Nefertiti: a Two-Faced Queen

Nefertiti, royal wife of the heretical pharaoh Akhenaten, it was announced today, was completely two-faced. Inside, the famed bust was carved from a single piece of stone, and showed some wrinkle lines around the mouth and a slight bump on the nose.

Outside, the internal eccentricities were smoothed away by the application of layers of plaster 2mm thick, functioning almost like a mask of make-up. Was this an attempt to give the statue a makeover on the queen's death? Or rather, was there something ritualistic or symbolic about the changes that may have reflected the change from heliocentric sun-disk (aten) religion of Akhenaten based in middle Egypt back to the old standby, Amun, based in Thebes? Experts aren't sure.

However, the episode represents another use of detailed CT/MRI technologies to solve practical problems.

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MagCloud: Self-Niche Magazines

Imagine some very focused hipster magazines - the glossy kind you see on the back racks of your local megabooks store in the arts / photography / fashion / imports sections.

Now imagine that you can publish one of these tomes - your selected material with your own stylistic imprimatur.

"Dwell" Becomes "Dwell SF" - new titles, like "Bohemian Cigar Afficinado" or "TechnoClub" Dissect very narrow lifestyle bands. The same could go for science, sports, city locales, or just about anything that commands a focused audience - maybe even large myspace pages or facebook "other public figure" domiciles.

This would be the desired outcome for magcloud, an HP product that lets artists/editors become publishers by handling the entire back end operation from printing to binding, once the digital files are designed, according to the NY Times. Getting distribution and involving advertisers would seem to be key. A website, blog, journal or fansite/bandsite can suddenly go glossy, Madison Avenue traditional media.

Maybe this is part of the future for the magazine industry, which offers the kind of high-touch experience that newspapers do not.

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MagCloud: Self-Niche Magazines

Imagine some very focused hipster magazines - the kind you see on the back racks of your local megabooks store


20th Century Geopolitics, MidEast

Gertrude Bell, a commander of the Order of the British Empire and also an archaeologist, contemporary and colleague of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), was principally responsible for producing the analysis upon which the boundaries of the modern Middle East were drawn.

Lawrence, Emir Faisal, and others at Versailles - 1919

After the Sykes-Picot agreement was put into effect during the Treaty of Versailles proceedings, where responsibility for the War was meted out to those who had initiated the Armistice, Bell and Lawrence attended the Cairo Conference of 1921 which created the states of Jordan and Iraq and utilized Bell's work.

The British Empire was bankrupt, as part of a long economic decline that really began in the eighteenth century due to the unsustainable nature of mercantilism but would not become detectable until after the First World War had ended and someone had to pay the bills, finally. Indeed, post WWI Britain grew to its greatest extent as the colonial territories of Germany were annexed as well as the former provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

The Depression and the rising sun of Imperial Japan, which made Britain look like the "sick man" of Asia with an incredible string of lopsided victories over England and its colonial forces both prior to, and immediately after Pearl Harbor exposed the decay and decline of the empire. Indeed, the war in the Pacific was fought by those who had mostly kept out of WWI, which was the first act in a two act play - separated by a 20 year intermission. After reloading, WWII commenced, and some of the open issues after WWI were settled, while others remain unsolved to this day. Care to hazard a guess what they are?

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Squishy Evolutionary Blobs

Gromica Sphaerica, the giant once-celled creature, is again in the news.


Monkeys of Flash

Many of the nifty web applications of the modern era (youtube, most games, radio, your portfolio checker, and other graphical experiences) are written in the authoring language Flash and probably 98.5% of web users could care less. They just want to be able to click on a button and then have something happen. Flash monkeys are those individuals who have some knowledge of this technical priestly language - and like all priestly languages there's a secret code inside the authoring language that requires more learning to master. Flash monkeys (and the term monkey came from 'webmonkey' itself adapted from 'greasemonkey' akin to a greasy auto shop) may progress and eventually become grandmasters of Flash at a special ceremony accompanied with a certain amount of pomp. So without further adieu....


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Sustain Your Life, Sustain your Brain

A new lifestyle trend is to make use of shipping containers to create modular dwellings - building a real life lego structure. Like strawbale design, which uses cubes of specially prepared hay which is then plastered over with an adobe mixture - either mud or plaster, this replaces the traditional exterior wood frame architecture which has domainated in the U.S. since the mid 1800's, in one style or another. As you probably know, most brick homes in areas without earthquake activity are a facade that uses ties to connect the brick layer to the frame and the foundation - avoiding potentially dangerous collapses from all masonry buildings.

Let's see where it goes.

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Another Newspaper Morphs

Thrilla in Manila

The print news media has another casualty: the 174-year old Ann Arbor News in naturally, Ann Arbor, MI. Unable to save the print operation after years and years of increasing losses, a triage team will end the open-heart surgery and instead deliver a new organizational baby, annarbor.com which will be a 'social' news website. As long as I can recall, newspapers have been a declining industry. Long before the AOL/Time Warner merger, the 'Thrilla in Manilla' of mega-mergers which announced that digital businesses could go toe-to-toe with traditional media and occasionally deliver a KO punch, newspapers were on the wane.

Outside of niche publications and aggregation-plays that hid the underlying cracks in the foundations of individual entities, it appears that newspapers might not have been as good a business as they appeared. The basic business model is arbitrage. First, build an audience, one way or another - then convince customers, the potential advertiser that control of the audience's hearts and minds really is in hand, and that there is no better way to open a dialog with them than to pay for space in the newspaper.

Measurement of absolute performance is very ineffectual...outside of a raw number called "circulation" which may be manipulated in various ways. There is virtually no way to gauge delivered impressions other than pure estimation. Paying for such advertising would seem ill-advised. With online media, this issue is not entirely solved, but much more detail is visible and resulting transparency asserts that performance claims were vastly overrated and advertising rates far too high. The decline of the classified ad and the expansion of free online alternatives in every medium and large market added further revenue pressure. Every year print audience and revenue shrinks, while the Internet grows - in particular online games, which might be considered as two trains moving in opposite direction - one into the past, and other rolling towards a golden future.

However, other opportunities to develop online newspapers may be invigorated by print media moving fully into online coverage as the major effort. Can they beat blogs and fledgling sites without the high cost structures involved in running editorial, production, and sales functions?

Looking purely at audience behavior, there is no dividend or benefit in having a high production cost vs. a lower cost structure. For example, many blogs have higher audiences than the online divisions of major media organizations, which typically may have 20x-30x the staff and budgets (if not higher) of sites and blogs. Up until now, "brand power" of a well known name has translated into footholds for large media companies in establishing online ventures, a trend that extends back into the murky past to 1995 or so.

big media

It appears that just as the media companies are molting, which will cost time, money, and staff to execute successfully, new entrants will be given an adrenaline shot by the further disruption in the media market, which may accelerate if the capital markets open up once again, letting financiers place bets with a hope of a reasonable return. Creative destruction will lead to a genesis of novelty.

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86 with Alzheimers

Yesterday I met a woman who is 86 years old. She has mild Alzheimer's Disease. She emigrated to the U.S. from Poland "60 years ago" which I guess is 1949...it may also have been before that...anyway she said it was after the War because they couldn't get away during the war. She said she can't read Polish anymore...but she still had a Polish accent. She was surprised to learn that people can compute in their own languages...she thought all keyboards were in English now.

Coming to the U.S., she eventually moved to Portola Valley and even spent some time working on mainframe computers. After selling her house she eventually moved into assisted living in Menlo Park, CA.

Despite all this, she never owned a personal computer. After spending about a half hour showing her all the great things you can do now on a ridiculously tiny laptop - search, check your email, launch free web docs, etc., with no key or EULA - she was ecstatic. And I closed the pitch by saying "Imagine, this tiny computer is 100X more powerful than the computers on the first flight to the moon, Apollo 11."

Her companion, in her late 90's (also with Alzheimer's) and in a wheelchair, wasn't sure about the moon experience and whether it was real or not...she muttered something about "the badlands" rolled her eyes and kind of chuckled but soon fell asleep.

My new friend said "Viola...she doesn't like new things" and waved her hand at her dismissively. "You know what?" she said. "Tomorrow I'm going to catch the bus, go to the store, and buy one of those. It'll be fun. I can learn new things, check the weather, maybe make free phone calls."

For her, this kind of trip seemed about as adventurous as paddling across the Mississippi river in a rubber boat.

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Battle of Midway

A small piece on the Battle of Midway...

click through to youtube to catch the earlier and later vids in the series

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RRRR Rare Medium or Medium Rare

I was explaining this quadruple R (Nasdaq: RRRR) funky story to somebody...from railroads, to air-conditioning repair, to web design, to advertising & internet incubator/venture capital...making the most money from the last activity in the form of exercise of granted options (including L90).

That goes back to the prince/person formerly known as a dotcommer/1999 year


Edge of Space for a Few Hundred Dollars

Economical snapshot of earth's curvature

Cognitive geneticist Dr. John Fossella points out this story...4 teens in Spain sent a weather balloon to the edge of space...20 miles up and snapped pictures of the earth with a $120 camera.

Here's the story....here's the photostream

Just imagine if there was a way to carry a model rocket engine as payload (one or more) and ignite them via radio signal...achieving the cheapest ever geosycnchronous orbit for an object..could be an action figure in a space suit. Bypass earth's gravitational cocoon and you would have your own interplanetary (and interstellar) probe, on the cheap.

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New Brain Speed Findings from U of Virginia

Brain speed and Cognitive Ability Peaks around age 22, plateaus, then begins to decline around age 27 according to Timothy Salthouse at the University of Virgina.

Salthouse website

Therapies designed to stall or reverse the aging process may need to start much earlier, he said.

His seven-year study of 2,000 healthy people aged 18-60 is published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

Fascinating results. Even more interesting is the emergence of the finding that reaction time is correlated with longevity, that is, those who live longest are likely to have the fastest brains. So training and other interventions would seem to offer promise, even if there is an accounting for the practice effect. Marvelous. The good news is that on CL, people are starting very early--in their teens, and continuing on with no upper limit. It seems we've just scratched the surface of what's possible. Connecting these divergent threads and actualizing them is what we do at Cognitive Labs and represents our approach to theory-in-use innovation across the board, from the brain to shipping to space and sustainability.

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Average Time Per visit, 2009

The average time spent on cognitive labs per visit during 2009 is 50.59 minutes, up from 24 minutes last year, a favorable number.

From 2005 to present it increases as follows 1.4 minutes, 6 minutes (est) 12 minutes (est), 24+ minutes, up to today's 50.59 which may lower slightly as the weather improves.

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Tips on Keeping Your Jellyfish Immortal, or at Least Not Liquified

A little burst of water can go a long way in keeping your pet jellyfish happy and in one piece.

engagdet photo

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Best Time To Exercise? Reaction Time Peaks...

Between 4 pm and 7 pm is when the body has the optimum mix of hormones, muscles are loose, and the body's temperature peaks. Reaction time is superior in this window.

So, this may be an ideal time to train.

However, recent research suggests that it may depend more on individual preference and regularity, that is, as you become accustomed to exercise at a certain hour, then this is when you should train and also engage in athletic events-avoiding being out of cycle.

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Elvis, Sivle and the DNA Mystery

Did you know that Elvis spelled backward is Sivle?

Apparently this is one of the nicknames he called himself.

Check out this link and see for yourself.

Elvis' DNA oscillated wildly between the late, Vegas years after there had been some accumulated free-radical damage (below)

and the earlier, patent-leather country boy years with less cellular degradation ....

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Scans Can Detect Recording of Memories

Positronic Emission Tomography (PET) images of brains

While believed to be a subtle biomechanical process by some neuroscientists and not prone to direct observation, new research with subjects interacting with a virtual reality environment has shown that scans can follow, record, and even predict the formulation of memories almost like an emulsion exposure process in chemical photography.

Humans create memories of locations in physical or virtual space as they move around - and it all shows up on brain scans.

Researchers tracked brain activity related to "spatial memory" as volunteers moved about inside a virtual reality setup. Their new study challenges previous scientific thinking by showing that memories are recorded in regular patterns.

"Surprisingly, just by looking at the brain data we could predict exactly where they were in the virtual reality environment," said Eleanor Maguire, a neuroscientist at the University College London in the U.K. "In other words, we could 'read' their spatial memories."

Maguire and her colleagues focused on the hippocampus, or a small part of the brain that deals with navigation, memory recall and imagining future events. Neurons known as "place cells" activate in the hippocampus and inform people of where they are as they move around.

Read more from live science

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Google to Zap Earthquakes

Google is going to make it easier to find earthquakes and pinpoint those annoying aftershocks that seemingly make California so hazardous on a minute-by-minute basis to people on the other side of the country. You never know when the "big one" is going to hit and all the land, say west of the Pinnacles National monument is going to splash into the ocean. The average Californian worries about this at least a couple times an hour, probably. The monument now has California condors flying around and it already did split in half, millions of years ago - the northern half of the Pinnacles floated up to Salinas, CA on the Pacific plate. The southern half of the Pinnacles is 195 miles south near Lancaster, California attached to the North American plate.

They're collaborating with the USGS in Menlo Park "science for a changing world" to make it so. No word on whether Beavis is going to be re-engaged to map the San Andreas Fault, after contract talks broke down a few years ago over terms of a potential deal that left Beavis feeling "insulted." Apparently, the backers balked at giving carbon-based life-form perquisites to an animated character.

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Shakespeare's First Venue Found

Portraiture of some of history's outstanding creatives is undergoing a renaissance. Just a couple of weeks ago, a depiction of Leonardo's actual visage was found in Italy.

New portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci

Then on Monday, a painting (above) believed to be Shakespeare's image was revealed. In contrast, the familiar image of Shakespeare from every hardcover compendium of his plays usually preceding the boring preamble of dry criticism by one literary don or another, may not in fact be his actual likeness but a kind of caricature.

Today, the first performance venue where the bard's work was displayed is being acknowledged, not the globe, just yet, taking a cue from Rosella Lorenzi at Discovery.

BBC report.

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Caffeine and Skin, Again

Recently we covered the story that caffeine can help block skin cancer and that topical caffeine solutions might be just around the corner.

Actually, they are here, according to dermatologist Leslie Baumann's blog.

Caffeine can also reduce the appearance of facial ruddiness or rosacea, Baumann says.

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Microsoft puts up $1.5 million to study benefits of games

Microsoft has agreed to fund an institute dedicated to learning-related games - in particular, looking at titles such as WoW to see if there is any benefit.

Groups of veterans play WoW to improve attentiveness when they return from the warzones, natural for them since mostly they were playing it before they enlisted and also while they served.

However, keep in mind that this is not particularly new, though it seems to be reported by the MSM as if it were shockingly new. Microsoft in the UK has been studying benefits of games since the early 2000's.

Published research we're involved in (go here for an overview) and some of our theory-in-use studies, such as at E3 back in 2005, also bear out the benefits in terms of improvement on normative measures. Similar studies at UC-Irvine, Scripps, and Western Ontario do as well. With additional research at University of Texas, Austin showing improvement in IQ scores, cohort studies at secondary schools have reported enhanced SAT scores (significant), and athletes have reported an improved tennis game (in the case of two professionals) along with at least one all-star major league infielder who regularly hit over .300.

One would think with the exploding audience and engaging nature of cognitive gaming that it will remain a high-growth area for the next decade-plus. Time spent playing our games in 2009 is up well over 100% from the same period in 2008, to an average of 50.7 minutes per visit, which compares very favorably to most websites. During the same period, for example, visits to traditional media (newspaper) sites has declined as has the average time per session.

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Dude-r-onomy, it's the Economy

Let's fast forward to 2009...once again, global financial crisis. Made-off, etc....the answer...it's in riding the ultimate wave.

Think skateboards rather than surfboards...AJAX rather than Cobol.

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Physical Fitness Pays off for Lone Survivor

The lone survivor rescued (so far) from an incident where a small (less than 25 foot boat) capsized in the open ocean was only able to survive due to outstanding physical fitness, strength, and endurance, according to the examining physician.

Where all of the individuals were in relatively good condition as present or former athletes - Phil Schuyler, a fitness trainer, was the only person to survive. This demonstrates once again the importance of fitness - even if you have to train a few hours a day to get it.

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300 Million Year Old Brain Recovered

An unutterably old brain of a shark's antecedent was found in Kansas

More than just dust in the wind, a 300 million year old brain was unearthed in Kansas. According to scientists, this represents the first time that actual brain tissue of the period was fossilized and can be recovered. Less than 3 years ago, small scraps of T-rex vascular structures were found on fossilized bones, but this discovery is apparently far more complex. The fish-like iniopterygian was a predecessor of sharks, rays, and fish and lived in a shallow ocean in the middle of the continent. (See example below)

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