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     Volume 4 Issue 21 | November 12, 2004 |

   Cover Story
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Robots Playing
Its time for the robots now to hone their social etiquette as a University of Hertfordshire team is working on how future robot react in social situations by playing games, like pass-the-parcel. The study's findings will eventually help humans develop a code of social behaviour in human-robot interaction. "We are assuming a situation in which a useful human companion robot already exists. Our mission is to look at how such a robot should be programmed to respect personal spaces of humans," said Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn, project leader at Hertfordshire. The research also focuses on human perception of robots, including how they should look and how a robot can learn new skills by imitating a human demonstrator. "Without such studies, you will build robots which might not respect the fact that humans are individuals, have preferences and come from different cultural backgrounds. And I want robots to treat humans as human beings and not like other robots," Dautenhahn added. The team aims to prepare robots to handle not one but a number of people together and to do this they made one robot to play pass-the-parcel with children. "If you think of a robot as a companion for the human being, you can think of 20 years into the future. It might take even longer because it is very, very hard to develop such a robot," concluded Professor Dautenhahn.

Scientists Find Methane on Mars
A European Space Agency team has detected methane gas on Mars, the clearest indicator yet that there could be life there. According to University of Michigan scientist, Sushil Atreya who was a part of the team, "Biologically produced methane is one of many possibilities. Ethane is a potential biomarker. If a planet has methane we begin to think of the possibility of life on the planet. On Earth, methane is almost entirely derived from biological sources." He added that methanogens, microbes that consume the Martian hydrogen or carbon monoxide for energy and exhale methane that dwell in colonies out of sight beneath the surface of the red planet could be the possible source of Methane getting to Mars. "These are anaerobic so they don't need oxygen to survive, if they are there. If they are there, they would be underground. While it's tantalising to think there are living things on Mars, we aren't in a position to say that is what is causing the methane," he said. The instrument that sniffed out the methane detected an average ten parts per billion by volume (ppbv) of methane on Mars that was distributed unevenly over Mars' surface, which tends to support the theory that an internal, on-site source, rather than a comet, is the source generating the methane.

Never Fill a Digital Camera
Memory Card Again

Epson's new P-2000 Multimedia Storage Viewer features a 40GB hard drive that you can use to store images from memory cards. That means you don't have to worry about running out of card space or carrying a notebook along. Just insert the memory card into the P-2000, transfer the images, clear the card, and start shooting again. Each of the two built-in memory card slots supports CompactFlash Type I and Type II and Secure Digital memory cards, and there's an optional third-party adapter for additional cards. The P-2000 has a 3.8in display for viewing Jpeg images. Its 40GB capacity is enough to store about 5000 RAW-format images and up to 10,000 Jpeg images, according to Epson. The portable device is designed to enable users to show off digital photos culled from a computer or straight from the flash cards used by popular cameras. Intended as a replacement for Epson's P-1000, the P-2000 has higher-capacity storage, a faster interface and the ability to play video and music files.

People Are Human-Bacteria Hybrid
Most of the cells in your body are not your own, nor are they even human. They are bacterial. From the invisible strands of fungi waiting to sprout between our toes, to the kilo gram of bacterial matter in our guts, we are best viewed as walking "super-organisms," highly complex conglomerations of human cells, bacteria, fungi and viruses. That's the view of scientists at Imperial College London describing how these microbes interact with the body. Understanding the workings of the superorganism, they say, is crucial to the development of personalised medicine and health care in the future because individuals can have very different responses to drugs, depending on their microbial fauna. More than 500 different species of bacteria exist in our bodies, making up more than 100 trillion cells. Because our bodies are made of only some several trillion human cells, we are somewhat outnumbered by the aliens. It follows that most of the genes in our bodies are from bacteria, too. Luckily for us, the bacteria are on the whole commensal, sharing our food but doing no real harm. In fact, they are often beneficial: Our commensal bacteria protect us from potentially dangerous infections. They do this through close interaction with our immune systems. "We have known for some time that many diseases are influenced by a variety of factors, including both genetics and environment but the concept of this superorganism could have a huge impact on our understanding of disease processes," said Jeremy Nicholson, a professor of biological chemistry at Imperial College and leader of the study. Nicholson's colleague, professor Ian Wilson from Astra Zeneca, believes the "human super-organism" concept "could have a huge impact on how we develop drugs, as individuals can have very different responses to drug metabolism and toxicity." "The microbes can influence things such as the pH levels in the gut and the immune response, all of which can have effects on the effectiveness of drugs," Wilson said. The Imperial College research demonstrates what many -- from X Files stalwarts to UFO fanatics -- have long claimed: We are not alone. Specifically, the human genome does not carry enough information on its own to determine key elements of our own biology.

Grannies Turn into Gadget Geeks
The next time you want to learn how to operate that complicated looking gadget, try asking your grandmother and chances are that she will decode it for you. A new survey has revealed that the number of 50 year olds spending money on gadgets is far greater than 30-year olds. The survey, conducted by Lloyds TSB bank, found that older people are spending money on updating themselves with the latest technology like never before and they also take much more holidays than the younger generation. According to the survey this is because people who are over fifty are much more financially and socially secure and are therefore able to make use of the security. "Today's footloose over 50s are taking full advantage of their financial and social freedom," the researchers as saying.

Source: Webindia123.com / Wired.com / Pcadvisor.co.uk


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