Thursday, February 26, 2015

Japan's Robear: Strength of a robot, face of a bear

Well howdy! Glad you could fine a few minutes to drop in...out of cyberspace. What're you up to today? Got any big plans. Me? Nah...same old same old. Little of this, little of that and still working on my first million. Meanwhile, fill your mug and moosh a virtual megamuffin onto your plate while I tell you about the latest Japanese robot...

TOKYO - Forget the frightening androids of dystopian sci-fi, the future of robots is cute polar bears that can lift elderly people into and out of bed.

The "Robear" has a cub-like face with big doey eyes, but packs enough power to transfer frail patients from a wheelchair to a bed or a bath, Japan's Riken institute said Tuesday.

"The polar cub-like look is aimed at radiating an atmosphere of strength, geniality and cleanliness at the same time," research leader Toshiharu Mukai told AFP.

"We voted for this design among options presented by our designer. We hope to commercialise the robot in the not-too distant future," he added.

A historically low birth rate and ever-increasing life expectancy means Japan's population of elderly people is growing, while the pool of youngsters to look after them is shrinking.

A reluctance to accept large-scale immigration means an increasing reliance on robots, especially to perform physically difficult work.

This frequently combines with the country's love of all things cute, to produce machines with disarming faces and child-like voices.

"As Japan is aging with fewer children, the problem of a shortage in caregivers for the elderly is getting serious," Riken said in a statement.

"Expectations are high that robotics will help resolve this problem," it said.

 A very uplifting idea, if you ask me!

See ya, eh!


PS: If you like robots, here's one that could put some moola in your pocket. 


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Prevent – Even Reverse – Alzheimer's Disease

Well hi there! Thanks for stopping by today. You're looking good, I must say! Taking your vitamins are you? Eating lots of greens, too? Well wash it all down with a nice mug of coffee. Pick up a virtual treat as well, why don't'cha? Speaking of eating your greens, I got another email from my pal, Dr. Al and he says it is possible to prevent, maybe even reverse, Alzheimer's Disease. Wouldn't that be something, eh! Read on...
Dear Bob,

The specter of Alzheimer's disease is terrifying. Memory lapses are just the beginning. You gradually lose your ability to make judgments or learn new things. Eventually you can't take care of yourself or even recognize your spouse or children.

Alzheimer's steals your identity.

Most mainstream doctors will tell you that Alzheimer's is totally unpredictable and can strike anyone as they get older. But I don't agree. 

It is possible to prevent Alzheimer's. I see mounting evidence of it every day.

I'm not talking about using Big Pharma's drugs. They're designed only to slow down the progress of the disease. And they're not even very effective at that.   

I'm talking about real steps you can take today to minimize your risk. And there is very strong scientific data to back me up on this.

Here's what you can do…

1. Keep a trim figure. A recent British study found a strong link between obesity and dementia. In fact, people who were overweight in middle age had a 35% greater risk of dementia. Obese people had a staggering 74% increased risk.1

2. Eat more greens. A South Korea study found a direct link between a deficiency of folate (vitamin B9) and Alzheimer's. People who developed Alzheimer's had an "exaggerated" decline in their B9 levels. Overall, people with low folate had three times the risk of developing Alzheimer's or dementia.2 

Folate is abundant in leafy greens like kale, spinach, and turnip greens, as well as beans, peas, and certain fruits. You can also take a folic acid supplement. I recommend getting at least 800 mcg per day.

3.  Boost your brain antioxidants. A landmark study found that people who take antioxidants have only one-third the risk of Alzheimer's disease compared with those who don't.3

One very powerful brain antioxidant is acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC). Researchers tested it on people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer's. Just 1.5 to 3 grams of ALC per day significantly improved their brain function across the board after just three months.4

There is also one special brain food I recommend to my patients. It helped one man reverse his Alzheimer's in just 37 days. My colleague Dr. Frank Shallenberger explains everything you need to know about this powerful food in his report How to Reverse Alzheimer's Disease.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

I'm already taking too many dang pills but maybe I'll add some L-Carnitine to the assortment. The ol' brain could use some additional stimulation...know what I mean?

See ya, eh!


1. Whitmer R, et al. "Obesity in middle age and future risk of dementia." BMJ, 2005: 330(7504):1360. 2. Kim JM et al, "Changes in folate, vitamin B12 and homocysteine associated with incident dementia." J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2008;79(8):864-8.
3. Flint Beal, M. "Oxidative Mechanisms, Inflammation, and Alzheimer’s Disease Pathogenesis." 9th International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease. June 2005.
4. Montgomery et al. "Meta-analysis of double blind randomized controlled clinical trials of acetyl-L-carnitine versus placebo in the treatment of mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer’s disease." International Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2003. 18(2):61-71.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cicada 3301 – The Internet’s Most Baffling Mystery

G'day to you! Great to see you.How are you doing anyway? Fill your mug and snag a virtual treat or two, why don't'cha? Done any good puzzles lately? Well here's one for you to unravel...

Cicada 3301 is often referred to as the internet’s most elaborate and mysterious puzzle, one that often leaves cryptoanalysts and hackers scratching their heads. A sort of cross between a contest, job interview and highly complex puzzle, Cicada 3301 recurs each year, but no one knows who is behind it or what prize awaits the person who solves it.

The first internet puzzle appeared online on January 5, 2012, and two subsequent rounds were released on the same day of the following years. During the first year, Cicada 3301 started with a picture on 4Chan, along with the message: “Hello. We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through.” The message was simply signed 3301.

The ensuing puzzle provided focused heavily on data security, cryptography and steganography. The clues were scattered in locations all over the world – from the US to France and Poland, within various forms of communication including the internet, telephone, bootable Linux CDs, digital images, and physical paper signs. The clues have also referenced several books, poetry, artwork and music. Clues are always signed by the same cryptic private key to confirm authenticity.

Swedish computer analyst and self-confessed ‘IT freak’ Joel Eriksson is one of the very few people who cracked the puzzle but never got to find out what was at the end of it all. When he saw the first image that was posted along with the message in 2012, he immediately recognized it as an example of digital steganography, which is the concealment of secret information within a digital file. The technique is commonly associated with criminal activities such as child pornography and terrorism.

When he recognized the photograph, Eriksson’s curiosity was aroused and he decided to give the game a shot – and within minutes he found a web address buried in the image’s code. To his surprise, the link led to the image of a duck with the message: “Whoops! Just decoys this way. Looks like you can’t guess how to get the message out.” By this point Eriksson was hooked.

So he tinkered with other variables and found another hidden message in the duck, linking to a Reddit message board, where strange symbols of dots and lines were being posted. Eriksson realized that these were Mayan numbers, so he translated them. He admitted that up until then, the puzzles did not involve any advanced skills, but then things began to get really interesting.

The puzzles slowly began to mutate in several different directions – hexadecimal characters, reverse-engineering, prime numbers, in which pictures of the cicada insect became a common motif. “I knew cicadas only emerge every prime number of years – 13 or 17 – to avoid synchronizing with the life cycles of their predators,” he said. “It was all starting to fit together.”

Eriksson explained that as word of the puzzle spread across the web, thousands of amateur codebreakers joined the hunt for clues. Several 4chan users in fact started decoding messages collectively, which was probably not what the organization had intended. But Eriksson ploughed through the clues alone, even taking time off work to focus on the mysterious puzzle full time. At one point, a clue led to a phone number based in Texas, but it just led to an answering machine. But by multiplying the digits, he found a new prime number and a new website with a countdown clock and a huge picture of a cicada.

“It was thrilling, breathtaking by now,” Eriksson recalled. “This shared feeling of discovery was immense. But the plot was about to thicken even more.” When the countdown reached zero, at 5pm GMT on January 9 2012, it displayed 14 GPS coordinates around the world ranging from Seattle to Sydney. As amateur solvers across the world left their computers to investigate these locations, they found posters attached to lamps – again with the image of a cicada and a QR code.

“It was exhilarating,” Eriksson said. “I was suddenly aware of how much effort they must have been putting into creating this kind of challenge. When the QR codes were decoded, the hidden message pointed to a TOR address that allowed access to the deep web, which is the vast, murky portion of the internet that cannot be indexed by search engines. This part of the internet is estimated to be 5,000 times larger than the surface web, and believed to contain human-trafficking rings, black market drug markets and terrorist networks.

Unfortunately, the Cicada path ended rather abruptly in the deep web – after a certain number of solvers visited the address, it shut down with the message, “We want the best, not the followers.” That’s when the rumors started that a chosen few had received emails. Unfortunately, Eriksson wasn’t one of them. “It was my biggest anti climax – when I was too late to register my email at the TOR hidden service,” he said. “If my sleep-wake cycle had been different, I believe I would have been among the first.”

As much as I enjoy puzzles, this would take a rather large amount of time and I have too much on my plate as it is. Nong would say the same about my dinner plate! More coffee?

See ya, eh!


Monday, February 23, 2015

The Unhoneymoon

Well a gracious good day to you. How's tricks? Ready for that warm-up mug of coffee? Virtual muffin of Danish? Go know you want one. Be a devil!  And here's a devilishly clever idea that I can see growing exponentially with the divorce rate. 

A Saratoga Springs, New York, resort has begun accepting totally defeated husbands and wives for a relaxed weekend that includes divorce, bringing to America a concept already successful in six European cities. 

The Gideon Putnam Resort & Spa charges $5,000 for a couple to check in on a Friday, married, but leave Sunday officially single (complete with all legal niceties and various resort amenities, including, of course, separate rooms). 

Even though the couple must be fairly level-headed to accept this approach, the facility manager expressed concern that since the resort also books weddings, the "uncouplers" might inadvertently witness difficult scenes. 

(Gideon Putnam has hosted four divorces so far, but, said the European founder of the package service, "hundreds" of couples have used the services in Europe.) [New York Post, 2-10-2015]

Sign of the times, I'm afraid. There's no truth to the rumours that Hooters and Chippendale's are opening up across the street but it would seem to be a natural Walmart and McDonalds!

See ya, eh!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

$40,000 a teaspoon = The World’s Most Expensive Food

Well hello there! Thanks for dropping by today. How's it going? Help yourself to a refreshing mug of arabica bean juice and a virtual treat. Say, do you like caviar? I do but haven't had that much of it over the years... Well, if you do, listen to this...

A special type of caviar, made from rare albino fish eggs and laced with 22-carat gold, is thought to be the most expensive food on the planet. Priced at a staggering $300,000 per kilo (that’s about $40,000 per teaspoon), ‘White Gold’ caviar will be served to the super rich at some of the best restaurants in the world.

The powdery caviar, also called Strottarga Bianco, is the creation of Austrian fish farmer Walter Gruell, 51, and his son Patrick, 25. According to Patrick, the Strottarga Bianco comes from the white roe of the extremely rare albino sturgeon. To make just one kilo White Gold, the father-son duo use five kilos of caviar, which is then dehydrated. Older sturgeon are used because the eggs are apparently more elegant, smooth, spongier, aromatic, and they simply taste better.

The albino beluga that produces the special caviar originally lived in the Caspian Sea, but it is now almost extinct in its native environment, making it a rare delicacy. Another reason for the prohibitive price of White Gold is the age of albino belugas. While sturgeons usually live over 100 years, few belugas reach that age due to a genetic flaw that shortens their life.

I don't think anything would taste that much better to be worth $40,000 US a teaspoon... and that would be about a million plus in Canada the way the Canuck Buck is going these days!

I'll stick with a nice Thai curry, BBQ pork on a skewer (Moo Yang) and some sticky rice! Oh, and mangoes with sweet sticky rice for dessert!

See ya, eh!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Eggs are not a health risk, experts now say!

Hey there! Great to see you zinging through cyberspace, doing a spiralling arabesque and landing on the red carpet right in front of the coffeepot - all with your coffee mug at the ready. Well don't just stand there...fill it up already! Grab yourself a virtual doughnut or muffin while you're there. like eggs, don't'cha? Of course - but for years now, doctors have been warning us off them because they contribute to cholesterol. Well hold on just a cotton-picking minute...

The latest info says that you can eat eggs, lots of them. Keep the egg in that Egg McMuffin, but you might want to get rid of the sausage – or at least cut it in half.

US government food experts now tell us to forget those cholesterol warnings we have heard for decades.

The available evidence indicates there is no "appreciable relationship" between the cholesterol we get from the foods we eat and the serum (bad) cholesterol in our blood.

Bad cholesterol, experts say, is mainly a matter of genetics and the real food villain: the saturated fats we get from animal sources, especially meat and dairy products.

The new dietary guidelines for Americans will be published later this year and will likely drop reference to cholesterol. Instead it will recommend cutting consumption of saturated fats found in meats like pork, fatty beef, lamb, poultry with skin, butter, cheese and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat (2 percent) milk.

What about eggs? Eggs are low in saturated fat, so you would need to eat a dozen or so to reach your daily fat limit.

One thing hasn't changed:  experts recommend that you eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

Yee haw! I knew it! Which came first....the chicken or cholesterol? The chicken, dagnabit... and the eggs over easy! 

I'm going to go have me a couple eggs to celebrate...but I'll have a turkey sausage with them! Maybe another mug of coffee, too!

See ya, eh!