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Archive for April, 2010

Heart surgery by robot – a world’s first

30/04/2010 2 comments

Robotic Surgery

Robotic Surgery

World-leading heart surgery has been carried out at a Leicester hospital in the UK, by surgeons using a remote-controlled robot arm.  Because X-rays are used to allow the doctor to monitor what is going on inside the patient, it means that doctors standing close to the patient wear radiation shields such as lead aprons which are burdensome. Long procedures can lead to fatigue in the staff and high cumulative radiation exposure.  Through the use of a robotic arm, surgeons can remain in an adjacent room.

The procedure involved inserting catheters into the heart chambers through blood vessels at the top of the groin.  The catheters have electrodes attached to them which are used to identify abnormalities in the heart’s natural electrical transmission system, usually the cause of heart rhythm problems. The catheters were then used to burn, the abnormal area, curing the problem.

The department at Glenfield Hospital performs more than 600 of the catheter procedures each year, although this is the first to use a robotic arm.  The Remote Catheter Manipulation System, from Catheter Robotics Inc of New Jersey, US, has been in development for four years.  The Leicester team is the first in the world to use it in human patients.

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Categories: Medicine, Robotics

It’s all on the cards

26/04/2010 Leave a comment

Credit Card Theft

Credit Card Theft

Ahead of the Infosecurity Conference in London later this month, they have released a report which makes sobering reading.  It states that 44% of Londoners have suffered bank card fraud.  24% of Londoners have had their identity stolen.

  1. The most common reported method (27%) said their details had been stolen through websites or e-mail.
  2. The second most common method (20%) said they lost their details during face-to-face transactions.
  3. Being conned over the phone was the third most likely place to have details stolen with 15% of details being stolen in this way.
Some of the other ways that details were taken included cashpoint machines, online banking and letters being intercepted in the post.  Most of the affected (58%) were targeted in the UK, but 42% said the fraud happened to them while they were overseas.
The average amount stolen was £1 148 with 37% of the victims reporting they did not get the money refunded by their bank.  People who lost more than £5 000 stood a better chance of getting a refund, 91% were successful.  However, if the amount was less than £100 then only 41% received a refund.
Interestingly, only 28% of the victims thought they were to blame for the fraud.  Twice I have had my credit card skimmed, whilst abroad, and I would say I was at fault.  Now, My card is never taken from me in restaurants – I have given up the foolish practice of just handing it to a waiter to pay the bill, sitting contentedly whilst my card is taken behind a cash desk.
Categories: Crime, Internet

Happy birthday YouTube

24/04/2010 Leave a comment

YouTube Logo

YouTube Logo

Most five year olds would be described as a child.  However, YouTube has rapidly grown and developed in to a mature tool for change.  Change?

It has changed ordinary individuals in to stars, granting them their Warhol fifteen minutes of fame.  It has changed advertising, introducing us to viral marketing.  It has changed broadcasting, allowing any of us to set up our own YouTube ‘channel’.  For a visual medium, it has also changed music.

Famously it has changed the way we communicate, in one well-publicised case – how we complain.  David Carroll, a Canadian musician travelled with United Airlines and during the journey his guitar was broken.  Receiving little in the way of an apology, let alone compensation, he decided to compose a song about his trials and tribulations, and post it on YouTube.  The result?  The share price took a dive and £117m ($180m) was wiped off their value.  Click on the link in the bottom right of this page to watch Dave Carroll.

The first video was uploaded on to the internet at 8.27pm on Saturday 23 April 2005 and lasted just 19 seconds.  Now, in the two months more video is uploaded to YouTube than if all the major US broadcasters had been broadcasting 24hrs a day, 365 days a week, since 1948.  It is the third most visited website in the world, (after Google and Facebook).  We were slow to discover it in the UK.  The first mention of You Tube in the British press was in November 2005.  That month, shortly before YouTube was boosted for the first time by investment from a venture-capitalist, the site showed 2m videos a day. Two months later, it broadcast 25m. Today it is well over 1bn.

The three founders, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim saw a handsome return on their investment when Google bought YouTube in a deal worth US$1.65bn in October 2006 – just sixteen months after the first video was uploaded.  The most popular videos have been watched in excess of 180 million times, achieving a penetration not achieved by other media.  YouTube already provides HD video and 3D.  I wonder if the founders thought that the original 19sec film about elephants at San Diego Zoo was the start of a revolution?

Categories: Internet, Media

Is it a new tablet, hand-held or an iPad rival?

23/04/2010 Leave a comment

Looking Glass

Looking Glass

Details are emerging of the new Dell “Looking Glass”.  It is early days, but already it is being touted as an iPad rival.  So what makes it so special?

The specification is as follows:

  • 7inch display – resolution of just 800×480
  • NVidia T20 (or Tegra 2) processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • an SD card slot for additional storage
  • 1.3 megapixel front facing camera for video calling
  • optional digital TV tuner module so you can watch live TV
  • compatible with Mp3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR, Midi and WAV audio formats
  • supports H.263/H.264, 3GP, MPEG4, WMV and FLV (Flash) video formats
  • USB 2.0
  • a G-sensor
  • A-GPS
  • e-compass
  • a 2100 mAh battery
  • supports multitasking

An initial scan of the features shows it has some of the functions that the iPad lacks, but does it have the style and ‘desirability’ that Apple manage to breath in to their products?

As it is St. George’s Day (patron saint of England), perhaps I will be forgiven a bit of jingoism and say that the head designer for all Apple products Jonathan Ive, is a Brit.

Categories: Computing, Gadgets

Tweets to be archived for history

23/04/2010 Leave a comment

Library of Congress

Library of Congress

About a month ago I wrote how much of our digital records were being lost to history, http://tinyurl.com/y4xlasv.  For that reason I was very pleased to read that Twitter are donating their digital archive of public tweets to the Library of Congress.

This archive is not an insignificant amount of data.  It is suggested that some 50 million tweets are sent every day, from people around the world.  Twitter are going to donate all public tweets since Twitter started in 2006, to the present.  This will be several billion tweets.  They include the first ever tweet, from the company’s co-founder and the tweet posted by President Obama about winning the election.  This move is very much in line with the Library’s record of gathering the accounts of ordinary individuals throughout their history.

The Library has been collecting materials from the web since it began harvesting congressional and presidential campaign websites in 2000. Today the Library holds more than 167 terabytes of web-based information, including legal blogs, websites of candidates for national office and websites of Members of Congress. In addition, the Library leads the congressionally mandated National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program http://www.digitalpreservation.gov, which is pursuing a national strategy to collect, preserve and make available significant digital content, especially information that is created in digital form only, for current and future generations.

They are to be applauded for their efforts, and lets hope that other national libraries are doing the same, or much of our history stored in digital format will be lost forever.

Categories: Internet, Media

A fast electric scooter

22/04/2010 Leave a comment

Electric Scooter

Electric Scooter

This scooter not only looks good, but also packs a punch.  The punch is from 28 batteries which supply 3.84 Kw which will get you to 113kph (70mph).  It is made by the American company ZEV, and the ZEV7000 will give, on average, a range of  between 50 and 70 miles.  This makes it an ideal option for commuting.

The company claims that the 240 newton-metres of torque from the motor deals with hill climbs, and delivery is by a three-speed automatic transmission.  It can be fully charged for as little as 7 pence.

However, with all electric vehicles the problem arises after two years when the batteries start to fail to deliver the same power and need replacing.  Before considering a similar purchase, it is worth sitting down with a spreadsheet and factor in all the costs over the lifetime of your ownership.  I am a big fan of LPG vehicles, having used them since 2001.  However, in time, if all the pundits are correct, scooters such as these will be powered by small fuel-cells.  This will greatly reduce the weight, allow for zero level of pollution, but begs the question where will all the hydrogen come from?

Categories: Energy, Technology, Transport

High-speed rail in China

21/04/2010 Leave a comment

Chinese High-speed Rail

Chinese High-speed Rail

As we all become more conscious of our carbon footprints, train travel as an alternative to air travel is becoming increasingly popular – where it is available.  In Western Europe, in particular in France, the  Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV)  has allowed people to travel at speed –  the fastest scheduled rail journey with a start to stop average speed of 279.4 km/h (173.6 mph) on the line from Lorraine to Champagne.  However, this record has been surpassed by the Chinese CRH service on the Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway in 2009.

The Chinese trains have clocked peak speeds of up to 394 kilometers per hour (or 245 miles per hour). They have also recorded an average speed of 312 kph on several occasions.

The line in question is a 968-kilometer line linking Wuhan, in the heart of central China, to Guangzhou, on the south eastern coast.  The trains being used are Chinese developments of Japan’s Shinkansen and Germany’s InterCity Express high-speed trains.  The implementation of the high-speed trains has cut the previous time of ten and a half hours, to less than three hours.

What makes the Chinese line different from those found in Europe and Japan, is that in Europe we tend to adapt older tracks, whilst this one was designed from the ground up for very high-speed operation over hundreds of kilometres.  Bridges and tunnels, as well as the concrete bed beneath the track, have been designed to safely rocket passengers around, through, or over any obstacles that would otherwise force the trains to slow down.  In America, yet to build high-speed rail links, they hope to benefit from the Chinese developments, especially the new track beds.  The first of the American high-speed links will be a 790-mile system in California, linking San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacremento.  The California High Speed Rail Authority believe the system will reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions by nine million tons by 2050, since high-speed rail is three times more efficient than flying, and five times more efficient than driving per passenger mile.

The Chinese believe that their High-speed rail is a clean way to boost the expansion of China’s transportation system which is expected to more than triple to five billion passengers per year by 2020.  These lines are seen as preferable to further expanding reliance on imported oil for cars and airplanes.  It can’t be bad for the environment either.

Categories: Technology, Transport