Having made amazing discoveries such as how to make the perfect cheese sandwich, linking heavy caffeine use to sleeplessness, and figuring out where all the teaspoons have gone, science has made the greatest breakthrough yet. They have uncovered the secrets of making the perfect phone call. The perfect phone call clocks in at a mere 9 minutes and 36 seconds, easily 11 minutes shorter than any conversation I've ever had with my mom. Unlike a call to mom, the perfect phone call is almost devoid of any gossip about her divorced neighbor and her heavily tattooed daughter. Instead three minutes should be spent catching up with news about family and friends, one minute on personal problems, a minute on work/school, 42 seconds on current affairs, 24 seconds on the weather, and 24 seconds talking about the opposite sex. What's left of your 9 mins 36 secs is a free for all.
A study has found that everybody has a unique body odor, like their fingerprints, that could be used as an unique identifier. The study showed that a persons unique odor stayed the same even if they varied their diet with strong smelling foods such as garlic and spices. "These findings indicate that biologically-based odorprints, like fingerprints, could be a reliable way to identify individuals," said Monell chemist Jae Kwak. I would have thought that hundreds of years of dogs tracking people would have proved this, but it's nice to know that science has figured it out officially now.
secmartin writes "The popular virus scanner AVG released an update yesterday that caused their software to mark user32.dll as a virus. Since this is a rather critical file, AVG's suggestion to remove it caused problems for users around the world who are now advised to restore the file through the Windows Recovery Console. AVG just posted an update about this (FAQ item 1574) in the support section of their site. Their forums are full of complaints."
SpuriousLogic sends in a sad note from the BBC: "NASA says its Phoenix lander on the surface of Mars has gone silent and is almost certainly dead. Engineers have not heard from the craft since Sunday 2 November when it made a brief communication with Earth. Phoenix, which landed on the planet's northern plains in May, had been struggling in the increasing cold and dark of an advancing winter. The US space agency says it will continue to try to contact the craft but does not expect to hear from it."
A refrigerator-sized tank of toxic ammonia, tossed from the international space station last year, is expected to hit earth tomorrow afternoon or evening. The 1,400-pound object was deliberately jettisoned — by hand — from the ISS's robot arm in July 2007. Since the time of re-entry is uncertain, so is the location. "NASA expects up to 15 pieces of the tank to survive the searing hot temperatures of re-entry, ranging in size from about 1.4 ounces (40 grams) to nearly 40 pounds (17.5 kilograms). ... [T]he largest pieces could slam into the Earth's surface at about 100 mph (161 kph). ...'If anybody found a piece of anything on the ground Monday morning, I would hope they wouldn't get too close to it,' [a NASA spokesman] said."
Scott Hagerman passes along news of yet another recall of Sony laptop batteries. The batteries in question, manufactured in the same timeframe as those involved in the massive 2006 recall, are in laptops sold by HP, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, and Acer. Neither Apple nor Sony itself used these batteries in their laptops. This time 100,000 batteries are involved — 65,000 of them sold outside of the US — vs. the 10 million recalled in 2006. The Consumer Product Safety Commission fielded 19 reports of batteries overheating and/or catching fire.
An anonymous reader writes "BD+, the Blu-ray copy protection system that was supposed to last 10 years, has now been solidly broken by a group of doom9 researchers. Earlier, BD+ had been broken by the commercial company SlySoft." Someone from SlySoft posts a hint early in the thread, but then backs off for fear of getting fired. The break is announced on page 15.
A University of Texas poll has found that 23 percent of Texans are convinced that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is a Muslim. Only 45 percent of the people polled correctly identified Obama as a Protestant Christian. Nationwide, the number of people who believe in the "Secret Muslim Conspiracy" is about the same as those who believe that the moon landing was faked (5-10 percent), which makes the high numbers in Texas unusual.
damn_registrars writes "'Half of all American doctors responding to a nationwide survey say they regularly prescribe placebos to patients. The results trouble medical ethicists, who say more research is needed to determine whether doctors must deceive patients in order for placebos to work.' The study just quoted goes on to say that the drugs most often used as placebo are headache pills, vitamins, and antibiotics. Studies on doctors in Europe and New Zealand have found similar results."
Massively is running a story about bandwidth costs for MMOs and other virtual worlds. It's based on a post at the BBC on the same subject which references a traffic analysis (PDF) done for World of Warcraft. Quoting: "If you're an average user on capped access, the odds are you have roughly 20Gbytes per month to allocate among all of your Internet usage (it varies depending on just where you are). For you, sucking back (for example) a 2GB World of Warcraft patch isn't something you can just do. It's something you have to plan for — and quite often you have to plan for in the following month. Even a 500MB download has to be handled with caution. MMOGs as a rule don't use a whole lot of bandwidth in actual operation. However, the quantity definitely rises in busy areas with lots of players, where there are large numbers of mobs, or on raids, and takes quite a much larger jump if you're using voice as well."
AcidAUS writes "Last week's bust of the largest spam operation in the world has had no measurable impact on global spam volumes. The spam gang, known by authorities and security experts as HerbalKing, was responsible for one-third of all spam, the non-profit antispam research group Spamhaus said." The article speculates that the operators of HerbalKing simply passed on to associates the keys to the automated, 35,000-strong botnet, and the spam flow didn't miss a beat.
Creativity is least likely to strike in the afternoon, according to a survey that suggests office workers have little chance of solving problems after lunch. A poll of 1,426 people showed that a quarter of us stay up late when seeking inspiration. Taking a shower or just sitting in the bathroom proved to be a popular way of getting the creative juices flowing. The survey found that 10:04pm was the most creative time, while 4:33pm was the least. I'll think of something funny to write here later.
The Register is reporting that according to some reports, Interpol will soon be pushing for a world-wide facial recognition database at the borders of all member nations. "The UK already has airport gates equipped with such technology, intended to remove the need for a human border guard to check that a passenger's face matches the one recorded in his or her passport. According to the Guardian, Interpol database chief Mark Branchflower believes that his organization should set up a database of facial-recognition records to operate alongside its existing photo, fingerprint and DNA files."
Hugh Pickens writes "Traditional peak power hours — the time during the day when power demand shoots up — run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. when air conditioning begins to ramp up and people start heading for malls and home but utilities are now seeing another peak power problem evolve with a second surge that runs from about 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. when people head toward their big screen TVs and home computers. 'It is [not] so much a peak as it is a plateau,' says Andrew Tang, senior director of the smart energy web at Pacific Gas & Electric. '8 p.m. is kind of a recent phenomenon.' Providing power during the peak hours is already a costly proposition because approximately 10 percent of the existing generating capacity only gets used about 50 hours a year: Most of the time, that expensive capital equipment sits idle waiting for a crisis. Efforts to reduce demand are already underway with TV manufacturers working to reduce the power consumption in LCD and plasma while Intel and PC manufacturers are cranking down computer power consumption. 'Without a doubt, there's demand' for green PCs, says Rick Chernick, CEO of HP partner Connecting Point, adding that the need to be green is especially noticeable among medical industry enterprise customers."
mcgrew writes "The question of how we loveless nerds managed to not be bred out of the species genome may have been answered. According to New Scientist, we have better sperm. According to the article, men who scored high on a battery of intelligence tests boasted high counts of healthy sperm, while low scorers tended to have fewer and more sickly little guys. ... Though the connections between brains and sperm were 'not awesome, they're there and highly significant.' All things held equal, good sperm and good brains go together." Don't start gloating yet. Another recent study found that the gene that makes you good at Halo also makes you a premature ejaculator. A study of 200 Dutch men found that those with a premature ejaculation problem all had a version of a gene that controls the release of serotonin. These men seem to "have very quick reflexes. They may be excellent at playing tennis or computer games." Remember, if you smoke after sex you're doing it too fast.