Ig Nobel Awards

Funny, Technology No Comments »

I read recently about a novel award that marks achievements that at “first make people laugh but then make them think”. The Ig Nobel award for improbable research has been awarded since 1991, and this years winners included the ‘Gay Bomb’, posted about on right here on The Shelf in February 2007.

Winning the peace category, the Gay Bomb was a concept first coined by the US military and intended to make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to one another. The Gay Bomb was just one of a variety of non-lethal chemical weapons that were conceived in order to disrupt both discipline and morale.

Past Ig peace award winners have also included the electromechanical teenager repellent in 2006, a device which makes an annoying high pitched sound audible only to teenagers, and the inventor of karaoke for providing a new way for people to tolerate each other.

Other winners in the 2007 competition included work on treating hamster jetlag with impotency drugs and extracting vanilla from cow dung.

Winners of the award walk away with a hand made trophy, certificate and more importantly the prestige of winning such an award. Currently in their seventeenth year, the awards

“Celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative – and spur people’s interest in science, medicine and technology.”

The coveted award ceremony is seen as a way to prove the science doesn’t have to be boring, and that fun science can end up having a real life impact on millions of people.

Kanye West & MJ

Music 1 Comment »

Not long after a recent post about Kanye West’s latest success in the charts at the expense of rival 50 cent, the Hip Hop star has announced another high profile song release with an upcoming duet along side Michael Jackson.

The announcement has only fuelled further rumours that Michael Jackson himself will be releasing a new solo album in the near future. The single with Kanye West will be his first release since 2001, since the release of invincible.

Kanye West is not the only star to have teamed up wit Michael Jackson in the studio lately, with Will.i.am and Ne-Yo both said to be working with him to create a new sound which will be eagerly anticipated by fans.

A quote from Kanye on the sure to be successful partnership read
“I’m working on stuff for Michael Jackson. If I like a person’s outlet or what a person brings to the table, then I’ll speak to them.”

I really don’t know what to expect from this collaboration, but with the input of Kanye West it will defiantly be worth a listen.

Caught on Google Earth

The Interwebs No Comments »

It seems that if you want to sunbath topless in your back garden, a tall fence would normally be an adequate measure in place to maintain your privacy. Apart from the risk of a peeping Tom, you would have been forgiven for thinking your privacy was fairly well guarded.

It seems this wasn’t the case for one lady who didn’t take into account that the a Google Earth imaging satellite was due to make a fly over. A subsequent stint of topless sunbathing resulted in the Dutch women getting logged in Digg, and then over 3,000 Diggs later her assets had been splashed across the internet.

There is a debate as to whether the pictures are in fact a real topless women, as the image is quite grainy. It could well be a blow up doll or even a man! Maybe the debate should in fact have been on the technological threat to privacy, but the former seemed more popular across the interwebs.

Instead, next time you want to go out into your garden for a spot of topless sunbathing simply call Google and check they are not scheduling a fly by. That should ensure privacy in the home.

Space Tourism : The QUID

Travel 2 Comments »

Recently on The Shelf, Google’s private enterprise competition was discussed, and how by offering a $30million the search giant hopes to boost non-government backed missions to the moon.

Such incentives only boost private funding for missions into space, and although a moon landing seems the next frontier for the private sector, it has already been successful with other areas of space travel.

So much is this the case that already the concept of ‘Space Tourism’ is not foreign to most. Although the Russian Space Agency is currently the only provider of tourist space flights, people are well aware that with enough money the opportunity to take a trip into outer space is available to anybody.

Although currently restricted to an elite group, trips into space are thought to become commonplace in the next five years, with trips to the moon estimated by 2050. There is already an inflatable hotel being developed for commercial use by Bigelow Aerospace after a successful prototype was launched into orbit last year.

So if space is the next tourist frontier, then what will participants use to pay for goods and services whilst not on Earth. Coins would be deemed to sharp and would pose a danger to astronauts, whilst chips and magnetic strips used in debit or credit cards on Earth would be damaged beyond repair by cosmic radiation. This was a question answered when I stumbled upon an unusual story today about the development of a new currency, the QUID.

The new inter-planetary currency has been designed to withstand the stress of space travel and has no sharp edges or dangerous chemicals. Made of the polymer the QUID (Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination), was designed was designed for Travelex, the popular foreign exchange company, and currently quotes the currency at £6.25 to the QUID.

Music Piracy

Music 2 Comments »

It seems that the message that the sharing of music file online is music piracy is still being hammered home in an effort to protect the revenues of the music industry. Music companies have taken increasingly drastic steps in an effort to clamp down on illegal music file sharing, starting with peer to peer software providers all the way through to individuals who share music files ignoring any copyright in place.

Just how much the industry loses to piracy is shady. A recent report put the cost of piracy at $12.5 billion annually to the US economy, whilst many critics instead say that when this figure is broken down as it should be, the entertainment industry loses around $1.6 billion to fake CDs, and another $3.7 billion to illegal downloading.

Whatever the exact figure it is a threat to the industry and the loss in revenue has led the music industry to take action against illegal file sharers. As a result there have been several high profile cases against music sharing sites that offer peer to peer file sharing services, the most famous of which being the Napster case in 2000 that trail blazed the way for legal proceedings brought by the music industry as a collective.

The latest file sharing site to face legal action has been allofmp3.com, in which a Moscow court threw the case out, sending ever more confusing messages to consumers.

Such legal action is not just restricted to peer to peer service providers, individuals have also found themselves amongst high profile judicial proceedings for participating in the sharing of copyrighted music files. These cases simply highlight the consequences that come with music piracy.

A recent case has seen a court in the US order a woman to pay $222,000 (£109,000) in damages for illegally file-sharing music. Jaime Thomas 32, from Minnesota, was ruled to has shared 24 specific songs illegally, costing $9,250 a song. Although the case was focused around the top 24 songs, it was claimed that she shared 1702 songs.

So far there have been around about 26,000 lawsuits filed against alleged file-sharers, but most defendants settle privately by paying damages amounting to a few thousand dollars. It seems contesting the charge has ended up costing this specific file-sharer near a quarter of a million dollars. Interestingly with this particular case, the hard drive of the women in question was not required for a guilty verdict, having been replaced shortly after she had been contacted by the record industry.

But with different messages coming from different areas of the music industry could file sharers be forgiven for stepping into grey areas in the law. For instance Sony’s philosophy means that transferring music from your CD albums onto your MP3 player is a form of piracy, yet (as previously mentioned on The Shelf) Microsoft seems to be heading in a different direction with the upcoming launch of its Zune Social. Microsoft it seems is actually encouraging music downloaders to share their music collection with friends through the wireless feature on the Zune player.

It seems that cases like that of Jaime Thomas send a clear message people abusing peer to peer networks, that the industry will come after with the full extent of the law if you leave yourself exposed and break the law. When the law is and is not being broken in terms of file-sharing however, seems to be an area where the goal posts are shifted depending on the latest stance of different players within the industry.

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