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Thursday, April 24, 2008

New Prosthetic Hand So Nimble an Amputee Can Type

By LiveScience Staff
posted: 22 April 2008 ET

The i-LIMB has flexible hydraulic drives are located directly in the movable finger joints. Credit: Touch Bionics, Orthopedic University Hospital

A new prosthetic hand uses individually movable fingers to hold a credit card, use a keyboard and lift a heavy bag.

Researchers bill it as the world's first commercially available prosthetic hand that can move each finger separately. The i-LIMB, made by the Scottish company Touch Bionics, is being tested at the Orthopedic University Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany.

The hydraulic hand went on sale in Britain last year for about $17,500 and is being used by a small number of people. The company began operations in the United States earlier this year and plans to make the device more widely available.

Unlike similar models that allowed gripping with just the thumb and one or two fingers, the i-LIMB allows a user to grab something with all five. It also feels softer and more natural than the typically hard prosthetics of old, its maker says.

Flexible hydraulic drives are located directly in the movable finger joints, and the prosthetic hand gives feedback to the user's stump, enabling the amputee to sense the strength of the grip.

On the company's Web site are testimonials from a select few who have gotten an i-LIMB. Among them is 27-year-old retired U.S. Army Sgt. Juan Arredondo, whose hand was severed below the elbow by an explosive device in Iraq.

"I can pick up a Styrofoam cup without crushing it," said Sgt. Arredondo. "With my other myoelectric hand, I would really have to concentrate on how much pressure I was putting on the cup. The i-LIMB hand does things naturally. I can just grab the cup like a regular person."

The company is looking for a company to make the devices on a production scale. Meanwhile, it's also being tested by 18-year-old Soren Wolf, who was born with only one hand. Wolf is said to be enthusiastic about the device's capabilities, according to a statement issued today by Orthopedic University Hospital.

Chismillionaire champions the use of Options to protect what you have!

They are not just for the financially super sophisticated, they should be a tool for every investor to protect their existing holdings.

Up markets are easy. Simply buy and hold and watch your portfolios grow. Down markets, though, can be more complicated, as many investors try to assess how their holdings will weather the storm. The current climate is especially tough to predict, with so many unknowns about housing and financial companies' exposure to bad loans and how long the U.S. economy will struggle. That's why the stock markets have been so volatile, with multiple-percentage-point gains in the major indexes one day, followed by large losses the next.

Savvy investors have a weapon to stay in the market and lessen the blow if stocks trend lower: options. These securities give the holder a right to buy or sell at a later date, and can be used as a hedge to lower overall portfolio risk.

Options have a reputation for being risky, speculative investments, and in some cases it's well deserved. Anyone who sells uncovered calls or puts, meaning selling someone else the right to buy or sell a stock without owning the stock beforehand, deserves punishment. But even the least risky strategies aren't for everyone. Options lose value over time and with falling volatility, cost more to trade than stocks, and often have wider spreads.

Stay in the Game

Most investors will do fine by simply keeping their portfolio balanced and riding out the storm. If your portfolio is keeping you awake at night, maybe it's time to cut back on the number of stocks or funds you own in favor of less risky investments. Other types of hedges, including bear funds (, 4/2/08) and short exchange-traded funds (ETFs), may provide adequate protection in case of a market meltdown.

However, used wisely and selectively, options can act as a form of insurance on your portfolio, protecting you and your money from the sudden, violent swings. "During times of panic, they can prevent you from doing something stupid," says financial advisor Stephen Shueh.

How stupid? Investors often make the mistake of getting spooked out of the market. Right now the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index is stuck in a range between the mid-1200s and mid-1300s. Earnings season is beginning, and how companies perform could determine which way the market goes. Technical analysis indicates that if the S&P breaks above 1370, the market may head higher, but if shares trade below 1250, the market could be headed for a fall. If you sell stocks now, and the market falls, you'll feel like a genius. If the market rises, you'll feel like a chump.

The Put Option

One way to avoid making what is, at best, an educated guess, is the use of options to hedge against the S&P 500. A put option on SPDRs, an ETF that tacks the index, could act as an easy form of insurance. For example, earnings season will be over by mid-May, so you could buy an SPDR put with a strike price of 125 (equivalent to an S&P 500 of 1250) and a May expiration. If you have a $1 million portfolio, it would take around 8,000 shares to fully insure it. That will set you back nearly $8,000 and if the market rises, that money's gone. But if the S&P plummets to 1150, you'll make around $80,000, enough to cover the 8% drop in the value of your portfolio. Ultimately, the put has insured your portfolio against the drop, all for under $10,000.

You may worry more about a single stock than your entire portfolio. Let's suppose you now own 1,000 shares of Lehman Brothers (LEH), a stock that's seen plenty of volatility in recent days. It currently trades at over 40 a share, but tumbled to as low as 20.85 just a few weeks ago. You're pretty sure the worst is over, but with the way stocks are trading, you never can tell. If you sell your position outright and Lehman shares rally, you'll miss out. You could use a stop loss order, but then you risk selling your stock on a sudden down move—like the one that drove Lehman shares down into the 20s—and taking an enormous loss, only to watch it retrace. Or you could buy a Lehman put option with a strike price of 40.

Why a put? If, for some reason, shares of Lehman dropped again and this time stayed down for the count, you'd be able to sell your shares at 40, even if the stock were trading at 20. But if the shares rise, you're still holding your position and you've only lost the premium you paid for the option.

Unfortunately, that premium isn't necessarily cheap. "One of the interesting things the increased volatility does is it makes option premiums more expensive," says Bud Haslett, director of option analytics at Miller Tabak & Co. How expensive? The price will also be determined by the length of time until expiration. An option to sell Lehman shares at 40 with an expiration date of Apr. 18 will set you back $1,550, not including commissions; the same put with an expiration date of May 17 will cost you almost twice as much for nearly three times as many days. Either way, you're not looking at pocket change.

Covered Calls

But the same volatility that drives up the price for put buyers makes selling covered calls—giving someone the right to buy your shares at a preselected price in exchange for a premium—more attractive. For instance, you may think that Lehman shares will go up in the long run, but experience some weakness through the end of the year. Rather than buying a put, you could write a covered call with a strike price of 45 that expires in October. At current market conditions, that will earn you nearly $7,000, or around 16% of the stock's current value. You've effectively protected yourself if shares of Lehman should fall to 37.

However, if the stock runs up, your shares will most likely be called away—sold to the buyer of the call for 45. However, with the premium included, it's as if you sold your shares at 51.85. "Here's a way to hedge your position and earn an attractive return on your investment," says Mike Schwartz, chief options strategist at Oppenheimer (OPY).

Levisohn is a staff editor at BusinessWeek covering finance and personal finance.

Yellow Card: Jello Shots

Pig Roaster gets the Yellow - Card

as you can see, this is repeat post of mine.

Adult Fun with Jell-o Shots
posted on

Friday, March 28, 2008

Galaxies Collide in New Images Released for Hubble's 18th Birthday

By Alexis Madrigal Write to the Author
04.24.08 | 12:00 AM

NASA has released 59 new high-resolution images of galaxies colliding across the universe to mark the Hubble Space Telescope's 18th birthday.

Many of the galaxies were first compiled by Halton Arp in the mid-'60s book, The Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, which cataloged misshapen galaxies glimpsed by the ground-based telescopes of the day.

With the Hubble's sensitive cameras and tools, the shapes of these peculiar galaxies have been revealed as the product of gravitational interactions between the huge clusters of stars. As gravity pulls the galaxies together, the tidal forces at work warp the standard galactic spirals and ellipses into temporarily strange shapes.

Left: Arp 148 consists of a ring-shaped galaxy and a long-tailed companion. The ring was created by a shockwave that resulted from the galaxies colliding. Located in the Ursa Major constellation about 500 million light-years away, Arp 148 is thought to provide a unique snapshot of an ongoing collision.

Photo: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University), K. Noll (STScI), and J. Westphal (Caltech)

1 - 12 of 12 images

The Economists silent Tsunami in action- commodities prices having a real impact

Jennifer Yueill: Food costs sting
Jennifer Yueill: Food costs sting
Jennifer with her daughter, Phoebe, and son, Gavin
Phlebotomist, 35, Omaha, Neb.

I am a single, working mom of two kids under the age of 8. I make $13 an hour as a phlebotomist and pay $500 per month in daycare alone. Making ends meet before was difficult, but it is nearly impossible now, and I lose a lot of sleep over it.

I have made major changes at our household to cut expenses. Nothing has been unaffected. I drive a lot less. Once I am home from work we stay home, unless we walk or bike. We don't go out to eat. At first we replaced going out to eat with buying dinner from the deli at our supermarket, but we have cut that too.

We buy generic everything, and I do stock up, if I can, when things are on sale. Some groceries we have had to cut down on or even eliminate. We used to buy, and eat, a lot of fresh produce such as apples and oranges. My kids love cheese sticks and shredded cheese, but the cost has nearly doubled over the last year.

I am planting a garden this year. We are fishing too, not necessarily because we are that desperate, yet, but because it is inexpensive family entertainment. We used to catch and release, but we are eating what we catch now. Most of my friends are in the same, or worse, situation. When groceries run low we have potluck dinners.

Summer is here and my daycare bill will double because my school age daughter will be in daycare too. I honestly have no idea how I will be covering this cost. I cannot work another job because my daycare will cost even more.

Sherry Kostenko: Starting over at 40
Sherry Kostenko: Starting over at 40
Sherry with her husband, Victor; daughter, Lauren; and son, Nolan
Stay-at-home mom, 40, Apopka, Fla.

We bought a home in Orlando, Fla., in February 2005, the height of the boom here. At the time, we could afford the home, the taxes and the insurance. It would be tight but we kept planning on "the bonus" or "the raise."

We got all caught up in the "square footage" of the home. Well, what we didn't realize was that with our BIG HOUSE comes BIG EVERYTHING! Big taxes, big insurance, big water bills, big electric bills. The anxiety at the end of the month caused health problems for both my husband, Victor, and I.

Last summer, we realized that we could not live like this any longer. We could not afford our home, we were prisoners of our mortgage. We couldn't enjoy life outside the house. We were literally trapped.

We decided to "downsize" our life, our lifestyle and our home. It was a lot of soul searching but we both realized that it's not all about "square footage" or bedrooms or full baths. It's about being able to afford a mortgage (and all the add-ons) and still have money at the end of the month.

Now, our timing could not be worse of course, for putting the big house on the market. We built a much smaller house, ranch style and I love it! My first electric bill was a third of what it used to be. Yes, we still have the big house, but we were able to rent it out and cover expenses.

We are not making a dime on the rental, and when the market comes back, we will put it back up to sell. We wiped out Victor's 401(k) to pay off debt and put a down payment on the new house. We have established a savings account and there is actually money left over at the end of the month....whew!

Gas gouging by station owners a myth

NEW YORK ( -- If you think you're getting gouged at the pump - think again.

Like many other motorists, Daris Garnes thought she may be getting ripped off by her gas station when she filled up her Honda Accord in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Wednesday, a day that gasoline prices hit a new record.

"When I pull up, I don't even want to look at it sometimes," said Garnes, a speech therapist, as she paid $3.59 for a gallon of unleaded. That's more that the nationwide gas average, but it was the cheapest choice she had.

Garnes said she figured the gas stations's take was about $1.25 per gallon. Another motorist, construction worker Thomas Anthony, guessed 65 cents. But several other drivers estimated the station's take was less than a dime, and it turned out they were right.

Abby Razaque, manager of the BP station where Garnes filled up, said the owner's take was 8 cents per gallon, and that the lion's share of the proceeds go to BP.

"I get a lot of complaints," said Razaque. "I tell them I have nothing to do with the price. The [oil companies] are taking all the money that I am putting in my pocket."

For every gallon of gas, about 72% of the price goes to the producers of the crude oil from which it's made, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration - producers like Chevron (CVX, Fortune 500), ConocoPhillips (COP, Fortune 500) and BP (BP). Exxon Mobil (XOM, Fortune 500) recently made history by reporting the highest annual profit ever for a U.S. company when it reported 2007 results.

13% of the remaining price of a gallon of gas goes to taxes, while 8% goes to the refiners, and another 8% goes to distribution and marketing, which includes gas stations.

"They're not getting gouged by the gas stations," said Peter Beutel, energy analyst for Cameron Hanover. Beutel said that 90% of all pumps are privately owned, and those owners make anywhere from 7 to 15 cents per gallon, so that a relatively petty expense, like a pump-and-run theft, can throw off their earnings for a whole day.

"Just because you're seeing the street prices go up, doesn't mean our profit has gone up," said Tom McSweeney, a co-owner of a Shell station in Jericho, Long Island. He said his former profit margin of 12 to 14 cents has dwindled to nothing.

"I bet the average person would say we were making 40 to 50 cents a gallon," said McSweeney, adding, "I wish that were the case."

Energy experts said that price gouging at the pump is a rare occurrence, largely because there is so much competitive pressure to keep the prices low.

"I don't think it's occurring at all," said Sara Banaszak, senior economist at the American Petroleum Institute. "The biggest factor in the price of gasoline is the price of crude oil."

Where gas stations make their money is off retail goods like candy bars, tires and frozen burritos, as well as services, like oil changes and auto repairs.

"A lot of times, the gas stations are making more on the coffee and donuts than on the gasoline they're selling," said Robert Sinclair, Jr., spokesman for AAA. "Sometimes the profit on a gallon of gas for the retailer is less than a penny a gallon."

Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst for Oppenheimer, said retailers face even lower profit margins, as rising oil prices outpace gasoline. "It doesn't matter how high prices are at the pump," said Gheit. "If oil prices rise faster, you get margin squeeze."

Windows XP gets a stay of execution

LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE, Belgium (AP) -- Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer offered a glimmer of hope on Thursday to fans of the company's XP operating system, saying the company may reconsider its decision to stop selling XP soon.

But Ballmer was adamant that "most people who buy PCs today buy them with Vista."

"That's the statistical truth," he told reporters at a news conference at Louvain-La-Neuve University. "If customer feedback varies, we can always wake up smarter."

Fans of the six-year-old operating system set to be pulled off store shelves by June 30 have plastered the Internet with blog posts, cartoons and petitions recently. They trumpet its superiority to Windows Vista, Microsoft's latest PC operating system, whose consumer launch in January was greeted with lukewarm reviews.

Ballmer said the customers buying PCs with XP are IT departments who are having trouble shifting old machines to newer technology.

Some 160,000 people already have signed an online Save XP Web petition who want Microsoft to keep selling it until the next version of Windows is released, currently targeted for 2010.

On another issue, Ballmer said he was very confident that Microsoft's $44 billion offer for Yahoo Inc. (YHOO, Fortune 500) was "a very good price."

He refused to say if the company plans to appeal a fine of $1.3 billion that the European Union levied in February.

Microsoft has until the first week of May to launch a legal challenge against the EU decision that it had not obeyed a 2004 antitrust order to share communications information with rivals.

Joking with the media and even breaking into good French, Ballmer acknowledged that he's finding it hard to keep up with social networking on the Facebook Web site.

"I do have a profile on Facebook," he said. "It's hard to keep up. I get many friend requests from people I don't know."

"There's about 10 Steve Ballmers and I'm only one of them. I'm the one who actually has a picture that looks like me on it!" he said. "I'm hitting a golf ball, that's the real Steve Ballmer."

He was in Belgium to open a Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) innovation center in the southern city of Mons that hopes to boost new startups in the country, creating some 200 jobs over the next three years. To top of page

See our galaxy in 3D - on your desk!

This is the coolest piece of "desk art" I've seen in a long time, or more accurately, probably ever.

80,000 stars of the Milky Way Galaxy etched inside a solid glass cube for a three dimensional view that looks pretty darn sweet.

If my Google conversion search is correct, when translated from the Yen to the U.S. Dollar, this will set you back about 800 clams. So who wants to buy me one?

More info here.

For the Blasster- Nerf Vulcan EBF-25 automatic Dart gun-- 2 rounds per second!!!

Nerf Vulcan EBF-25: Fully Automatic Toy Dart Gun Rambo Junior's Weapon of Choice

The best new Nerf toy out of the entire Toy Fair 2008 lineup is this fully automatic dart gun. The toy is $40, and comes with 25 belt-fed darts, powered by six D-cell batteries (!). Paired with the Mission Kit Tactical Light, this is the kind of base unit a Nerf gun modder could really learn to love.


(Ages 6 years & up/Approximate Retail Price: $39.99/Available: Fall 2008)

The top-of-the-line blaster for mission supremacy, the NERF N-STRIKE VULCAN EBF-25 blaster is a 25-dart belt-fed fully automatic blaster that will intimidate any opponent. This impressive blaster comes complete with a fold-up tripod to steady your aim, 25 sonic micro darts that whistle through the air when launched and a 25-dart belt. The NERF N-STRIKE VULCAN EBF-25 blaster features the Tactical Rail System allowing players to customize their blaster for each mission - for example, players can use the green 'night vision' Tactical Light accessory (sold separately) for nighttime missions. Six "D" batteries are required but not included.

Businessweek's Best Tools for Investors- 2008

Lots of good stuff here: ETF and Option Strategies, the best Financial Blogs, Best Dividend funds, commodity and currency plays, turnaround bets etc...

Another Spindle Top for Brazil?

Petrobras Discovers World's Third-Largest Oil Field (Correct)

By Joe Carroll and Carlos Caminada

(Corrects to show BG Group is holder of 30 percent stake in 14th paragraph of story that ran April 14.)

April 14 (Bloomberg) -- Petroleo Brasileiro SA's offshore Carioca prospect may hold 33 billion barrels of oil, enough to supply every refinery in the U.S. for six years, making it the third-largest oil field ever discovered.

Additional wells must be drilled to develop a ``more conclusive'' estimate, the Rio de Janeiro-based company said in an e-mailed statement. Only Saudi Arabia's Ghawar and Kuwait's Burgan fields are bigger: Ghawar holds as much as 83 billion barrels of crude, while Burgan has up to 72 billion.

Petrobras, as the company is known, rose almost 6 percent. U.S. depositary receipts of Repsol SA, a partner in the field, surged as much as 21 percent to $44.85, the stock's largest daily gain. New York-based Hess Corp., which owns stakes in two nearby prospects, had its biggest intraday gain since 1981.

``If all of those barrels are recoverable, that's a very significant find,'' said Dick Gibson, a geologist who's been advising oil and natural-gas producers since 1975. ``That whole area off the coast of Brazil is becoming a new oil province.''

The Carioca field, also known as BM-S-9, is located beneath a layer of salt in the deepwater Santos Basin off Brazil's southeastern coast, where Petrobras in November announced the discovery of the 8 billion-barrel Tupi field.

`Giant Field'

``This would be a giant field under any circumstances,'' Merrill Lynch analysts Frank McGann and Shariff Koya said today in a note to clients. ``If it were recoverable oil and gas, it would potentially dwarf Petrobras's existing reserves.''

Brazil holds an estimated 12 billion barrels of crude reserves, South America's second-largest deposit behind Venezuela, according to London-based BP Plc. If the 33 billion- barrel estimate for Carioca is confirmed by additional drilling, Brazil's reserves would surpass those of Libya.

Carioca is 66 times larger than the Jack field discovered by Chevron Corp. in the Gulf of Mexico in 2004. San Ramon, California-based Chevron says it will cost more than $3 billion and almost a decade to bring the field into production.

Haroldo Lima, director of Brazil's National Oil Agency, disclosed the 33 billion-barrel estimate at a seminar in Rio de Janeiro and said no official information is available yet. Lima's comments were confirmed by Fernando Manso, a spokesman for the agency, and were reported earlier by Folha de S. Paulo.

Petrobras began drilling a second well at Carioca on March 22, today's statement said.

Boosting Valuation

Petrobras shares rose 5.9 percent to 83.13 reais in Sao Paulo trading. Earlier the stock climbed as much as 7.6 percent. The rise in common and preferred shares added 9.2 percent to the company's market valuation, increasing it to 421.9 billion reais ($250.3 billion).

Petrobras is the fourth-most valuable company in the Western Hemisphere, behind Exxon Mobil Corp., General Electric Co. and Microsoft Corp., according to Bloomberg data.

``We think this is part of a major transformation of Petrobras, which could lead to it becoming a much larger company in terms of production and reserves over the next 5-10 years,'' the Merrill analysts wrote.

The field is 45 percent-controlled by Petrobras. BG Group Plc holds a 30 percent stake and Repsol controls 25 percent. Hess, which is a partner in efforts to find and tap subsea reserves adjacent to Carioca, closed 9.1 higher at $101.19 in New York.

The Carioca field may become Petrobras' biggest and it may ``significantly'' increase the company's future production, said Eduardo Roche, a fund manager at Rio de Janeiro-based Modal Asset Management.

`Gigantic' Field

``The potential for this field is gigantic,'' said Roche, who helps manage about 1 billion reais in bonds and stocks, including Petrobras shares, at Modal. ``Petrobras is among a handful of companies that have been able to renew its reserves. Its capacity to increase future output is absurd.''

Carioca remained hidden from explorers until recently because energy companies lacked the technology to assess prospects obscured by undersea salt formations.

``Salt is difficult to see through for a geologist because salt absorbs seismic energy,'' Gibson said in an interview today. ``Also, a decade ago the physical technology didn't exist that would even enable you to drill in water that deep.''

Petrobras recently created a division to coordinate all exploration projects off the southeast coast, given its potentially large reserves.

``We haven't seen any discoveries that large in decades because we've punched enough holes in the Earth that we already know where most of the big fields are,'' said Gibson, president of Butte, Montana-based Gibson Consulting.

Carioca is 273 kilometers (170 miles) off the Brazilian coast in water more than 2,000 meters deep.

Short window for the Wii

Wii consoles, on average, sit on the shelves for just an hour before they are purchased.

That stat comes straight from Reggie Fils-Aime (pictured), Nintendo of America's president, who visited the offices Wednesday to discuss the company's strategy.

The conversation was dominated by discussion of the fact that Wii is still sold out in North America, 17 months after its launch.

"We are passionately upset about the lack of product relative to demand," said Fils-Aime, who hit the points that Nintendo has been reiterating all along about its runaway hit game machine: The production numbers are determined by Nintendo's Japanese parent, and Nintendo of America does its best to remind Japan of the "missed opportunities" when it doesn't have enough product to go around.

Fils-Aime noted that North America gets about 40 percent of the 1.8 million Wii consoles Nintendo manufactures every month. The Americas are the only territory in which supply and demand are out of whack for Wii: Fils-Aime said you can walk into stores in Japan and Europe and find Wii on shelves.

This day in Tech 1184BC- Trojan Horse defeats state of the art security

The story of the Trojan Horse, whether true or mythical, profoundly influenced Western civilization and inspired many artists. Giovanni Tiepolo painted The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy in 1760.
Courtesy National Gallery, London

1184 B.C.: During the Trojan War, the Greeks depart in ships, leaving behind a large wooden horse as a victory offering. It is hauled inside the walls of Troy, and Greek soldiers descend from the horse's belly after dark to slay the guards and commence destruction of the city.

Whether this actually happened, and whether the traditional date given is true, archeological evidence has established that a Trojan War did occur in Asia Minor around 1200 B.C. You can debate how much of the accounts in Homer's Iliad, Virgil's Aeneid and elsewhere is legend. But it is in no way mere legend. The war and its lore are a firm part of Western culture and have enriched our language.

The war began when a prince of Troy eloped with the king of Sparta's wife, Helen. Christopher Marlowe called her "the face that launch'd a thousand ships." (Three millenniums after the Trojan War, scientist and science-fiction author Isaac Asimov defined the milliHelen as the amount of feminine beauty sufficient to launch one ship. Generations of snickering male college students would rate women in various hundreds of milliHelens.)

Cassandra was a Trojan prophet who warned against accepting the gift. Today, her name means a person whose warnings are ignored. Another skeptic was Laocoon, who Virgil says first uttered, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts."

Then, of course, there's the name Trojan horse for software that seems to perform one action but actually performs another, usually with malicious intentions. So, what cybersecurity lessons might we learn today from the first Trojan Horse?

  • Persistence: The Greeks had besieged Troy for 10 years without result.
  • Epistemology: Things are not always what they seem to be.
  • Virgil, updated: Beware of strangers bearing gifts.
  • Social engineering: The horse flattered the Trojans, who loved horses and were delighted with the gift.
  • Engineering: The horse was on wheels, designed to make it easy for the Trojans to pull it inside their defenses.
  • Ignoring warning messages: Cassandra and Laocoon were both disregarded.
  • Delay: The Trojan Horse did not do its damage immediately, but waited for the opportune moment.
  • Size: It only took a handful of Greeks to unleash a lot of damage.
  • Negating security from inside: They killed the guards and opened the gates from within, rendering Troy's strong walls useless. The Greek ships had come ashore again, and their army poured in.
  • Scope of damage: Troy was burnt and destroyed.
  • Permanent effects: Troy lost the war.

You, of course, could only lose your data, your hard drive, your thesis, your job, your money, your business, your identity or some awful combination of these.

A bubble promoter proved right- Content will be king

This big!: George Gilder was a promoter of telecommunications during the boom of the 1990s.
Credit: Michael Temchine/The New York Times/Redux

This past February, with the Southern California days already warm and the sunlight reflecting off the bay and the high-rises along the waterfront, 12,000-odd members of what is perhaps the most important technology industry on the planet converged on San Diego's convention center for their annual conference.

Since 2005 this event has been called the Optical Fiber Communication Confer­ence and Exposition and the National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference. It's a mind-numbingly dull name with an unpronounceable acronym (OFC/NFOEC). But the nearly one terameter (1,000 million kilometers) of fiber-optic cable encircling the earth effectively makes up our global civilization's central nervous system, since it carries Internet traffic and all international telecommunications--including voice calls, which nowadays are transmitted as packets of digital data. The world's data traffic, moreover, is doubling in volume every two years. Industry critic ­Robert X. Cringely claims that the only reason video didn't overwhelm U.S. Internet services in 2007 was that broadband ISPs capped bandwidth and closed switches to control traffic, while pretending that they were taking no such measures. People have been predicting that the Internet would crash as long as it's existed, of course. Still, it's worth considering that if, for instance, all of YouTube's users were to upload their videos in high definition, it would nearly double U.S. Internet traffic.

I went to San Diego because I wanted a better picture of the state of the global telecosm in 2008. What's a telecosm? As I entered the convention center on the conference's third morning, I ran into an older gentleman dressed in a blue blazer and beige chinos, trying irritably to get into the main hall. Recognizing him, I said, "You're George Gilder." Tetchily, the bespectacled gentleman acknowledged that he was. "This is most annoying," he told me. "It's this way," I said, pointing, and left him. It was a poignant moment: a few short years before, the convention's officials would likely have sent a limousine and had someone waiting to usher Gilder to his seat. Back then, he'd been a wealthy, honored prophet of technology. In 2000--the year communications carriers and technology suppliers saw their stock begin to collapse--he'd published a book called Telecosm (whose original subtitle was How Infinite Bandwidth Will Revolutionize Our World). In those days, any company endorsed by Gilder's monthly newsletter--which by the late 1990s mainly endorsed companies involved in the global build-out of optical networks--immediately experienced the "Gilder effect": its stock value surged.

Unlike most technology promoters of that era, Gilder was an interesting fellow with a history. He'd begun in the 1960s as a speechwriter whose clients included ­Richard Nixon; in the 1970s he'd penned an antifeminist screed, called Sexual Suicide, that prompted Time magazine to name him "the nation's leading male-chauvinist-pig author." After a period promoting supply-side economics in the Reagan era, Gilder established himself as a technology pundit: he published Microcosm, which assessed the microchip revolution, in 1989 and Life after Television, which predicted that "tele­puters" connected by fiber-optic cable would make broadcast television obsolete, in 1990. Gilder hadn't just hit on the coming thing in exquisitely timely fashion, it turned out; he learned so much about the actual technologies that the experts took him seriously.

: the telecosm. He predicted that it would make "the CPU ... peripheral, the network central," and that it would enable anyone to launch a product, company, or political movement. But every boom must go bust, and the crash of the telecommunications industry, when it came, proved worse than the bursting of the dot-com bubble. More than $500 billion was lost in just a few years. Between 2001 and 2004, 216 telecommunications companies went bankrupt--most notably Worldcom ($104 billion in assets), whose CEO, Bernie Ebbers, received a 25-year jail sentence for what remains the largest accounting fraud in U.S. history. Meanwhile, hitherto stable industry giants like AT&T staggered. Unfortunately for Gilder, he had loved his tech companies not wisely but too well, investing his own money as he had advised others to do.

"I'm a fan of George Gilder, the ­bubble bursting notwithstanding," Ethernet co­inventor Bob Metcalfe (a member of Technology Review's board of directors) told me after his San Diego keynote speech, "Toward Terabit Ethernet." Metcalfe had told his audience not only that optical networks would soon deliver 40- and 100-gigabit-­per-­second Ethernet--standards bodies are now hammering out the technical specifications--but also that 1,000-gigabyte-per-second Ethernet, which Metcalfe dubbed "terabit Ethernet," would emerge around 2015. Why, I asked, did Metcalfe believe this? "Last night, Gilder spoke to 300 of us at an executive forum about his 'Exaflood' paper, in which he predicts a zettabyte of U.S. Internet traffic by the year 2015," ­Metcalfe said. "Since I admire Gilder, I extrapolated from his prediction."

Fiber Aglow
An exabyte is 1018 bytes of data; a zettabyte is 1021 bytes. Metcalfe pointed to video, new mobile, and embedded systems as the factors driving this rising data flood: "Video is becoming the Internet's dominant traffic, and that's before high definition comes fully online. Mobile Internet just passed a billion new cell phones per year. Then totally new sources of traffic exist, like the 10 billion embedded microcontrollers now shipped annually." Did Metcalfe believe that the existing infrastructure--built in the boom years, when great excesses of fiber-optic cable were laid down--could support terabit Ethernet? "That dark fiber laid down then is being lit up, and some routes are now full," he said. "That's the principal pressure to go to 40 and 100 gigabits per second. It seems we can reach those speeds with basically the same fibers, lasers, photodetectors, and 1,500-nanometer wavelengths we have, mostly by means of modulation improvement. But it's doubtful we'll wring another factor of 10 beyond that." Thus, the backbone networks would need to be overhauled and new technologies implemented.

The speaker after Metcalfe, Herwig Kogelnik, described both the field's progress and the technologies that would support not just 10- and 40-gigabyte-per-­second but also terabit speeds. Kogelnik--who in more than four decades at Bell Labs has headed several research divisions investigating lasers, holography, and optical guided-wave devices, collecting too many academic and industry honors to list in less than a page--explained that current research had, for example, advanced WDM (wavelength division multi­plexing) technology to a point where economical transmission of 10 channels, each carrying 100-gigabyte-per-second traffic, was now feasible. Likewise, on the trade-show floor, it was apparent that the component technologies of the telecosm Gilder envisioned a decade ago--a global network with infinite bandwidth and instantaneous transmission--were becoming available in 2008. Companies exhibited products that made use of silicon photonics: Lightwire, for instance, offered a lightweight transceiver designed to greatly improve upon the SFP+ modules currently used to connect servers and network equipment. Since photons move much faster and scatter much less heat than electrons, it promises to reduce power dissipation by more than half.

Nevertheless, many of the conference's attendees and exhibitors seemed ambiva­lent. Sure, they felt, all this was exciting. Simultaneously, however, they told each other in muted tones that the economy was sinking and the industry needed to undergo consolidation. And who, they asked, would pay the up-front costs for these next-­generation networks?

"Nobody wants to pay," Jag Bolaria, a ­Linley Group analyst and former director with Intel's Ethernet division, told me. "That's why British Telecom is asking the U.K. government for subsidies to install DSL bandwidth. It's the same in France and Italy, and it'll happen here." Bolaria was particularly critical of U.S. carriers. "Test what you get through your broadband connection, and you'll find a one- or two-meg link is what you end up with," he said. "In Europe and even parts of Asia, they're getting significantly more--maybe 10 megs. But in America, carriers own the pipes, and we don't really see much competition. If they don't want to give you much bandwidth--and AT&T and other carriers are selling T1 lines and charging seriously for them--you don't get much bandwidth. Furthermore, the carriers want to control content and charge for that." If the U.S. government gave American telecoms taxpayers' money, Bolaria said, the companies should be strictly prevented from pushing tiered services or content restrictions onto consumers.

He was guardedly optimistic about the future. "We're slowly moving toward more than 25 megs of bandwidth in a fiber-optic pipe into your house," he said. "I think as you start getting two- to five-meg uplinks, then you'll reach the point where users can put their own content in high definition." That, he speculated, might change Hollywood as radically as the Internet had already changed newspapers. "Overall," he said, "I'm looking forward to the time when you can truly choose or create your own content, as opposed to 'This is what you get and how much you pay for it.'"

Honda's Asimo Robot to conduct the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

DETROIT - Honda's ASIMO ( humanoid robot will focus attention on the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's (DSO) nationally acclaimed music programs for young people in Detroit by conducting the orchestra as it performs "Impossible Dream" to open a special concert performance with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma at 8 p.m, Tuesday, May 13. Honda hopes ASIMO's appearance will draw attention to the DSO's music education programs, and particularly the DSO's effort to encourage and support involvement of children in Detroit.

In addition, ASIMO will demonstrate its unique capabilities for hundreds of area school children at 10:45 a.m, May 14 prior to a specially arranged master class in Orchestra Hall, where a select group of music students will receive personal music instruction from Yo-Yo Ma. In attendance will be students from the Detroit School of Arts (DSA), Detroit Renaissance and Cass Technical high schools, as well as from schools across metro Detroit and Windsor, Canada.


ASIMO, which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, is designed to help people and will someday assist the elderly and disabled in their homes. But while Honda continues to develop and enhance ASIMO's capabilities, the robot is being used today to encourage and inspire young students to consider studies in math and science. The addition of music education to ASIMO's repertoire is a natural extension of these efforts.

As recently announced, Honda is providing the DSO with a gift of more than $1 million to create The Power of Dreams Music Education Fund. With the Detroit Public Schools drastically reducing or eliminating music programs due to financial constraints, many students are denied the opportunity to learn to play instruments, read music, and participate in bands or orchestras. Honda has partnered with the DSO to develop an innovative, multi-faceted program to promote and support music education as well as to promote diversity in the field of classical music. In addition to sponsorship of the YoYo Ma performance and Master's Class for students in May, over the next five years the Honda partnership with DSO will include:

Launch of a new initiative called The Power of Dreams String Project to provide introductory music education/string training to children in metro-Detroit communities where opportunities are non-existent or unaffordable.

Establishment of The Power of Dreams Music Scholar program to provide private lessons to aspiring students with financial need in the String Project, DSO Civic Ensembles and/or DSA, enabling them to fully develop their musical capabilities.

Support of DSO Civic Youth Ensemble performances; the DSO's educational partnership activities with the DSA; and the DSO's spring Educational Concert Series for metro area school children in Orchestra Hall at the Max M. Fisher Music Center.

Support of the 2008 Classical Roots Gala which raises funds for programs such as the DSO's African-American Fellowship Program.

As part of this initiative, Honda is working with the DSO to solicit contributions from donors. More information on this initiative, including how to participate, can be found online at

Adult Fun with Jell-O-Shots

Pig Roaster Approved! These may show up at this years roasting festivities (July 19th for those looking to mark the calendar).

Why go low-brow with the standard dixie cup when these creations look so good? Just make sure the kids are well aware which is the "kid tray" and which is the "adult tray."

Details at Divine Caroline - though I found them a bit lacking. The basics seem to be, cut the fruit in half, empty the fruit while leaving the rind, and then fill up the remaining "bowl" with your Jell-O mixture. Chill completely, cut, and enjoy!

For MacDaddy- It's fast, English, and the right color

Quick Test: 2009 Jaguar XF Supercharged

Tested: 0-60 in under five seconds and the quarter at nearly 107 mph!

By Ron Kiino
Photography by Brian Vance

What: Jag's topline midsize luxury-sport sedan, reinvented
How Much: Base price, $62,975; as tested, $65,475
What's Hot: 420 supercharged horses, gorgeous cabin, sexy sheetmetal
What's Not: Compromised rear-seat headroom, thirsty engine, narrow front seats

On the Road:
"While I'm not taken with every styling cue (the XF's profile reminds me too much of a Lexus GS's), I do like the overall look-it's sexy and stealthy, rich and polished. More important, this all-new Jag handles much like its lighter, smaller, and sportier (and far more expensive) sibling, the XKR; provides a ride that is plenty supple yet responsive (thanks to the CATS adaptive suspension); and accelerates and stops as well as a 911 Carrera. What's not to love?" -- Ron Kiino

"Vastly improved over S-Type, thrilling to drive with loads of high-tech goodies. Power-up sequence is modern and classy. New transmission dial rises slowly, in sync with the swivel-up air-con vents, a trick you'd be happy to show your mate and mates. Gutsy throttle response, with heavy and precise steering, reminiscent of a GT car. Still, only 98 percent of the way there and betrayed by only the tiniest missteps. A bit more refinement and sophistication would make this a world beater. There was an annoying creak from the A-pillar, a kind of plastic bending noise seemingly triggered by high-frequency road vibrations. Metal-look switch plates and panels are high-quality plastic, but still plastic. Loud seat and steering-column motors seem to grind as though near death. But if you can look beyond these minor annoyances, the new Jag XF SC is definitely a luxury sedan you'll want to leap into." -- Edward Loh

"If this is Jaguar's new direction, I'm impressed. Can't remember the last time I've driven something that got so much attention, so many double takes. I'm guessing the fact it doesn't look like other Jaguars is playing in its favor. I see a little Lexus and Aston Martin in the exterior, but it's the interior details and nimble road feel that really make this one sing. Good to see such a strong competitor here in a segment of world-class sedans." -- Mark Williams

Bottom Line: Like the Beatles and Beckham, this Brit's a superstar.

2009 Jaguar XF

Not enough cash for Cayenne S? FX50 is your rig

First Test: 2009 Infiniti FX50

Petal To The Metal: Leaving Sports Cars In The Woods

By Allyson Harwood
Photography by Julia LaPalme

It wasn't long ago that the five-second club was reserved for sport sedans and musclecars. Yet for 2009 the Infiniti FX50 has been given its membership card and lapel pin, having reached 60 mph in 5.2. Times have changed, and vehicles with sports-car-like performance now come in many shapes and sizes. This one even has the versatility to carry five people or 62 cubic feet of cargo.

If you look at the new FX from the side, it might not be immediately clear you're eyeing an all-new vehicle. As before, its low-slung body, rounded corners, short overhangs, and sinewy lines set it apart from boxy SUVs. But a lot has changed underneath. Based on a modified version of the new FM architecture underpinning the G35 and EX35, the FX is now 1.6 times more torsionally rigid and 3.4 times more resistant to bending. The added weight of a new engine, stronger structure, and more sound insulation are mostly nullified by the use of aluminum door panels and suspension components. Net gain is about 80 pounds.

Length is up by two inches, and width and height increases are nominal. The wheelbase is 1.4 inches longer, added between the front wheels and A-pillars, and the front track is 1.7 inch wider. Going beyond the 20-inch precedent the FX45 set, the FX50 comes with 21-inchers standard-and these wheels are said to weigh less than the FX35's 18-inch alloys.

The easiest way to spot a new FX is by looking at its nose. The longer, sharklike snout's sculpted headlights flank a trapezoidal grille filled with horizontal dark-chrome waves. It's not a face everyone will love at first sight. Buyers can still choose from a V-6 (see sidebar) or V-8, both of which are different from the prior duo. The topline FX is no longer a 45-the 50's VK50VE 5.0-liter V-8 is good for 390 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, increases of 70 and 34, respectively. Variable Valve Event and Lift continuously twiddles its cam timing and lift, which helps improve fuel economy by one-mpg city/three-mpg highway. Backing both engines is an all-new seven-speed automatic, the first in any Infiniti.

On freeways and twisting canyon roads, the engine and transmission are well matched. Power comes quickly and effortlessly as the FX50 rockets to speed, and the transmission makes it easy to keep things in check when descending steep grades. Under light to moderate acceleration, the seven-speed's close-ratio shifts are quick and smooth; pushing it makes the shifts hard-thumping pulses. Throttle tip-in is sometimes touchy, but easy to adapt to. And despite the crossover's width and bulk, it corners well and feels confident in tight turns, making it a lot more fun than a regular SUV. There's a slight penalty for its cornering capability: The ride isn't soft, not by a long shot, but it's much better than in the previous FX. On poorly maintained roads, you'll feel every bump, but it won't rattle any fillings loose. Our tester was shod with optional summer tires on 21s; if a softer ride is more important to you than the grip of these tires and large wheels, you may want to consider the FX35.

erformance is one of the vehicle's strong suits, and it excelled in our track testing. Along with the aforementioned 5.2-second time to 60, it finished the quarter mile in 13.7 seconds at 102.1 mph and stopped from 60 in 115 feet. However, while on the figure-eight loop, our tester found the communication between steering, transmission, and throttle to falter. When driven aggressively (9/10ths), he had to saw the wheel to keep it on course-the steering was slow to react to inputs and the transmission paused before shifting at redline. Less aggressive driving solved the problem, and the 50 ran the figure eight in 26.7 seconds at 0.66 average g.

The cabin has undergone major changes, with new gauges, steering wheel, and quality materials. We tried the optional sport seats with S-Class-like air-inflating bolsters and quilted leather, a combo that gives support in turns and comfort for long drives. If you've seen the inside of an M35/45 or G35/37, you'll have no difficulty recognizing the FX's center stack. As was the case with the original, utility is not as high a priority as is performance. There are only two rows, and cargo volume actually decreased for 2009. Standard and optional interior amenities include an ionizer, 11-speaker Bose audio, 9.3GB Music Box hard drive, iPod interface, navigation, XM NavTraffic, and rear-seat DVD entertainment.

There's no shortage of technology, much of which is new or integrated in the FX for the first time. Vehicle Dynamic Control with traction control returns for 2009, as does ATTESA E-TS all-wheel drive. New for 2009 is Continuous Damping Control, which uses nine sensors to take measurements every two milliseconds to determine damping; it can control all wheels independently. The rearview camera and monitor are standard on every FX, but what really helps with parking is the new optional Around View Monitor, introduced on the EX. At first, this feature, which shows an overhead view of the vehicle, may seem gimmicky, but after using it once, it proves its worth. With a vehicle this wide and a nose this long, AVM quickly becomes your best friend in parking lots.

FX50'S redesigned cabin has a new climate-control system that uses a grape-seed polyphenol-infused filter, which can neutralize allergens 0.3 microns in size.

Much of the FX's new tech, though, comes under the umbrella of the Infiniti Safety Shield. This includes Intelligent Brake Assist, which beeps when you get too close to the vehicle (or tree, etc.) in front of you. If a frontal collision can't be avoided, IBA activates the brakes. What was once called Lane Departure Warning is now Lane Departure Prevention. A small camera views lane markers ahead; LDP calculates position compared with the markers. When the vehicle starts to unintentionally drift, it uses VDC to brake the inside wheels, steering the car back into its lane. These systems are nice to have, but what's even nicer is that when you tire of the beeping and flashing (the systems run on the conservative side), they can all be shut off. Other safety features include a high-strength steel-reinforced cabin; six airbags; TPMS; and four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS, brake assist, and EBD.

As with the first generation, less utility than an SUV and less sport than a sport sedan makes this more an emotional buy than a rational one, but Infiniti's improvements will tug at the heartstrings more than ever before. It isn't a race car, but for someone who needs an SUV and isn't going off-road, this is a strong choice. And when the light turns green, it'll leave some sports cars in its dust.