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Friday, June 19, 2009

Pixar grants 10 yr olds dying wish with home viewing of Up


Colby Curtin said she did not want to die until she saw the new Disney-Pixar movie Up.



HUNTINGTON BEACH – Colby Curtin, a 10-year-old with a rare form of cancer, was staying alive for one thing – a movie.

From the minute Colby saw the previews to the Disney-Pixar movie Up, she was desperate to see it. Colby had been diagnosed with vascular cancer about three years ago, said her mother, Lisa Curtin, and at the beginning of this month it became apparent that she would die soon and was too ill to be moved to a theater to see the film.

After a family friend made frantic calls to Pixar to help grant Colby her dying wish, Pixar came to the rescue.

The company flew an employee with a DVD of Up, which is only in theaters, to the Curtins’ Huntington Beach home on June 10 for a private viewing of the movie.

The animated movie begins with scenes showing the evolution of a relationship between a husband and wife. After losing his wife in old age, the now grumpy man deals with his loss by attaching thousands of balloons to his house, flying into the sky, and going on an adventure with a little boy.

Colby died about seven hours after seeing the film.

With her daughter’s vigil planned for Friday, Lisa Curtin reflected about how grateful she is that Pixar – and "Up" – were a part of her only child’s last day.

“When I watched it, I had really no idea about the content of the theme of the movie,” said Curtin, 46. “I just know that word ‘Up’ and all of the balloons and I swear to you, for me it meant that (Colby) was going to go up. Up to heaven.”

Pixar officials declined to comment on the story or name the employees involved.


Colby was diagnosed with vascular cancer on Dec. 23, 2005 after doctors found a tumor in her liver. At the time of her death, her stomach was about 94 inches around, swollen with fluids the cancer wouldn’t let her body properly digest. The rest of her body probably weighed about 45 pounds, family friend Carole Lynch said.

Colby had gone to Newport Elementary School and was known for making others laugh, family friend Terrell Orum said. Colby loved to dance, sing, swim and seemed to have a more mature understanding of the world than other children her age, Orum said.

On April 28, Colby went to see the Dream Works 3-D movie "Monsters Vs. Aliens" but was impressed by the previews to "Up."

“It was from then on, she said, ‘I have to see that movie. It is so cool,’” Lynch said.

Colby was a movie fan, Lisa Curtin said, and she latched onto Pixar’s movies because she loved animals.

Two days later Colby’s health began to worsen. On June 4 her mother asked a hospice company to bring a wheelchair for Colby so she could visit a theater to see "Up." However, the weekend went by and the wheelchair was not delivered, Lisa Curtin said.

By June 9, Colby could no longer be transported to a theater and her family feared she would die without having seen the movie.

At that point, Orum, who desperately wanted Colby to get her last wish, began to cold-call Pixar and Disney to see if someone could help.

Pixar has an automated telephone answering system, Orum said, and unless she had a name of a specific person she wanted to speak to, she could not get through. Orum guessed a name and the computer system transferred her to someone who could help, she said.

Pixar officials listened to Colby’s story and agreed to send someone to Colby’s house the next day with a DVD of "Up," Orum recalled.

She immediately called Lisa Curtin, who told Colby.

“Do you think you can hang on?” Colby’s mother said.

“I’m ready (to die), but I’m going to wait for the movie,” the girl replied.


At about 12:30 p.m. the Pixar employee came to the Curtins’ home with the DVD.

He had a bag of stuffed animals of characters in the movie and a movie poster. He shared some quirky background details of the movie and the group settled in to watch Up.

Colby couldn't see the screen because the pain kept her eyes closed so her mother gave her a play-by-play of the film.

At the end of the film, the mother asked if her daughter enjoyed the movie and Colby nodded yes, Lisa Curtin said.

The employee left after the movie, taking the DVD with him, Lynch said.

“He couldn’t have been nicer,” said Lynch who watched the movie with the family. “His eyes were just welled up.”

After the movie, Colby’s dad, Michael Curtin, who is divorced from Lisa Curtin, came to visit.

Colby died with her mom and dad nearby at 9:20 p.m.

Among the Up memorabilia the employee gave Colby was an “adventure book” – a scrap book the main character’s wife used to chronicle her journeys.

“I’ll have to fill those adventures in for her,” Lisa Curtin said.

Contact the writer: or 949-553-2905

2012 Movie Trailer


Sony Pictures has released the first full trailer for 2012, the next big disaster film from Roland Emmerich, the director of Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and Godzilla.

Never before has a date in history been so significant to so many cultures, so many religions, scientists, and governments. 2012 is an epic adventure about a global cataclysm that brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors. Starring John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton and Oliver Platt.

To be honest, I had kinda gotten tired of the disaster movie genre as a whole, and wasn’t really looking forward to 2012 at all. But judging from this trailer, 2012 looks like it could be the first fun disaster film we’ve seen in a long while. Some of the effects-infused scenes just look incredible. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about seeing a disaster film since first witnessing the alien ship blow up the White House in the Independence Day teaser during the Superbowl. Watch the trailer after the jump (we’ve also included the international trailer which features a few different shots) and leave your thoughts in the comments below. What do you think?

International trailer:

Watch the trailer in High Definition on Yahoo. 2012 hits theaters on November 13th 2009.

Inside Jesse James’ Record-Breaking Hydrogen Racer


Motorcycle madman Jesse James has broken the land speed record for a hydrogen-powered vehicle, and he did it in a car that packs modern technology into a vintage racer more than 40 years old.

The guy behind West Coast Choppers blazed across El Mirage Dry Lake Bed at 199.7 mph in a car he claims he spent “a couple million bucks” building. He’d been toying with the idea of an alt-fuel racer, but rather than start from scratch — as BMW did with the slick H2R racer that previously held the record — he modified a ’60s-era streamliner to run on gaseous hydrogen.

“I think it’s way cooler to take an old hunk of shit that many considered useless and make it haul ass,” James told “It has built-in soul and history. Plus, it’s recycling.”

jesse_james_lsr_02That hunk of shit is a somewhat historic machine called the Dees Milodon Engineering - Davis B streamliner, and it is no stranger to the salt. The car once hit 237 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats using a Chrysler engine, and James says it set a record for a front-wheel-drive vehicle. It hadn’t seen action for awhile, and when James first saw the car it was hanging in a friend’s shop.

“I always loved the way it looked,” James said. “Kinda like an evil flying saucer.”

After getting some design help from renowned land speed racer Mike Cook, the crew at West Coast Choppers lengthened the car 24 inches and brought the frame and suspension up to modern safety specs. James handled all the bodywork himself, then called on engine expert Kurt Urban to help develop the powerplant.

They went a bit nuts, building a 572-cubic-inch twin-turbo Chevrolet engine that produces prodigious power.

“BMW set the record with liquid hydrogen, which is way easier to make a motor run on but it will never be practical for everyday cars,” James told us. “The engine produces 780 horsepower and 900 foot-pounds of torque. That’s some serious power from the world’s most plentiful resource.”

A Liberty airshifted 5-speed transmission and a Winters quick-change differential round out the drivetrain. The hydrogen is stored at 5,000 PSI in three tanks built by Quantum Technologies — the same outfit developing the plug-in electric drivetrain for Fisker Automotive.

“It sounds like an iron lung when it’s working,” James said.

James fired up the engine for the first time at 12:45 a.m. on June 8. He says sounds “like a real race car, just done in a non-ozone-killing way.” (Judge for yourself by watching a video posted here.)

By that point, the only thing left to do was suit up, get in and hold on. James made his record-setting run on Tuesday and taped it for his TV show “Jesse James Is A Dead Man.” He fell just short of his goal of 200 mph, but it was enough to top the 186.52 mph record BMW held. The speed was confirmed by the Southern California Timing Association, a sanctioning body for land speed racing .

So why did a guy known for building customized motorcycles decide to go alt-fuel racing?

“I’m not so blinded by the things I build that I can’t see change is needed,” he said. “I’m in love with anything with wheels and a big engine. I hope my son will be able to love the same things. They’ll just be running on a different kind of gas.”

The episode featuring James’ record run will air Aug. 9.

UPDATE, 12:10 p.m. ET June 19: Roy Creel, president of the Southern California Timing Association, sent this note to correct a point in the original post:

The SCTA (Southern Calif. Timing Association) was neither involved in, nor did we confirm Mr Jame’s “record.” In fact, Mr James did not set any record. What he did accomplish was to exceed an existing record speed previously set by BMW. His private timing event was timed by the same folks that time SCTA events and the course was set up by the same folks who set SCTA courses.

Main photo: Hildie Katibah for Spike TV. Second photo: Jesse James.

Woman disfigured after injecting lube into her face

If you're looking for cheaper alternatives to botox and silicone injections from the doctor to pretty up your face, think again. This lady learned the hard way.

This Twin Cities mom, who didn't want to be named, bought 100% silicone lube online and syringes at a local pharmacy and tried to inject it herself. The product clearly says it's a personal lubricant for external use only.

Her experiment ended miserably and she now has pools of lube in her lips and cheekbones. She's facing huge medical bills to fix her face.
The woman bought the silicone online for $10, hoping to make her upper lip fuller and fill in acne scars. She had previously been to a doctor who gave her silicone treatments, but the $2,700 price tag made it tough to go back again.

Despite the site's warnings about the lube, she figured it was the same because it was 100 percent silicone. So she bought it and did it herself. Bad idea. Unlike Botox and collagen, silicone is permanent because it isn't absorbed by the body. That's why she has lube pockets on her face now.

More from WCCO:
"Initially I thought I did a good job," she said. However, within a day her lips and cheek were disfigured.

"Its very frightening, its very embarrassing having to be in public," she said.

Now this Twin Cities mother will be going to California to consult with a plastic surgeon. She faces thousands of dollars in medical bills.

"I feel that some of it can be fixed. I don't know how much," she said.
Watch the video here.

The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References

The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References

Smart and funny riffs on classic cinema moments...

BY Nathan Ditum

The sharpest, smartest show on TV is famed for its sly nods to movies.

The beautifully observed homages vary from blink-and-miss single frames to shot-by-shot recreations of entire scenes.

Here's our top 50...

50. Requiem For A Dream (2000)

Episode: I’m Spelling As Fast As I Can (Season 14)

The original moment: The scuzzy lives of various Brighton Beach addicts are reduced to flick-book moments of monotonous quick snap repetition – powder-snort-hit-high – in Darren Aronofsky’s sharp drama.

The Simpsons moment: Homer becomes addicted to the latest Krusty Burger product, the Ribwich (tag line: ‘I don’t mind the taste!’), his instant-hit happiness shown with Requiem-style quick cuts. It works best if you see it in motion here.

49. The Great Escape (1963)

Episode: A Streetcar Named Marge (Season 4)

The original moment: Steve McQueen’s repeat escapist Captain Virgil Hilts is sent to solitary confinement of ‘the cooler’, and passes the time throwing a baseball against the wall over and over.

The Simpsons moment: With Marge rehearsing for her theatre production of A Streetcar Named Desire, Maggie spends the day in the Ayn Rand School For Tots. After organising a failed escape with the other babies she’s sent to a playpen called ‘the box’ and bounces a ball off the walls.

48. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Episode: Treehouse Of Horror III (Season 4)

The original moment: In a dystopian near-future England, Malcolm McDowell is Alex, the leader of a brutal gang of youths elaborately dressed in bowler hats, white shirts and eye makeup.

The Simpsons moment: In the opening segment for season four’s Halloween episode there’s a party at the Simpsons’ house, and Bart comes dressed as Alex. In the same episode there’s a King Kong spoof called King Homer.

Next: The Silence Of The Lambs, Steamboat Willie, Risky Business...

Apple Globe

How To Send Files Larger Than 1GB - Sharewood Guide

Large files sending web services are a category of online collaboration tools that is made up of those applications that allow you to send huge files, even larger than 1GB, to one or more people, and without resorting to email attachments. In this week's Sharewood Guide, Robin Good and I have selected for you the best free tools that you can use to send very large files to your contacts and workmates.

Photo credit: Mipan

To help you select which service may best fit your large file sending needs, I am listing here the key characteristics of the services that allow you to send very large files to someone else at zero cost. Here they are:

  • File size: The maximum file size that the service accepts
  • File transmission method: Most of these services let you upload files to a server, so that they can be sent to more people at once. In some other cases, rather than uploading a file to a centralize server, P2P-like services provide direct connectivity so that you can send unlimited size files, requiring you and your recipients to be online at the same time
  • Time before deletion: Lets you decide how many days (or how many downloads) the file will stay online before it gets deleted
  • Registration: Informs you whether you need to to be registered or not in order to start sending large files

Here the tools I selected for you:

How To Send Files Larger Than 1GB Services - Comparison Table

go to the table!

Tools List

  1. StreamFile
    StreamFile is a web based file sharing system that you can use to send files to any email address. Just input as many email addresses you want, pick a file up to 2GB, and click send. People will receive a download link to get the file, which you can also share via IM or as you wish.

  2. Fileai
    Fileai is a file sharing service that lets you send huge files to anyone. Just select the file you want to send, with no size limit, get the link, and share it with other people: the file will be sent directly from your PC to other people's, with no upload process. The service does not need any registration and it is free to use.

  3. Tranfer Big Files
    Transfer Big Files is a free online service that anyone can use to share files online. With no registration needed (registered accounts can also manage files), you can upload any file up to 1GB of size and share it with anyone just by typing in their email address. Files will be stored online for 5 days or 10 days if you're registered. Free to use.

  4. DropSend
    DropSend is a free website that anyone can use to store and share files online. With a simple registration and no software to install, you can easily upload any type of file up to 1GB and share with everyone by typing their email address. A message with the download link will be sent automatically to that person. Plus it can also be used to store your files online and carry them with you wherever you are. Free to use.

  5. File Dropper
    File Dropper is an online file hosting website that you can use to send large files with anyone. With no registration you can upload any file up to 5GB and, after the upload progress bar has finished, you will be given a sharing link for other people to get the file. Apart from the basic free version, other paid versions are available for password-protected sharing and up to 25GB of space per file. Free to use.

  6. PipeBytes

    PipeBytes in a web-based tool that anyone can use to share files, with no size limitation. If you want to send a file, just click the "Send" button, browse for you file, and click "Upload". You will be provided with a pick-up code, or simply with a pick-up URL, that will connect your and your friend's computer to send the file directly, with no uploading process. Free to use, no registration needed.

  7. Filemail

    Filemail is a web-based file sharing system that you can use to send an unlimited number of files, up to 2GB each, to anyone who has an email address. With no registration needed, you can send any file just by selecting it from your PC through the Flash-based interface, set the options, such as the number of days the file will be available for, type the receiver's email, and click send. When the progress bar will finish, an email will be sent to your friend with the download link. Free.

  8. ADrive

    ADrive is a new web-base file hosting solution which gives you 50 GB of online free storage for free. After you create an account, you are able to upload all of your files online through a web-upload, but a new uploading solution will be available soon. You can use ADrive as your online backup hard-drive, but you can click the button "Share", and make your files public so that anyone can access them anytime. Completely web-based and free.

  9. Podmailing

    Podmailing is a kind of P2P application for Windows and Mac machine that enables users to exchange files with absolutely no size limit. When sending a file, a notification email will be sent to the other user, and the file will be transferred directly from your PC to your recipients, who can download it using the Podmailing software, any BitTorrent client or with a standard http download, so that your recipients are not required to install the Podmailing software. Free.

Originally written by Nico Canali De Rossi and Robin Good for Master New Media and first published on August 11th 2008 as "How To Send Files Larger Than 1GB - Sharewood Guide"

Your Credit Score Versus the United States (Infographic)

Financial Responsibility in the United States

Your credit score is a very important part of personal financial health, insuring that credit is extended to you, and at the best rate possible. There are various factors considered when calculating your individual score, and it is important to be familiar with exactly how each of these positively or negatively affects your personal rating. The following map shows averages by state, so you can see how you stack up to the rest of the country.

(click to enlarge)

Credit Score Map

  • Digg

100% Electric Airplane Sets New World Speed Record

Written by Jerry James Stone

On Wednesday, June 10, astronaut Maurizo Cheli set a world record while piloting the fully electric SkySpark. During an eight-minute flight at the World Air Games 2009 in Turin, Italy, he hit a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h).

That’s a record speed for a 100-percent electrically powered aircraft.

The SkySpark, which sounds like something out of Transformers, is a specially built Pioneer Alpi 300 aircraft. It’s powered by a 75kW brushless electric motor and lithium polymer batteries. The project is coordinated by DigiSky, an Italian engineering company specializing in aeronautical applications, working in conjunction with Turin Polytechnic University.

You Might Enjoy: Air New Zealand’s Biofuel Flight Cuts Emissions By 65%

Equipped with a liquid-cooled Valentino synchronous motor by Sicme Motori, the plane has been in development since September of 2007. But according to the SkySpark website this is only an intermediate goal for the plane.

It’s expected that the craft is capable of 186 mph (300 km/h). And while these speeds are barely significant when compared to some conventional planes, the potential is noteworthy nonetheless.

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The SkySpark team hopes to keep improving the plane’s performance. Using a “hydrogen fuel cells powered engine,” they plan to increase the planes range…and of course its speed.

Maurizo Cheli , of the European Space Agency, is an experimental test pilot and the former Italian astronaut who flew aboard the NASA space shuttle mission back in 1996 (STS-75).

Source: Autoblog Green, TreeHugger

The World Beard and Moustache Championships 2009 in Anchorage, Alaska

Contestants line up at the World Beard and Moustache Championships

Contestants line up at the World Beard and Moustache Championships, which was held on Saturday 14 June in Anchorage, Alaska

Picture: Rebecca Coolidge, ACVB/

3D means new rules for directors

The rise of 3D technology for movies and television will force a change in how directors tell stories.

Say good-bye to gut-wrenching drops off cliffs and swoops through asteroid fields to call attention to 3D effects. Be prepared for directors to use slower pans, less cutting, and more deliberate camera moves to blend the technology into the story. These new 3D movies may look boring in 2D, but they'll end up feeling more engaging when seen in three dimensions.

"Unfortunately, the history of 3D is bad 3D," says Sandy Climan, CEO of 3ality, a company that makes, as he calls it, "end-to-end technologies from image capture to processing" for three-dimensional entertainment. The technology hasn't been up to snuff until recently, he says. He claims his company's tech is leagues better, naturally. But the art hasn't advanced, either, and no amount of technology can fix that. Directors need new rules.

The film, 'Up,' was released in 3D as well as 2D.

(Credit: Pixar Animation Studios)

I talked with Climan about the changes coming to cinematography and television in the move to 3D, as well as to Didier Debons and Isabelle de Montagu, CEO and business development manager of 3DTV Solutions, which makes 3D video recording products, and Tuyen Pham, CEO of A-volute, a 3D audio encoding company. The short takeaway: if you're in the video or entertainment business, forget what you know about directing and editing. 3D changes everything.

Think 3D is a gimmick and that professional cinematographers and television directors don't take it seriously? Financials, Climan says, dispute this. 3D films in 3D theaters gross two to five times what the 2D versions of those films do. Commercials in 3D yield better recall rates. And it's not just the novelty factor, Climan says. If so, the trend would have faded. Grosses for 3D films are growing.

"The family movie business has largely moved to 3D," Climan continues, pointing to films like "Journey to the Center of the Earth," "Coraline," and "Up"--the last two having being taken far more seriously than standard 3D matinee fare. On the grownup front, Climan says that for sports and concerts, there's nothing like the 3D movie or TV experience. The upcoming James Cameron film, "Avatar" is a 3D production and is expected to be a watershed for mainstream 3D entertainment.

For now, the growth of 3D looks inevitable. The next step for the medium, after family films and fantastic blockbusters, is for 3D to move into independent and artisan films. Climan thinks the technology is becoming straightforward enough to make that likely.

How do you zoom?

If you accept that 3D on-screen entertainment is a growth market, how do you create the content for it? Companies like 3ality and 3DTV Solutions will deliver camera systems for you, but they don't direct your shows. Using the technology effectively requires a new art.

3DTV's camera rig has eight lenses and sensors.

(Credit: 3DTV Solutions)

De Montagu of 3DTV told me, "If you are looking at 3D it is because you want to be as close to reality as possible." That means, she said, you need to write more realistic shooting scripts. Using 3D primarily for special effects is counterproductive. "The brain doesn't get it," de Montagu says.

The purpose of 3D has to be to render reality. You can push a viewer's willing suspension of disbelief quite far in a 2D show, since we've been trained to "read" movies and accept unreal conventions, like zooming and cutting. But in 3D, if you push it too far, you break the illusion. The viewer has to feel like they're in real life.

And that means no reliance on many standard cinematic methods, including zooming and cutting back and forth between people talking to each other. The viewer can get confused, even physically sick if you immerse them in a world that's constantly shifting. "You don't zoom in real life," A-Volute's Pham said. And if you do rapid-fire cuts and move the sound stage around the audience with the visuals, he says, plainly, "you will get sick."

Climan says, "In 2D, you move the camera to create a sense of motion. In 3D, you leave the camera since the audience is in the middle of things. You need to have many fewer camera moves. In sports, you just leave the camera in a low position, and you feel like you're on the field. You have a much more clear view of the players in 3D due to the dimensionality."

3ality is launching a service, "3DIQ," to train people in 3D video and cinematography, but it's clearly an emerging art form. As 3DTV's de Montagu says, "We are going back to the fundamentals of audio and vision."

Climan says that educating a film crew to shoot for 3D is not terribly difficult. To turn out an episode of "Chuck," in 3D, he says, it took about one and a half days to get "the 2D crew" adjusted to the new medium. "They didn't miss a beat."

However, while a film shot for 3D might play fine on 2D equipment, it clearly won't feel as engaging if displayed in 2D as a show shot for the old-fashioned flat medium, with its jump cuts and zooms and sweeping pans. So directors will have to make a choice of primary format or shoot things twice. In big sports events, Climan says, "there will be a director for 2D and a director for 3D."

(Personally, I hope no video, movie, or game ever gets released without a 2D version alongside it, since I'm one of the small percentage of people--about 7 percent, I'm told--whose eyes and brain don't process true 3D correctly. Every 3D demo I have ever seen either looks like double vision to me, makes me queasy, or both.)

Emerging technologies

Anyone who's watched 3D content knows that the technology to play it is evolving, to put it kindly.

"The good stuff requires glasses," Climan says, which makes the at-home experience troubling. Who wants to walk to the fridge wearing glass that make the real world look odd (which they do)? But there are technologies coming out that get us part of the way there without it.

The 3DTV team showed me a demo using another company's monitor with a lenticular grating on it ("It puts the glasses on the screen," Didier Debons said) that gave what appeared to me a decent 3D experience without requiring that I wear glasses. However, to support this and all the other 3D technologies, the company's camera system has eight lenses on a horizontal mount, not the usual two lenses most people think of when they imagine a steroscopic camera rig.

The 3D audio technology by A-Volute does not require any special equipment at the listener's location, and is quite remarkable. Using signal processing and a model of how the inner ear, outer ear, and a person's head changes the shape of the sound the ear hears and that the brain translates into positional information, it can play, over ordinary stereo speakers and without relying on bouncing sounds off walls, sounds that you will swear are coming from behind you or above you.

The demo I heard made my jaw drop. The technology can add positional cues to sounds in real-time, making it useful not just for movies and TV shows, but for games and for military and transportation applications as well. Bose has competitive technology.

3D is still seen as gimmick by most consumers, but it's becoming more mainstream. That means content producers and artists will be thinking about 3D content more in the near future: Not just how to have it call attention to itself, but rather how to have 3D fade, as it were, into the background of the storytelling.

Got $100? Welcome to your new Detroit home

By Ashley Fantz

(CNN) -- If an e-mail popped up in your inbox promising a house for $100, you'd expect to see it sent from a guy in Nigeria asking you to wire him several thousand dollars first.

Zeb Smith lies on his front lawn and spends a quiet afternoon with his neighbors.

Zeb Smith lies on his front lawn and spends a quiet afternoon with his neighbors.

But this depressed housing market dream is real. And Detroit, Michigan, artist Jon Brumit and his wife, Sarah, are living it.

The couple never counted on owning a home.

"It's not that we have a little money," Jon Brumit said, laughing. "I'm saying we have no money."

But the couple began entertaining the idea of a permanent nest when their friends Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert, also artists, started taking advantage of foreclosures in the city, where the average home price dipped to $11,533 in April, according to the Detroit Association of Realtors.

Dragging down the average are homes that are long abandoned or foreclosed on that are selling for pennies on the dollar. Detroit already had the lowest market value houses in Michigan before the latest rounds of job losses at GM and other huge employers, market analysts say.

"Those artists are doing a good thing; they are at least helping to stabilize neighborhoods that would be all but lost," said Mike Shedlock, an investment adviser who blogs frequently about Detroit's economy.

Jon Brumit and his wife, Sarah, in their new home shortly after buying it, under the huge hole in the roof.

Jon Brumit and his wife, Sarah, in their new home shortly after buying it, under the huge hole in the roof.

For less than a few thousand dollars, Cope and Reichert snapped up a dilapidated bungalow in a north Detroit neighborhood called "BanglaTown," for its unexpected mix of Bangladeshis, African-Americans, Polish and Ukrainians and the occasional shady character.

Scrappers had cleaned the house to the bone. The copper had been stolen; the electrical wiring was stripped.

But no matter. Here was a chance for Cope and Reichert, who run a popular Detroit art store, to rehabilitate the 1920s brick house into a bastion of energy savings, with solar panels, LED lights, recycled wood and high-end insulated windows.

They're installing a security system that exemplifies elegant efficiency with hurricane-proof windows and steel doors replacing burglar bars. They are also experimenting with running their air-conditioning on a car battery.

Detroit artist Jon Brumit's $100 home last winter before any repairs.

Detroit artist Jon Brumit's $100 home last winter before any repairs.

The project became known as the Power House. Cope and Reichert wanted to create a central place to power homes nearby and, in turn, revive a neighborhood's sense of community.

The trick was getting their friends not only to cheer the concept but invest in it by moving next door.

"It was much easier than we thought it might be," Cope said. "We told everyone that Detroit is an interesting city to work in as an artist, and the neighborhood is diverse. But, really, it came down to money."

"I kept telling Mitch, 'Wow those are an awesome, ridiculously good deals but if you find anything that's less, let me know," Brumit said. "Like, if something comes along for next to nothing, cool."

A few weeks later, Cope e-mailed Brumit a photo of an abandoned home on his block. Its windows were boarded up and plywood was nailed across the front door. The huge hole in the roof was courtesy of the fire department. A neighbor said the house had been set on fire -- twice.

Pricetag: $100. Brumit called a real estate agent with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, who confirmed that bids on the foreclosed property started at $95 for the property, $5 for the house. There were no back taxes -- no one seemed to be sure who once owned the house, it had been empty for so long, Brumit said.

Cope, also a designer and builder, and an inspector did a walk-through.

"Inspection was fine and Mitch told me the foundation was good," Brumit said. "He just said, 'If you didn't mind scraping some peeling paint, doing some surface treatments, putting in new utilities, windows and repairing the roof ... this could be pretty interesting.'"

Now, when he's not hauling loads of rubble away or knocking out walls to create a single, open studio space, Brumit's searching Craigslist for a furnace. In exchange for designing the business Web site of a local barn recycler, he's getting materials to turn that hole in his roof into a skylight.

"I saw it as a project," the artist said. "I'm a builder. I've been building skateboards since I was 12."

Skateboards are one thing. Rebuilding homes where the plumbing has been ripped out or the cabinets destroyed in a fit by an upset foreclosed homeowner is another. Michigan housing authorities acknowledge that there's little incentive for people who aren't quite as handy as Brumit.

In two weeks, the state will begin offering $25,000 to anyone who buys a home, as long as they pay 1 percent of the total cost and live in it. Landlords or speculators aren't eligible.

Part of a $263 million grant given to Michigan and other states under 2008's Housing and Economic Recovery Act, the funds are intended to help buyers bring trashed properties up to code, according to Mary Townley, a director with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

She and other housing officials CNN spoke with said Michigan's economy has some extremely frustrating woes. A report from the nonprofit think tank Brookings Institution said Detroit had the lowest performing economy out of 100 U.S. cities it analyzed -- scoring the worst in unemployment and average wages, the highest foreclosure rates and the lowest market value homes.

The artists in BanglaTown are careful to say they are not looking to change a city. Their goal is simply to improve a neighborhood, one house at a time.

New neighbors, freelance photographer Corine Vermeulen-Smith and her husband Zeb Smith, a designer, are always checking out, where a stainless steel kitchen sink can be bought for $65.

The Smiths bought their 660-square-foot home for $549.99 from Cope and Reichert, who originally purchased the foreclosed home for $500. "We knew the property, we knew it had been sitting there empty for at least a year, and it had been trashed," Vermeulen-Smith said. "But we wanted to own a home."

All the copper in their "micro-home" had been ripped out, as well as every electrical outlet, Vermeulen-Smith said. Trash had to be hauled out in several loads.

"You have to get over that fear that the house had that history, that you're going to be a victim of a crime or something," she said. "Crime is everywhere. My husband and I have lived in the city for a long time; we know that people look out for each other here. We don't have that kind of fear."

Careful not to entice thieves again, the Smiths replaced the copper with plastic. They are considering taking the home completely off the grid by installing a mini-wind turbine, but for now they are happy to put in the basics.

A bathtub from Habitat for Humanity cost them $100. And Zeb Smith, who works at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, brings home wood the museum would otherwise toss when installations close.

"This is, for us, very exciting to believe that we could totally reinvent a space," she said, "and prove that having a home isn't about having money."

Puppy power: Heroic 9/11 rescue dog is cloned five times after winning competition

By Claire Bates

A dog who was hailed for his heroism during the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been cloned.

Scientists said they have successfully produced five puppies who are genetic copies of Trackr, a German Shepherd who searched for survivors in the rubble of the World Trade Centre.

The puppies called Trustt, Valor, Prodigy, Solace and Deja Vu, are aged between two and six months.

Enlarge James Symington and puppies

James Symington poses with five puppies cloned from his faithful friend Trackr, who passed away in April

The faithful hound died in April aged 16, but before he passed away his owner James Symington entered a contest that offered to clone a pet dog for free. It currently costs owners about £75,000 to clone their pet.

Trackr was judged to be the most 'cloneworthy dog' after the former police officer from Canada wrote an impassioned essay.

'Once in a lifetime, a dog comes along that not only captures the hearts of all he touches but also plays a private role in history,' Mr Symington wrote.

He said he hopes to put the five new dogs to work in search-and-rescue teams.


The puppies are the first German Shepherds ever cloned, according BioArts International


Trackr, pictured with owner James Symington, helped find the last survivor from the New York terrorist attacks in September 2001

The Best Friends Again contest was run by Californian company BioArt International, who claim to have the sole worldwide license for cloning dogs and cats. They partnered with the controversial cloning specialist Hwang Woo-Suk from South Korea to create Trackr's clones.

Hwang's team replaced the genes in eggs from random dogs with genes harvested from Trakr. They grew into embryos after they were stimulated and were then placed in surrogate mothers.

'Trakr's story blew us away,' said Lou Hawthorne, CEO of BioArts.

'His many remarkable capabilities were proven beyond all doubt on our nation's darkest hour.'

However, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said they had concerns about the health of cloned dogs.

They released a statement that said: 'Our current knowledge of animal cloning indicates that there are important welfare concerns at issue.

'Reports on the health and condition of mammalian animals produced by cloning have indicated a variety of anatomical and physiological problems.'

First Spaceport Ever Begins Construction this Friday

By Jesus Diaz

This newly-released image shows the sun rising over Spaceport America. It hasn't been built yet, but construction starts this Friday. It will be the beginning of the real future, the stuff dreams are made of.*

Spaceport America will be the first spaceport in history, and it will host commercial operations by private space travel companies, like Virgin Galactic.

I'm sure that—in a few centuries—this structure will be buried under multiple layers belonging to another huge structure: A giant spaceport—one of many in the world—in which massive spacecrafts will be lifting off and arriving from trips from the Moon, Mars, Titan, and Europa. Or at least, I hope that's what will happen.

If you are around, you can attend the historic groundbreaking ceremony—the first step in its construction—on Friday, June 19, 2009. Check the link for details. [Spaceport America]

* Apparently, the stuff dreams are made of look like vaginas from the air. Rubber vaginas.

Dancing in the Street: Hammer Pants Flash Mob Strikes Again!

Group of dancers wearing Hammer Pants moves on to flashmob Santa Monica Blvd and surprise hipsters waiting in line at a club.
It's HammerTime!

Samsung's e-passport turns your head into a rotating government specimen

Samsung (and your local government) hasn't been shy with its plans for electrifying passports. Yet we still haven't seen video of its e-passport with flexible OLED display in action, 'till now. The 2-inch, 240x320 AMOLED displays a disembodied, rotating head in 260k colors and 10k:1 contrast when activated by an RF source reader. No details were provided as to when these might enter production but we have the icky feeling it'll be sooner than we want.

[Via OLED-Info]

Sonic Black Hole Traps Sound Waves

Eric Bland, Discovery News

Sound Vacuum
Sound Vacuum | Discovery News Video

June 17, 2009 -- A black hole created by Israeli scientists won't destroy Earth, but it could make our planet just a little bit less noisy.

Using Bose-Einstein condensates, the scientists created a black hole for sound. The new research could help scientists learn more about true black holes and help confirm the existence of as-yet to be discovered Hawking radiation.

"It's like a black hole because waves get sucked in and can't escape," said Jeff Steinhauer, a scientist at the Israel Institute of Technology and the corresponding author of the article recently posted on the pre-print Web page. "But in this case we use sound waves instead of light."

To create the sonic black hole, the scientists first had to create the Bose-Einstein condensate, a cloud of atoms cooled to almost absolute zero that acts like a light wave. The Israeli scientists actually created two clouds of rubidium 87 atoms cooled to 50 nano Kelvins and separated by a small gap.

The gap is key. Known as a "density inversion," the gap creates a region of space with a very low density, allowing atoms to flow between the two clouds virtually unimpeded at nearly three millimeters per second. That's more than four times the speed of sound.

It's an inversion because unlike Earth's atmosphere, where the clouds are lighter than the air underneath, the Bose-Einstein condensate clouds are denser than the space below them.

Since atoms move between the clouds faster than sound, any sound wave trying to escape will fall farther and farther behind, never able to escape the sonic event horizon.

"It's like trying to swim slowly against a fast current," said Steinhauer. "The sound waves fall behind because the current is moving faster than the waves."

Scientists observed the sonic black hole for a total of eight milliseconds using lasers. Since it's a sonic black hole, not a true black hole, light waves, which travel much faster than sound waves, can still escape.

According to James Anglin, a professor at the Technische Universitat Kaiserslautern, scientists in Germany, the United States, and Austria and elsewhere have tried to create a sonic black hole since they were first theorized back in the early 1980s by the Canadian physicist Bill Unruh. But Steinhauer and his colleagues have been the first to actually create one.

"Jeff's experiment confirms that it really is possible to create a reasonably stable supersonic flow in a superfluid gas," said Anglin. The research "will give us a new perspective on some really deep issues involving quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and gravity."

Specifically, Steinhauser wants to use his sonic black hole to help confirm the existence of the predicted, but as yet unobserved, Hawking radiation.

First predicted by the physicist Steven Hawking in 1974, Hawking radiation is radiation is theoretically emitted from just outside the event horizon of a black hole. Its existence would mean matter can escape from a true black hole.

If the amount of matter being ejected from the black hole is greater than the amount of incoming mass, the black hole will eventually evaporate.

Despite numerous ongoing efforts, definitive proof of Hawking radiation has eluded scientists. According to the theory, Hawking radiation is just slightly below the temperature of the surrounding area, making it very difficult to detect.

The sonic black hole equivalent of Hawking radiation would be a a cloud of phonons, basically vibrating packets of energy that behave like particles. Phonons escaping from a black hole could be found easily, as a small cloud between the two large clouds of Bose-Einstein condensates, or with more difficulty, as one cloud sitting on top of another.

Finding such a cloud of phonons wouldn't definitively confirm Hawking radiation, but it would lend experimental evidence to its existence, says Steinhauer.

"This is about understanding the basic laws of physics," said Steinhauer. "What this research is good for in day to day life I'm not sure, but we as humans want to understand how the universe works."