mardi 19 mars 2013

Technological Breakthrough Allows Scientists to Read Your Mind

Most of us have heard the old adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." In other words, keep your negative thoughts to yourself. But what if someone could read your thoughts?
A new technological breakthrough allows scientists to see what people are imagining; they can even decipher what number a person has just seen, what video the person has just watched, or what particular memory the person is recalling.
Imaging has become so sophisticated that researchers at Cornell University were able to deduce the mental picture of imaginary people that brain scan subjects were inventing in their heads. Neuroscientist Nathan Spreng said of the study, "We are trying to understand the physical mechanisms that allow us to have an inner world, and a part of that is how we represent other people in our mind."
Here's how the experiment went: Researchers gave 19 volunteers descriptions of four imaginary people, whose personalities had certain positive and negative attributes. The scientists gave names and genders to the imaginary people and asked those participating in the study to imagine how the fictitious people might behave in various situations. Then the scientists scanned each volunteer's brain, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which analyzed the blood flow to different parts. They discovered that the volunteers' thinking about each fake person yielded a different pattern of activity. Therefore, the researchers could determine which person the volunteers were thinking about each time, without the volunteers' saying a word.
Spreng said, "this is the first study to show that we can decode what people are imagining."
So while this scientific breakthrough allows scientists to read your thoughts, it's comforting to know that you would have to have your brain scanned in order for them to do so -- they're not just using telepathy.

vendredi 8 mars 2013

Father of all humankind is 340,000 years old

DNA evidence has revealed that the oldest known common male ancestor is 340,000 years old, more than twice as old as previous estimates.
New Scientist reports that the sample comes from a recently deceased man named Albert Perry. After the African-American South Carolina man died, one of his relatives submitted a sample of his DNA to a company called Family Tree DNA for analysis.
The findings were published in the The American Journal of Human Genetics and may require researchers to adjust the known timeline of humankind’s evolution.
And the historical mark came at something of a bargain—the company does historical DNA analysis on individuals for about $150.
All previously compared DNA samples pointed to a common Y chromosome traced back to man who lived between 60,000 and 140,000 years ago. But Perry’s DNA sample broke the trend, not matching up with this common ancestor.
"It's a cool discovery," Jon Wilkins of the Ronin Institute in Montclair, N.J., told New Scientist. "We geneticists have been looking at Y chromosomes about as long as we've been looking at anything. Changing where the root of the Y-chromosome tree is at this point is extremely surprising."
After the initial tests on Perry’s DNA, geneticists at the University of Arizona conducted further tests to confirm the anomaly. The Y chromosome in Perry’s test matched up with those of 11 men who all lived in one village in Cameroon.
University of Arizona researcher Michael Hammer says Perry’s DNA suggests there may have been an earlier species of humans that went extinct—but not before interbreeding with the more modern version of man.

jeudi 7 mars 2013

Modal Verbs

North Korea ends peace pacts with South

North Korea says it is scrapping all non-aggression pacts with South Korea, closing its hotline with Seoul and shutting their shared border point.
The announcement follows a fresh round of UN sanctions punishing Pyongyang for its nuclear test last month.
Earlier, Pyongyang said it reserved the right to a pre-emptive nuclear strike against its "aggressors".
The US said it took the threats seriously, but that "extreme rhetoric" was not unusual for Pyongyang.
South Korea's defence ministry said that the North would become "extinct" if it went through with its threat.
The North Korean announcement, carried on the KCNA state news agency, said the North was cancelling all non-aggression pacts with the South and closing the main Panmunjom border crossing inside the Demilitarized Zone.It also said it was notifying the South that it was "immediately" cutting off the North-South hotline.
The hotline, installed in 1971, is intended as a means of direct communication at a time of high tension, but is also used to co-ordinate the passage of people and goods through the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone.
KCNA said the hotline, which has been severed several times before, "can no longer perform its mission due to the prevailing grave situation".
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is also reported to have visited front-line military units that were involved in the shelling of a South Korean island in 2010.
KCNA said he had urged the soldiers there to keep themselves ready to "annihilate the enemy" at any time, and reconfirmed so-called "enemy targets" on five islands in the West Sea.
'Extreme rhetoric'
Seoul's defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said that if the North were to carry out a nuclear attack on South Korea it would become "extinct from the Earth by the will of mankind".He also warned that in response to any provocation from the North, Seoul would "immediately" turn the US-South Korean military drills currently being conducted "into a punishment mode to respond to it as planned".
The US, the main focus of North Korean ire, said it was capable of protecting itself and its allies from any attacks.
"One has to take what any government says seriously," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said of the nuclear threat.
"It is for that reason that I repeat here that we are fully capable of defending the United States. But I would also say that this kind of extreme rhetoric has not been unusual for this regime, unfortunately."
Senator Robert Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said North Korea knew what the cost of any attack would be."I don't think that the regime in Pyongyang wants to commit suicide, but that as they must surely know, that would be the result of any attack on the United States," he said.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council in New York unanimously backed Resolution 2094, imposing the fourth set of sanctions against the North.
The resolution targets North Korean diplomats, cash transfers and access to luxury goods.
It imposes asset freezes and travel bans on three individuals and two firms linked to North Korea's military.
South Korea's ambassador to the UN, Kim Sook, said it was time for North Korea to "wake up from its delusion" of becoming a nuclear state.
"It can either take the right path toward a bright future and prosperity, or it can take a bad road toward further and deeper isolation and eventual self-destruction," he said.
US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the sanctions would "further constrain" North Korea's ability to develop its nuclear programme.
She warned that the UN would "take further significant actions" if Pyongyang were to carry out another nuclear test.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang issued a statement supporting the UN resolution and describing it as a "moderate response".
He said China - North Korea's sole ally - urged "relevant parties" to stay calm and said the main priority was to "defuse the tensions, bring down heat" and restart negotiations with Pyongyang.
Before the UN vote, Pyongyang accused the US of pushing to start a war.
"As long as the United States is willing to spark nuclear war, our forces will exercise their right to a pre-emptive nuclear strike," said North Korea's foreign ministry, in a statement carried by the KCNA news agency.


Over 76 million Xbox 360 gaming consoles have been sold since it debuted back in 2005. While the system underwent a redesign in 2011, in the gaming world, that’s eons ago. So this year, everyone expects a new Xbox, and the rumors are flying as to what new features might be added and when it might be unveiled.
What will it be called?
We know the new device is code-named Durango, but will the official release name be “Xbox 720?” Or, as others have noted, Microsoft recently snapped up domain names for Xbox8, with the 8 doubling as a symbol implying the name “Xbox Infinity.”
Faster Graphics, 3D, a DVR, Blu-Ray, and a Supercharged Kinect Rumors
Whatever the name, the new Xbox is said to run on chipsets six to eight times more powerful than today’s device. As always, Microsoft wants to convert PC Gamers to Xbox enthusiasts.
All new Xbox consoles will have a 500 GB hard drive minimum, mostly for entertainment, but all games will have to be installed. According to gaming site Kotaku, the console will have an 8-core, 64-bit CPU running at 1.6ghz, and 800mhz DirectX 11.x graphics processor units.
The new Xbox is rumored to be capable of 3D, if you have a 3D TV. And we’re almost certain it’ll be heavy on entertainment options, such as the ability to play Blu-ray discs and game play running simultaneous with entertainment apps. Also Microsoft filed a patent to include a built-in DVR in the device so you could record shows from live TV and watch off your Xbox. There’s also a strong possibility you’ll get added controls and accessibility to the Xbox if you have a Windows 8 Phone.
Creepy Entertainment Feature
One big brother aspect of all these entertainment additions is implied in a patent Microsoft won in 2011 called “Content Distribution Regulation by Viewing User.” The idea is that a home user might stream a movie and Microsoft could use the Kinect Motion sensor to determine how many people are watching. They’d then charge you a “per seat” fee: 2 people = $20, 3 people $30. Really, Microsoft’s looking into my living room to see who’s watching? Not sure that’s going to fly, but remember: these are all just rumors and speculation.
Improved Kinect Features
One big prediction is that all Xbox consoles will come standard with a Kinect motion sensor. It may add a bit to the price, but if this is true, you can extrapolate that Microsoft might also force voice calibration to get you to use the voice control features in Kinect. Also, they might need to bring the manufacturing price down on the Kinect if it is to come included with the console, and some think Microsoft will get that price reduction by taking out the hinged base mount that currently adjusts to the height it’s placed in relation to the field of play. Instead, analysts think Kinect will have a fixed field of view, but that it will be much wider going from the current 57.5″ by 43.5″ to a 70″ by 60″ area in which it can see you and you can play. This also ties into the rumor that a wider field of view will give the Kinect the ability to recognize six people instead of the current four player max.
The hardware in the Kinect motion sensor is also due for some serious upgrades. First, many predict a switch to USB 3.0 as its connector to the Xbox. That would give the Kinect a much wider pipe to pump data back to the console – meaning decreased latency, smoother and more sophisticated game play, increased recognition of finger movement, and possibly detailed facial recognition – including interpretation of your moods. Okay, maybe the mood recognition part of that prediction belongs in the Unlikely Features category, but it’s possible.
Awesome But Unlikely Rumored Features
Microsoft filed a patent for an immersive game play option where parts of the game would be projected all across the room where you’re playing. No question that this would be cool, but it’s pretty far fetched for the next release. More likely to come soon – but not soon enough – augmented reality glasses; you’d see elements of the game in your glasses and use the Kinect’s motion sensor to control gaming with gesture.

English Prepositions At, On, In

Furious over sanctions, NKorea vows to nuke US

North Korea on Thursday vowed to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States, amplifying its threatening rhetoric hours ahead of a vote by U.N. diplomats on whether to level new sanctions against Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test.
An unidentified spokesman for Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said the North will exercise its right for "a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors" because Washington is pushing to start a nuclear war against the North.
Although North Korea boasts of nuclear bombs and pre-emptive strikes, it is not thought to have mastered the ability to produce a warhead small enough to put on a missile capable of reaching the U.S. It is believed to have enough nuclear fuel, however, for several crude nuclear devices.
Such inflammatory rhetoric is common from North Korea, and especially so in recent days. North Korea is angry over the possible sanctions and over upcoming U.S.-South Korean military drills. At a mass rally in Pyongyang on Thursday, tens of thousands of North Koreans protested the U.S.-South Korean war drills and sanctions.
The U.N. Security Council is set to impose a fourth round of sanctions against Pyongyang in a fresh attempt to rein in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current council president, said the council will vote on the draft sanctions resolution Thursday morning.
The resolution was drafted by the United States and China, North Korea's closest ally. The council's agreement to put the resolution to a vote just 48 hours later signaled that it would almost certainly have the support of all 15 council members.
The statement by the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman was carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
It accused the U.S. of leading efforts to slap sanctions on North Korea. The statement said the new sanctions would only advance the timing for North Korea to fulfill previous vows to take "powerful second and third countermeasures" against its enemies. It hasn't elaborated on those measures.
The statement said North Korea "strongly warns the U.N. Security Council not to make another big blunder like the one in the past when it earned the inveterate grudge of the Korean nation by acting as a war servant for the U.S. in 1950."
North Korea demanded the U.N. Security Council immediately dismantle the American-led U.N. Command that's based in Seoul and move to end the state of war that exists on the Korean Peninsula, which continues six decades after fighting stopped because an armistice, not a peace treaty, ended the war.
In anticipation of the resolution's adoption, North Korea earlier in the week threatened to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War.
North Korean threats have become more common as tensions have escalated following a rocket launch by Pyongyang in December and its third nuclear test on Feb. 12. Both acts defied three Security Council resolutions that bar North Korea from testing or using nuclear or ballistic missile technology and from importing or exporting material for these programs.
U.S. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said the proposed resolution, to be voted on at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT), would impose some of the strongest sanctions ever ordered by the United Nations.
The final version of the draft resolution, released Wednesday, identified three individuals, one corporation and one organization that would be added to the U.N. sanctions list if the measure is approved.
The targets include top officials at a company that is the country's primary arms dealer and main exporter of ballistic missile-related equipment, and a national organization responsible for research and development of missiles and probably nuclear weapons.
The success of a new round of sanctions could depend on enforcement by China, where most of the companies and banks that North Korea is believed to work with are based.
The United States and other nations worry that North Korea's third nuclear test pushed it closer to its goal of gaining nuclear missiles that can reach the U.S. The international community has condemned the regime's nuclear and missile efforts as threats to regional security and a drain on the resources that could go to North Korea's largely destitute people.
The draft resolution condemns the latest nuclear test "in the strongest terms" for violating and flagrantly disregarding council resolutions, bans further ballistic missile launches, nuclear tests "or any other provocation," and demands that North Korea return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It also condemns all of North Korea's ongoing nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment.
But the proposed resolution stresses the council's commitment "to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution" and urged a resumption of six-party talks with the aim of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula "in a peaceful manner."
The proposed resolution would make it significantly harder for North Korea to move around the funds it needs to carry out its illicit programs and strengthen existing sanctions and the inspection of suspect cargo bound to and from the country. It would also ban countries from exporting specific luxury goods to the North, including yachts, luxury automobiles, racing cars, and jewelry with semi-precious and precious stones and precious metals.
According to the draft, all countries would now be required to freeze financial transactions or services that could contribute to North Korea's nuclear or missile programs.
To get around financial sanctions, North Koreans have been carrying around large suitcases filled with cash to move illicit funds. The draft resolution expresses concern that these bulk cash transfers may be used to evade sanctions. It clarifies that the freeze on financial transactions and services that could violate sanctions applies to all cash transfers as well as the cash couriers.
The proposed resolution also bans all countries from providing public financial support for trade deals, such as granting export credits, guarantees or insurance, if the assistance could contribute to the North's nuclear or missile programs.
It includes what a senior diplomat called unprecedented new travel sanctions that would require countries to expel agents working for sanctioned North Korean companies.
The draft also requires states to inspect suspect cargo on their territory and prevent any vessel that refuses an inspection from entering their ports. And a new aviation measure calls on states to deny aircraft permission to take off, land or fly over their territory if illicit cargo is suspected to be aboard.