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 

Cricket teams trek to world's highest game on 'roof of Africa' PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 23 September 2014 18:26

 

Map, tent, water, food: check. All needed to scale the snow-capped peak of Africa's highest mountain Kilimanjaro.

Bat, ball, stumps, pads: check. Also needed when you're hoping to break the world record for the highest game of cricket ever played.

Two teams are taking part in a gruelling eight-day trek up the vast extinct volcano, to play a full Twenty20 game in the ice-covered crater just below its rugged peak, at 5,785 metres (19,000 feet).

"Kilimanjaro is definitely not somewhere I thought I'd bowl a few overs, but the challenge thanks to the altitude is huge... bring it on!" English bowling legend Ashley Giles, one of the captains of the mixed professional and amateur teams, told AFP.

The eccentric dream, to hear the thwack of willow on leather over three miles (five kilometres) high, was thought up by expedition leader David Harper, a British hotel real estate consultant.

Harper said he planned the match in a bar after his wife told him the "only way he was ever likely to play cricket at the highest level would be if he played on the top of a mountain".

After a week of climbing that began Saturday, teams plan to reach the peak at dawn on Friday.

But they then must play a full game in the crater of the dormant volcano, laying down a plastic track for the wicket over the ash before playing in the thin, freezing air surrounded by vast blocks of ice.

 

South African icon Makhaya Ntini, the country's first black Test player, is also taking part in what he called an "massive, exciting challenge".

There will be half the level of oxygen than at sea level for the game, doubling energy needed for the match.

The teams are taking oxygen tanks for medical emergencies.

But while flurries of snow may be possible in the bitter cold, organiser Harper promises that at least "rain is unlikely to stop play".

Qualified umpires will ensure the charity game is played properly -- and is eligible to break the record.

 

The mainly English team also includes players from Australia, Canada, Kenya and South Africa.

"It is a incredible challenge," said Heather Knight, the other team captain, who back home is vice-captain of the English women's team.

The expedition of over 30 players and umpires -- and an AFP journalist -- are making the trek to the top, along with a Tanzanian support team of over a hundred, helping to carry the kit and food up to the top.

The current record for the world's highest game is 5,165 metres (16,945 feet), played in the Himalayas at Everest base camp in Nepal in 2009.

If successful, the game on Kilimanjaro will be over 600 metres higher.

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 18:31
 
Well in the desert: a healthy soak in Saharan sands PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 10 October 2014 16:43

 

As the morning sun rises over the golden dunes of Erg Chebbi in the Sahara, men and women dig holes for tourists who want to bury themselves in the sand.

Decades ago, tribal nomads settled here, living a traditional desert existence that has now had to adapt to changing circumstance.

The dunes of Merzouga tower over the small community in southeastern Morocco, where the Berber Ait Atta tribe now makes a brisk living from tourism.

The formerly nomadic tribesmen have for years been running hotels and restaurants in Merzouga, a key stop on the Moroccan tourist trail on the edge of a sea of sand dunes.

Now they're even turning to the sands themselves to attract visitors.

For around 10 minutes visitors are buried neck-deep in the hot sand for therapy said to cure those who suffer from rheumatism, lumbago, polyarthritis and some skin disorders.

 

 

The therapy has the same effect as a sauna session, helping purge the body of poisonous toxins, according to those tribesmen such as Abdessalam Sadoq who now work in wellness tourism.

"We offer every type of tourism here, but especially for health," he said.

Making a living was not always easy for the descendants of the Ait Atta nomads, and over the decades the sons and daughters of those who roamed the desert on camels have had to attune themselves to more modern ways.

The Ait Atta once accumulated riches from trans-Saharan commerce, but now all that remains of this past is a road sign pointing towards Timbuktu, a mere 52 days away by camel.

Their way of life ended after Morocco became a French protectorate in 1912, with the development of mining in the region, the emergence of urban centres and demarcation of the nearby border with Algeria.

Once-nomadic tribes had to find a new livelihood, and turned to cultivating date palms and tourism in the second half of the past century.

 

 

 

Visitors in search of a cure do not come only from abroad: many Moroccans also firmly believe in the power of the desert.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 10 October 2014 16:53
 
Latin America universities fail to make grade PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 13 October 2014 17:38

 

Nobel prize week can prompt uncomfortable soul-searching at universities in Latin America, which has produced relatively few winners in the sciences -- a symptom, experts say, of the region's struggles in higher education.

Latin America's universities are often overcrowded, underfunded institutions where most professors do not have doctoral degrees and many students end up dropping out.

After increasing investment in higher education over the past two decades, the region has more than doubled enrollment and increased its production of scientific papers more than six-fold, to 4.3 percent of world output.

"But the bad news is that the quantity has not necessarily been accompanied by quality," said Jorge Balan, an Argentine sociologist and higher education specialist at Columbia University in New York.

"We have more scientists than in the past, more full-time university faculty, faculty which is better prepared, and their production has increased. But the quality of research is not as good in international terms."

Latin America's universities are largely absent from world rankings, and those that do make the cut come in far from the top.

In the most recent Times Higher Education rankings, no Latin American university made the top 200.

 

 

 

The best ranked, the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, made the top 225 but came in behind institutions in other emerging markets like Russia, South Africa and Turkey.

And few Latin American researchers have gained international recognition at the highest levels.

Latin Americans have won the Nobel peace and literature prizes 14 times, but just seven times in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine and economics -- a drought that has continued at this year's Nobels, which wrap up Monday with the awarding of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

The brain drain also remains a problem for universities, with much of the best talent moving to Europe and the United States.

Across the region, fewer than one in 10 university professors has a PhD.

"In most of Latin America the academic profession is not a full-time profession. Most of these folks are part-timers who get paid very little and who have other jobs to be able to make a living," said Philip Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College.

"You can't build a top-flight university on the basis of part-time faculty. That's kind of an iron law. You can't get around that."

 

Students also face daunting obstacles to get their degrees.

In countries like Argentina and Mexico, tertiary education is built around public universities that aim to provide free or low-cost education to anyone who can meet basic requirements.

The University of Buenos Aires and National Autonomous University of Mexico are sprawling institutions with hundreds of thousands of students, most of whom never graduate -- a system Altbach called "Darwinian."

Just 25 percent of admitted students graduate in Argentina. In Mexico, the figure is 30 percent.

High dropout rates mean resources devoted to higher education are being used inefficiently, said Liz Reisberg, an independent education consultant who has studied Latin America for 30 years.

"There's been massive investment in improving higher education, but the priority has been to focus on access -- building more institutions, creating more access for more people," she said.

As the region fights to reverse deeply entrenched inequality, what it needs, she argued, is a diversified system with more private institutions, technical training and community colleges for students who may not want or need traditional university degrees.

That, and more research funding -- particularly from the private sector.

 

Last Updated on Monday, 13 October 2014 17:41
 
Hong Kong police mass at protest sites PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 14 October 2014 18:15

 

 

Dozens of Hong Kong police were massing early Monday at protest sites where pro-democracy demonstrators have been holding more than two weeks of rallies, paralysing parts of the Asian financial hub.

The police, who were dressed in high visibility jackets but not wearing riot gear, removed at least one barricade from the main protest site in Admiralty, in Hong Kong's busy Central district, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

Police were also gathering at a secondary site in Mongkok, according to television reports.

Demonstrators calling for Beijing to grant full democracy to the former British colony have brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill over the last fortnight, prompting clashes with elements who oppose the blockades and widespread disruption.

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 October 2014 18:18
 
London Luthier repair shop gives musical instruments new life PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 16 October 2014 22:05

Located near the intersection of 48th Street and Baldwin Avenue is a stringed instrument repair shop that has been resurrecting damaged musical instruments and giving life to new ones for more than 40 years.

When customers enter they will likely see 74-year-old Linda London, owner and operator of London Luthier, quietly sitting behind the counter surrounded by guitars and hand tools. The front of the shop is sparse and dimly lit, but this is one of the few places to go in the Midwest that takes the time to serve the musician as well as the instrument.

London Luthier opened in 1969 and moved to its current location in 1974 when the space became available. London’s husband, Dale, who passed away in 2004, worked as a commercial electrician before he started building instruments. Linda learned to repair instruments by working alongside him.

“This place is challenging because you never know what’s going to come in the door,” she said. “Whenever somebody wanted something special, Dale could figure out how to do it and design it. He always drew out blueprints and did everything to scale.”

Dale received a ninth-grade education, earned first class in electronics in the U.S. Navy and briefly worked as a welder at Nebraska Boiler Co. before he got bored and got his license to be an electrician, she said. She was born in Ord, Nebraska, moved to Lincoln at about 13 years old and graduated from North East High School when she was 16 years old. The two were married the year after she graduated.

“I’m the one that got him started because I’m the one that tried to play classic guitar,” she said. “Of course he didn’t know anything, so he went down and got me an old archtop Harmony with steel strings and high action (the space between the strings and the fret board). I kept trying to play and my fingers would bleed. I thought it was me, and I put it away. Then picked it up again,” London said. “Finally, he started shopping and he found me a nice little nylon string guitar. Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, there wasn’t a lot of things available music instrument-wise. So then he said, ‘Well I can build you one.’ He started researching and realized it wasn’t as easy as he thought it was going to be.”

London had been taking lessons at Thompson Music when her husband decided he was going to build a banjo.

“My guitar instructor said, ‘Well if he can build a banjo he can fix things,’” she said. “Thompson started sending all their instruments over to the house. We’d do setups on them and repair them. Next thing you know, we were over here.”

Her husband learned to build instruments by reading books and researching the principles of acoustics, vibrations of different types of wood and gluing pressures, she said.

“When he sat down to design something he had this innate sense to be able to understand how sound worked on an instrument – the vibrations through the bridge, going out through the braces on an acoustic guitar,” she said. “That’s just the way he was, he could just figure out things.”

Ryan Larsen, owner of Roots Music Shop on the corner of Q Street and North Antelope Valley Parkway, has been getting instruments repaired at London Luthier since the mid-1990s, he said.

“If you take a guitar in there, she’ll take a look at it and within a few moments she’s going to tell you a few things she can fix and make better,” he said. “My first memories of going in there, Dale was always sitting in the chair telling jokes and she was the one behind the counter doing all the work. I’m not selling him short – he did plenty.”

Dale London was considered an electronics and luthier genius, Larsen said. Dale and Linda each had their respective skill sets, but Linda hasn’t always received the credit she deserves, Larsen said.

“I got so good at it that he didn’t even touch them,” she said. “In the early days guys would come in here and they’d want Dale to work on their instrument. They didn’t really want a woman working on them. Dale would say, ‘Well, if you want it to be right, let Linda do it.’”

London’s favorite projects are working on old instruments – “things that have some history to them,” she said. One of the most recent projects was a harp guitar that was purchased brand new around 1903 and passed down through the family of the customer that brought it in.

“When you touch those things it’s like going back in time and you can almost see them be there,” she said. “To take something that’s just going to be thrown away and fix it back up – have it played and passed on – that’s what I really enjoy.”

The harp guitar had ended up in Arizona. When it came into London Luthier, the face of the guitar had buckled up, the bridge was standing on end, wood was splintered around the side of the guitar and a chunk of wood was missing.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 22:11
 
Pay dissents: specialists walk through focal London requesting boost in salary PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 19 October 2014 18:00

 

 

 

A huge number of specialists participated in road challenges through focal London today to highlight the requirent for pay to increment.

Open part specialists, including numerous who have been on strike this week, walked under the TUC pennant Britain Needs A Pay Rise to Hyde Park

Instructors, medical attendants, common servants and clinic cleaners were a percentage of the callings occurring in the gigantic walk which is required to complete at 4pm today.

The principle rally was held in London however dissents are additionally being held in Glasgow and Belfast today.

Birthing assistants went on strike without precedent for their history in challenge at the administration's dubious choice not to pay a proposed 1% expansion to all NHS staff.

Healing facility radiographers and jail officers will make strike move in the nearing week over the same dispute.the TUC said individuals are confronting the greatest press on their salaries since Victorian times, including that normal wages have fallen by £50 a week in genuine terms since 2008.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 October 2014 18:03
 
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
 
Champagne confirms he will stand against Blatter PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 16 September 2014 18:26

 

 

Long-time FIFA incumbent Sepp Blatter will have at least one rival for next year's presidential election as former senior FIFA executive Jerome Champagne confirmed on Monday he would contest it.

The 56-year-old Frenchman, who worked closely with Blatter between 2002 and 2005 when he was deputy secretary-general, said on Twitter he had sent a letter to FIFA headquarters in Switzerland that he would be a candidate confirming his initial declaration in London back in January.

Champagne had said at the time of the original declaration that he did not think he could beat 77-year-old Blatter, who has been in charge since 1998, if he ran but he had a chance if UEFA chief Michel Platini was a candidate.

Since then, though, Blatter has declared himself as a candidate despite stating beforehand he would not stand again and Platini pulled back from the brink even though he declared in Brazil prior to the World Cup finals in June that he could no longer support Blatter.

Champagne, a former diplomat who worked on France's successful bid for the right to host the 1998 World Cup before joining FIFA as an international advisor, said he was delighted that a debate had begun about the future of FIFA and football and thought more candidates would throw their hat into the ring.

"I have the honor of informing you that I have just written to the FIFA Ad-hoc Electoral Committee and its president, Mr. Domenico Scala, to confirm my intention to run for FIFA president," said Champagne in a letter to football federations posted on his website.

"This confirmation has of course been made in accordance with the current FIFA regulations and in line with the announcement of my candidature of 20 January 2014 in London, in the same location where The Football Association was founded in 1863, the first of the 209 FIFA member associations.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 September 2014 18:28
 
Social networks make push as shopping destinations PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 05 October 2014 19:13

 

They're not just for sharing any more: Facebook and Twitter are now looking to play a bigger role in shopping.

Both major social networks have unveiled plans to start using "buy" buttons on their sites, which could start having an impact on "social shopping" in the coming holiday season.

The idea of using social networks such as Facebook to promote e-commerce has been around for some time, but so far has failed to deliver much. Facebook had some short-lived programs for "digital gifts" and another program selling virtual goods via Facebook games.

"Social commerce," stemming from reviews or referrals from social networks, is expected to hit $15 billion by 2015, according to the research firm Invesp.

Some analysts see a natural connection between social networks and shopping, since users often discuss products and brands in the messages.

"Sharing is a fairly reliable indicator of what people are going to buy," says Andy Stevens, head of strategy and research for Share This, a company which produces a sharing button for websites and analyzes social media trends.

 

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 October 2014 19:21
 
Scientists sound alarm over ocean acidification PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 08 October 2014 20:41

 

 

Ocean acidification has risen by a quarter since pre-industrial times as a result of rising carbon emissions, casting a shadow over the seas as a future source of food, scientists warned on Wednesday.

In the past two centuries, the sea's acidity level has risen 26 percent, mirroring the proportion of carbon dioxide it absorbs from the air, they said in a report to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in South Korea.

Rising acidity will have damaging consequences for shellfish, corals and other calcium-making organisms which play a vital part in the food web, they said.

"It is now nearly inevitable that within 50 to 100 years, continued anthropogenic [man-made] carbon dioxide emissions will further increase ocean acidity to levels that will have widespread impacts... on marine organisms and ecosystems and the goods and services they provide," they said.

Acidification may already be affecting shellfish farms in the northwestern United States, they said.

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 October 2014 20:45
 
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British Queen celebrates 

 

World Cup