Racing-Metro.

Racing will likely be one of the clubs contending for league honours after its expensively-assembled squad showed what it was capable of after finally gelling at the end of last season.

Clermont have seen coach Vern Cotter take over the Scotland national team, and hardened lock Nathan Hines (Sale), winger Sivivatu Sitiveni (Castres), full-back Lee Byrne (Dragons) and centre Regan King (Scarlets) have all also moved on.

But Davies is just one of a number of exciting players to join, others including All Black winger Zac Guildford and English full-back Nick Abendanon, whose free-running game could be perfectly suited to the Top 14.

Montpellier finished second after the regulation season last year and have attracted one-time Australia captain Ben Mowen and Kiwi lock Tom Donnelly to what should be, once again, a dynamic team.

Toby Flood was Toulouse's key signing, the accomplished England fly-half and goalkicker successfully pried away from Leicester just one year away from the 2015 World Cup.

Toulouse, four-time European champions and multiple winners of the French league, struggled through last season with an underpowered pack, but coach Guy Noves has brought in All Blacks Corey Flynn and Neemia Tialata, and veteran France No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy from Biarritz.




Last Updated on Sunday, 17 August 2014 16:59
‘Green little men’ could use KGB’s caches to seize the territories of East European countries PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 19 August 2014 17:36

‘Green little men’ could use KGB’s caches to seize the territories of East European countries. ‘Green little men’, which, according to some well-known Russian politicians, will arrive in Baltic countires and Eastern Europe to seize administrative buildings and to hold ‘referendums’ using the Soviet army caches created by the agency during the ‘cold war’.  This was reported today by the ukrainian news agency Ridnyi Krai (Motherland).

Recently a number of Russian politicians, including GosDuma vice-speaker Vladimir Jirinovskiy, have openly stated that the Kremlin has plans to take over Baltics, Poland and other regions of Eastern Europe.

Apparently the Russians will again use their XXI century know-how– the method of war when unidentifiable Russian speaking armed forces will invade a country yet they will deny any affiliation to the Russian army.

They will hold a referendum, the results of which will be immediately hidden from the public and in a week’s time they will announce the territory to be joining the Russian Federation.

Given the fact that military crossing of the Eastern European border could prove rather difficult, Moscow may activate ‘the Plan B’ using the army caches full of weapons created in the last decades of XX century by soviet agents operating in West and East European countries.

The information about these caches have become public lately following the publication of Mitrohin’s archives in Cambridge last summer.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 10:20
BHP to create new global metals and mining company PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 19 August 2014 18:15



Global mining giant BHP Billiton on Tuesday said it will create a new independent company by spinning off some of its aluminium, coal, manganese, nickel and silver assets.

The world's biggest miner said this would allow it to focus exclusively on its core long-life operations -- iron ore, copper, petroleum, coal and potash -- while reducing costs and improving productivity.

The new entity will be listed in Australia with a secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange with the demerger expected to be completed in the first half of the 2015 calendar year.

"For over a century, BHP Billiton has progressively reshaped its business to maintain its industry leadership," said BHP chairman Jac Nasser.

"We believe the proposed demerger, if implemented, will accelerate the simplification of the Group's portfolio, provide investors with choice and unlock value in both companies.

"Our shareholders will have the opportunity to vote on this proposal once the necessary approvals are in place."

The company said the new entity, to be named NewCo, would have assets in five countries.




Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 18:19
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
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
Archaeologists discover Roman 'free choice' cemetery PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 21 July 2014 13:50





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
Koala survives terrifying ride clinging to car PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 28 July 2014 19:19



Timberwolf the koala was lucky to be alive Monday after surviving a terrifying 88-kilometre (54.5-mile) ride down a busy Australian freeway clinging to the bottom of a car.

The four-year-old male, who survived with nothing more than a torn nail, was struck by the vehicle near Maryborough in Queensland state on Friday.

The Australia Zoo wildlife hospital said it latched onto the bottom of the car as it sped away, with the family inside not knowing they had a marsupial on board.

It was only when they stopped in Gympie after a high-speed freeway drive that they noticed it, and called the hospital for help.

The maximum speed on the freeway is 110 kilometres per hour.

Australia Zoo vet Claude Lacasse said it was amazing the koala, named Timberwolf by the rescuers who brought him in, was in such great health.

"It is absolutely amazing that he has such minor injuries and he survived," Lacasse said.

"It is a truly remarkable story, he is a very lucky koala."



Last Updated on Monday, 28 July 2014 19:22
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