Archive for April, 2010

Scout's Honor: I'm Only Playing This Video Game to Earn My Merit Badge

By Smriti Rao | April 28, 2010 11:15 am

video_games_blAt first glance, it seems like every young Boy Scout’s dream come true: a merit badge for video games.

The Boy Scouts of America have finally recognized the vital importance of the pastime that occupies so much of modern children’s attention with the creation of a “video games” belt loop and pin, writes Engadget.

But before anyone goes scurrying off to embark on a marathon gaming session, here’s the rub. The awards aren’t earned by beating a high score or rescuing the princess. Instead Boy Scouts have to fulfill several dull requirements in order to get the belt loop, including:

  1. Explain why it is important to have a rating system for video games. Check your video games to be sure they are right for your age.
  2. With an adult, create a schedule for you to do things that includes your chores, homework, and video gaming. Do your best to follow this schedule.
  3. Learn to play a new video game that is approved by your parent, guardian, or teacher.

To get the pin, the scout also needs to create a plan with his parents to buy a video game that is right for his age group, play the game with a family member, and play a video game that will help practice his math, spelling, or another skill that will help with his schoolwork.

Wow, with all that family time, we wonder if this is a ploy by the Scouts to drive the kids to earn other badges for outdoorsy activities (read: fleeing family, climbing tree badge).

Related Content:
Discoblog: New Video Game Teaches Soldiers How to Make Nice With the Locals
80beats: Play Tetris, Get a More Efficient & Thicker Brain
80beats: Generation iPod: Young’Uns Spend 53 Hours a Week Consuming Media
DISCOVER: Oldsters’ New Fountain of Youth: Video Games
DISCOVER: This is Your Brain on Video Games

Image: Boy Scouts of America

NCBI ROFL: I'd like a number 2 value meal, a frosty, and a peer-reviewed publication, please.

By ncbi rofl | April 27, 2010 7:00 pm

mcdonalds An observational study of consumer use of fast-food restaurant drive-through lanes: implications for menu labelling policy.

“OBJECTIVE: … The present study was designed to quantify the number of customers who purchase fast food through drive-in windows as a means of informing legislative labelling efforts. DESIGN: This was an observational study. SETTING: The study took place at two McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants, and single Dairy Queen, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Wendy’s restaurants.

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Stem Cell-Powered Worm Doesn't Age, Can Grow a New Head

By Smriti Rao | April 27, 2010 1:22 pm

flatwormFor the tiny flatworm, regeneration of missing body parts is a piece of cake. Someone chopped its head off? No problem! It grows a brand new one in about seven days, complete with a spanking new brain with all the right circuits and connections. (As for the chopped-off head, it just grows a new body.)

This amazing ability of the flatworm to regrow a missing head and to produce a brain on demand has now been traced back to a key gene, researchers report in a PloS Genetics study. The identification of the gene is exciting news for scientists who wonder if humans, too, can one day learn to regenerate missing body parts.

The Register
reports that the discovery of the “smed-prep” gene unlocks the mechanisms by which the hard-to-kill Planarian flatworms grow new muscle, gut, and brain cells:

Even more importantly, it seems that the information contained in smed-prep also makes the new cells appear in the right place and organize themselves into working structures – as opposed to nonfunctional blobs of protoplasm.

Lead researcher Aziz Aboobaker describes the worm’s regenerative superpowers to the BBC:

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All Aboard the Beef Train–Amtrak Debuts a Train Running on Beef Biofuel

By Smriti Rao | April 27, 2010 11:19 am

amtrakIf you thought a cow was good only for its milk and meat, then we’d have you know that somewhere between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, there is an Amtrak train chugging along on moo-power.

Amtrak is currently running its Heartland Flyer train on a mix of traditional diesel fuel and biodiesel produced from cow products, in an experiment that Amtrak argues could make railroads more eco-friendly.

The Heartland Flyer uses about 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year to move 84,000 people. For this one-year test run, Amtrak will replace 20 percent of that fuel with biodiesel, produced from tallow from Texas cows. The fat from the cattle, which is normally used to make animal feed and soap, will now instead help power a train.

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NCBI ROFL: The teddy-bear effect: does having a baby face benefit black chief executive officers?

By ncbi rofl | April 26, 2010 7:00 pm

128743039293009133“Prior research suggests that having a baby face is negatively correlated with success among White males in high positions of leadership. However, we explored the positive role of such “babyfaceness” in the success of high-ranking Black executives. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: analysis taken too far, NCBI ROFL

Lost iPhone Case Heats Up: Cops Seize Gizmodo Editor's Computers

By Smriti Rao | April 26, 2010 6:04 pm

jason-chen-iphoneTech website Gizmodo’s Jason Chen may have scored the industry’s biggest scoop this month, with the exclusive on Apple’s next generation iPhone 4G, but nothing could have prepared him for the aftermath.

This morning we reported on rumors that the police were investigating Gizmodo’s purchase, for $5,000, of the lost iPhone. Now, Gizmodo has revealed that Chen’s home was broken into by California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team last Friday. The cops, part of a task force that investigates crimes related to high-tech businesses, proceeded to seize four computers and two servers from Chen’s home.

The cops were in possession of a warrant from a San Mateo judge, but Gawker Media, the company that owns Gizmodo, claims that the cops’ warrant was invalid. Gawker argues that the search-and-seize action violates California’s journalist shield law.

In his original scoop, Chen dished the details on Apple’s upcoming phone using a prototype that the company bought from the mysterious person who found the device, which had been left behind in a bar by an Apple employee. Gizmodo then coughed up the $5,000 to get its hands on the phone–which has since been returned to Apple after the company’s lawyers formally claimed it and asked for it back.

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A New Strategy for Cheap Solar Power in Africa: Pokeberries

By Darlene Cavalier | April 26, 2010 3:46 pm

pokeberryPokeberries, whose red dye was famously used by Civil War soldiers to write letters home, may enable the distribution of worldwide solar power. Researchers at Wake Forest University’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials are using the red dye from this weedy plant’s berries to coat their high-efficient, fiber-based solar cells, licensed by FiberCell, Inc.

These fiber cells are composed of millions of tiny fibers that maximize the cell’s surface area and trap light at almost any angle–so the slanting sun rays of morning and evening aren’t wasted. The dye’s absorbent qualities enhance the fibers’ ability to trap sunlight, allowing the fiber cells to produce nearly twice the power that flat-cell technology produces.

Because pokeberries can grow in almost any climate, they can be raised by residents in developing countries “who can make the dye absorber for the extremely efficient fiber cells and provide energy where power lines don’t run,” said David Carroll, the center’s director.

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The Saga of the Lost iPhone May End With Criminal Charges

By Eliza Strickland | April 26, 2010 12:30 pm

iphoneAs everyone in the tech-savvy world knows, Gizmodo scored a major media coup earlier this month when it obtained a prototype of Apple’s next-generation iPhone  4. The fancy piece of hardware had been left behind in a bar by a hapless Apple engineer (his last Facebook post before his fateful memory lapse: “I underestimated how good German beer is”), and Gizmodo paid $5,000 to the person who found the phone.

Apple officially reclaimed its phone last week, but that may not be the end of the story. Now reports have surfaced that Silicon Valley police are investigating the incident, as purchasing the lost property may have violated criminal statutes.

CNET heard it from an a law enforcement official:

Apple has spoken to local police about the incident and the investigation is believed to be headed by a computer crime task force led by the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office, the source said.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

NCBI ROFL: Friday flashback: A woman's history of vaginal orgasm is discernible from her walk.

By ncbi rofl | April 23, 2010 7:00 pm

walking“AIM: The objective was to determine if appropriately trained sexologists could infer women’s history of vaginal orgasm from observing only their gait. Read More

Fast Food News: It Boosts Impatience, and What Trumps KFC's Double Down?

By Smriti Rao | April 23, 2010 5:34 pm

double-downIt’s a common nutritional fail–you pledge to make a nice, fresh home-cooked meal, but get impatient and opt for fast food instead. Now, new research suggests that ‘we are how we eat’ and that the mere thought of fast food can result in general impatience.

Researchers from the University of Toronto conducted a series of experiments in which they showed volunteers logos from several fast-food chains or asked them to recall the last time they’d visited, writes Scientific American.

And they found that folks who had thought about fast food would then read faster, even though no one told them to hurry. And they also expressed a preference for time-saving products, like shampoo plus conditioner. And they tended to opt for immediate rewards, like getting a small cash payment right away rather than waiting a week for a larger sum.

Looking at the results, the researchers conclude that a fast-food lifestyle may not only impacts people’s waistlines, but may also have a far-reaching and often unconscious impact on their behavior.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

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