Sunday, April 29, 2007

A world of connections

The Economist has a good article on 'A world of connections' that looks at the rise in wireless interconnections and emerging ubiquitous computing:

So far the mobile phone has been getting all the attention. Around 2.8 billion are already in use, with a further 1.6m being added every day. The phones themselves are improving at a cracking pace. Yet this boom is also spilling over into other areas of wireless communications, used for linking machines, sensors and objects. “Everybody talks about the emerging markets being the big opportunity for the cellular industry in the next few years, but in the longer run there are going to be a lot more devices talking to each other,” says Paul Jacobs, the boss of Qualcomm, which makes mobile-phone chips.

This year around 10 billion microprocessors will be sold, embedded in anything from computers to coffee-makers. The vast majority of them will be able to “think” but not “talk”: they will perform specific tasks but cannot communicate. But this is now starting to change. The cost, size and power requirements of wireless functions are falling rapidly, so some unlikely candidates are now being connected to networks. For example, bridges and buildings are being monitored for structural integrity by small sensors. Farmland is being watched and irrigation systems are being switched on and off remotely.

In years to come, wireless communications will increasingly become part of the fabric of everyday life.

An informative read! (Thanks D.)


Britain becoming a Big Brother society

Another indication from the national UK press that 'Britain becoming a Big Brother society':

Britain is in danger of "committing slow social suicide" as such Big Brother techniques as surveillance cameras and recording equipment spread into every aspect of our lives, the nation's information watchdog will warn this week.

A new report from Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, will say that the public needs to be made more aware of the "creeping encroachment" on civil liberties created by email monitoring, CCTV and computer tracking of our buying habits. It is understood that one of the concerns in Mr Thomas's report is the use of special listening devices which can be placed in lamp posts, street furniture and offices. These are already widely used in the Netherlands to combat crime and anti-social behaviour.

More than 300 of the cameras with built-in microphones have been fitted in benefit offices and city centres. The equipment can pick up aggressive tones on the basis of decibel level, pitch and speed at which words are spoken.

So - we're heading for 'slow social suicide'? ...interesting...


Friday, April 27, 2007

The soul of the commuter

Now here is a great article worth reading in the The New Yorker called 'There and Back Again: The soul of the commuter' which deals with the role (or soul?) of the commuter and the different styles, habits, and tales of commuting!

People like to compare commutes, to complain or boast about their own and, depending on whether their pride derives from misery or efficiency, to exaggerate the length or the brevity of their trip. People who feel they have smooth, manageable commutes tend to evangelize. Those who hate the commute think of it as a core affliction, like a chronic illness. Once you raise the subject, the testimonies pour out, and, if your ears are tuned to it, you begin overhearing commute talk everywhere: mode of transport, time spent on train/interstate/treadmill/homework help, crossword-puzzle aptitude—limitless variations on a stock tale...

Seven hours is extraordinary, but four hours, increasingly, is not. Roughly one out of every six American workers commutes more than forty-five minutes, each way. People travel between counties the way they used to travel between neighborhoods.
Thanks to D. for the link!


Space & Culture - Food Mobilities

The current Space and Culture issue is well worth checking out as it deals with food mobilities. Papers include:

Food Mobilities: Traveling, Dwelling, and Eating Cultures

Eating Difference: The Cosmopolitan Mobilities of Culinary Tourism

Follow the Thing: "West Indian Hot Pepper Sauce"

Papers can be downloaded as pdf whilst this issue remains the current one.


Future of the Car

In this article from PopularScience on the 'Future of the Car' they look at:

One week. 1,500 miles. Less than $100 in gas money. See what happens when two road-trippers take the ultra-fuel-efficient European microcar through America's heartland via the legendary Route 66.

Well, its the Smart Car really..


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Sell-Phone Revolution

The new 'Sell-Phone Revolution' is coming up fast. According to Business Week's report:

Advertising is about to get very personal. Marketers are taking tools that they already use to track your Internet surfing and are preparing to combine that information with cell-phone customer data that include not just the area where you live but also the street you're standing on. The aim is to target the exact person who is most likely to buy a product at the precise moment they're most likely to buy it. It's the ad industry's dream come true: a perfect personalized pitch. For privacy advocates, though, this combination of behavioral and geographic targeting is an Orwellian nightmare.

Campaigns that combine Web data with location information to target ads from nearby businesses to individuals are just a couple of years away, mobile marketers say. Already, mobile services use area codes, Zip Codes, and even Global Positioning System (GPS) data to return results for nearby businesses in response to a search for, say, coffee shops.

Nowhere to hide??


Cosmopolitan paradoxes

Cosmopolitan paradoxes:

Migration and emergent systems of transnational rights

Mediterranean Mobilities Network, CeMoRe

29 June 2007, 10:30-16:30

@ the Institute for Advanced Studies, Lancaster University


Professor John Solomos, Department of Sociology, City University


Professor Lydia Morris, Department of Sociology, University of Essex

‘Managing contradiction: Civic stratification and migrant rights in Europe

Dr Liza Schuster, Department of Sociology, City University

‘The realities of the New Asylum paradigm’

Dr Eleni Hatzidimitriadou, European Centre for the Study of Migration and Social Care, University of Kent

Matters of agency and social transformation for migrant women from Mediterranean countries’

Dr Gabriella Lazaridis, Department of Sociology, University of Leicester

‘Social capital, agency and pathways to inclusion: The case of Albanian migrant women in Greece


The workshop will be held in the Institute for Advanced Studies at Lancaster University on 29 June. The workshop will run from 10:30am to 16:30pm with a complimentary lunch at 12:30 pm. There are a limited number of places so please book soon to avoid disappointment.

The cost will be £30 (£10 for postgraduate student attendance) to include all meeting costs, a meal and tea/coffee. The workshop has been scheduled to allow participants to travel to, and from Lancaster on the same day. If required, overnight accommodation is available at cost on campus. Please contact Pennie Drinkall if you would like to attend at

ORGANISERS: Rodanthi Tzanelli

Javier Caletrio

Co-sponsored by the IAS – Institute for Advanced Studies (Incubation Programme)

and CeMoRe – Centre for Mobilities Research

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Google's free in-home wireless broadband service

Another innovative service offering from the hooded-monks at Google. This time they are offering free in-home wireless broadband service. This is how it works - from the toilet!

For years, data carriers have confronted the "last hundred yards" problem for delivering data from local networks into individual homes. Now Google has successfully devised a "last hundred smelly yards" solution that takes advantage of preexisting plumbing and sewage systems and their related hydraulic data-transmission capabilities. "There's actually a thriving little underground community that's been studying this exact solution for a long time," says Page. "And today our Toilet ISP team is pleased to be leading the way through the sewers, up out of your toilet and - splat - right onto your PC."

Users who sign up online for the TiSP system will receive a full home self-installation kit, which includes a spindle of fiber-optic cable, a TiSP wireless router, installation CD and setup guide. Home installation is a simple matter of GFlushing™ the fiber-optic cable down to the nearest TiSP Access Node, then plugging the other end into the network port of your Google-provided TiSP wireless router. Within sixty minutes, the Access Node's crack team of Plumbing Hardware Dispatchers (PHDs) should have your internet connection up and running.

So - another creative use of toilet communications...just be careful not to soil the link...


Metaverse - The Internet in 2016

This C/Net news article - Meet the metaverse, your new digital home - looks at how the Internet in 2016 will be an 'all-encompassing digital playground where people will be immersed in an always-on flood of digital information, whether wandering through physical spaces or diving into virtual worlds':

That was the general picture painted in a draft report obtained by CNET that summarizes the conclusions of several dozen pundits who met at the first Metaverse Roadmap Summit last May to prognosticate the "pathway to the 3D Web."

Within 10 years, the report suggests, people may wear glasses that record everything around them. They will likely see little distinction between their real-world social lives and their interactions in digital, 3D virtual worlds. And they'll increasingly turn to services like an enhanced Google Earth that are able to present data on what's happening anywhere, at any time, as it unfolds.

"This ubiquitous cloud of information is like electricity to children of the 20th century: essentially universal, expected and conspicuous only in its absence."
--Metaverse Roadmap draft report

The report, compiled by the Accelerating Studies Foundation--a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering change in information gathering and communications--offers the first comprehensive look at the predictions of leaders from academia, video game companies, virtual-world publishers, geospatial engineering departments and the media who gathered for two days at SRI International in Palo Alto, Calif.

The Metaverse roadmap is a project well-worth following IMHO...


Internet router in space

Yes, more military communication developments. This time there may be social benefits as the US military plans to test an internet router in space, in a project that could also benefit civilian broadband satellite communications:

Cisco Systemsand Intelsat General, a subsidiary of Intelsat, are among the companies selected by the US Department of Defence for its Internet Routing In Space (IRIS) project, which aims to deliver military communications through a satellite-based router. Potential non-military benefits of the IRIS program include the ability to route IP traffic between satellites in space in much the same way packets are moved on the ground, reducing delays, saving on capacity and offering greater networking flexibility, says Lloyd Wood, space initiatives manager in the Global Defense, Space & Security division of Cisco.

To send a message from one remote terminal to another via satellite today requires the first terminal to send the data to the satellite, from where it is bounced back to an earth station for routing. The earth station re-transmits it to the satellite on a different frequency, selected depending on its destination, and the satellite bounces it back to its destination. With the router in space, the satellite can pick the channel used to send the message to its destination. By eliminating the message's round trip to the earth station, operators can increase satellite capacity and reduce transmission times between remote terminals by using fewer hops and fewer frequencies for each message.

Read the full article: US military plans to put internet router in space


Friday, April 20, 2007

Welcome to Virtual Big Brother

BBCNews reports in Virtual Big Brother is unveiled how 'Big Brother maker Endemol is to launch a virtual world where people can take part in familiar games and shows':

Three dimensional worlds such as Second Life, which allow people to create online versions of themselves, have built up a large following. Virtual Me will allow these avatars to compete in online versions of Deal or No Deal, Fame Academy and Big Brother.

Endemol and computer game company Electronic Arts said the site would be launched "in the coming months". Bosses at the two firms said it was a concept that bridged the divide between traditional TV and video games.

More of the move towards the 'metaverse'?


The world's first open source vehicle

Now, this is a great idea - taking open source principles and making them tangible in the physical market place. In this article - Can open source techniques be used to design a car? - describes how a car called the 'OScar' is being developed by a loose tangle of car designers, engineers and programmers - most working in their spare time:

OScar is taking shape using a single principle as its guiding light: it's an open source car. The open source idea is borrowed from the software industry that makes its code freely available under licence; the Firefox web browser and the Linux operating system being the most famous examples.

In the hard, metallic world of car design this means that instead of protecting OScar designs by use of restrictive patents, as is the norm, the design is effectively open to anyone willing to contribute. And that does mean anyone. Like a much more complicated version of Wikipedia, OScar is being argued over by volunteer car designers, 60% of whom are moonlighting from within the car industry.

Tens of thousands have signed up to the project, but in reality OScar is being driven by a core team of a few dozen, and steered by just one man. Markus Merz has for the past six years been trying to direct the design and development of a prototype car using the anarchic principles of open source. Although he is in the driving seat, decisions are based on a democratic system and everybody - including individual designers, companies, universities, and other organisations - can participate. (You can too, just by signing up at

This project deserves keeping an eye on.


Future of the Car

Popular Science has this visual post on the Future of the Car that explores the following:

* Visions 2027
A sedan that snaps together like Legos. A truck that stretches like spandex. Here's what PopSci predicts tomorrows hottest vehicles will look like

* Taking It to the Street
Robots, start your engines. In the Darpa Urban Challenge, cars zip down city blocks, cut through traffic, and dodge wrecks, all without a driver.

* Drive Fast, Save the World
The Tesla Roadster is faster than a Lamborghini, yet it runs on rechargeable battery packs. Meet the man who built it from scratch.

* Green-Fuel Guide
Ethanol, hydrogen, biodiesel: In 20 years, what will you be pumping into your tank?

* Is America Ready to Get Smart?
It was a classic American road trip, in a decidedly un-American ride. Forget Graceland—the golf-cart-size Smart Car was a curiosity all on its own

Definitely another must read - full post here

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Eurostar promises carbon-free travel

So the much-maligned rail link the Eurostar, which speeds between London, Paris and Brussels, is announcing itself to become the world's first "carbon neutral" train operator:

The company announced yesterday that when the new Channel Tunnel Rail link is completed this November and Eurostar moves to its new terminus at St Pancras passengers will be able to travel without worrying about their carbon footprint. Where Eurostar cannot eliminate its own carbon emissions, it will buy carbon offsets, but only as a last resort and at no additional cost to passengers.

Eurostar also said it was joining companies such as Marks & Spencer by unveiling plans to cut its carbon dioxide emissions. In Eurostar's case, the target is a 25 per cent reduction by 2012. This will be achieved by installing energy meters on trains that encourage drivers to drive more economically, fitting controls to reduce energy consumption from lighting, heating and air conditioning, sourcing more electricity from "green" energy companies and making better use of existing train capacity.

Read the full story - 'Eurostar promises carbon-free travel'

Dublin trials wireless technologies

The world’s first trials of advanced new wireless communication technologies have started in Dublin. It is stated that:

An international team of industry leaders and researchers led by Ireland’s Centre for Telecommunications Value Chain Research (CTVR) is conducting the trials. CTVR is headquartered at Trinity College Dublin.

Ireland’s Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) has granted CTVR and a number of firms a special trial license for the research which aims to identify how increasingly scarce space in the world’s radio wavebands can best be used in the interests of society and the economy. The trials involve technology placed at fixed locations and the use of a mobile test centre, which will travel around the Greater Dublin Area throughout April.

Read the full article here - 'Dublin trials wireless technologies'


Ethanol cars may not be healthier

In a recent BBCNews post it is argued that Ethanol cars may not be healthier:

A computer model set up to simulate air quality in 2020 found that in some areas ozone levels would increase if all cars were run on bioethanol. Deaths from respiratory problems and asthma attacks would increase with such levels, the researchers reported in Environmental Science and Technology.

The EU has agreed that biofuels should be used in 10% of transport by 2020....In one simulation all vehicles were fuelled by petrol and in the other all vehicles were fuelled by E85 - a mix of 85% ethanol and 15% petrol....

..."We found that using E85 will cause at least as much health damage as gasoline, which already causes about 10,000 premature deaths annually from ozone and particulate matter,"

Now that should stop some corporate bodies from jumping on the bandwagon...


'Smart dust' to explore planets

BBCNews reports that 'Smart dust' to explore planets in which small sensor particles could use wireless networking to form swarms:

Smart dust could be packed into the nose cones of planetary probes and then released into the atmospheres of planets, where they would be carried on the wind. For a planet like Mars, smart dust particles would each have to be the size of a grain of sand.

By applying a voltage to alter the shape of the polymer sheath surrounding the chip, dust particle could be steered towards a target, even in high winds. The polymer sheath surrounding the computer chip could be made to wrinkle or flatten out.

Wrinkling the plastic sheath would increase the drag on the particle, lifting it higher on the wind. Flattening out the sheath would cause the particle to plummet. Wireless networking would allow these particles to form swarms, and Dr Barker's team has carried out mathematical simulations to see how this would work. "We envisage that most of the particles can only talk to their nearest neighbours but a few can communicate at much longer distances.

Will these 'swarms of the future' be precursors to solar colonisation?


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?

This has to be posted - because not only am I interested in communications but also because I'm a great lover of bees, and their ancient hive secrets - not to mention Mead. Now an explanation has been put forward on the increasing disappearance of bee colonies - interference from the electromagnetic fields generated from mobile phones. It is plausible:

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail. They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

I really recommend this article - Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?

Bike Sharing in Barcelona

A new service – termed ‘Bicing’ – has just been introduced in March 2007 to Barcelona. The ‘Bicing’ scheme entitles subscribed users to use any of the 1500 available bicycles located across the city's subway and train stations . This service also has a yearly membership fee (6 euros) and provides a smart-card to enable users free use for the first 30 minutes, charging 30 cents per subsequent 30 minutes. This service is used in combination with a network of city public transports that includes energy-saving trams and environmentally friendly subways. The Bicing homepage online provides real time information on bicycle availability by station, city maps, pick-up and drop-off points, bicycle friendly roads and membership information. Since it began operating in March 2007 Bicing has already attracted over 3000 users and provides residents with alternative travel facilities for short-distance localised urban journeys.

Via Citizen-Ecosystem

The 2007 New York International Auto Show

The 2007 New York International Auto Show, which begins this weekend, had its main press day last thursday. Although there wasn’t much in the way of radical concepts unveiled, there were a few that had their North American debut after being shown at the recent Geneva Auto Show.

Of interest are GM's three new 'microcars', plus the new 'New York Taxi' - view pictures here

Also - read 'Rethinking New York City's taxis'

And 'New York hails taxis of the future'


Bio-Fueled Vehicles to Race Across the Americas

The Worldwatch Institute describes how a pack of biofuels enthusiasts will set out for a 4,500 mile (7,242 kilometer) car rally from the United States to Central America:

The Greaseball Challenge is designed to promote sustainable biofuels—including biodiesel, ethanol, vegetable oil, and recycled restaurant grease—and benefit local grassroots environmental projects. Participants will visit a variety of bioenergy projects and businesses along the way, including Combustibles Ecol√≥gicos, a Guatemala-based organization dedicated to the study and production of biofuels, Grupo Energ√©ticos, a Mexican energy company that produces biodiesel, and Technoserve, an organization that helps poor people in the developing world create business opportunities.

Each of the rally’s five teams has purchased a vehicle “on a shoestring budget” and converted it to run on biofuels. Participants will fuel their vehicles from different sources along the way, including biodiesel producers, diners, fast-food outlets, and farms. The use of standard gasoline and other fossil fuels will be allowed only in emergencies along the entire route from Washington, D.C., through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. All the vehicles will be donated in the destination countries to raise money for local environmental projects.

Read in full here

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Future of Personal Transport in China

About The Future of Personal Transport in China:

In August 1999 a delegation from the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) visited The National Academies in Washington to discuss opportunities for collaboration on a study of the future of personal use vehicles in China. Barely motorized at present, China is confronted with the prospect of a massive increase in demand for automobiles. This is a summary of the first meeting of the Committee on the Future of Personal Use Vehicles in China, where the committee invited a group of experts to join some members of the committee to review the issues surrounding rapid motorization in China and the world experience in confronting similar problems in other countries. This symposium was designed to serve as the initial technical presentation to the committee and enabled some of the more difficult issues to be introduced by non-member experts in a setting outside of the committee room where they would be debated.

A free pdf download can be obtained from the site - The Future of Personal Transport in China

X PRIZE to inspire super-efficient vehicles

The X PRIZE Foundation has announced plans to launch a multi-million-dollar Automotive X PRIZE (AXP) to inspire super-efficient vehicles that exceed 100 miles per gallon or its equivalent:

"We invite the world's best and brightest minds to look at this independent, high-profile competition as a way to make a difference for generations to come," said Mark Goodstein, executive director, Automotive X PRIZE. "In the spirit of grand competitions throughout history - including Lindbergh's historic flight across the Atlantic 80 years ago - we expect that the Automotive X PRIZE will bring about change and innovation for the benefit of everybody. This competition will help level the playing field and capture entrepreneurial, scientific and technical energy to bring about viable cars that consumers want to buy."

Read more over at their X Prize news site

Friday, April 06, 2007

'Talking' CCTV takes over the town!

I reported a few months back on the 'talking' CCTV cameras that were being trialled in Middlesbrough. Well, they were so popular that they are now being installed in cities and towns across the UK! BBCNews writes in ''Talking' CCTV scolds offenders' that

"Talking" CCTV cameras that tell off people dropping litter or committing anti-social behaviour are to be extended to 20 areas across England. They are already used in Middlesbrough where people seen misbehaving can be told to stop via a loudspeaker, controlled by control centre staff. About £500,000 will be spent adding speaker facilities to existing cameras.

Shadow home affairs minister James Brokenshire said the government should be "very careful" over the cameras. Home Secretary John Reid told BBC News there would be some people, "in the minority who will be more concerned about what they claim are civil liberties intrusions".

"But the vast majority of people find that their life is more upset by people who make their life a misery in the inner cities because they can't go out and feel safe and secure in a healthy, clean environment because of a minority of people," he added.

Once the box has been opened it cannot be closed again...


FBI in Second Life

FBI investigators have been snooping around Second Life's virtual casinos while the US government has not yet decided on the legality of virtual gambling... an addictive conundrum:

We have invited the FBI several times to take a look around in Second Life and raise any concerns they would like, and we know of at least one instance that federal agents did look around in a virtual casino," said Ginsu Yoon, Linden Lab's vice president for business affairs.

Second Life is a popular online virtual world with millions of registered users and its own economy and currency, known as the Linden dollar, which can be exchanged for real US dollars. Yoon said the company was seeking guidance on virtual gambling activity in Second Life but had not yet received clear rules from US authorities.

Read more over at NewScientistTech

BBC Digital Planet for Week April 03 2007

In this week's Digital Planet, Chris Vallance reports from the ETech conference with Tim O'Reilly in San Diego, Gareth hooks himself up to a new wireless heart monitor and Brendan Eich of Mozilla shares his thoughts on the future of web browsing. Plus we meet a real-life Legoman and the toys which are helping children get to grips with electronics.

Download here

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Wi-Fi on the Thames

Well, here's the latest in Wi-Fi-ing the nation: the River Thames in London has been turned into a giant Wi-Fi hot spot that can be used by anyone with a wireless device on the river or along its banks:

The wireless broadband Internet access stretches for 22 kilometers along the Thames, from the Millennium Dome out in Greenwich up to Millbank by the Houses of Parliament, and it will be extended further over the next two months.

The Thames Online service uses mesh networking technology across 100 access points, allowing users to roam along that stretch of the river without any interruption to their Internet connection--effectively creating one big hot spot.

The public network is available to anyone with a wireless-enabled device and costs $5.79 (2.95 pounds) for one hour or $11.68 for a day of pay-as-you-go Internet access. A monthly subscription rate of $19.53 is also available.

Read more at 'Thames becomes giant Wi-Fi hot spot'

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Life on the internet

Would you want to be filmed 24 hours a day, seven days a week?? In a media age of shows like The Truman Show and Big Brother, perhaps this is not so shocking? Well, a guy named Justin Kan has strapped a camera to the side of his head and invited the world to log on and share his entire life, 24/7:

Kan is the internet's newest star after launching, a website where viewers see what he sees and hear what he hears, even on a date. Only when he goes to the bathroom or bed does he take the camera off, but even then it is still discreetly monitoring every moment. The age of surveillance as entertainment appears to have reached its logical conclusion with 'lifecasting'...

...Kan's fame has resulted in requests for dates despite, or because, women know they will be on camera. 'I'm single, which makes the whole 24/7 thing much easier,' he said. The army of voyeurs on the site's chatrooms have inevitably debated whether Kan should have sex live on air. He has not ruled it out: 'We're still exploring what is legal, but any censorship that takes place won't come from my part. I'm willing to go all the way.'

When Kan goes to the bathroom, he points the camera at the ceiling, but the sound is transmitted. At night it is aimed at his bed to show him sleeping. Kan has removed his phone number from the site because it became so overloaded with calls, but he still responds to emails.

Read in full at - 'Share my life on the internet, 24 hours a day'

Spaceport America

New Mexico’s governor Bill Richardson worked with the southwest desert state’s legislature to secure 33 million dollars for the final design of “Spaceport America,” the world’s first commercial spaceport.

Now the voters in the Dona Ana County municipality where the project is to be located will weigh in, in a referendum scheduled for April 3 on a new sales tax to fund the project.

If Spaceport America meets with voter approval, a maiden space voyage is expected in two to three years. If passed, the new tax would add 25 cents to a 100-dollar purchase, bringing in about 6.5 million dollars per year.

Read more here

Bar Codes & Mobile Phones

The New York Times has an article that discusses the innovations in using bar coded objects to communicate directly with mobile phones:

It sounds like something straight out of a futuristic film: House hunters, driving past a for-sale sign, stop and point their cellphone at the sign. With a click, their cellphone screen displays the asking price, the number of bedrooms and baths and lots of other details about the house.

Media experts say that cellphones, the Swiss Army knives of technology, are quickly heading in this direction. New technology, already in use in parts of Asia but still in development in the United States, allows the phones to connect everyday objects with the Internet.

In their new incarnation, cellphones become a sort of digital remote control, as one CBS executive put it. With a wave, the phone can read encoded information on everyday objects and translate that into videos, pictures or text files on its screen.

Part of the new global grid...


Read in full at 'New Bar Codes Can Talk With Your Cellphone'

The world's highest phone call

A British climber Rod Baber aims to make the world's highest phone call!

Rod Baber plans to climb Everest and then establish a world record by making a mobile call from the summit. Weather permitting, the attempt to reach the peak of Everest is scheduled to take place in late May. "There's no reason why it should not work," said Mr Baber who already holds a world record for reaching the highest point of every European nation.

Making a phone call from the summit of Everest has become possible thanks to a mobile base station installed in China that has line of sight to the north side of the mountain.

Read in 'Everest mobile call effort begins'

Monday, April 02, 2007

Predicting Highway Crashes

This TechReview article on 'Predicting Highway Crashes' states how researchers have developed computer modeling software to better identify traffic accidents:

The program--the first of its kind in the nation--is based on historical crash data. It uses existing statistical and mapping software to create a color-coded geographical display of the accident-risk levels on segments of roadway throughout the state.

"The model is saying, 'This area has a higher risk than this area at this specific time of having this specific type of crash,' which lets us predict where and when there are going to be higher risks of crashes," says Christopher Holloman, the project leader and the associate director of the Statistical Consulting Service in Ohio State's Department of Statistics. Currently, the model is being used by the Ohio State Highway Patrol to monitor roadways and position troopers. Eventually, the researchers would like to feed the data to drivers through mobile devices or portable navigation systems.

The predictive crash model was initially developed as a tool to help the Ohio State Highway Patrol better prevent accidents and explore the reasons some roads are riskier than others... So on a particular day, one could look and learn which roadways have the highest risk of, for instance, alcohol-related crashes.

More towards Intelligent Transport Systems...

Researching the Mediterranean in the North West of England

Invitation to a social event – Researching the Mediterranean in the North West of England. Following a good response to the idea of creating a network of young researchers studying the Mediterranean in the NW of England, we are glad to announce the first meeting on the 18th of April in Manchester.

Date: 18th of April 2007 - Time: 3pm

Venue: Room 0.2.29. School of Social Sciences, Manchester University.

Located in the second floor of the Dover Street (Old Wing) building. Please see this link for directions.

Conceived as informal social events, these meetings will provide the opportunity to talk about our own research with colleagues sharing similar concerns and to develop a trans- and post-disciplinary dialogue. While these meetings might be of obvious interest to researchers in International Relations and European and Middle East studies we want to encourage scholars whose object of research is in the Mediterranean but who might not have thought of themselves as doing ‘Mediterranean studies’. In this respect academics looking at issues as diverse as urban transport, culinary cultures, uneven regional development, coastal erosion, networks of cities or migration, might benefit from thinking about their object of study in the broader geographical, geopolitical, economic and cultural context of the Mediterranean and how different ‘Mediterranean’ policies, discourses and projects shape the processes under study.

In our first meeting we will be discussing forthcoming activities so please bring ideas about possible future projects. Thus far we have received expressions of interest from more than 20 people and attendance to the first meeting is expected to be good. Our colleague Dimitiris Papadimitriou has kindly booked the room for the event and will be our host in Manchester. After the meeting those wishing to stay longer will go for a drink in a bar nearby.

Hakim Darbouche (

Javier Caletrio (