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Friday, March 18, 2011

An iPhone App Helps the Blind Identify Currency


For the millions of blind people living in the United States, paying for something in cash can pose major challenges because there is no difference between the size and shape of a $1 or $100 bill. To tackle this problem, many blind people set up systems to identify a bill’s value by folding the notes into different sizes and shapes, which then make them easily identifiable later.

A new application, the LookTel Money Reader, available for $2 on the Apple iOS platform, hopes to help solve this problem by taking advantage of the devices camera to “read money” and speak the value of the currency out loud.

According to the company’s Web site, LookTel recognizes all United States currency and can read $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills aloud.

LookTel, which is made by the software company Ipplex, says the app can recognize currency denominations in real-time. This means that users can simply wave their phone in the direction of the currency and it will speak the bill’s value as it falls into view of the camera. The application does not require an Internet connection.

The currency reading software will soon be available on other platforms, LookTel said.

Identifying United States currency has long been a problem for the visually impaired. Other countries print currency on different sizes and shapes specifically to help people with sight problems identify the different denominations through touch.

Last year, a federal appellate court ruled that under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Treasury Department must change the currency to make it more accessible to the visually impaired.

The iPhone’s software already offers a number of features to assist the visually impaired. Under the phone’s Settings menu, users can navigate to an Accessibility area, which enables them to enlarge the phone’s graphics and text. Apple also offers Voice Over, which speaks text aloud when the phone’s screen is touched.

How does a nuclear meltdown work? (w/ Video)


This illustration of a nuclear reactor shows water entering the core and surrounding the fuel rods (vertical red bars). When the water level decreases, the fuel rods begin to heat up and face the risk of melting. Image from video below.
( -- When working properly, nuclear reactors produce large amounts of heat via nuclear fission reactions. The heat converts the surrounding water into steam, which turns turbines and generates electricity. But if you remove the water, you also remove the most important cooling element in a nuclear reactor and open up the possibility for nuclear meltdown.

A handful of nuclear meltdowns of varying degrees of severity have occurred since the 1950s, when researchers began building and testing nuclear reactors. The most serious instance happened in 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Plagued by design flaws and operator errors, the plant experienced fires, explosions, and radiation leakage. As a result, 30 people died of acute radiation syndrome, and thousands of cases of fatal cancers and birth defects have been reported in the following years. Today, limited access is allowed inside a 30-km (19-mile) exclusion zone surrounding the area.

By comparison, the Three Mile Island accident in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was much less serious. In 1979, a minor cooling system malfunction led to a series of events that caused a partial meltdown that damaged one of the reactors. However, very little radiation was released into the environment due to the surrounding primary containment vessel. Although the accident caused public concern, no deaths or adverse health effects have been officially attributed to the meltdown.

In Japan, the current nuclear crisis at the Daiichi power plant lies somewhere in between Three Mile Island and , according to recent news reports. Last Friday’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 10-meter (33-foot) tsunami waves that traveled up to 10 km (6 miles) inland overpowered several of the plant’s safety measures. Although employees at the plant have been risking their lives to try to keep the reactors cool, the chance of a serious meltdown seems to be increasing.

Inside a reactor

Inside the core of a are thousands of long, thin made of zirconium alloy that contain uranium. When a reactor is turned on, the uranium nuclei undergo , splitting into lighter nuclei and producing heat and neutrons. The neutrons can create a self-sustaining chain reaction by causing nearby uranium nuclei to split, too. Fresh water flows around the fuel rods, keeping the fuel rods from overheating and also producing steam for a turbine.

But if not enough water flows into the reactor’s core, the fuel rods will boil the water away faster than it can be replaced, and the water level will decrease. Even when the reactor is turned off so nuclear reactions no longer occur, the fuel rods remain extremely radioactive and hot and need to be cooled by water for an extended period of time. Without enough water, the fuel rods get so hot that they melt. If they begin to melt the core and the steel containment vessel, and release radiation into the environment, nuclear meltdown occurs.

What's happening at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Video credit: Reuters.

Japan’s cooling problems

When the earthquake struck Japan, three of the six reactors (Reactors 4, 5, and 6) at the Fukushima power plant were already off for routine inspections. Earthquake tremors triggered the automatic shutdown of the other three reactors, Reactors 1, 2, and 3 (along with eight other nuclear reactors at other power plants). To stop the chain reaction, control rods that absorb neutrons were inserted in between the fuel rods.

But the fuel rods are still hot, since radioactive byproducts of past fission reactions continue to produce heat. When the earthquake tore down the power lines, the plant’s main cooling system stopped working. As a backup measure, diesel generators turned on to spray the fuel rods with coolant. But the tsunami that occurred shortly after the earthquake was larger than the plant’s designers had anticipated, and water flowed over the retaining wall and into the area with the generators, causing them to fail. The next backup measure for cooling the fuel rods was a battery system, but the batteries lasted only a few hours. Later, technicians brought in mobile generators and also attempted to inject seawater into the nuclear reactors, which makes them permanently unusable but could help prevent a complete meltdown

While the nuclear technicians searched for better cooling options, the water levels continued to decrease, exposing the tops of the fuel rods. Pressure also began building in some of the reactors. So far, at least three explosions have occurred in Reactors 1, 2, and 3. The explosions happened when the fuel rods began to melt and release gases that reacted with the surrounding steam, producing hydrogen. To release some pressure and prevent explosions, technicians vented some of the reactors, which also released some radioactive material into the environment. Officials have said that the pressure in Reactor 2 dropped significantly after the explosion there, suggesting that the explosion breached the steel containment structure - the reactor’s “last resort” for containing leaked radiation.

Also, a fire ignited at Reactor 4, thought to be caused by a large pile of spent fuel rods in a pond. Spent fuel rods need to be kept fully submerged in water for cooling, but the lack of water has left some of the rods partially exposed. Smoke from the fire temporarily increased radiation levels around the reactor, so preventing future fires is very important. The Fukushima plant has seven ponds of spent fuel rods from the past few decades. By some estimates, there may be as many as half a million spent fuel rods that are still radioactive and could catch fire if not kept cool.

Japanese officials have stated that radiation around the nuclear reactors has risen to the level where it would adversely affect a person’s health. Officials have implemented a 20-km (12-mile)-radius evacuation zone, and have advised people to stay indoors. The US has told its citizens living in the area to stay at least 50 miles away from the power plant. Some people have been taking prophylactic iodine as a safety measure; consuming this non-radioactive iodine before exposure to radioactive iodine can fill a person’s thyroid and hopefully prevent absorption of the radioactive variety. Fortunately, westerly winds have so far blown much of the radioactive material out to sea.

Overall, because the extreme events that caused the cooling problems are so rare and unexpected, it’s difficult to predict exactly what will happen next for Japan’s nuclear plants.

More information: via: IEEE Spectrum, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and National Geographic

© 2010

Even Penguins Need to Stretch Their Legs on Long Flights


Penguins Adam Foster FLICKR Everyone knows that penguins can't fly, but that doesn't mean that they don't need to get up and stretch their legs on long, cross-country flights.

Similar to the television appearances that I do on behalf of National Wildlife Federation, my friend Julie Scardina of SeaWorld goes on TV with live animals to help educate and inspire people to protect wildlife.

Sometimes, the animals for a TV segment that is being shot in Los Angeles or New York City have to be flown in from other parts of the country.

In the case of penguins, Julie and the SeaWord animal trainers have struck a deal with the airlines that not only gets the birds out of their travel crates on these flights but also gives the human passengers a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

One such passenger captured the experience on a cell phone video.

And here's a similar video with a comedic voiceover provided by none other than "David Attenborough" himself!

Sadly, many penguins species are on the decline, in large part due to the effects of global climate change.

Photo of penguins by Adam Foster via Flickr Creative Commons.

Boston Movie Trailer

Boston is such an incredible city and is in basically every movie that it needed a movie of its own

this Funny or Die trailer for the ultimate Boston movie, Boston Movie. All of your favorites are represented — Good Will Hunting, The Departed, The Town, The Fighter and Fever Pitch — and they cut together surprisingly well. Like, I’d see this thing! Ya chowderhead! Ahem. Click ahead to watch, then stick around for more Buzz Break.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates Back in the old days

Six Steps to the Perfect Pint of Guinness

Guinness Brewmaster Fergal Murray clears up the mystery of pouring the perfect pint

1. Always us a clean, dry 20 oz Imperial pint glass

2. Hold glass at 45 degree angle and never allow the spout to touch beer or glass

3. Pull faucet down and allow beer to fill glass

4. Allow the nitrogen bubbles surge, creating the beautiful creamy head

5. Once the beer has settled (distinct gap between dark liquid and head), the glass is topped up slowly to create a domed effect on the head

6. Give this creation of the perfect pint to an adoring customer

NASA's humanoid robot unveiled on space station


In this March 15, 2011 photo provided by NASA, astronaut Scott Kelly, Expedition 26 commander, right, poses with Robonaut 2, the dexterous humanoid as
AP – In this March 15, 2011 photo provided by NASA, astronaut Scott Kelly, Expedition 26 commander, right, …

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The first humanoid robot ever launched into space is finally free.

Astronauts at the International Space Station unpacked Robonaut on Tuesday, 2 1/2 weeks after its arrival via shuttle Discovery. NASA broadcast the humorous unveiling ceremony Wednesday.

American Catherine Coleman and Italian Paolo Nespoli pried off the lid of the robot's packing box, as though they were opening a coffin. TV cameras showed lots of foam inside, but no robot.

"It's like unearthing a mummy," radioed a payload controller at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

"Well, at least the mummy would be here," Coleman replied. "We just have an empty box where Robonaut is supposed to be."

Robonaut — also known as R2 — was spotted a minute later in front of a work station.

"I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of our crew," Coleman said. "We're going to see what Robonaut can do."

The payload controller asked if R2 was related to HAL, the sinister computer with artificial intelligence from the 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey."

"Since we found him already controlling the space station, we're sure that he is related to HAL. But we'll see," Coleman said.

In a Twitter update, R2 announced: "Check me out. I'm in space!" A NASA employee on the ground posted the tweet.

Nespoli attached NASA's waist-high R2 to a fixed pedestal, where it will remain with its fists clenched and its arms folded against its chest until testing begins in May. The robotic team at Johnson Space Center in Houston wants to see how R2 performs in weightlessness. The robot is intended as an astronaut helper, inside the space station, in the decade ahead.

Legs should arrive next year.

R2's earthbound twin spent Wednesday at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, performing demonstrations for children.




10 Commercials That Sells Sex Instead of Their Product *VIDEO*

by Maurice Cox

Ohk, so its a fact, sex sells. But how far does a company have to go to sell their product? What happen to telling us about the product itself, what it does and how it would beneficial to us? Well I guess that don't work, so here buy thing and you can have sex! LOL

Here are 10 of the sexiest commercials we have ever seen, if you seem more please list them so we can put them up in part 2 of this article

Nissan commercial

Banned Sprite Commercial

NewYorker Women Underwear Commercial

Base London Commercial

426 Brand Commercial

Cool Beer Commercial

Panasonic Commercial

Microsoft Commercial

Napster Commercial

Guinness Commercial

Van Damme Friday - Long Lost Version Of Cyborg Found

Josh Hylton writes for Bleeding Cool

Fans of cheesy, old school martial arts films rejoice! A long lost cut of the Jean Claude Van Damme film Cyborg has been found and it’s available for all to see.

Editor’s note: Some of you seem to have read this as it being FREE. That’s not the case. They are charging. Just like with any DVD, of course.

First, the story behind the discovery…

Back in the late 80′s, Cannon Films, a now defunct distribution company, was readying itself to release two major movies, a sequel to Masters of the Universe and a live action Spider-Man. After spending a couple million dollars in pre-production on those films, they realized they had no more and had to pull the plug on both. To make up for their losses, they rushed out Cyborg.

After its 24 day shoot, the director of the project, Albert Pyun, left due to disputes between him and the other parties, namely Cannon and JCVD. After his departure, Cyborg was cut down to get an R rating and the darker musical score by Jim Saad and Tony Riparetti was replaced by a lighter score by Kevin Bassinson.

That X-rated version with the original score intact is what has just been found. Sure, it’s not exactly a treasured discovery (Metropolis this isn’t), but it’s worth checking out all the same. Pyun is making and shipping the DVD’s himself, so if you’re interested, apparently all you have to do is shoot an e-mail to to get a copy. Enjoy.

Editor’s second note: Oh… now I see why you thought it was free. Ambiguous wording… Well, it’s not free. But that’s not the point. It’s a very interesting, unusual, long-lost piece of Pyun-ana.