Tuesday, July 29, 2008

UCSD designs robots to teach students

Voice of San DiegoJuly 29, 2008

"...A third year computer science graduate student, Whitehill and his colleagues are working to make a new generation of robots that would be effective and responsive teachers. They believe the key is to train them to recognize and respond to facial expressions, the way humans do naturally. Whitehill described the demonstration, part of his research at the University of California, San Diego's Machine Perception Laboratory, as "almost like having a remote control built into your face."...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Better safe than sorry: cell phones and brain cancer

Preliminary results from a study of people who use cell phones over a period of ten years has some doctors worried, including Ronald Haberman of the University of Pittsburg Cancer Institute.

But most doctors want to wait until the final results are in before they warn against cell phone use.

Cancer researcher warns staff to limit cell phone use
By Jennifer C. Yates and Seth Borenstein
published in San Diego Union Tribune
July 24, 2008

Herberman...said it takes too long to get answers from science and that he believes people should take action now – especially when it comes to children.

“Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later,” Herberman said...

In the memo he sent to 3,000 faculty and staff members yesterday, he said children should use cell phones only for emergencies because their brains are still developing.

Adults should keep the phone away from the head and use a speaker or a wireless headset, he said...

A 2008 University of Utah analysis looked at nine studies – including some Herberman cites – with thousands of brain-tumor patients and concludes that “...The potential elevated risk of brain tumors after long-term cellular phone use awaits confirmation by future studies.”

...A driving force behind the memo was Devra Lee Davis, director of the university's center for environmental oncology.

“The question is, do you want to play Russian roulette with your brain?” she said. “I don't know that cell phones are dangerous. But I don't know that they are safe.”

Friday, July 04, 2008

Farewell, Jesse Helms

I didn't agree with Jesse Helms' politics, but I've come to believe that he was exactly what nature intended him to be. He clearly had an anterior cingulate cortex that forbade him to change.

Jesse Helms: a polarizer, not a compromiser

"Compromise, hell!" Jesse Helms screamed in a 1959 editorial that captured what would become the legacy of his Senate career and his place in the conservative movement.

Jesse Helms mostly was a polarizer, not a compromiser. He would rather win elections by a razor's edge than change his conservative positions.

Many of his colleagues in the congenial Senate "club" sought compromises on the toughest social issues. Jesse Helms wouldn't play along. He relished his nickname as "Senator No," the man who knew the Senate rules so well that he blocked legislation that violated his right-wing principles and nominees he couldn't stomach.

Have we forgotten the fundamentals of American patriotism?

The survival of American democracy depends on education, and we've been failing to teach our citizens the basic values of our democracy.

David S. Broder
Washington Post
July 4, 2008

...The ideas that define this country are found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as amplified by Supreme Court decisions and statutes in subsequent years. Those ideas have been tested in crisis and in war, and the leaders who steered the nation through those testing times are the heroes whose legacy we celebrate -- Washington, Lincoln, the two Roosevelts.

What disturbs the Bradley scholars is evidence that our generation is failing to educate the next one on the essentials of the American experiment..."

Black skin and patriotism

I've noticed that the most difficult relationships often involve the deepest love. So has Eugene Robinson:

Eugene Robinson
July 4, 2008

...think about the Buffalo Soldiers and the Tuskegee Airmen. Think about Dorie Miller, who, like so many black sailors in the segregated U.S. Navy of the 1940s, was relegated to kitchen duty – until Pearl Harbor, when Miller rushed up to the deck of the sinking battleship West Virginia, carried wounded sailors to safety and then raked Japanese planes with fire from a heavy machine gun until he ran out of ammunition.

Think about Colin Powell – but also think about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., a former Marine. And consider, as we celebrate Independence Day, how steadfast and complicated black patriotism has always been...

The fact that African-American patriotism is never simple doesn't mean it's in any way halfhearted; to the contrary, complicated relationships tend to be the deepest and strongest. It's a historical fact that black soldiers and sailors who fought overseas in World War II came home to Southern cities where they had to ride in the back of the bus – and that they were angry that the nation for which they had sacrificed would treat them this way. To some whites, I guess, it may seem logical to be suspicious of black patriotism – to believe that anger must somehow temper love of country.