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Friday, April 4, 2008

Human Touch Zero-Gravity Massage Chair

World's first zero-gravity massage chair!

  • Combines incredibly realistic and therapeutic Human Touch® massage with zero-gravity ergonomics.
  • As you rotate into the zero-gravity position, the pivoting "Z" shape cradles your spine in a stress-free position; elevates your legs above your heart for improved circulation; eases tense muscles; and increases oxygen intake by expanding lung capacity.
  • Human Touch® robotic massage mechanism that feels like real hands; it emulates the techniques used by physical therapists and chiropractic professionals — Rolling, Kneading, Percussion and therapeutic Compression.
  • Foot & Calf Massager in the footrest uses a patented technology that works your lower extremities an upward, wavelike fashion — therapeutically moving blood away from the feet and toward your body's core.
  • Wired controller puts all therapies at your fingertips — including eight automatic programmed massage sessions.
  • Two lumbar heat modules warm the lower back muscles, gradually reducing tightness and preparing them for a more restorative message and faster healing.
  • Plugs into standard outlet.
  • Select black or chocolate.
$3,995.00 click here to Purchase: Sharper Image

Le Trippin’ (Short)

Teenage Tourette's Camp (NSFW)

Planet B-Boy

Who said Breakdancin' is Dead?

Mornin' After

Exclusive Pictures of a 16 Year Old Angelina Jolie

Years before she became an internationally famous sex symbol, a teenage Angelina Jolie had what it took to be a swimsuit model — as In Touch exclusively reveals in these photos. Shot by photographer Sean McCall — and videotaped — the striking images depict a beautiful 16-year-old Angelina posing for a sensual modeling shoot.

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Asian Girl has Mad Tongue Tricks

Tongue Tricks

Chismillionaire thinks HellBoy II looking quite good

Guillermo Del Toro is on the job in this installment.

Truth or Dare!

Dare!! you loose....

How does this happen?

Europe’s unmanned automated ship docks to the ISS

Jules Verne ATV docking

3 April 2008
ESA PR 20-2008. ATV Jules Verne, the European Space Agency’s first resupply and reboost vehicle, has successfully performed a fully automated docking with the International Space Station (ISS). This docking marks the beginning of Jules Verne’s main servicing mission to deliver cargo, propellant, water, oxygen and propulsion capacity to the Station, as well as ESA’s entry into the restricted club of the partners able to access the orbital facility by their own means.

The 19-ton unmanned spaceship manoeuvred from a holding position 39 km behind the 275-ton space outpost and conducted a 4-hour staged approach with several stops at reference points for checks. It autonomously computed its own position through relative GPS (comparison between data collected by GPS receivers both on the ATV and the ISS) and in close range it used videometers pointed at laser retroreflectors on the ISS to determine its distance and orientation relative to its target. Final approach was at a relative velocity of 7 cm/s and with an accuracy of less than 10 cm, while both the ATV and the ISS were orbiting at about 28000 km/h, some 340 km above the Eastern Mediterranean. ATV Jules Verne’s docking probe was captured by the docking cone at the aft end of Russia’s Zvezda module at 16:45 CEST (14:45 GMT). Docking was completed with hooks closing at 16:52 CEST (14:52 GMT).

First automated docking

This is the very first time in Europe that an automated docking is performed in due respect of the very tight safety constraints imposed by manned spaceflight operations. All the approach and docking phase was piloted by the ATV’s onboard computers under close monitoring by the teams of ESA, CNES (the French Space agency) and Astrium (the prime contractor) at the ATV Control Centre at CNES Toulouse, France, as well as the ISS crew inside the Zvezda module. In case of anomaly, both ends could trigger pre-programmed manoeuvres to hold position, retreat to the previous reference point or escape to a safe distance.

The ATV’s behaviour was also under surveillance from its own independent Monitoring & Safing Unit (MSU), which uses a separate set of sensors and computers to check that the approach manoeuvre is conducted safely. In case of major anomaly, the MSU would have been able to take over the commands and order a Collision Avoidance Manoeuvre (CAM) through dedicated avionics chains and thrusters.

As all operations went smoothly, none of these safety manoeuvres was required during this afternoon’s approach and docking.

Replay of Ariane 5 ES-ATV launch
The ATV Jules Verne was launched by an Ariane 5 from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on 9 March. Three days later, it successfully demonstrated its autonomous CAM capability and was cleared for ISS proximity operations. The spaceship then moved to a parking orbit for the duration of space shuttle Endeavour’s visit to the ISS. On March 29 and 31 it conducted two rehearsals of today’s docking, approaching at 11 m from the Station.

New delivery service

Now that it is docked, the ATV Jules Verne will become an additional module of the ISS for about four months. The astronauts will enter its pressurized cargo module and retrieve 1,150 kg of dry cargo, including food, clothes and equipment as well as two original manuscripts handwritten by Jules Verne and a XIXth century illustrated edition of his novel “From the Earth to the Moon”. In addition, they will pump 856 kg of propellant, 270 kg of drinking water and 21 kg of oxygen into Zvezda’s tanks.

The ATV can carry about three times as much payload as Russia’s Progress freighters but on this mission, most of it is actually propellant to be used by the ATV’s own propulsion system for periodical manoeuvres to increase the altitude of the ISS in order to compensate its natural decay caused by atmospheric drag. If required, the ATV will also be able to provide redundant attitude control to the ISS or even perform evasive manoeuvres to move the Station out of the way of potentially dangerous space debris. The first of ATV Jules Verne’s reboost manoeuvres is currently scheduled on 21 April.

ESA DG and dignitaries at ATV-CC

“The ATV is so much more than a simple delivery truck, it is an intelligent and versatile spaceship which has just demonstrated its extraordinary skills,” said Daniel Sacotte, ESA’s Director for Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration. “It is the largest and most complex spacecraft ever developed in Europe and the second in size of all the vehicle’s visiting the Station, after NASA’s space shuttle. With Columbus and the ATV, we have entered the major league of the ISS.”

“The docking of the ATV is a new and spectacular step in the demonstration of European capabilities on the international scene of space exploration ”said Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s Director General. “This fantastic step is in first instance the result of collective work in Europe, including ESA Member States, industry under Astrium as prime contractor, CNES and ESA staff as well as among ISS partners, in particular the USA and Russia. We shall now reap the benefits of such investments after the launch of ESA’s Columbus laboratory, first in utilizing the unique capabilities of the ISS and secondly in preparing for the exploration of the Solar System. Now that the ATV is "up and running", I am happy to announce that in the next few weeks ESA will launch a recruitment campaign to hire new European astronauts"

For further information:

ESA Media Relations Office
Communication and Knowledge Department
Tel: + 33 1 5369 7299
Fax: + 33 1 5369 7690

Lindsay Lohan Spreads Her Wings to Play Nymphomaniac

Posted by Cole Abaius ( on April 3, 2008

Lindsay Lohan to Go Nude in Her Next Film

Since every other site that covers this story will make some sarcastic comment about Lohan showing her acting range by playing a sex-addict, I’ll spare you the tired humor.

Instead, I’ll just give you the bare facts on what might become Lindsay Lohan’s finest role to date.

It seems like only last week we were letting it spill that Lohan would join on as a Manson girl. Now, it appears she’s signed on to play a waitress with a penchant for doing the dirty in a new film called Florence. She was last seen as a stripper with a penchant for doing the dirty in I Know Who Killed Me.

Despite that, Lohan may still not know who killed her career because a source (read: some random person) is claiming that she’s taking the avant garde role to appear theatrically legitimate.

Of course, in order to do so, she’ll really have to nail the part. If not, her attempt at a comeback to commercial viability might just blow up in her face. It’s hard trying to get a career to rise again, but Lohan has ample talents to get the job done. If nothing else, she’s arousing suspicion that she has a plan for her career and that she might just stick it to her critics in the end.

No doubt this role will be a penetrating character study that will draw a Standing O from audiences around the country. I know that prediction might be hard to swallow considering Lohan’s past efforts, but something tells me Lindsay will have it in her.

We here at FSR wish her only the best of luck.

Source: In Case You Didn’t Know

Read more articles by Cole Abaius

Indoor Skydiving Perfect for Adrenaline Junkies With Fear of Heights

5 Infamous Abandonments Used in Famous Films [PICS/VIDS]

While many urban abandonments are left alone, some remarkable buildings have become famous after being used as film sets. Here are five films that made use of deserted buildings ranging from suburban malls and insane asylums to an unfinished nuclear reactor.Some of my favorites: Blues Brothers, 12 Monkeys, The Abyss, Session 9 ( yes this was filmed at the Famous Danvers State Mental Hospital) the Blasster has made visits there, and have been in some secret underground tunnels

read more | digg story

The 101 Coolest Easter Eggs Hidden in Your Software, DVDs an

Tips and tricks to uncover these concealed nuggets.

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Official Indiana Jones Shop: Now Open!!

Click Here To check Out the New Official Indiana Jones Shop

Combating Surgery awareness while under anesthesia

Brain waves: This figure illustrates the differences in brain activity during anesthesia. The plots with black lines show the electrical activity recorded with EEG, while the colored plots show a spectral analysis of that activity--whether the activity is primarily high or low frequency. When the patient was awake (top), his brain activity was at a high frequency. When he was sedated during surgery (bottom), the frequency of brain waves dropped.
Credit: Emery Brown.

A large-scale study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has sparked a flurry of controversy among anesthesiologists. According to the findings, a commonly used device designed to prevent anesthesia awareness--the rare event when a patient is actually conscious during surgery--was largely ineffective.

The findings highlight just how little is known about the neural changes that underlie anesthesia. "The challenge is that we don't understand the physiology and pharmacology underlying memory blocking by anesthetics," says Beverly Orser, an anesthesiologist and scientist at the University of Toronto, who wrote an editorial accompanying the piece. "If we understood the circuits and brain regions involved in complex memory formation, we'd be in a better position to develop these monitors."

Emery Brown, an anesthesiologist and neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, aims to do just that. Brown and his colleagues are using both brain imaging of human volunteers and, in animals, electrophysiology approaches--which more directly measure brain activity--to gain a deeper understanding of anesthesia. Preliminary research from his lab suggests that measuring activity at the surface of the brain may not be a reliable indicator of what's going on deeper down, where the memory circuitry may still be functioning--and forming frightening recollections of a particular surgery.

Every year, more than 20 million people in North America undergo general anesthesia--a combination of drugs that sedate patients, paralyze their muscles, and block perception of pain. The cocktail is carefully titered to each individual and each surgery, with the aim of maintaining the patient's crucial functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure, while keeping her blissfully unaware of the procedure.

A small number of those who get general anesthesia--about 0.1 to 0.2 percent--will experience awareness, which ranges from relatively innocuous incidents, such as later remembering a conversation between surgeons and nurses, to reports of excruciating pain while completely paralyzed. While it's not exactly clear what triggers anesthesia awareness, an insufficient amount of drugs that quiet brain areas involved in learning and memory is thought to be part of the problem.

As recognition of the problem of anesthesia awareness has grown in recent years, so has the market for devices designed to prevent it. Several types of monitors are now commercially available. They are based on a simple concept: that anesthesia drugs quiet the cortex in a predictable manner that can be measured with electroencephalography (EEG), a technology that measures electrical activity on the surface of the head. The frequency of brain waves spikes briefly as the patient is lulled into unconsciousness, and then it slows. The devices convert EEG patterns into a single number that indicates a patient's level of awareness, allowing physicians to administer more drugs if needed.

Eyedrops that probe the brain

Eye on the brain: Gene probes administered to mice via eyedrops traveled into the brain, allowing researchers to image brain damage in living animals.
Credit: Courtesy Philip Liu of Harvard Medical School

By dosing mice with eyedrops containing gene probes that then travel to the brain, Harvard researchers are using magnetic resonance imaging to observe the brains of living animals. The method could allow doctors to directly diagnose problems such as tumors, viral infections, and head injury, without the need for a brain biopsy. It could also be useful in monitoring patients and perhaps even targeting drug treatment to affected areas of the brain.

The gene probe technique, reported in the latest issue of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, allows MRI scans that show gliosis, the process in which glial cells in the brain form a fibrous network as a defense against damage. This scarring occurs in disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease and as a consequence of brain tumors and serious brain injury.

The work is "really a good start," says Monique Stins, a visiting scientist at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, who was not involved in the research. However, she adds, "It's still far from the bedside. The safety of all these kinds of probes still has to be assessed."

In earlier studies, radiologist Philip Liu and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School injected the probes directly into the brains of animals. Now they've incorporated them into eyedrops.

To create the gene targeting probe, Liu and his colleagues hitched a common MRI probe to a DNA sequence complementary to the mRNA of a protein found in glial cells. They tested the probe in mice in which the blood-brain barrier--which regulates the movement of substances from the blood to the brain--had been breached. The barrier is compromised in many neurological disorders, including stroke, multiple sclerosis, and viral infections, although the process is not yet well understood.

Liu and his colleagues are not sure how the probes penetrated the brain, but they believe it may have been via the lymphatic system, which includes vessels in the eyes. Fluid from the lymphatic system merges with blood in the vascular system, and if the blood-brain barrier is compromised, Liu says, probes could travel from the eye to the brain.

After treating the mice with eyedrops, the team performed MRI scans on the live animals to produce images of gliosis in their brains. Such scans could be a valuable indicator of brain injury or a neurological disorder, Liu says, and they could be performed regularly to monitor a patient's progress.

Snakelike Robots for Heart Surgery

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Ready to probe: The CardioArm can wiggle its way inside a body and perform cardiac ablations. An operator controls the robot’s motions using a joystick.
Credit: Amir Degani

A snakelike surgical robot from Carnegie Mellon University could let a surgeon performing a critical heart operation make just one incision.

Known as the CardioArm, the curved robot has a series of joints that automatically adjust to follow the course plotted by the robot's head. This provides greater precision than a flexible endoscope can offer. "It's certainly easier to control," says Robert Webster III, a professor at Vanderbilt University who works on flexible medical probes and was not involved in the CardioArm project.

The CardioArm is operated using a computer and a joystick. It has 102 degrees of freedom, three of which can be activated at once. This allows it to enter through a single point in the chest and wrap around the heart until it reaches the right spot to, say, remove problematic tissue. "The nice thing about [the] design is that each joint follows where you went in space. That's not always possible in other designs," says Webster. This kind of control prevents the probe from bumping into sensitive tissue. The disadvantage of a jointed robot, however, is that it's harder to miniaturize, Webster says.

The smallest version of the device is 300 millimeters long and has a diameter of 12 millimeters. Eventually, the CMU researchers hope to make a snake small enough to enter the bloodstream through a blood vessel, says Marco Zenati, one of the principal researchers on the CardioArm project and a professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh.

Zenati has used robotic surgical assistants in the past and notes that they all have limitations. The da Vinci system, for example, can't "squeeze into tight locations within the human body" and requires five or six entryways, he says.

Realizing the need for more-advanced robots for minimally invasive surgery, Zenati teamed up with Howie Choset, a TR35 honoree known for his work at CMU on crawling robotic snakes, and Alon Wolf, founder and director of the Biorobotics and Biometrics Lab at Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology.

"We are working to just have a single port in the body and from that point being able to reach any location," says Zenati. "There is no technology that allows one to do that. The only one is the CardioArm."

The probe is currently being developed by the startup Cardiorobotics, formerly known as Innovention Technologies, which Zenati and Choset founded in 2005. So far, the team has performed successful cardiovascular surgeries on nine pigs and two human cadavers, says Choset. According to the company's website, live human trials should begin later this year.

Adobe offers free scaled down version of Photoshop

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Picture perfect: Adobe’s Photoshop Express is an online editing service that offers basic editing tools, shown here in the panel. When a person makes a change to a photo, a check mark appears next to the tool used. To remove the edit, the user simply clicks on the check mark.
Credit: Adobe

Today, when you take pictures with your digital camera, you have an inordinate number of options for online editing, storing, and sharing your shots. Thanks to improvements in Flash, popular graphics software, and the availability of fast broadband connections, a number of impressive online photo-editing sites have emerged in the past couple of years. Now Adobe is jumping into the fray with its new online photo-editing software called Photoshop Express. The service opened a test version to the public, which offers simple editing tools, syncs with Facebook, Picassa, and Photobucket, and provides two gigabytes of free storage.

Photoshop Express requires Flash Player 9 to run and works with all major browsers, including Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. A user first uploads pictures from a hard drive to Adobe's servers, a process that takes a couple of minutes, depending on the speed of the Internet connection and the size and number of photos. Once uploaded, the photos can be edited with a simplistic editing toolbar that lets the user crop, adjust exposure, touch up blemishes, remove red eye, and change the color saturation. As well as these basics, Photoshop Express lets users fine-tune the color and lighting with controls such as white balance and a tool that sharpens blurry edges. In addition, a user can add more creative elements to a picture with a sketch tool and a distort feature.

In terms of editing, Adobe's offer isn't impressive. It lacks editing tools available in other online editors, including Picnik (used by the photo-sharing site Flickr), FotoFlexer, and Rsizr. Rsizr, for instance, offers an innovative tool that can compress and expand images without distorting them. Moreover, this initial version of Photoshop Express comes up short in terms of storage. Sites like Flickr and Photobucket offer unlimited storage, albeit for a price. (Express shouldn't be compared with Adobe Photoshop C3, the professional editing suite that can cost nearly $1,000, or Photoshop Elements, desktop editing software for under $100, because it's free and vying for a different audience.)

These are just the early days for Photoshop Express, notes Geoff Baum, director of express solutions at Adobe, who pitched the idea of Web-based products about two years ago. "It's not quite there yet," he says. In the coming months, the company will offer more features, depending on user feedback, as well as more storage and the ability to synchronize photo libraries with additional websites. One particular feature that will be available soon, he notes, will be access to a printing service.

Can You say Break-Up!

GM vows Volt WILL be built in 2010

By Frank Markus

I just returned from another fairly in-depth GM press event updating us on the progress of its plug-in hybr -- sorry, we're not supposed to use the "H" word -- "Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV)," the Chevy Volt. An entourage of international journalists were given tours of GM's battery-development lab, a virtual-reality Visualization Center, the E-Flex Studio, and the Aerodynamics lab in order to drive home the point that this is not a science project or a micro-volume technology learning exercise, but a production program -- albeit a greatly accelerated one.

Today we basked in the heat generated by equipment that was performing accelerated-life-cycle testing on a pair of lithium-ion battery packs from potential supplier CPI/LG Chemical. The tests charge the 16kW-hr battery packs to their maximum state of charge (estimated at around 80 percent), then they're subjected to discharge at a rate (peaking at 43kW) that simulates a typical federal city fuel economy cycle, followed by the harder-charging US-06 cycle, the highway cycle, and another city cycle. This regimen drops the battery to roughly 30 percent of its capacity in 40 miles, after which the rig simulates range-extending operation with mild charge/discharge cycling from the onboard engine/generator, before "parking it" and recharging (at 25 kW) back up to 80 percent.

Battery Lab Environmental Test

Then we peeked inside an environmental cell where batteries supplied by competing supplier A123/Continental were undergoing hot- (176 degrees F) and cold- (-22 degrees F) climate testing. Such testing helps develop the battery pack's thermal management system (they're liquid cooled), and the hot tests accelerate the life-cycle testing. Other labs have subjected the pack to 10 years of in-car shock and vibration. Also on hand in the lab was an EV-1's lead-acid battery pack casing alongside the Volt's. Both contained 16kW-hrs of energy, but the vintage lead-acid pack weighed three times as much and was over twice as large. As yet, GM is not discussing the specific battery chemistry, except to say that it is NOT anything like that used in laptop batteries (and the Tesla).

On a hoist in the battery lab was a 2005 Malibu that has served for six months as an engineering development vehicle (the first of three prototype stages), employing a NiMH battery pack from a 2-mode in place of the li-ion pack but serving to test the many other control systems. (Judging by the wheel-flare extensions on the Malibu, we can assume that the Volt's track will be wider than a 2005 Malibu's.) These early cars will be upgraded to level-2 mule status with installation of the proper battery packs by the end of April. Soft-tooled prototypes that look like Volts will be the final stage. Engineering development teams have been working two six-day shifts per week, at GM's Milford Proving Ground to meet the Volt's aggressive development schedule.

Battery Test Cycle
Battery Test Rig
A123-Continental And CPI-LG Battery Testing

The visualization center involves a huge wide glass screen with twin rear-projection images that, when viewed wearing special electronic 3-D glasses allow you to see all parts of a car as modeled in the computer, from any angle. It's used to check special relationships that could cause problems in assembly (and even to model entire assembly lines), trouble-shoot potential quality problems, etc. without the need for costly prototype parts. An entire car can be assembled in the system from math data in about two weeks. It's said to have slashed the number of physical prototypes required to be built (at roughly $1 million each) by 60 percent.

What we were shown of the new Global Compact architecture indicates this moon-shot tech can be packaged in traditional architecture -- a must to ensure it can be produced economically alongside high-volume mainstream products. A tall center tunnel (about the size of a Cadillac CTS's) houses the battery pack. The small mainstream four-cylinder "Family Zero" engine mounts in its usual spot, and the generator and motor are co-located in a housing that looks like a big transaxle (though there is still NO link between the engine and front wheels).

The brake system is an electro-hydraulic by-wire setup like the Prius's, allowing a computer to interpret the driver's deceleration needs and apportion braking among regeneration and friction brakes as it sees fit. Naturally, the steering assist is electric, but the motor's input is via a secondary pinion on the steering rack. That's different from current GM designs and more like the VW-Audi setups (whose steering feel is superior), but it will likely be rolled out across GM's lineup. The evaporative emissions system is fortified to contain fumes that may accumulate over days or weeks of vehicle operation without engine ignition to burn them off. The cooling module is also far more complex, with the battery cooling unit out in front, then the A/C condenser, a layer shared by the power-electronics and driveline oil coolers, and then the engine's radiator backed by fans powered by ultra-quiet, high-efficiency brushless motors. The front strut suspension is completely typical, the rear uses trailing arms integral with a transverse torsional member. The Volt will get unique, weight-optimized trailing-arm castings (which will likely be shared with a high-performance coupe variant of the architecture), but otherwise the underpinnings look conventional.

During the final Q&A session, we learned a bit more about the forthcoming Volt. No diesel, fuel-cell, or full battery-electric variants have been approved as of yet. The first two range-extenders will be gasoline PZEV and E85 compatible ULEV engines, with a production launch date of November 2010. That's ambitious, and officials admit the launch will be gradual. Not all states and certainly not all dealers will get the Volt immediately, and the initial lot may well be for lease only. The Volt is not expected to generate a profit right out of the chute, either, but it should earn GM a significant return on investment in terms of Green cred and technology leadership -- especially if, as they promise, the 8.5-seconds-to-60 Volt turns out to be a good-looking, no-compromises, fun-to-drive family sedan. Here's hoping.


More BMW news for enthusiasts

BMW Will Revive tii Badge for 1- and 3-series

The tii revival didn'texactly startoff with a bang. At the Tokyo auto show last fall, BMW resurrected its fabled tii suffix-best known as the high-performance version of the company's marque-making 2002. Unfortunately, the Tokyo concept was little more than a 1-series coupe with a cosmetic package. The show car was accurate in that a tii kit is in the works for the 1-series coupe, according to BMW chief Norbert Reithofer. The package consists of aero body add-ons, carbon-fiber trim, wider wheels and tires, sport seats and instruments, and a new, M-style steering wheel with an integrated LED rev counter.

That's fine, but a tii deserves substance, not just style. The good news is that the substance is coming, and eventually tii cars will supplement the M cars as a second strain of performance models, one that's more accessible and emphasizes connectedness rather than absolute power. They are designed to be raw and rather loud driving machines that deliver a particularly intimate aural and tactile experience, as well as a higher level of dynamic connectivity. In technical terms, this means upgrades such as more direct steering, a firmer suspension, reduced noise insulation, and a brawnier drivetrain.

The good stuff could start arriving as early as later this summer, with the face-lifted 2009 3-series. That car is under consideration for a tii version that, in addition to styling tweaks, would include M3 brakes, nineteen-inch wheels, a sport suspension, a dual-clutch transmission, and increased boost pressure that would bump the output of the 3.0-liter twin-turbo engine from 300 hp to about 355 hp.

The tii revival gets into full swing with the next-generation models of the 1-series (due in late 2011), the 3-series (out in early 2012), the X3 (also in 2011), and the new X1 (coming in mid-2009). All four of those cars are slated to get tii versions that will have emphatically sporty appearances and exceptional dynamic abilities. The 1-series tii would feature a lighter unibody and use a direct-injected, 2.0-liter twin-turbo four-cylinder good for 300 hp. BMW is even evaluating unique, tii-specific body styles. The most intriguing is the so-called "sharknose" version-a special tii body style for the 3-series. It is almost retro in character, with thin roof pillars, a relatively upright windshield and rear window, and simple head- and taillights, as well as traditional "waterline" styling (which also can be found on the current 1-series coupe and cabriolet). Aslightly longer front end and a cab-backward greenhouse should also help create a quite different tii-only appearance.

It's too early to tell whether the tii game plan will first come into effect on the 1-series or the 3-series or what the exact scope will be. But it's clear that BMW is determined to plug the gap between the sport packages and the M cars, using a more affordable mix of visual and engineering enhancements worthy of the iconic tii suffix.

New BMW Hyrdogen 7 to run completely on Hydrogen

In yet another step toward a zero-emissions world, BMW this week rolled out a BMW Hydrogen 7 with a V12 internal-combustion engine that has been engineered to run solely on hydrogen. The previous version of the Hydrogen 7 was a biofuel version that runs on gasoline and hydrogen.

The upgraded monofuel Hydrogen 7 is being paraded in front of some important audiences, including the 2008 National Hydrogen Association Conference in Sacramento, California, this week. It will also show up at the 2008 SAE World Congress in Detroit, which starts on April 14.

BMW emphasizes that the BMW Hydrogen 7 monofuel is a "demonstration production vehicle, not a prototype."

"It was created to showcase the zero-CO2 and low-emissions potential and feasibility of a dedicated hydrogen internal-combustion engine," the automaker said in a statement. "In addition, the BMW Hydrogen 7 monofuel helps deliver additional experience in the everyday use of hydrogen beyond what has already been learned with the nearly 100 bifuel Hydrogen 7 sedans that have been used in a customer test-drive program since November 2006."

Aston Martin DBS Volante caught testing

Chismillionaire is not sure he is on board with a Volante version of Aston's sharpest sword but no doubt some need to have theirs topless.

A prototype for the future Aston Martin DBS Volante was caught outside the automaker's Nürburgring workshop this week, during what we assume are preparations for hot laps on the popular test circuit.

Inside Line tested the 2008 Aston Martin DBS coupe last fall, so the arrival of a drop top is no surprise, especially since Aston Martin Vice President and General Manager for North America John Walton alluded to the "possibility" of the DBS Volante at a recent Aston Martin press event in Dallas.

"We design everything we make with the ability to build a coupe and a roadster," said Walton. "We never do anything as an afterthought." Walton said it would be at least 18 months away for the DBS Volante, "if we went there."

Aston's head product PR guy, Matthew Clarke, also echoed the 18-month target, which would put the DBS Volante's debut shortly after the 2010 Aston Martin Rapide sedan's summer 2009 target.

Aston execs also reiterated the fact that the DBS is more than just a DB9 with body cladding and a bigger engine, and that more development time was needed to make the DBS into a roadster, while keeping its sports car handling intact.

What this means to you: Easily one of the most beautiful convertibles on the road today, even in prototype form. — Kelly Toepke, News Editor

Spring has almost Sprung Van Damme Friday