I'd just like to mention that Dow Chemical are the ones who owned Union Carbide. Y'know, the ones who killed around 25,000 people in a chemical plant accident in Bhopal, India. I wouldn't buy a pinhead from them.
xzvf writes "A disgruntled Clemson University staffer shows how US News and World Report college rankings are manipulated. Techniques include bad-mouthing other schools, filling out applications from highly qualified students that never intended to apply, and lying about class size and professor salaries." The school, naturally, denies that anything unethical went on. The New York Times has a more detailed article, which links to this first-person account of the presentation.
Mike writes "A 62-year-old man had a mental breakdown and ran off after grabbing several bottles of pills from his house. The cops asked Verizon to help trace the man using his cellphone, but Verizon refused, saying that they couldn't turn on his phone because he had an unpaid bill for $20. After an 11-hour search (during which time the sheriff's department was trying to figure out how to pay the bill), the man was found, unconscious. 'I was more concerned for the person's life,' Sheriff Dale Williams said. 'It would have been nice if Verizon would have turned on his phone for five or 10 minutes, just long enough to try and find the guy. But they would only turn it on if we agreed to pay $20 of the unpaid bill.' Score another win for the Verizon Customer Service team."
SilverMind writes in to note a blog entry at Byte Size Biology describing in detail a few hours spent with Wolfram Alpha (which we have discussed before). "After playing around with Wolfram Alpha for a few hours, I can safely say the following: it's different, it's incomplete, it's idiosyncratic, and it's funky cool. And no, it will not dethrone Google, nor does it aim to do so."
theodp writes "Slate's Farhad Manjoo feels the end of voice-mail is nigh, and it won't be missed. Since March, he's been using Google Voice to transcribe his voice-mail messages into text that he gets as skimmable e-mail. No more listening to at least a bit of each voice-mail message, hearing the same instructional prompts between each, and worrying about whether it's 9-to-archive and 7-to-skip (or vice versa). Goodbye and good riddance, says Manjoo, to an 'absurdly backward mode of human-computer interaction' that he half-jokes must violate the Geneva Conventions."
MarkN writes "The use of story in video games has come a long way, from being shoehorned into a manual written for a completed game to being told through expensive half-hour cut scenes that put gameplay on hold. To me, the interesting thing about story in games is how it relates the player to the game; in communicating their goals, motivating them to continue, and representing their role as a character in the world. This article talks about some of the storytelling techniques games have employed, and in particular the different styles of narration that have been used to directly communicate information about a story, and how that affects the player's relation to their character and the degree of freedom they're given to shape the story themselves."
Bridgette Steffen writes "In attempt to slow down desertification, a student at London's Architectural Association has proposed a 6000 km sandstone wall that will not only act as a break across the Sahara Desert, but also serve as refugee shelter. Last fall it won first prize in the Holcim Foundation's Awards for Sustainable Construction, and will use bacteria to solidify the sandstone."
Earlier this year, Chinese game publisher The9 lost the rights to operate World of Warcraft in China. Now, it appears they are trying to solve their financial troubles by making World of Fight, which bears a suspicious resemblance to World of Warcraft. Others have noted similarities between World of Fight and Warhammer Online. Quoting Eurogamer: "According to the China Journal report, Chinese industry observers 'wonder whether The9 is launching a "shanzhai," or knock-off, World of Warcraft in hopes of keeping WOW players,' with iResearch analyst Zhao Xufeng noting that 'with the topic staying in the centre of attention, The9 can easily attract attention by doing this.'"
An anonymous reader writes "What do you get when you mount a Nikon D200 with a standard rifle stock? Why a Tactical Camera of course! One that no reporter would be caught with in a war zone or covering any armed action anywhere. What started out as a tongue in cheek project for April Fools wound up being quite the successful demonstration of concept. It features a fully functional trigger; it has controls for operating the shutter and auto focus; and for the patient shots, it has a mounted bipod. Carry sling optional."
GamePolitics writes "Seven anti-war protesters were arrested in Philadelphia on Saturday during a protest rally and march which targeted the Army Experience Center, a high-tech recruitment center which uses PC and Xbox games and simulations to attract potential recruits. GamePolitics was on hand to cover the protest, and took video of the arrests. A local news station also reported on the rally, and the Peace Action Network released a statement saying, "In its desperate approach to meet recruiting numbers, the military is teaching the wrong values to teenagers. Sugarcoating combat experience with virtual war is a dishonor to those with real war experience."
Solarch writes "Late in the afternoon on Wednesday, the WHO raised the pandemic threat level for H1N1 "swine flu" to 5. Global media outlets(such as CNN, Fox News, and the BBC) preempted normal broadcast coverage and immediately published stories on their websites. To clarify, the WHO's elevation is mainly a sign to governments that the virus is spreading quickly and that steps should be taken on a governmental level to stage supplies and medicines to combat a possible pandemic. Unfortunately, broadcast coverage focused on phrases like 'pandemic imminent' (CNN marquee). In other news, patient zero, the medical term for the initial human vector of a disease, has been tentatively identified in Mexico."
MeatBag PussRocket writes "An article from Marketplace.org reports, 'A Florida company has developed an all-natural product that it says could revolutionize how food is grown in the US. It's called Smart Grow, but it might be a tough sell. It's inexpensive. It eliminates the need for pesticides, so it's environmentally friendly, but it's human hair. Plant pathologists at the University of Florida have found the mats eliminate weeds better than leading herbicides and can also make plants grow up to 30 percent larger.'"
tritonman writes "Obama wants to set a goal that the US spend 3% of its GDP on scientific research and development. 'I believe it is not in our character, American character, to follow — but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development,' Obama said in a speech at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences."
rastos1 writes "The European Parliament extended the copyright in the EU for the performers of musical works from 50 to 70 years. The legislation will be reviewed in 3 years. The European Commission will consider extending the scope to audiovisual works too." So performers will collect for 20 more years from the date of performance; composers' rights already extend to 70 years beyond their deaths. Update: 4/26 at 12:15 GMT by SS: Reader rimberg points out that while the copyright extension was passed in the European Parliament, it is now being held up in the Council of Ministers awaiting further debate on the issue.
krou writes "In Dec. 2006, we discussed the Espresso Book Machine. Well, on April 27 the bookseller Blackwell will launch a three-month trial of the machine in its Charing Cross Road branch in London as a 'print on demand' service for shoppers in an effort 'to consign to history the idea that you can walk into a bookshop and not find the book you want.' When the trial begins, it will be able to print any of some 400,000 titles; Blackwell's overall goal is to extend this to a million titles by the summer, and to spread out more machines to the rest of its sixty stores once it works out pricing. Currently, they charge shelf price for in-print books, and 10 pence per page for those out of print (about $55 for a 300-page book), but are analyzing customer behavior to get a better pricing model. Says Blackwell chief executive Andrew Hutchings: 'This could change bookselling fundamentally. It's giving the chance for smaller locations, independent booksellers, to have the opportunity to truly compete with big stock-holding shops and Amazon ... I like to think of it as the revitalization of the local bookshop industry.' Their website notes that in addition to getting books printed in-store, in future you will be able to order titles via their site. (They also mention that one of the titles you can print is the 1915 Oxford Poetry Book, which includes one of Tolkien's first poems, 'Goblin's Feet.')" You'll also be able to bring in your own book to print — two PDF files, one for the book block and one for the cover.