February 2007

Flash crowds in high schools

From an NPR interview with Principal Ed Kovochich, who has banned cell phones in his Milwaukee high school because they’ve been causing flash crowds at what would otherwise have been a simple one-on-one fight:

Quite a bit of the school was text messaged where the fight was taking place, and soon there were hundreds, and they were cheering and jeering and usually you get into that mob violence mentality. And suddenly what was 3-on-1 became 3-on-2 and then 3-on-3 and etc. and before you knew it we had a lot of kids fighting.

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A pill for everything

From an article on a study that shows women display increased hormone levels when exposed to chemicals found in male sweat:

One implication of the finding is that there may be better ways to raise cortisol levels in patients with diseases such as Addison’s disease, which is characterized by low cortisol. Instead of giving the hormone in pill form, which has side effects such as ulcers and weight gain, “a potential therapeutic mechanism whereby merely smelling synthesized or purified human chemosignals may be used to modify endocrine balance,” the authors wrote.

How distinctly American, distilling sex into pill form so we can have the benefits without all the messy side effects… (thanks to Janie for the link.)

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Advertising Chinese Menu

The New York Times discusses the new trend towards building your own custom television commercials via the Web:

They can automatically add names of local sales agents or dealership addresses, and they can change the content of the ad, depending on where it is showing, to appeal to various demographic groups. Among the companies that have used these services are Wendy’s, Ford Motor, Coldwell Banker and Warner Independent Pictures… The automated system it is offering to advertisers, called Pick-n-Click, is currently available only for automotive advertisers and has 150,000 components —like voice-overs, video footage and text options.

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Roll-out display roll out

Polymervision has announced a partnership with Telecom Italia to roll out (pun intended, sorry) an e-book reader with a flexible display:

While smaller than a typical mobile phone, the new device features a display which extends up to 5-inches and may simply be stored away after use by folding it, thanks to the flexibility of the polymer based display material. The device features the largest display available in the industry for the same form factor, the 16 grey levels combined with a high contrast and high reflectivity display for paper like reading experience enables comfortable reading, even in bright sunlight. Future developments include colour and moving image capable display.

(Thanks to Dirk for the link.)


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Origami lens

Via PhysOrg:

Engineers at UC San Diego have built a powerful yet ultrathin digital camera by folding up the telephoto lens. This technology may yield lightweight, ultrathin, high resolution miniature cameras for unmanned surveillance aircraft, cell phones and infrared night vision applications….

Instead of bending and focusing light as it passes through a series of separate mirrors and lenses, the new folded system bends and focuses light while it is reflected back and forth inside a single 5 millimeter thick optical crystal. The light is focused as if it were moving through a traditional lens system that is at least seven times thicker.

“When all is said and done, our camera will look a lot like a lens cap that can be focused and used as a regular camera,” said Ford.

Their paper is in the latest issue of Applied Optics. (Thanks to Janie for the link!)

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Laser Trap

I’ve finally posted a write-up on Jay’s Laser Trap from this Christmas over in my traps gallery:

This is a strikingly beautiful trap. When placed in a darkened room, you can see a faint and ominous glow coming from the chest even before testing the latch. Opening the chest reveals faint laser lines criss-crossing back and forth across the mouth of the chest, lines that might be missed completely in a well-lit room but become bright if you blow smoke or mist into the box. Breaking a beam with your hand, or bump one of the carefully-positioned mirrors that bounces it from source to receiver and you trigger an alarm.

Check out the traps gallery for the full description.

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