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August 11, 2005

BehindTheMedspeak: Can you predict your death?


Provocative new work by Dr. Jack Feldman and colleagues from the UCLA School of Medicine (Go Bruins! – hey, it's my alma mater, gimme a break), just published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, implies that such an ability is only a matter of when — not if.

Long story short: in an animal model they showed that there is a small region in the brain stem, consisting of perhaps 600 cells in rats and possibly a few thousand in humans, that directly controls breathing rhythm.

When they destroyed 80% of the region in rats, their breathing patterns became progressively more abnormal, first during sleep and later while awake.

The full complement of such control cells appears present at birth, gradually dying off and diminishing in number as we age.

The scientists speculate that humans can compensate for a loss of up to 60% of these key regulatory cells but beyond that breathing while asleep becomes more and more erratic, finally ending in respiratory arrest and being found dead in bed.

The researchers suggest that elderly people who die in their sleep, long thought to be most often the result of heart failure, may instead first simply stop breathing, leading to oxygen deprivation and, inevitably, cardiac arrest.

As noninvasive imaging of the central nervous system achieves ever finer resolution, look for scientists to find ways to "light up" these crucial cells such that they appear on radiographic images.

A quantitative assay of their number will be a predictor of imminent death.

Here is a link to a very good BBC News story on the study.

Here's another link with useful information.

August 11, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Wiki



"Official launch of the unofficial Google Wiki."

Hey, that's what it says on the site, go ask them what it means: I'm just the blogger.

"There are currently 9 articles in The Unofficial Google Wiki."

They're seeking contributors.

Odd: at the bottom of the page it says, "This page was last modified 04:32, 22 May 2005."

But under the heading "Google News" directly above that notice, there's a July 15th announcement.

Maybe they have wormholes in Mountain View such that time loops in and out and around and all about rather than seeming to flow in a linear fashion the way it does for most of us most of the time.

Not that that means that's the way it really flows.


[via researchbuzz]

August 11, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stainless Steel Yarn


From Japan comes the new new thing in knitting: stainless steel yarn (above), either pure or combined with merino wool, cotton or viscose.

Scroll down about two–thirds of the way here to learn more and see more photos.


Perhaps this will give them something more constructive to do between sequels.

A scarf or sweater might be nice, don't you think?

August 11, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Sex–Linked Website Design


From the University of Glamorgan Business School comes an interesting study analyzing how website design affects whether it will preferentially attract men or women.

Wait a moment: you've never heard of the University of Glamorgan and think it's a front for another of Ian Schrager's hip hotels?

Shame on you.

Long story short: men tend to like pages designed by men better while women preferred sites made by women.

A closer look revealed that women favored pages with more color in the background and typeface.

They also preferred informal rather than posed pictures.

Men liked straight, horizontal lines across a page and dark colors.

They were also more drawn to a 3-D look and images of "self–propelling" rather than stationary objects.

The research was initially conducted in Wales and then repeated in France and Poland to eliminate British cultural bias.

August 11, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Morphing Clock


"Create the clock you always wanted."

But what if all you've ever wanted is to make clocks disappear?

Then clearly this is not for you.

Others, read on.

"The stylish center and hands can be hung on the wall and the numbers can be arranged in any fashion you like."

Tell us more.

"The clock is supplied with a template so that if you don't want to defy convention, you can arrange the numbers in a perfect circle around the hands."


Comes with 15 self–adhesive numbers — wait a minute, what planet is this clock from? I thought there were only 12 hours.... — a template to create a perfect circle, and a quartz clock mechanism.

Hands measure 23 cm (9").

Requires 1 AA battery (included).


23£ ($42) here.

[via AW]

August 11, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Playing a videogame can kill you


From the BBC comes news that a 28–year–old South Korean man collapsed and died after playing computer games non–stop for 50 hours at an internet cafe in the southern city of Taegu.

The man refused to stop playing the battle–simulation game Starcraft except to go to the bathroom.

Frankly, I'm surprised he did that.

Taegu police said that the man, identified only by his last name — Lee — started playing last Wednesday, August 3, and refused to eat or sleep.


A Taegu provincial police official told the Reuters news agency, "We presume the cause of death was heart failure stemming from exhaustion."

The man had been fired from his job last month for skipping work to play computer games.

Nah, they're not addictive. But I digress.

Online gaming is hugely popular in South Korea, where more than 15 million people — 30% of the population — are registered for play.

It's no coincidence that in South Korea much of the population has broadband access at speeds of around 100MPS — no, that is not a typo — for around $15 a month.

Just wait until the U.S. and the rest of the world catch up to South Korea — gonna be a lot of sudden Halo deaths.

The current issue of the Economist (below),


coincidentally enough, has as its cover story the rise of videogames and the furious ongoing debate about whether or not they're harmful.

The Economist concluded that on the whole they're a good thing.

Maybe this news from South Korea is the business world equivalent of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

I always knew there was a reason I've never been a gamer.

Believe it or not I have never seen a mangosteen, used a chain saw or played a video game.

And with two of the three I plan to maintain the status quo.

Now when's my Malaysian homie gonna throw down?

I wonder if perhaps I should pull the plug on bookofjoe while I'm still more or less with the program....

I mean, I haven't yet gone 50 hours straight here — but I could.

August 11, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Convertibles — Adjustable High Heels


From Australia — where girls know what girls want — come these innovative morphing shoes.


One moment you're all glammed up, the next you're sitting in your cubicle looking very busy.


"Converts a high 7 cm heel to a low 3 cm heel with one simple twist on/off action."


[via AW]

August 11, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack



It's from Zizzle.

No, that's not Snoop Dogg's home planet but, rather, a start–up run by Roger Shiffman, a co–founder of Tiger Electronics, which helped make Furby a household word.

Tell you what: this guy has a way with words. But I digress.

This morning's USA Today brings us an unbylined article about a recent hush–hush meeting at a "New Jersey Starbucks" to demonstrate the iZ.

It's a "funky–looking, 9–inch–tall, three–legged plastic character" that freaks out when you connect it to an iPod or other music source.

Ann Meyer wrote in an August 8 Orlando Sentinel story that the device "has a Sputnick space–age look, with three pose–able white legs, a shiny green body and an orange–and–white belly button that doubles as a control."


On its own it does stuff, don't get me wrong: when you press its belly you hear one of seven musical beats.

When you turn the right ear you can add up to seven rhythms.

The left ear alters up to seven melodies.

You can add other sound effects by touching the "flicker" switch.

Then you create your own tune by altering the tempo.

So it's basically a kiddie–sized synthesizer, is what it is — until you connect your iPod, as noted above.

That's when the fun really starts.

"The character's wide eyes bounce to the beat and its colorful flashing horn nose responds to the music."

But iZ izn't alone: Tiger is launching a $30 palm–size dog named... i–Dog (as in all men are) that wiggles and lights up when you connect it to an iPod.

Makes sense, really: here you have a case of life imitating art.

After all, when you connect a person to an iPod they start to wiggle and dance.

iZ makes its debut in Times Square next month.

After that it'll be available at Wal–Mart, Target, Toys R Us and fine stores everywhere.

Note: I do not sell — nor will I be selling — the iZ or the i–Dog, for that matter.

So before the flood of emails asking me to sell you one or where to get one starts, please: read the two sentences above.

Now, read the three sentences above.


ilounge is running an iZ giveaway contest right this very zeptosecond.


Anyone can enter: just send them an email (no message necessary) and you'll be automatically entered in a random drawing to be held on August 20.

10 iZ's will be given away to the lucky winners.

Of course, the losers will be forever bombarded with spam and ads and God knows what else but hey, nothing in this life is free.

ilounge also has put up three partial pictures (above and below) of the iZ to tease you until the final unveiling.

Here's the USA Today story.

    iZ Bops To Your Beat Or To Your iPod's Rhythm

    "That's the strangest looking thing I've ever seen."

    At the next table, 9-year-old Katherine Furmanek couldn't help but notice the funky-looking 9-inch-tall, three-legged plastic character I was meeting in a recent hush-hush meeting at a New Jersey Starbucks.

    I was with marketers from a start-up called Zizzle; these guys helped make Furby a household name while at Tiger Electronics.

    When kids press the belly of the new Zizzle toy, named iZ, one of seven musical beats is heard.

    When they turn his right ear, they can add up to seven rhythms; his left ear alters up to seven melodies.

    Other sound effects are added when they touch a "flicker" switch. Kids "create" their own music by altering the tempo.

    But the reason you're reading about iZ in a tech column is what happens when you connect iZ to an iPod or other musical source.

    The character's wide eyes bounce to the beat, and its colorful flashing horn nose responds to the music.

    Do I detect a trend here? Tiger (owned by Hasbro) is launching a $30 palm-size pooch called I-Dog that wiggles and lights up with a connected iPod (or other player).

    It was an instant hit with my 20-month-old daughter.

    Given the fickle and faddish nature of toys and tech, it's impossible to predict how iZ will fare when it makes its debut in Times Square next month. (It will be sold for around $40 at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Target and elsewhere.)

    But iZ charmed me and Katherine Furmanek at Starbucks.


    "I love it," she says.

August 11, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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