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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Off the wall: The astonishing 3D murals

By Daily Mail Reporter

At first glance, it looks as if some natural disaster has shaken away the walls of these buildings to reveal architecture hidden for thousands of years.

And at second and third glance, it looks like that too.

But these spectacular images are not the unexpected result of an earthquake.

Treasure trove: An Egyptian style mural adorns a wall in Los Gatos, California. Pugh paints people into the mural to heighten the 3D effect

Treasure trove: An Egyptian style mural adorns a wall in Los Gatos, California. Pugh paints people into the mural to heighten the 3D effect

Greek tragedy: But the Doric-style columns apparently exposed in this university hall are nothing but paint

Greek tragedy: But the Doric-style columns apparently exposed in this university hall are nothing but paint

The incredibly lifelike scenes are actually huge works of art, painted on the side of perfectly intact buildings. Even that woman peering into the ruin above is not real.

The paintings, which have fooled many, were created by John Pugh, who specialises in trompe l'oeil - or 'trick of the eye' - art.

He uses his skills to delude the viewer into seeing 3D scenes painted on flat surfaces.

The Californian-born artist said: 'It seems almost universal that people take delight in being visually tricked.'

His works can been seen all over the world, including in the artist's home state. The 'earthquake' work shown here is located on Main Street in the town of Los Gatos and was created following a genuine earthquake in 1989.

The temple-like interior apparently exposed features jaguar gods, regarded as the creators of earthquakes by the Mayans.

Wonder wave: John Pugh's Mana Nalu mural in Honolulu. Fire crews rushed to save the children from the mighty wave - before realising it was an optical illusion

Wonder wave: John Pugh's Mana Nalu mural in Honolulu. Fire crews rushed to save the children from the mighty wave - before realising it was an optical illusion


Blurring the lines: A mural entitled Art Imitating Life Imitating Art Imitating Life, at the Cafe Trompe L'oeil, in San Jose, California

Another picture is of Taylor Hall at the California State University, Chico, where Pugh studied. The mural features Doric-style Greek columns behind the seemingly shattered wall and is called Academe.

Another work, featuring a colossal wave about to crash on to a pavement in Honolulu, Hawaii, took two months of studio work to plan and a further six months to execute with the help of 11 other artists.

It features Queen Lili'uokalani, the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands with Duke Kahanamoku - the ultimate father of surf.

The scene is so realistic that just as it was near completion, it attracted the attention of the fire brigade, which stopped its truck in the middle of traffic.

Mr Pugh said: ''They jumped out to rescue the children in the mural. They got about 15 feet away and then doubled over laughing when they realised what it was.'


Having a cow: Valentine's Day, a mural unveiled during the Global Mural Conference in Twentynine Palms, California


Trick of the eye: John inserts a passer-by into the mural painted in Santa Cruz, California, entitled Bay in a Bottle, who is watching the ocean scene

Take a pew: This looks like a nice spot to rest your weary feet on a sidewalk in Sarasota County Health Center, Florida

Take a pew: This looks like a nice spot to rest your weary feet on a sidewalk in Sarasota County Health Center, Florida


Artist's impression: John Pugh hard at work. He is currently working on murals for a police station in California and a recreation centre in Calgary, Canada

This is the desired effect and Pugh enjoys the community-bonding properties of his public works.

He works on a large scale in public and residential areas and his paintings can be seen all over the world from New Zealand to Hawaii - with many telling a story of the area where they are positioned.

Pugh is used to people's amazed reactions when they pass his murals.

He said: 'They say "wow did you see that. I thought that was real."

'Public art can link people together and stimulate a sense of pride within the community.

'These life-size illusions allow me to communicate with a very large audience.

'It seems almost universal that people take delight in being visually tricked.'

Pugh is currently working on a mural for a police station in California and also one for a recreation centre in Calgary, Canada.

30 Great Aurora Borealis Photographs (PICS) — The northern lights have had several names through the times and one that I thought pretty interesting was "The Dance of the Spirits". Most of these pictures had no photoshop work on it, they are real scenes, and the ones that had photoshop was just to emphasize the lights, not to create them.

Click here to see the whole gallery

6 Ways To Sync Music To Your iPhone Without iTunes

By Damien Oh

By default, iTunes is the only media player that you can use to sync your iPhone and iPod Touch with your computer. However, iTunes is only supported in Mac and Windows, which means Linux users with iPhones will have to find an alternative way to sync their iPhones, or at least get their music into the mobile device. In addition, there may be a large group of Windows users who are using other media players (such as Winamp) to manage their music library and loathe the idea of migrating the whole library to iTunes just because they bought an iPhone.

In this article, I will point out 6 other ways that you can transfer music to your iPhone without iTunes.

(Note: When I refer to “iPhone” in the article, it includes the iPod Touch as well)

1. Media Monkey (Windows)

MediaMonkey is a heavy-duty, fully-featured media player for Windows. It is just like iTunes in Mac, allowing you to manage your music, video, podcast, rip CD, organize album art etc. In their latest version 3 release, they implemented iPhone/iPod Touch support and you can now transfer/sync your music easily.


In order to use Media Monkey to manage your iPhone music, you have to first install iTunes (version and before). That could be ironical since the purpose of it all is to do without iTunes completely. However, iTunes comes with the device driver for iPhone/iPod Touch that is required by many third-party media players to detect and access the database of the iPhone. As soon as you install iTunes, you will be able to use Media Monkey to sync your music.

For those who don’t want to install iTunes, there is a hack:

  1. Download the iTunes.exe file
  2. Rename the .exe to .zip
  3. Open up the zipped file and extract AppleMobileDeviceSupport.msi and QuickTime.msi
  4. Install these two files.

You can then sync your iPhone with Media Monkey without iTunes.

2) Winamp and the ml_ipod plugin (Windows)

For those who have been using Winamp since the first day it was launched, there is no need to migrate all your music library to iTunes just because you bought a iPhone. With the ml_ipod plugin, you will be able to sync your music.


Firstly, you have to install iTunes (ml_ipod was tested with iTunes 7.4.2 and 8.0.2. If you are using a later version of iTunes, might not work), or use the above hack to install the driver without installing iTunes.

Secondly, install Winamp (recommended version 5 and above), follow by ml_ipod (version 3.08 or later). Plug in your iPhone and start Winamp. You should be able to see the device appear on the left side of the panel (see above screenshot).

One good thing about using this combination is, unlike iTunes, this is a bidirectional sync - you can download the songs back to your computer.

3) SharePod (Windows)

If you are looking for a simple and lightweight software to get the synchronization done quickly and easily, then Sharepod would be a good choice.

Sharepod is nothing more than a software for you to sync your iPod and iPhone. While you can play music directly from your iPhone within Sharepod, the music player is only minimal and does not offer much options.


SharePod also offers bidirectional synchronization between your iPhone and computer. Did I also mention that there is no installation required for Sharepod? It just works!

Just like the above two softwares, you’ll need to install iTunes (or perform the hack) for SharePod to recognize your iPhone.

4) CopyTransManager (Windows)

If you are still using firmware 1.x on your iPhone, CopyTrans Manager will work out of the box to sync your iPhone. However, if you are using firmware 2.x, it will prompt you to apply a fix to downgrade the iPhone database so that it can be read by the software. If you are not comfortable with it modifying the internal structure of your iPhone, this software might not be for you.

Editor’s note: Downgrading your iPhone firmware may render your iPhone incapable of using newer applications which require firmwares 2.2 and higher.


Unlike all other software listed above, you don’t need to install iTunes to use CopyTrans Manager. It claims to be the alternative to iTunes. Perhaps in the field of syncing your music library, it can be a good alternative. Other than that, it is clearly lacking in features and does not offer as many features as iTunes.

5) PwnPlayer (any platform)

Pwnplayer is an iPhone music player app that acts as an alternative to the default in your iPhone. Its user interface is almost similar to the, allowing you to view your songs in Artists, Albums, Songs, Genre list etc. It also supports album art display.


To use Pwnplayer, you have to first jailbreak your iPhone, then install the PwnPlayer application from Cydia. Once you have jailbroken your iPhone, you can then transfer your songs (over SSH) to any folder in your iPhone (for more information about transferring files over to the iPhone, refer to my older article: 6 Ways To Use iPhone As An External Hard Drive). Pwnplayer will scan the whole iPhone hard disk and add the songs to its library. You don’t have to worry about any compatibility with OS platform since it works regardless which OS you are using. As long as you can perform SSH in your computer, you can get Pwnplayer to work.

6) GtkPod (Linux)

Gtkpod seems to be the only solution to sync music to your iPhone in Linux (The older version of Amarok will work too, but Amarok 2.x doesn’t support iPhone syncing yet), but getting it to work is not as easy.

Image source: Gtkpod screenshot page

For those who are geeky and advantageous enough, here are the full instructions to hack your iPhone to get it to sync in Linux with gtkpod.

Enjoyed this article? Maybe you’ll be interested to know that you may also sync any MP3 player with iTunes. Also, find out how you can easily make ringtones for your iPhone.

What other ways do you use to sync your music to iPhone without iTunes? Let us know in the comments.

In-N-Out Burger's six secrets for out-and-out success

On the heels of mounting cynicism generated by Wall Street bailouts and the perception that corporate leaders are gaming the system to make a profit, at least one American company is proving that businesses can survive and even thrive while sticking to traditional values.

In-N-Out Burger, the iconic West Coast hamburger chain frequented by celebrities, is not slashing jobs or making major cutbacks during this recession. In fact, the regional chain, which has 232 locations in California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah, took in an estimated $420 million in revenues in 2008, and claims per-store sales of about $1.94 million. So how is this mom-and-pop burger joint pumping out per-store sales numbers that are better than Burger King and a host of other competitors?

BusinessWeek writer Stacy Perman has penned a book (In-N-Out Burger: A Behind the Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules) that chronicles how In-N-Out Burger founders Esther and Harry Snyder built the foundation for a business that has performed well since it debuted in 1948. Here are the six principles she says have made In-N-Out Berger an out-and-out success:

Keep a Relentless Focus on Quality -- Perman says that the Snyders were "micro-managers" from the beginning, insisting on only using the highest quality beef, produce and other ingredients at their stores.

"Harry would go to the meat purveyors, and stand over the butcher's shoulder to make sure that he got the meat that he paid for," she says, adding, "In the 60s, at a time when the fast food industry had turned to using frozen beef patties and French fries, [Harry] began hiring butchers so that he could maintain the quality of his beef. His own butchers would prepare the beef patties, and that continues to this day, but on a much larger scale."

Listen to Your Customers -- One of the company's mottos is "Our customer is everything." Applying that belief led to the company policy of preparing burgers just the way customers asked for them. Some of the customer favorites became popular and were eventually adopted as the restaurant chain's "secret menu." By listening to their customers, In-N-Out created menu choices other stores couldn't duplicate.

"So now you have three or four generations of people who grew up on In-and-Out Burger who have this very special relation ship to the chain," says Perman. "It's very authentic -- you can't buy that. It's very organic and they've been very careful never to commercialize that."

Treat Employees Well -- The Snyders always held their employees in high esteem, paying them higher wages than competitors and calling them associates to make them feel more connected to the franchise.

"They believed in sharing their success with their employees," says Perman, noting that In-N-Out associates make $10 an hour working part-time and starting store managers make $100,000, plus bonuses tied to store performance. The company benefits package is also generous. Such treatment engenders loyalty from workers.

"They have the lowest turnover rate in the fast food industry, which is notorious for turnover," says Perman. "They say that the average manager's tenure is 14 years, but they have managers who have been there 30 or 40 years."

Keep Things Simple and Consistent -- Another of Harry Snyder's mottos was, "Keep it real simple, do one thing and do it the best you can." That theme runs throughout the business.

"People get cynical about changes at different companies, but they always know that In-N-Out doesn't change," says Perman. "In and out stands for something and they've stuck to it and their customers really see that."

Expand Slowly and Only Under the Right Conditions – In-N-Out has strict guidelines that limit the growth of stores, but ensure each store's success.

"They don't open a store outside of a 500-mile radius of the commissaries where they get their fresh beef patties, their buns and other products because they want to maintain freshness," says Perman. "They make deliveries daily or near daily."

She also points out that, "They never open a new store unless they have management strength in place. They have very rigorous training procedures."

Define Your Own Level of Success – In corporate America, where success is sometimes defined as rapid growth at any cost, In-N-Out has, as the title suggests, made its own rules.

"If the customers and the employees were happy and they were making the best product they could, they were successful," she says, "and they have maintained that philosophy."

Watch Out! She's Got the Ultimate Secret Weapon... (PIC)

It's Official. It's A Baseball Dance-Off — USF and UCONN dance-off to kill a 5-hour rain delay!

Sports Videos, News, Blogs

Amazing 11 Year-Old Hip-Hop Dancer Aidan Davis

11 year old dancer Aidan Davis wows the judges when he auditions for Britains Got Talent 2009.

Glacial Lakes

Lakes in moraine. Glacier Bay N.P., SE Alaska, July 2006.

Dallas Cowboys unveil new stadium's Texas-sized video screens

By JEFF MOSIER / The Dallas Morning News

ARLINGTON – Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave the media a peek Thursday afternoon at what a $40 million HDTV looks like in action.

Cowboy's introduce world's largest video screen at new stadium
May 21st, 2009

The 600-ton Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision System has the world’s largest HD video boards. Hanging 90 feet above the field, each screen facing the sidelines is about 60 yards long and 72 feet tall.

“It will create an experience of watching a player like Marion Barber or like Felix Jones or Tony Romo in a way that no fan has ever seen it,” Jerry Jones said, just before he called for a custom video presentation to be played.

The short video featured classic and recent Cowboys game footage, shots of the new Cowboys Stadium and video of team practice. In the game video, the players were about 70 feet tall and as crisply rendered as footage on a regular size HD television. This one however cost more than the entire construction budget of Texas Stadium.

Each sideline board has about 10.5 million light emitting diodes or LEDs that the draw the images fans will see. In the footage played Thursday, it was easy to pick out every detail from the individual strands of artificial turf to the contours of the parking lot surface at Cowboys Stadium.

Mark Foster, a Mitsubishi general manager, said it was both an exhilarating and stressful challenge. He said that Jones asked Mitsubishi to break through some technological barriers, such as hanging it over the center of the field and increase the viewing angles.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some sleepless nights,” Foster said.

• 25,000 square feet – size of the video displays • 4,920 – number of 52-inch flat panel TVs needed to equal its size • Three inches – diameter of the steel cables supporting the video boards • 30 million – number of light bulbs in the displays • Nearly 11,000 square feet – size of the ribbon video boards circling the inside of the stadium

Zombie Retailer: Reborn As... Circuit City is back from the grave, and it looks eerily familiar. The zombie website is now controlled by Systemax, the same folks who own Tiger Direct. Though the new site may look similar to the old, no doubt part of Systemax's goal to keep alive a "proud brand that America has grown to count on," it isn't nearly as consumer-friendly as we...

read more | digg story

Timelapse of the Canary Islands... Beautiful! (VIDEO)

CANARIAS TIMELAPSE from luis garcia de armas on Vimeo.

Advance of documentary CANARIAS TIMELAPSE, produced by Kroma Canarias & LASAL.

It shows the 7 Canary Islands from the point of view of the time, with slow and fast motion , throughout an entire year.
Completely shotted in High Definition and 35 mm DSLR cameras, using timelapse and overcranking modes.

Dirección/ Director: Luis García de Armas
Producción/producer: Antonio de Nascimento
Música/music: Antonio Hernández
Cámara/cameraman: Humberto Mesa

estrenado/released en:
S/C DE TENERIFE: Día 22 de Abril en los multicines Renoir-Price
LAS PALMAS DE G/C: Día 23 de Abril en los multicines Monopol

WTF - Nothing says "Kentucky" like a Pregnant woman advertising Bachelorette parties at a Gun Range

WHAT THE FRACK by francopoli.
Dear god.... I need to get the hell out of Kentucky. This is an ad on the back page of the LEO ( This ad has been running for 3-4 weeks, is not a mistake, an those are not typos or errors that were not caught before publishing.

I would like to thank all the people who commented on this photo for proving my point. There is a lot of good about Kentucky that this California native has witnessed, and a lot that deserves mock and ridicule. Using a pregnant woman wearing lingerie to advertise Bachelorette parties is one of them. The Gun range angle is nothing more than icing on the cake of fail.

The ad people will fawn over this ad, the gun nuts will cry that they are being oppressed and the grammar folk's heads will explode. But there is a much deeper point to be made.

States like Kentucky are falling behind. There is a great potential here to be a leader of the area, a link in the great chain of commerce between the South, Midwest and Northeast. Yet this is the perception to those who do not live here. I tell people that Louisville has a large gay and lesbian community, and they laugh at me. I tell them that Louisville is the forefront of medical research, with some of the best heart surgeons in the world, and they stare blankly at me. I tell them that Louisville is the home of the US hand transplant teams, and they begin to look at the place differently. I tell them about the research done at UofL in relation to organ and tissue transplantation, and I can see in their faces a change in attitude. Kentucky is also the third largest producer of automobiles in the USA and has a larger industrial base than I expected.

Then, crap like this happens. For Kentucky to thrive into the next century and not become a third world nation in the center of the USA, the state and its people are going to have to focus on perceptions. Like it or not, this place has a reputation. That needs to change, fast, or else we will end up like Central Ohio, Alabama, Cleveland, Detroit, or any other city/state that has failed over the last decade because life and the world have changed under their feet.

We can't build a bridge here due to obstructionism, we won't fund schools, we won't work on infrastructure, but boy do we play basketball!

There is something wrong with this, and I think that only mock and ridicule will start to change attitudes. Otherwise, all the smart people will flee to Seattle, Chicago, California, etc.

Dutch smoking ban is up in the air

Research shows that turnover at small cafes and bars has dropped by thirty percent since the smoking ban.   Photo WFA
Research shows that turnover at small cafes and bars has dropped by thirty percent since the smoking ban. Photo WFA

The appeals court in Den Bosch has ruled in favour of the owners of a Breda cafe who defied a national smoking ban, effectively repealing the smoking ban for small bars and cafes.

The court ruled that the national smoking ban lacks the legal basis to impose the ban on small establishments without hired staff, which is the case for cafe Victoria in Breda. The ruling means that smoking is allowed again in all small cafes and bars where the owners are the only staff.

A ban on smoking in bars in the Netherlands came into effect on July 1, 2008, in line with a European trend to prohibit smoking in public places. The legal reasoning behind the Dutch ban was that employees have to be protected from the health effects of secondhand smoke.

The Dutch law allows cafes to have designated, closed-off smoking areas without service. But cafes too small to create such rooms have since argued that this puts them at an unfair disadvantage. Research has shown that turnover in smaller bars and cafes has dropped by thirty percent since the smoking ban was introduced. A number of cafes, including Victoria in Breda, have openly defied the ban by allowing their customers to light up as before.

Now that the judge in Den Bosch has ruled in favour of Victoria's owners, small cafes around the country can technically allow smoking again.

The health ministry said it was withholding its response until the appeals court in Leeuwarden rules on a similar case in Groningen. A judge in Groningen ruled against the owners of cafe De Kachel, who had also defied the smoking ban. The cafe owners appealed the Groningen verdict with a higher court in Leeuwarden.

The judge in Den Bosh argued that the smoking ban was a specific measure against nuisance from smoking, but that other less radical measures are possible. In April, a lower court in Breda ruled in favour of a collective of the Breda cafe owners, but in that case the ruling was based on the distortion of competition with larger establishments.

The health ministry appealed that verdict, demanding a 1,200 euros fine and the closing of the establishments. But the ministry now says it will not appeal further if it loses in the Leeuwarden court too. "In that case the minister will look into changing the existing law," a spokesperson said

Netherlands to close prisons for lack of criminals

By our news desk

The Dutch justice ministry has announced it will close eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty.

During the 1990s the Netherlands faced a shortage of prison cells, but a decline in crime has since led to overcapacity in the prison system. The country now has capacity for 14,000 prisoners but only 12,000 detainees.

Deputy justice minister Nebahat Albayrak announced on Tuesday that eight prisons will be closed, resulting in the loss of 1,200 jobs. Natural redundancy and other measures should prevent any forced lay-offs, the minister said.

The overcapacity is a result of the declining crime rate, which the ministry's research department expects to continue for some time.

Belgian prisoners

Some reprieve might come from a deal with Belgium, which is facing overpopulation in its prisons. The two countries are working out an agreement to house Belgian prisoners in Dutch prisons. Some five-hundred Belgian prisoners could be transferred to the Tilburg prison by 2010.

The Netherlands would get 30 million euros in the deal, and it will allow the closing of the prisons in Rotterdam and Veenhuizen to be postponed until 2012.

Air-fuelled Battery Could Last Up to 10 Times Longer

Oxide Lithium Battery diagram
Diagram of the STAIR (St Andrews Air) cell. Oxygen drawn from the air reacts within the porous carbon to release the electrical charge in this lithium-air battery.
A new type of air-fuelled battery could give up to ten times the energy storage of designs currently available.

This step-change in capacity could pave the way for a new generation of electric cars, mobile phones and laptops.

The research work, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is being led by researchers at the University of St Andrews with partners at Strathclyde and Newcastle.

The new design has the potential to improve the performance of portable electronic products and give a major boost to the renewable energy industry. The batteries will enable a constant electrical output from sources such as wind or solar, which stop generating when the weather changes or night falls.

STAIR cell demo 1
An early demonstration model of the STAIR (St Andrews air) cell.
Improved capacity is thanks to the addition of a component that uses oxygen drawn from the air during discharge, replacing one chemical constituent used in rechargeable batteries today. Not having to carry the chemicals around in the battery offers more energy for the same size battery. Reducing the size and weight of batteries with the necessary charge capacity has been a long-running battle for developers of electric cars.

The STAIR (St Andrews Air) cell should be cheaper than today’s rechargeables too. The new component is made of porous carbon, which is far less expensive than the lithium cobalt oxide it replaces.

This four-year research project, which reaches its halfway mark in July, builds on the discovery at the university that the carbon component’s interaction with air can be repeated, creating a cycle of charge and discharge. Subsequent work has more than tripled the capacity to store charge in the STAIR cell.

Principal investigator on the project, Professor Peter Bruce of the Chemistry Department at the University of St Andrews, says: “Our target is to get a five to ten fold increase in storage capacity, which is beyond the horizon of current lithium batteries. Our results so far are very encouraging and have far exceeded our expectations.”

STAIR cell demo 2
Cells used in the laboratory to investigate the lithium-air cell.
“The key is to use oxygen in the air as a re-agent, rather than carry the necessary chemicals around inside the battery,” says Bruce.

The oxygen, which will be drawn in through a surface of the battery exposed to air, reacts within the pores of the carbon to discharge the battery. “Not only is this part of the process free, the carbon component is much cheaper than current technology,” says Bruce. He estimates that it will be at least five years before the STAIR cell is commercially available.

The project is focused on understanding more about how the chemical reaction of the battery works and investigating how to improve it. The research team is also working towards making a STAIR cell prototype suited, in the first instance, for small applications, such as mobile phones or MP3 players.

Notes for Editors

The four-year research project “An O2 Electrode for a Rechargeable Lithium Battery” began on 1 July 2007 and is scheduled to end on 30 June 2011. It has received EPSRC funding of £1,579,137.

Rechargeable lithium batteries are currently comprised of a graphite negative electrode, an organic electrolyte and lithium cobalt oxide as the positive electrode. Lithium is removed from the layered intercalation compound (lithium cobalt oxide) on charging and re-inserted on discharge.

Energy storage is limited by the lithium cobalt oxide electrode (0.5 Li/Co, 130 mAhg-1). The University of St Andrews design replaces the lithium cobalt oxide electrode with a porous carbon electrode and allows Li+ and e- in the cell to react with oxygen from the air.

Initial results from the project found a capacity to weight ratio of 1,000 milli-amp / hours per gram of carbon (mA/hours/g), while recent work has obtained results of up to 4,000 mA/hours/g. Although the two designs work very differently, this equates to an eight-fold increase compared to a standard cobalt oxide battery found in a mobile phone.

The application to renewable energy could help get round the problems of intermittent supply. By discharging batteries to provide electricity and recharging them when the wind blows or sun shines, renewables become a much more viable option.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests around £740 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. Website address for more information on EPSRC:

For more information contact:

The University of St Andrews visit:

Professor Peter Bruce FRS, tel: 01334 463 825, e-mail:

Three images are available from the EPSRC Press Office (contact:, tel: 01793 4514)

10-year-old Tony Hawk Old Schools in Gardening Gloves (1978) — An older brother bought Tony a used skateboard at age 8 and his father constructed a ramp in their backyard. At the age of 12, he landed his first contest win and turned pro by the age of 14.

The Pattie LaBurger

The Pattie LaBurger A triple bacon cheeseburger with deep fried patties as buns. (submitted by Johnny Bro)

The Pattie LaBurger

A triple bacon cheeseburger with deep fried patties as buns.

(submitted by Johnny Bro)

Full-Size Noah's Ark Replica debuts in Hong kong

A giant replica of Noah's Ark opened to the public on Monday in Hong Kong. The ark is world's only full-scale model and was built following the description written in the Bible, according to the Hong Kong property developer who constructed it. (May 25)

Which are the worst states for tickets?

As the traditional summer driving season gets under way this weekend, a drivers'-rights group ranks the states on driver friendliness. New Jersey? Fuhgeddaboudit.

By Catherine Holahan
MSN Money

Diane Daniel knows her drive to the North Carolina coast this Memorial Day weekend will take longer. But it won't be the traffic slowing her down -- it will be the cops.

"I got the only speeding ticket of my life there a few years ago," explained Daniel, a freelance travel writer. Stretches of road leading to the beach are perfect spots for police to snare speeders and add tourist dollars to their towns' coffers, she added.

Luckily for Daniel, she's driving in North Carolina this weekend. That state rates low on the National Motorists Association's recent ranking of the worst places to drive due to what they characterize as unfair traffic laws and public monitoring. (See the full list here.)

Drivers in New Jersey are the ones who really need to watch out, according to the motorists group. The state ranked the worst based on 17 factors, including:

  • Speed limits.
  • The use of red-light or speed cameras.
  • Laws banning cell phone use while driving.
  • Whether speeders are allowed jury trials.
  • The number of speed traps (weighted by population).

New Jersey ranked seventh-worst in the speed-trap category. But it was the state's traffic laws that put New Jersey atop the list.

More from MSN Money

DUI costs © Brand X/ SuperStock
New Jersey lost points for using roadblocks, denying speeders jury trials and capping the highway speed limit at 65 mph, according to the motorists group. More than half of U.S. states have maximum highway speed limits of 70 mph or higher. In fairness to New Jersey, though, states that are more densely populated tend to have lower speed limits. Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the two most densely populated states after New Jersey, also have statewide 65 mph limits on their freeways.

"We think that cities are basically using some speeding laws to make money and they are not improving safety at all," says Aaron Quinn, a spokesman for the motorists group.

The organization, which takes a libertarian view of traffic laws, was founded in 1982 as part of an effort to fight against a nationwide 55 mph speed limit.

It conducted its worst-places study for the first time this year in part to examine the belief that fiscally challenged municipalities would be particularly motivated to enforce traffic laws during holidays to raise revenues, rather than simply to keep roads safe.

"It is not exactly a well-kept secret that many traffic laws, enforcement practices, and traffic courts are more about generating revenue and political posturing, than they are about traffic safety," Jim Baxter, the organization's president, said in a prepared statement. "During holidays, like the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, we're bombarded with messages about intensified enforcement, 'click it or ticket,' and horrendous fines."

There is some evidence to back up the group's claims. Earlier this year, Michael Makowsky, an assistant professor at Towson University, and George Mason University professor Thomas Stratmann released a study of Massachusetts traffic stops showing that strapped towns and cities were more likely to issue speeding tickets, particularly to out-of-towners who don't pay the areas' municipal taxes. Drivers from other towns had a 10% higher chance of getting a ticket, while drivers with out-of-state plates were 20% more likely to be ticketed.

Those findings echoed an earlier study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, which found that municipalities issued significantly more tickets in years after their revenue declined.

Video on MSN Money

Traffic ticket  © Corbis
The hidden costs of a traffic ticket
If you are issued a speeding ticket, think twice before paying it off immediately.
"Our results suggest that tickets are used as a revenue-generation tool rather than solely a means to increase public safety," report co-authors Gary Wagner, an economist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and Thomas Garrett, a researcher at the St. Louis Fed, said of their July 2007 study.

Increased ticketing isn't just about padding town coffers, however. In a follow-up study that Makowsky and Strattman conducted, the economists found that increased ticketing does reduce the number of traffic accidents. So perhaps ticketing does make drivers safer, as well as making towns richer.

"It definitely changed my driving habits," Daniel said of her ticket. "I will not be speeding."

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The Top 6 Ways to Convert Poop Into Electricity

More than half of the 15 trillion gallons of sewage Americans flush annually is processed into sludge that gets spread on farmland, lawns, and home vegetable gardens. In theory, recycling poop is the perfect solution to the one truly unavoidable byproduct of human civilization. But sludge-based as fertilizer can contain anything that goes down the drain—from Prozac flushed down toilets to motor oil hosed from factory floors. That's why an increasing number of cities have begun to explore an alternative way to dispose of sludge: advanced poop-to-power plants. By one estimate, a single American's daily sludge output can generate enough electricity to light a 60-watt bulb for more than nine hours. Here are the six most innovative ways that human waste is being converted to watts:

Poop-Eating Bacteria
Digesters similar to brewery casks house anaerobic bacteria that eat sludge and belch out methane. This technology is the oldest, cheapest, and most proven poop-to-power method. Even so, fewer than 10 percent of the nation's 6,000 public wastewater plants have the digesters; of those, just 20 percent burn the methane gas for energy (the rest simply flare it off). Flint, Michigan, and several other cities use the methane gas to fuel fleets of city buses. The problem with anaerobic digesters is that they only reduce sludge's volume by half and capture a portion of its embedded energy.

Turd Cell Smashers
Destroying the cell walls in sludge—by heating it under pressure, zapping it with ultrasonic waves, or pulsing it with electric fields—boosts its methane production by 50 percent or more in anaerobic digesters. On the downside, researchers have found that some of these processes can unleash nasty odors and even a "chemical attack" on sewage machinery.

Geological Toilets
Last summer, Los Angeles began injecting sludge into a mile-deep well, where pressure and heat are expected to release enough methane to power 1,000 homes. The well also dissolves and sequesters carbon dioxide that the sludge would normally release, removing the equivalent exhaust of about 1,000 cars per year. "This renewable energy project is absolutely electrifying," Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told the LA Times. "It will save money and make money."

Feces Ponds
As a cheaper green option, some 50 waste plants in 20 countries have installed versions of UC Berkeley professor William J. Oswald's Advanced Integrated Wastewater Pond Systems Technology--large open-air ponds that primarily rely on anaerobic digestion and photosynthesis to break down sludge and convert it into a fertilizer or animal feed of nitrogen-rich algae. The algae in turn can be used as a feedstock for biofuels. Rich Brown, an environmental scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, sees an obstacle in the ponds' huge footprint: "For rural areas it’s great," he says. "For San Francisco it wouldn’t work so well."

Sludge gasification plants are popular in Europe and especially Germany. A low-oxygen reaction transforms the solids in sludge into a carbon-rich "char" similar to BBQ briquettes. Next, the char is gasified in the presence of air to produce a syngas that can be burned for energy.

Poop Pyrotechnics
Last year, Atlanta-based EnerTech built the world's first commercial sludge "pyrolysis" plant in Southern California. Its patented SlurryCarb process converts sludge from a third of Los Angeles and Orange Counties into char pellets that replace coal at a nearby cement kiln; its ash is mixed into the cement.

One Small Poop for Man. . .
With billions in stimulus funds slated for wastewater improvements, is the time right for poop power? Such efforts, which reduce landfilling and emissions, have earned praise from some anti-sludge groups. Caroline Snyder, the founder of Citizens for Sludge-Free Land, calls it a "win-win situation."

The EPA says sludge power holds promise, but it's not ready to quit pushing sludge as a wonder fertilizer. This hasn’t deterred the sewage industry, which sees a chance to get into the renewable energy business and put a stop to the stream of health complaints and costly lawsuits. "After almost 40 years of working in biosolids," a sewage industry official wrote in a recent newsletter. "I never thought I’d say this: it is an exciting time for sludge!"

H/T to the State of Science Report: Energy and Resource Recovery from Sludge, published by the Global Water Research Coalition