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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gene therapy gets closer to a 'cure'

Success stories, and fewer risks

Gene therapy helped Corey Haas, 8, regain some sight. He has a rare disease that was causing him to go blind. Gene therapy helped Corey Haas, 8, regain some sight. He has a rare disease that was causing him to go blind. (COURTESY OF ETHAN HAAS)
By Carolyn Y. Johnson Globe Staff / February 28, 2009

Two decades ago, medicine seemed on the cusp of a revolution. Doctors would soon treat diseases at their very roots, inserting "good" genes to replace patients' faulty ones. Gene therapy was a seductively straightforward idea that offered promise for treating everything from cancer to sickle cell disease.

But only now, after overcoming unexpected scientific obstacles and the high-profile death of a teenage patient, is gene therapy racking up some clear-cut successes. Promising studies are sending ripples of excitement through the field. Some researchers are daring to use the word cure.

"Yes, we have endured a few more years of questions about gene therapy: Does it really work? Is it really safe?" said Savio Woo, a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and a past president of the American Society of Gene Therapy. "Now we can show it does work, and it's safe."

That doesn't mean that people will be lining up for gene therapy any time soon. No treatments have been approved yet. But researchers are finally pointing to a few inspiring successes, untainted by the kind of tragedy that cast a shadow on the field in the past.

Gene therapy started the year with a bang: Researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that the technique cured eight of 10 children suffering from usually lethal "bubble boy disease," a lack of immunity that leaves children vulnerable to infections. After two to eight years, all the patients were alive, unlike a previous trial.

That came on top of an announcement last year that two groups of researchers independently used gene therapy to treat a form of hereditary blindness in a small number of patients, restoring some vision. The evidence, also published in the New England Journal, was presented at a scientific conference in April.

"I've never seen [such] a response. . . . The audience basically burst into applause, sustained applause, cheering even. It was just amazing," said Sam Wadsworth, group vice president of translational research for Genzyme Corp. in Cambridge, which has its own gene therapy program.

Two other studies this month add to the momentum. The journal Nature Medicine, reporting on a trial of 74 HIV patients, said gene therapy had modest but promising effects. A study in the journal Human Gene Therapy reported that two patients with rheumatoid arthritis saw a reduction in pain and swelling with gene therapy.

Eight-year-old Corey Haas of Hadley, N.Y., received gene therapy for a rare disease called Leber's congenital amaurosis, which was causing him to go blind. His family knew the treatment worked when, soon thereafter, Corey asked his parents when two of his friends changed their hair color. He could finally tell they were blonde, not brunettes.

Ethan Haas, Corey's father, said the treatment was worth it. "He'll be sitting in the back of the car and say, 'I can see the trees go by, and I couldn't see them before,' " Haas said.

The optimism generated by recent gene therapy advances is a far cry from just a few years ago.

"I reached a point I wouldn't even admit I was doing gene therapy," said Xandra Breakefield, a professor of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, describing the shadow cast on the field by the death of Jesse Gelsinger, 18, in 1999. He suffered from a genetic liver disease.

The idea of gene therapy emerged decades ago, as it became clear that scientists could isolate genes and insert them into cells. The first patient was treated with gene therapy in 1990 and since then, hundreds of trials have been conducted.

But with the simple idea of gene therapy came a slew of scientific challenges. Researchers use viruses, which can trigger the body's natural defenses, to deliver genes into cells. Viruses can also insert genes into the wrong place in the genome, potentially causing cancer.

Gelsinger died when the viruses used in the experiment triggered a massive immune response that led to his death. With his death came an outpouring of national concern. Some trials were suspended, a Senate hearing was held to examine the need for regulation, and it turned out some clinicians were not properly reporting adverse events.

Another shadow was cast beginning in 2002, when several children, part of a French trial treating "bubble boy disease," began to develop leukemia.

A sobered scientific community continued to work on the technology, but with more caution and without the hype.

Around the time Gelsinger died, Connie Burnett-West, diagnosed with fatal lung cancer and told she had seven months to live, enrolled in a gene therapy trial at the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center, now in Dallas.

She is cancer-free today, something she credits to gene therapy. "It looks like to me, in my little nonscientific way, that this might be the wave of the future," said Burnett-West, 63.

What has changed since the days of doubt? Over the years, medical knowledge has improved. Researchers understand better how the immune system works and how to reduce the virus risk, in some cases by using a different virus. The tools doctors use are safer and more effective, said Dr. Jean Bennett, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, who treated hereditary blindness in Corey Haas and others.

Gene therapy "is now having results across different branches of medicine," said Dr. Fabio Candotti, a senior investigator with the National Human Genome Research Institute. "That's what makes you feel some things are beginning to work now."

Still, scientists proceed cautiously. Christopher Evans, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School who worked on the arthritis trial, said it had been reduced from six patients to two because of an adverse event in an unrelated gene therapy trial.

A second planned trial, he said, has been set back a year because a patient died in a gene therapy arthritis trial led by a Seattle company in 2007, even though that death was not necessarily connected to the therapy.

Now one of the biggest challenges for the field may lie in the transition from basic science lab to clinic and eventually to the market.

"Because the medicine is so fundamentally different than what the pharmaceutical industry knows, it's been very difficult to engage the industry," said Richard Mulligan, director of the Harvard Gene Therapy Initiative. ". . . I think the technology is actually moving very nicely, but what's not been fixed is the interest of the industrial concerns that can really make the stuff happen."

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Surfing: Teahupoo Awakens (PICS)


When the northern hemisphere gets cold, Chopes awakens.

click here to see these Amazing Pics!! | digg story

Andy Richter to Rejoin Conan O’Brien as ‘Tonight Show’ Announcer


Andy Richter is reuniting with Conan O’Brien, signing on to serve as announcer for Mr. O’Brien’s new incarnation of “The Tonight Show.”

NBC is expected to announce the decision later today.

Mr. Richter and Mr. O’Brien entered the pop culture landscape together in 1993, with Mr. Richter serving as sidekick to Mr. O’Brien when Mr. O’Brien took over from David Letterman as host of NBC’s “Late Night.” Mr. Richter left “Late Night” in 2000 to focus on acting.

On “Tonight,” Mr. Richter will not be a nightly desk-side presence as he was on “Late Night.” He will, however, participate in both live and pre-taped comedy bits.

“Andy is one of the funniest people I know, and we’ve maintained a close friendship since he left ‘Late Night,’” Mr. O’Brien said. “We have a proven chemistry that will be an incredible asset to ‘The Tonight Show.’”

What’s more, there’s a practical reason for Mr. Richter to join the “Tonight Show” team. “He owes me $300,” Mr. O’Brien said.

Mr. Richter was the last non-musical guest on the final edition of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” last week.

Since leaving “Late Night,” Mr. Richter has been the lead in two half-hour network comedies, the critically acclaimed “Andy Richter Controls the Universe” and “Andy Barker, P.I.” He also has appeared in feature films “Talladega Nights,” “Blades of Glory,” “Semi-Pro” and “Elf.” He’ll next be seen this summer in the Fox feature “They Came From Upstairs.”

Mr. Richter is represented by CAA and manager Tim Sarkes.

Mr. O’Brien and Mr. Richter will make their “Tonight” debuts on June 1. Jeff Ross is the show’s executive producer.

Bavaria - Heineken Walk-in Fridge Spoof

Dirty Spots, because your kids just don't see it..

Man spends 30 years creating model of Herod's Temple (PICS)


Now, here's a model of biblical proportions. A retired farmer has spent more than 30 years building an enormous scale model of Herod's temple - and it is still not finished.


read more | digg story

Doh! 'The Simpsons' back for 2 more seasons

Simpsons_FamilyPicture_v4F Doh! Big-screen success hasn’t jaded Homer, Bart, Marge, Maggie and Lisa. They’re going to stay on TV for a long time, Fox announced today.

The network renewed “The Simpsons” for two more seasons. That means 44 additional episodes after this season, bringing the show through its 22nd season and 493rd episode. "The Simpsons," created by cartoonist Matt Groening, debuted as a regular series on Jan. 14, 1990 after a Christmas special on Dec. 17, 1989. It first appeared in 1987 as a series of 30-second shorts for “The Tracey Ullman Show.”

Fox currently is showing its 20th season at 7 p.m. Sundays. In Sunday's episode, “How the Test Was Won,” Bart and other “underperformers” at his school are sent to Capital City by officials to avoid them bringing down standardized test scores. Meanwhile, Homer has to avoid getting injured when his insurance lapses.

Will Ferrell & Mark Wahlberg Team Up For A-Team Spoof

Mark Wahlberg will play a cop in new comedy B Team


Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell are to star as cops in new comedy B Team.

The movie will be directed by Adam McKay, Empire reports, who worked with Will on the hit comedy Anchorman as well as Talladega Nights and Step Brothers.

The duo are currently working together on their Broadway show You're Welcome America: A Final Night With George W Bush.

While Mark has played a serious cop before - first in Martin Scorsese's The Departed and more recently as a revenge seeking officer in action flick Max Payne - this will be his first comedy cop venture.

But the 37-year-old former rapper - aka Marky Mark - has done comedy before in I Heart Huckabees.

Screenshot Tour: A Hands On Look at Safari 4's Eye Candy


If Apple knows how to do anything, it's take tech you've already seen and make it flashier and more fun to use. The new Safari 4 public beta is no exception.

read more | digg story

OctoMom Offered $1 Million to Make a Porno

OctoMom is used to having multiple people inside of her at once -- and now one porn company is willing to shell out big bucks to harness that skill on film.

Click to view!

Major porn distributor Vivid Entertainment has just fired off a letter to Nadya Suleman, offering her 1 million bucks to star in a skin flick of her own. Vivid is willing to go one step further, by telling us they'll give her family full medical and dental insurance if she becomes a "contract girl"... meaning she'll have to do multiple videos.

No word if Octo will take them up on the offer -- but she definitely needs the scratch for a down payment on a house...


Bentley Continental Supersports clocks 204 mph on road to Geneva motor show

Bentley Continental Supersports
A picture of Bentley Continental Supersports
Bentley Continental Supersports
Bentley Supersport
PHOTO GALLERY

Bling may not be the obvious place to be for a luxury sports car maker today, but here's Bentley showing what the ultimate development of the Continental GT will be.

The Continental Supersports will be shown next week at the Geneva motor show as a production model. Its 630-hp turbocharged W12 will make it the fastest and most-powerful Bentley ever.

The headline figure is 204 mph, taking the Supersports into the stratospheric territory of production cars capable of eating up a mile in less than 18 seconds.

The Supersports can do this while drinking either standard pump fuel or E85, making it the first Bentley to be biofuel compatible, a step that all future Bentley models will make as the British company pushes toward a greener future.

Started as an under-the-radar project, the Supersports is likely to become the best-selling Continental GT if Bentley¹s experience with its Speed models is anything to go by--the Speed model now makes up 60 percent of coupe sales.

"The Supersports is something my engineers worked on amongst themselves, to create the ultimate Continental, and then we picked it up as an official project," says Uli Eichhorn, Bentley chief engineer.

The changes to make the Supersports run on E85 should not be underestimated, adds Eichhorn. As well as re-engineering the fuel system to cope with the corrosive ethanol, all the electronic subsystems had to be reprogrammed and revalidated.

With U.S. regulatory approval still to be cleared, the Supersports will go into production the fall, with North American cars becoming E85-capable by summer 2010.

The main change to the engine to increase power above 600 hp is extra boost from the twin turbos, whose airflow is eased by 10 percent larger intercoolers. The latest, quick-shifting version of ZF's six-speed automatic helps the higher-output engine deliver sharper performance. Bentley quotes a 0-to-60-mph time of 3.7 seconds and 50 to 70 mph in 2.1 seconds.

Billed as the ultimate "extreme" Bentley by the company, there are dozens of detailed underskin changes to ensure the Supersports delivers a special driving experience.

Most significant is a new, rear-biased 60:40 torque split from the center differential for the four-wheel-drive system, which is said to reduce understeer and increase chassis adjustability on the throttle.

But there's also a wider rear track, extended by 0.8 inch to enhance high-speed stability, and standard carbon-ceramic brakes to haul the Supersports down from its tarmac-ripping top speed.

Steering, suspension, spring and damper rates have all been revised, too, in line with the extended performance.

The lower front suspension arm is now made from aluminum, the antiroll bar is retuned and stiffer bushings improve steering responses.

Even Bentley doesn't describe the 4,938-pound Supersports as lightweight, but it is considerably lighter than the Continental Speed.

The rear seat is removed, a rear panel is made from carbon fiber and new lightweight 20-inch wheels save 5.5 pounds per corner. In total, the Supersports is 242 pounds lighter than the GT Speed.

There are styling differences, too. The wider rear track necessitates new rear body panels that beef up the Supersports's rear haunch. Extra cooling vents are needed in the hood and front airdam, features that increase aggressiveness.

A subtle change is new brightwork around the window openings, which now features a smoky-chrome look. Even this cosmetic change introduces new technology, the finish being applied for the first time to stainless steel using physical vapor deposition.

Inside is new carbon fiber trim, including a cross-cabin beam that looks like a body stiffener but is actually a luggage retaining bar.

There's plenty of substance to this reworked Bentley Continental, which is also reflected in a significant 20 percent price rise. The figure is not final yet, but if you've got around $250,00 to spend on a fabulous sports car, the Bentley Continental Supersports just jumped onto your wish list.

To read more visit the AutoWeek Geneva Motor Show News and Photos section.

1869 baseball card sells for $75,285

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HOUSTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- An avid sports memorabilia collector and dealer in Houston said he shelled out $75,285 for a 1869 baseball card depicting the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

Jeffrey Rosenberg, president of sports collectibles organization Tristar Productions, said he considers the purchase a bargain, as the card bearing the image of professional baseball's first team is likely worth six figures, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday.

"This is like an ultimate treasure," Rosenberg said. "Anybody who is a collector of baseball cards, of history, would want this. It would fit in any museum, from the Smithsonian to the Baseball Hall of Fame."

He said the previous owner of the card, antiques dealer Bernice Gallego, 72, initially put the card on eBay for $9.99 after she discovered it in a box acquired during a long-ago estate sale. However, the woman pulled the card from eBay after online inquiries hinted at its true value and she eventually made $64,073 from the sale after the auctioneers took their fee.

"I feel great. I'm happy for the card. I'm happy for my husband and I. I'm happy for the whole world," Gallego said during a recent appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

10 reasons to buy a Kindle 2… and 10 reasons not to


by John Biggs

kindle
From xkcd

Having used both Kindles 1 and 2, I thought it would helpful to list where the new Kindle excels and where it falters. The dead tree book will never die - I think it will even have more longevity and popularity than the boutique appreciation of vinyl records - but our generation will be the last to use “books” as our primary reading systems. Expect ebooks to hit colleges in perhaps five years and high schools and grade schools in about 7. That said, should you buy a Kindle now? Why and why not?

10 Reasons to buy a Kindle 2

1. It’s great if you travel. If you travel, the Kindle is a godsend. I’m the kind of guy who stocks up books for even short trips, fully expecting to finish War and Peace, Notes from Underground, and four Clive Cussler novels on a plane trip from Pittsburgh to Columbus. With the Kindle you have a full complement of books available at any time.

2. You can put anything you want on it. You can easily email DOC, TXT, and PDF files to your own Kindle email address for conversion to the Kindle - but that costs 10 cents.

3. It looks great. The Kindle 2 is an amazing improvement over the Kindle 1. If every manufacturer took cues on build quality and product life cycles from Amazon, we’d all be better off.

4. It feels great. This new version has excellent button placement and is thin enough to cut cheese. It’s eminently portable.

5. Almost any book at any time. Except for a few esoteric reference books I’ve found just about everything I need on the Kindle store. As more and more publishers go ebook - and I think an iPhone Kindle reader will truly blow the last bottlenecks out - this excuse will become ineffective.

6. It works in inclement conditions. I was in Mexico with the wife and kids and I wanted to test the Kindle out near the pool. Three books later and I felt like the laziest high-tech maven in the world. The ladies next to me brought twenty softcover novels with them and all of them got wet and messy. The Kindle worked like a dream.

7. The bookmarking and highlighting systems are vastly improved. The original Kindle had two methods for note-taking: you could select text and add a note or you could add a book mark. The new system refines those considerably and adds visual feedback whenever you take a note.

8. The dictionary is now in-line. When you move to a word, its definition appears at the bottom of the page. If you wanted a definition before, you had to pop out to a separate page.

9. You can almost see and understand the illustrations in 16 greyscale shades. Note the “almost.” However, it’s better than 4 shades, which was abysmal.

10. It is the future. Sorry, it is. Amazon nailed the ebook and they’re going to own the space for the next few years. Maybe they’ll pull a Netflix and sell the software to OEMs, which is fine by me. But ebooks are what we’ll be reading while we rocket to Mars in 2050. Or we’ll have our robotic concubines read them to us.

10 reasons not to buy a Kindle 2

1. It’s bad for research. I’m working on a book right now and I wanted to use the Kindle for all of my research. Sadly, this is almost impossible. The book is a physical object - you can move through it, skimming for notes and important points - and there is something in our education that gives us a sense of space inside a book. I don’t quite know how to explain it, but you know how you can pick up a book and show someone what you’re looking for in a few page turns? You know it was halfway through, maybe a third of the way down the page, and it was near another set of words. The Kindle is not conducive to that kind of mental map-making… yet.

2. It’s horrible for reference. Don’t buy a Kindle of you just read programming manuals. Programming manuals offer something different. While it seems counterintuitive that a document you can search programatically wouldn’t be good as reference material, you’re better off looking up function calls on a website and using the physical book as a guide to building your programs. This is a corallary of point 1, above, so this could change.

3. The Kindle is flimsy. You’ll go through your day thinking you will break your Kindle. You don’t fit that much screen on a thin device that is meant to be thrown into a bag without a care and not risk cracking it. There will come a day when you open your bag and see that your Kindle is dead, even in its case. It’s not your fault. Say it with me: it’s not your fault.

4. It’s not ready for students. Add points 1, 2, and 3 together and you come to the conclusion that this is not ready for students. This may be a good device for English classes requiring lots of long novel reading, but as an education tool it isn’t quite there.

5. The net connection doesn’t work internationally. For some reason last year I was convinced the Kindle had Wi-Fi built-in. I was trying to get on the Internet in Warsaw, Poland and I kept looking for that Wi-Fi button. Then I remembered - no Wi-Fi. And I cried. How I cried, my friends. Then I downloaded the Kindle book onto my desktop and dragged it over via the USB cable. So that’s, in essence, your international solution.

6. No SD slot. While the Kindle can easily hold 1,500 books, what if you’re the kind of person who likes to keep everything in its right place? Maybe you want to make a book playlist? Maybe you have 1,501 books? I don’t know. Sadly, the Kindle doesn’t allow for memory expansion. Not a big deal, but to some it’s a bad thing.

7. Flight attendants will tell you to turn it off on take off and landing. You can’t explain that it’s epaper and uses no current. You just can’t. It’s like explaining heaven to bears.

8. It contains a battery. Remember, Reader, the Kindle is mortal. It will die on you when you don’t have your charger.

9. It’s bottom heavy. The internal battery makes the device want to plop face down on your chest. I read it last night when I was sleepy and it kept getting ready to fall on me.

10. There’s just something about a dead tree book, isn’t there? It’s nice to pop into the airport news stand and pick up a novel. It just is. I’m sorry.

The 20 Most Terrifying Pictures of Ronald McDonald (Pics)


I’d rather have the Burger King run at me with a carving knife than have Ronald McDonald smile at me again.

click here for the pics! | digg story

Sam L. Jackson Signs Huge Marvel 9 Pic Deal As Nick Fury

Nine-pic deal includes 'Iron Man 2,' 'Thor,' more

By Borys Kit

Feb 25, 2009, 05:30 PM ET

Updated: Feb 25, 2009, 06:16 PM ET

Samuel L. Jackson is Marvel's man.

The actor, who just weeks ago was seemingly on the outs with the studio over reprising his role as Nick Fury, agent of spy outfit S.H.I.E.L.D., has signed an unprecedented nine-picture deal to play the character in a series of Marvel movies.

The movies include "Iron Man 2," "Thor," "Captain America," "The Avengers" and its sequels.

Also on the table is the possibility of toplining a "S.H.I.E.L.D." movie, which is in development.

The actor, repped by ICM and Anonymous Content, made a surprise appearance as Fury at the end of the first "Iron Man," throwing geeks into a tizzy and showing the first glimpse of Marvel's plan to link all their slate of movies into one filmic universe.

Jackson and Fury were expected to be part of the sequel, but as Marvel negotiated with its cast, deals proved hard to come by. Terrence Howard was replaced by Don Cheadle. Mickey Rourke still doesn't have a deal for the part of a villain despite almost two months of negotiations.

John Turturro Discusses Playing 'Jesus' in The Big Lebowski

fora.tv — "We just kept adding and adding for this montage, I didn't know if they would use all of those things... but when I saw how they put it together afterwards, I was completely embarrassed..... People will be playing that one at my funeral. Now I have an idea for a sequel where Jesus gets out of jail and drives a schoolbus."


Weather Man with Green Tie in Front of Green Screen = Magic


MJ4 Meteorologist wears green tie on green screen while giving weather report.

Girl, 3, raised by dogs in her home after her alcoholic mother neglected her

A three-year-old girl has been found being cared for by dogs while her alcoholic mother neglected her.

Social workers discovered the girl in her mother's house in Russia, naked and walking on all fours, gnawing bones with the dogs who she clung to for warmth.

The child, called Madina, only knows two words - yes and no - and growls like a dog when people come too close, Russian media reported. Neglected: Madina, left, was found naked and crawling on the ground on all fours after being neglected by her alcoholic mother, Anna, right

Madina, from Ufa in central Russia, was shunned by other local children in her neighbourhood.

Her mother, known only as Anna, 23, had ignored her for most of her life, police said.

Anna ate at the table while allowing her daughter to eat on the floor with the dogs.

The girl's mother often disappeared and was also frequently too drunk to look after for her child.

'The child is angelic but she has been deprived of love and care, except from the dogs,' said a social worker.

'When her mother was angry she used to run away, but no child played with her in the playground,' said one newspaper report.

'She hardly knew a single word, and fought with everyone.

'So dogs became her best friends. She played with them, and slept with them when it was cold in winter.'

The girl's father disappeared soon after her birth, which led to Madina's mother drinking, said neighbours.

She often invited local alcoholics to her house, completely ignoring her little child, they said.

When police arrived to take the child into care, Anna reportedly claimed: 'I do look after my daughter.'

Medics say the girl is mentally and physically healthy despite her ordeal.

Michael Cera says yes to Arrested Development!!! Finally!

Long time hold out Michael Cera, has finally agreed to do the film adaptation of the hit television series Arrested Development. The entire cast had agreed in making the long awaited film for some time now. Reports have been coming in for months now that the film was coming and the script being written but no confirmation. This Sunday during the Oscar pre-show Development producer Ron Howard, had even stated : “It’s looking very much like we’re going to make [the movie], but we’ve now been asked to stop offering any details. It’s cloaked in a little mystery, but it’s looking good.”

Apparently, Cera had not wanted to do the part to avoid being typecast since his filmography is so vast and varied, that it would be a step back to pay recognition to the series that put his name on the map. It was according to E! that the news was released today via an ‘inside source’ that the actor had finally agreed to do the film. E! even states the film may go by the end of the year so hopefully this news will help abate some of the hate towards Cera, and smooth anticipation for the film.

10 Secrets to Brighter, Whiter Teeth



Want brighter, whiter teeth? Know what to do – and what to avoid.

read more | digg story

Weird Japanese Spa: Green Tea/Wine/Live Fish Baths (10 pics)


Japanese hot spa industry, under heavy competition, is trying new features to attract health-conscious bathers. This spa features Green Tea Spa, boasting health benefits like preventing rough dry skin, whitening or effects for cold constitution. Many foreign tourists enjoy this seemingly odd bathing.

read more | digg story

Bare-istas: Maine cafe pours topless cup of coffee


VASSALBORO, Maine—A topless coffee shop that raised the ire of many residents of a small central Maine town is open for business.

The Grand View Topless Coffee Shop, located at the site of the former Grand View Motel, opened its doors Monday on busy Route 3 in Vassalboro. A sign outside says, "Over 18 only." Another says, "No cameras, no touching, cash only."

On Tuesday, two men sipped coffee at a booth while three topless waitresses and a bare-chested waiter stood nearby. Topless waitress Susie Wiley said men, women and couples have stopped by.

Dozens of residents objected to the shop when the Vassalboro planning board meeting took up the matter last month. But town officials said the coffee shop met the letter of the law.


can read the full article here:

Tunnel with 40,000 LEDs Is the Closest You'll Ever Get to Light Speed

I've never traveled through space at light speed, but I imagine that standing in this LED tunnel is pretty close to the dizzying experience. The video is just plain awesome.

The name of the installation is Multiverse, and it was installed by artist Leo Villareal in a 200-foot-long tunnel in the National Gallery of Art in Washingtong DC. The entire thing features 41,000 LEDs that animate and move on their own, using randomness to ensure that no one will see the same configurations twice. Multiverse will be on display throughout 2009. [PSFK]


BREAKING NEWS: Plane crashes at Amsterdam airport


A Turkish airliner with 135 people crashed while attempting to land at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

read more | digg story

It isn't Atlantis we saw on Google Earth - Confirms Google

(Cross-posted from the Lat Long Blog)

[Note: Last week we saw some interesting speculation that Atlantis had been found in Google Earth. As much as we'd love for that to be the case, there is a scientific explanation for the odd markings found on the seafloor. We've invited two of the scientists who gathered the data that appears in Google Earth to answer some questions that came up. - Ed.]


Since the launch of Ocean in Google Earth, millions of people have started to explore the ocean, and many have been surprised by their discoveries.

Near Hawaii you can see a new volcanic island in the making called the Loihi Seamount.


You can also clearly see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in the Atlantic Ocean where two tectonic plates are moving away from one another. If you look closely, you can see this ridge connects with others around the globe, forming a nearly continuous mountain range that is over 60,000 kilometers long.


But so far nothing has sparked quite as much interest as this funny looking pattern off the west coast of Africa:


Patterns like this can actually be seen over much of the ocean floor in Google Earth. What is it? Is it real? Why does it look like this?

Some have speculated that these are the plow marks of seafloor farming by aliens. If there really are little green men hiding somewhere, the ocean's not a bad place to do it. Mars, Venus, the moon, and even some asteroids are mapped at far higher resolution than our own oceans (the global map of Mars is about 250 times as accurate as the global map of our own ocean).

One theory that's gained more traction is that these marks might be the ruins of the lost city of Atlantis. If that were the case, some of the city blocks would have to be over eight miles long - that's about fifty times the size of a city block in New York City (if you zoom in and use the measurement tool in Google Earth, you can do this comparison yourself).

So what is it? The scientific explanation is a bit less exotic, but we think it's still pretty interesting: these marks are what we call "ship tracks." You see, it's actually quite hard to measure the depth of the ocean. Sunlight, lasers, and other electromagnetic radiation can travel less than 100 feet below the surface, yet the typical depth in the ocean is more than two and a half miles. Sound waves are more effective. By measuring the time it takes for sound to travel from a ship to the sea floor and back, you can get an idea of how far away the sea floor is. Since this process — known as echosounding — only maps a strip of the sea floor under the ship, the maps it produces often show the path the ship took, hence the "ship tracks." In this case, the soundings produced by a ship are also about 1% deeper than the data we have in surrounding areas — likely an error — making the tracks stand out more. You can see all of the soundings that produced this particular pattern with this KMZ file.


Echosounding with sonar is currently the best method for collecting this kind of data, but it's not perfect. One challenge is that it's quite slow. It has to be done from ships or underwater vehicles, and they can't go very fast or they'll spoil the measurement. As a result, not much of the ocean has been mapped this way, and huge gaps remain all over the ocean. In fact, the typical hole between tracks is about 20,000 square kilometers, or about the size of the state of New Jersey.

Now you're probably wondering where the rest of the depth data comes from if there are such big gaps from echosounding. We do our best to predict what the sea floor looks like based on what we can measure much more easily: the water surface. Above large underwater mountains (seamounts), the surface of the ocean is actually higher than in surrounding areas. These seamounts actually increase gravity in the area, which attracts more water and causes sea level to be slightly higher. The changes in water height are measurable using radar on satellites. This allows us to make a best guess as to what the rest of the sea floor looks like, but still at relatively low resolutions (the model predicts the ocean depth about once every 4000 meters). What you see in Google Earth is a combination of both this satellite-based model and real ship tracks from many research cruises (we first published this technique back in 1997). If you zoom in and take a look around the ocean for yourself, you can see higher resolution patches where ships have studied the sea floor and all the places we've still yet to explore. Here's a good example just north of Hawaii:


So, what if we really wanted to find Atlantis? We probably couldn't do it with satellites — man-made structures simply aren't big enough to be measured that way. But we could map the whole ocean using ships. A published U.S. Navy study found that it would take about 200 ship-years, meaning we'd need one ship for 200 years, or 10 ships for 20 years, or 100 ships for two years. It costs about $25,000 per day to operate a ship with the right mapping capability, so 200 ship-years would cost nearly two billion dollars. That may seem like a lot of money, but it's not that far off from the price tag of, say, a new sports stadium.

For now, keep exploring the ocean in Google Earth, and continue to share what you discover. It's great to have so many sets of eyes looking at the data currently in Google Earth and asking questions about what it represents. We and our fellow oceanographers are constantly improving the resolution of our seafloor maps, so we promise to work with Google to keep the virtual explorers out there busy.

Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid To Deliver V-8 Power, 26+ mpg

Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid To Deliver V-8 Power, 26+ mpg

Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid
Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid
Enlarge Photo

Pure electric propulsion is the name of the game for cutting gas/electric hybrid fuel consumption, and Porsche claims to have taken it to a whole new level with the upcoming 2010 Cayenne S Hybrid. Capable of traveling at speeds up to 86 mph solely on electric propulsion, the 5,000-some-odd pound full-frame SUV's thirst for premium should be cut dramatically.

Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid
Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid
Enlarge Photo

Economy estimated at 26 mpg or slightly greater (extrapolated from Porsche's claim of less than 9 liters/100 km fuel consumed on the European cycle) is very respectable for this behemoth, but it's a figure shamed by car-based crossover hybrids. Interesting will be the difference between city and highway mileage; typically, gas/electric hybrids attain their biggest mileage benefits in city driving where the electric motors are most helpful, but this Porsche system turns that paradigm on its head with stout electric highway capabilities.

The hybrid drive in the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid uses a parallel full hybrid design that sandwiches the electric motor between an Audi-sourced V-6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 is Audi's new 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 found in models like the 2009 Audi A6, itself surprisingly efficient considering the 333 hp and 324 lb-ft torque it yields. The electric motor will be supplied by a 154-lb. nickel metal hybrid battery that fits in the spare tire well.

Porsche promises no intrusions into cabin or cargo space, as well as a 0-60 mph sprint of just under 6.8 seconds. So drivers of heavy luxury SUVs may soon have their cake and eat it too. But aren't drivers of luxury SUVs quickly abandoning the segment? History will tell us the rest of the story, but let's not forget the miserable sales of GM's (Tahoe, Escalade) and Chrysler's (Aspen, Durango) well-engineered full-size SUV hybrids.

25 brilliant wine label, bottle & package designs

frank b wine packaging

Frank B, label with a customizabe message, designed by Talia Cohen.

If you’re like me a wine lover, this article will be the tastiest you will have seen on Designer Daily. Unfortunatly I’m not a wine expert, so I often rely on the bottle’s label design when it comes to picking my future drink. Following is a list of wine that I could have picked based on their design at the store.

clcik here to see the 25 labels/design | digg story

12 ways to pimp your office

Cool office furniture

When your office was furnished, did the shopping list go something like this:

  • One desk. Gray.
  • One ergonomic office chair. Black.
  • One waste paper basket. Gray plastic.
  • One filing cabinet. Gray.

You know - the usual stuff. Typical. Traditional. Booooooring!

I’m not going to claim that a fancy desk or a weird chair is going to magically improve your creativity and productivity - but I am damn sure, that all that sameness and eternal corporate grayness, does nothing good for your ability to come up with great new ideas.

Here are some ways to spruce up a workplace that may actually inject some color and fun into your work environment.

Got Milk?

The Milk desk is a new design to match your Apple gear with it’s white surface and rounded edges.

Milk desk

It lowers and raises electrically, it has ways to hide the cable clutter, and it also has four compartments at one end that can be configured for storage, trash or, yes, as an aquarium.

Milk desk


Milk desk

Partition magic

Softwall

Softwall is a great way to flexibly partition a room. It’s made of paper with a felt core, and I love it because it doesn’t eat all the light in the room (if you go for the white one).

Softwall

It can be twisted into just about any shape or rolled up when you don’t need it and it dampens sound more than most room partitioners. Plus it looks amazing!

Softwall

The wing desk

Or how about a desk made from the wing of a DC3 plane?

The saddle chair

The starting point for the Haag Capisco is just your average, garden-variety office chair - but they’ve moved on from there. The saddle seat gives you a more erect posture and doesn’t cut of the blood flow to your legs.

Haag Capisco

The seat and back are constructed so you can sit sideways or reversed on it and still support your arms. And the whole thing tilts back into a very comfortable reclined position.

Haag Capisco Haag Capisco Haag Capisco

I’ve had one of these myself - they rock.

Bean bags

Bean bags look great and can be used in a million different positions. Four bags and a coffee table and you have a great meeting room!

Sumo Omni
Sumo Omni

I’m partial to the the Sumo Omni (pictured above) myself. Disclosure: They once sent me a free one to review here on the blog.

Bibliochaise

Where do you keep all your reference manuals and handbooks? Close to where you can sit and read them, of course! Meet the Bibliochaise.

Chair with books

Stokke Garden

It’s a tree. It’s a sculpture. It’s… I don’t know what it is, but I like it.

Stokke Garden
Stokke Garden

Since I first saw these, I’ve wanted one and only the huge price tag has kept from picking one up. It looks strange, but is actually supremely comfortable and allows you to sit/lie in many positions. I know, I’ve spent quite some time in a showroom testing one thoroughly :o)

The meeting bed.

When your business is innovation, your office can’t really look like any other corporate wasteland. London-based innovation agency ?WhatIf! know that - as evidenced by e.g. the life-sized plastic cow statue painted like Spiderman in the lobby and the big red couch/bed they use for meetings:

Meeting bed
Meeting bed

Conference bike

conferencebike
conferencebike2

This has got to be the coolest idea in a long time. 7 people pedal along, one of them steers. It’s the conference bike and I want one!! I also mentioned this in my post on seeeeeriously cool workplaces.

Art tables

I was sitting in my usual café writing this blogpost when I spotted a lady at the next table looking through some pictures of weird and beautiful desks.

Desk
Art desk
Art desk

Of course I had to ask her what the story was. Turns out she’s Marie Westh, an artist and these are one-off tables she created, first for exhibitions and then later on as usable art pieces. Check out Marie’s website with many more weird and fantastic creations.

A balance act

This is more a metaphor than a piece of furniture - but it’s pretty cool all the same.

Wood wall

The idea is that three people can have a meeting where they must work together to hold their balance during the meeting. Like we must each contribute to a conversation, to make it balanced. Impractical - but cool! More here.

Wood wall

Wood wall

Or how about an entire wall covered in cordwood? Not only is it amazingly beautiful, it’s also great for the acoustics and it gives the wall a great texture.

Wood wall
Wooden wall

I saw my friends at Connecta and their roommates build this from a huge stack of cord woodon the floor to the finished wall. Superb!!

The upshot

So is it the furniture that determines whether a company is creative and fun or staid and boring? Of course not! But the type and variety of furniture does reflect the mood at the company. If you have row upon row of identical, gray desks and chairs then odds are this is not the place wild ideas are born.

And why exactly is it that everyone must have the same desk and chair? Why not let people choose for themselves, and give them a chance to create an environment that suits them. The resulting variety may be confusing to those who think that business is about structure, order and control… but it’s sure to be more stimulating and fun for those of us who think that work is about being happy.

There are more pictures of cool furniture in this flickr set.

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