Posts Tagged ‘ Technology ’

Autism: how computers can help

February 28, 2012

Gary McKinnon with his mother, Janis Sharp. What role does his Asperger's syndrome play

A lot of the articles on autism is pretty much on the disadvantages and problems faced by those who are diagnosed with it. But there is some good news for those who have mild autism, especially individuals with skills that fall into the IT industry. New research suggests that the traits of autism can be found more frequently in people involved with computers.  So I am left comtemplating whether or not I possess the traits of autism myself?

That’s my comment…pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Autism: how computers can help” was written by Giulia Rhodes, for The Guardian on Sunday 26th February 2012 20.00 UTC

In 2001, the technology magazine Wired coined the phrase “geek syndrome” to describe the threefold increase in autism diagnoses in California’s Silicon Valley over the space of a decade.

The rumour that Bill Gates himself, founder of Microsoft and figurehead of the world IT industry, displays the traits of Asperger’s syndrome, the high-functioning form of autism, spread like wildfire, across – appropriately – the internet.

More than a decade later Cambridge University’s Autism Research Centre is now running a study investigating the previously established link between parents working in hi-tech, scientific and mathematical industries and an increased incidence of children on the autism spectrum. The National Autistic Society reports in its latest member’s magazine that the number of software packages and apps designed specifically for people with autism is rocketing. IT companies in the UK and beyond are actively recruiting an autistic workforce for its highly technical and concentration skills.

The relationship between computers and autism is undisputed – and double-edged. Many autism experts agree with Temple Grandin, an author and professor at Colorado State University, herself autistic, who believes that without “the gifts of autism” there would probably be no Nasa or IT industry. Yet the high-profile cases of Gary McKinnon and Ryan Cleary, both of whom have Asperger’s syndrome, are just two examples of how that relationship can go wrong.

Last November a conference organised by Research Autism considered this apparent contradiction, asking are computers a blessing or a curse for people with autism? Richard Mills, director of research at the charity and chair of the conference, believes the answer is complicated: “The computer age totally changes the world of autism. Things are instant, and they are unregulated. We see tremendous advantages to this if it is properly managed – and huge pitfalls if it isn’t.”

The risks are not just for the small proportion who hit the headlines though. “We have so many parents concerned about their children’s computer use, and about the explosion of packages designed to help people with autism to communicate, which have not been properly evaluated. We must proceed with rather more caution and try to think through problems before they actually happen.”

The potential of computers to help a group that struggles to communicate and form relationships in real life is obvious. Professor Simon Baron Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre believes they outweigh the possible risks: “We can use computers to teach emotion recognition and to simplify communication by stripping out facial and vocal emotional expressions and slowing it down using email instead of face-to-face real-time modes.”

Research at Nottingham University and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has found that people with autism value the increased control over their interactions that is afforded by the filter of a computer screen. They can observe interactions, choose when to be sociable and make contact with other people who have autism.

Presenting information visually in the precise and predictable computer format suits the autistic mind, says Baron Cohen, and can provide “a tool or platform for developing further skills”.

He also identifies the role of computers in making geeks fashionable: “The new technology is chic, so people who are talented at using technology acquire a certain kudos, thereby further reducing any stigma that is often associated with disability.”

One risk though is that the computer can itself become an obsession which, in extreme cases, leads the user into serious problems. The reports of Essex teenager Ryan Cleary, charged with a cyber-attack on the Serious Organised Crime Agency, leaving his computer only to use the bathroom, may be extreme but they are far from unique, says Mills: “We do need to think about the tendency in autism to become fixated on narrow activities. They may have the skills to use computers but not to know when to stop.”

In March it will be 10 years since Gary McKinnon’s arrest for allegedly hacking into a number of US military computers. High court judges last month set a July deadline for the home secretary to decide whether McKinnon will be extradited to face trial and a possible 60-year sentence. His mother, Janis Sharpe, is well aware of the dichotomy of computer use and autism. “When Gary was nine, we bought a primitive Atari,” she says. “He would beg me not to send him out to play so he could use it. We wanted him to mix more but we didn’t want to deny him the information, pleasure and security computers gave him. They were an outlet for him to be himself, and that boosted his self-esteem.”

She recalls accompanying her by-then-adult son to a Christmas party at the family home of a girlfriend. “Gary got his computer out. I told him he couldn’t use it at a party but he couldn’t understand.”

The relationship foundered, and McKinnon retreated further into his virtual world. “People with autism need space, and computers can offer that,” says Sharpe. “But we have to make sure they don’t take over and make other relationships, already difficult for people with autism, even harder.”

She advises parents to keep computers in communal spaces, limit their use and to help children learn to question what they read, guidelines which Mills supports. “This virtual world has to help people access the real world, not isolate them further. They must control it, not be controlled by it,” he says. “We have to reinforce the positives.”

For further information see and © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Is the iPad the new cookbook?

February 1, 2012

Following the Epicurious iPad cooking app

Perhaps the iPad will find it’s way into the kitchen…for those looking for an alternative to bringing a traditional cookbook to the kitchen….still it can be a little sticky touching the iPad and working with ingredients for fudge…

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Is the iPad the new cookbook?” was written by Laura Barnett, for The Guardian on Wednesday 1st February 2012 20.00 UTC

My favourite cookbooks show the scars of countless mealtimes: the singed flyleaf from the time I panicked with a hot roasting tray; the dubious gravy stains; the dried fingerprints of flour from that ill-fated Victoria sponge.

So how practical is it to use recipes on cookery apps? Can a phone or iPad cope with the splatters of the kitchen? And how do you scroll to the next stage of a recipe when your hands are covered in flour or lemon juice or potato peelings?

First, I try out Epicurious, the app attached to the popular American foodie website. With more then 30,000 recipes, it’s much more comprehensive than the average book, and it’s free (though it costs £1.49 to sync the app with recipes you may have stored on the site). It’s easy to navigate: there’s an index featuring everything from “weekend brunch” to “bubbly cocktails”, and useful graded sections labelled “I can barely cook” and “I cook like a pro”. There’s also a nifty “shopping list” function: select a recipe, and the app imports the ingredients into a list, which you can then tick off as you go round a shop.

Many of the recipes sound exotically American (savoury pumpkin pie soup with cinnamon marshmallows, pepita streusel and whipped crème fraiche) or Hispanic (salmorejo; tacos al pastor). The measures, too, are all US-style – cups, 15-ounce cans – so when I do finally select a recipe (butternut squash and cannellini soup with bacon) and get cooking, I waste a good while frantically Googling the conversions.

I’ll blame this – as well as the fact that my phone keeps going to sleep, meaning I’m forever jabbing at the screen with squash-covered fingers – for the fact that I put in double the correct quantity of chicken stock, and the soup bubbles out all over the hob.

I fare better the next day with a British-designed app, Dishy (priced at £2.99). It has only 95 recipes, but you can search by course, ingredient, time or dietary requirements; there’s a shopping list tool; and the step-by-step guides are easy to follow. I make a rustic sausage casserole for dinner; not only is it delicious, but a built-in countdown timer ensures that I fry the sausages for exactly the right time. Best of all, the app somehow manages to override my phone’s sleep function, so I don’t keep having to rinse my hands to avoid slathering the screen with gunk.

Day three is the turn of Great British Chefs (also £2.49), a much-praised app featuring around 180 recipes devised by Michelin-starred chefs such as Marcus Wareing, Nuno Mendes and Tom Aikens. It looks fabulous – lots of sumptuous photography – but most of the recipes are pitched far above my basic skill level and budget (since when were cheese beignets and a burrata, pea, grapefruit, caviar and leek salad classed as “easy”?).

But Daniel Clifford’s cheese scones sound good, so I have a go; the method is easy enough, and there’s a handy voice-activation tool, so you can shout at your phone rather than cover it with sticky dough. The scones turn out almost perfect.

Last I try another British chef known for keeping things simple. Jamie Oliver has a number of apps out. I go for Jamie’s 20 Minute Meals. At £4.99, it’s pricey, but it’s well-designed and simple, and the videos are definitely pitched more at my level. The pea and prawn risotto recipe makes an easy and delicious weekday lunch (though it takes me a lot longer than 20 minutes). But there’s no voice activation, so I’m back to having to wash my hands every few minutes to scroll to the next stage. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Instalar y configurar WordPress SEO

January 15, 2012

Instalar y configurar WordPress SEO:

This video is for my Spanish readers who are looking to maximize the configuration of their SEO WordPress application. Whenever I have a problem concerning my wordpress blog, I always turn to  for a quick and sure solution.  If you need a team of experts to diagnose you website, don’t hesistant in contacting the Webmasseo staff

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

We should scour the moon for ancient traces of aliens, say scientists

December 26, 2011

A pit in Mare Ingenii on the moon

When I hear scientists suggesting we should comb the surface of moons and planets for signs of aliens…then I am thinking more and more each day “We are not alone.” So when will we be witness to the discovery of life elsewhere in this vast universe? The answer could come in our lifetime….with the latest technology in computers and radiotelescopes, the possibility of finding extraterrestrials more likely…but are we ready for the encounter?

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “We should scour the moon for ancient traces of aliens, say scientists” was written by Ian Sample, science correspondent, for The Guardian on Sunday 25th December 2011 16.31 UTC

Hundreds of thousands of pictures of the moon will be examined for telltale signs that aliens once visited our cosmic neighbourhood if plans put forward by scientists go ahead.

Passing extraterrestrials might have left messages, scientific instruments, heaps of rubbish or evidence of mining on the dusty lunar surface that could be spotted by human telescopes and orbiting spacecraft.

Though the chances of finding the handiwork of long-gone aliens are exceptionally remote, scientists argue that a computerised search of lunar images, or a crowd-sourced analysis by amateur enthusiasts, would be cheap enough to justify given the importance of a potential discovery.

Prof Paul Davies and Robert Wagner at Arizona State University argue that images of the moon and other information collected by scientists for their research should be scoured for signs of alien intervention. The proposal aims to complement other hunts for alien life, such as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti), which draws on data from radiotelescopes to scour the heavens for messages beamed into space by alien civilisations.

“Although there is only a tiny probability that alien technology would have left traces on the moon in the form of an artefact or surface modification of lunar features, this location has the virtue of being close, and of preserving traces for an immense duration,” the scientists write in a paper published online in the journal Acta Astronautica.

“If it costs little to scan data for signs of intelligent manipulation, little is lost in doing so, even though the probability of detecting alien technology at work may be exceedingly low,” they add.

The scientists focus their attention on Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has mapped a quarter of the moon’s surface in high resolution since mid-2009. Among these images, scientists have already spotted the Apollo landing sites and all of the Nasa and Soviet unmanned probes, some of which were revealed only by their odd-looking shadows.

Nasa has made more than 340,000 LRO images public, but that figure is expected to reach one million by the time the orbiting probe has mapped the whole lunar surface. “From these numbers, it is obvious that a manual search by a small team is hopeless,” the scientists write.

One way to scan all of the images involves writing software to search for strange-looking features, such as the sharp lines of solar panels, or the dust-covered contours of quarries or domed buildings. These might be visible millions of years after they were built, because the moon’s surface is geologically inactive and changes so slowly.

The seismometer on Nasa’s Apollo 12 mission detected only one impact per month from roughly grapefruit-sized meteorites within a 350km radius. According to Davies and Wagner, it could take hundreds of millions of years for an object tens of metres across to be buried by lunar soil and dust kicked up by these impacts.

An alternative approach would be to send tens of thousands of amateur enthusiasts images over the internet for examination, though this could lead to disagreements over what constituted an unusual, and potentially alien, feature.

The easiest artefact to find would probably be a message left behind intentionally. This might be held in a capsule and left in a large fresh crater like Tycho in the moon’s southern highlands, the scientists write. Some longer-lasting messages could be buried at depth but fitted with transmitters that penetrate the lunar surface, they add.

Alien life might once have set up a lunar base in the underground networks of lava tubes beneath the moon’s dark, basaltic plains, and perhaps have left rubbish when they departed. “The same factors that make lava tubes attractive as a habitat imply that any artefacts left behind would endure almost indefinitely, undamaged and unburied,” the scientists write. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Fingerprint Digital aims at kid-apps market with ‘Mom-Comm’ feature

December 8, 2011

Fingerprint Digital

More and more applications are using our individual fingerprints as a security lock option to protect our property and family. Fingerprints are a great way to reduce access or control access to our computers,phones,homes,etc….so as the market demand continues to grow…we should see more use of  fingerprint technology… 

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Fingerprint Digital aims at kid-apps market with ‘Mom-Comm’ feature” was written by Stuart Dredge, for on Monday 5th December 2011 15.00 UTC

There is no shortage of startups providing apps for children in 2011: Toca Boca, Mindshapes, Nosy Crow, Callaway Digital… and now Fingerprint Digital.

The San Francisco-based company has launched its first five iOS apps, and is counting on a feature called Mom-Comm to help it stand out from the herd. In short, it’s like a Game Center for kids and parents, providing rewards and app recommendations for the former, and an update on their progress for the latter.

Fingerprint was founded by Nancy MacIntyre, who previously worked at electronic learning company LeapFrog Enterprises as executive vice president of product innovation and marketing. Her new company raised $1.4m (£0.9m) in September 2011 to fuel her ambitions of finding an audience among 3-8 year-olds and their parents.

“There are tens of thousands of kids’ apps out there, and for parents just discovering what apps are good and knowing how to find them in the App Store is problematic,” she says.

“Once playing, they have no idea what their kids are doing with them. We set out to create a network of high-quality kids content where it’s easy for the parent to know what games are appropriate for their children, and get an insight into what the child is playing.”

This communication goes a bit further than just telling parents what their children have been doing. Parents can send voice or text messages of encouragement to their children within the apps, while the kids can send pre-scripted messages to their parents to tell them about achievements.

Fingerprint’s first batch of iOS titles includes three in its Big Kid Life franchise, focusing on firefighters, vets and fairy princesses, with a mixture of educational puzzles and more standard gameplay.

Fingerprint Play Maker is an avatar-based app designed to teach maths and spelling skills, while DoReMi 1-2-3 is a musical app introducing pitch and melody through the medium of cute animals. This last app is the work of an external developer, Creativity Mobile.

“Our apps were created to showcase how the platform works, and train people in how to use it and engage with it,” says MacIntyre. “We’ve created an SDK that third party developers can use to plug into our system, and we’ll have several more third-party apps coming out soon.”

Children will create their own character when they first use a Fingerprint game, and will then take that avatar from app to app, and device to device. They will also be able to collect and play with virtual pets, with one unlockable in every app – through play, it should be noted, not through an in-app purchase.

MacIntyre says that in Fingerprint’s tests, the messaging features have received the strongest response from parents and children. “We see it as transforming the solo app play of one child playing an app to making it a social experience between the child and their parent or caregiver,” she says.

“A child can send a message to mom, mom can send one back, and suddenly the parent is engaged in the learning. Kids have gotten really excited about that. We want to bring parents into the apps in a way that we think is interesting and clever.”

MacIntyre is under no illusions about the competitive nature of the kid-apps market, but she also warns that no developer in this space can afford to focus solely on their direct competition.

“Kids have so many choices,” she says. “The battle ground isn’t only about your apps versus Sesame Street. It’s about your apps versus Angry Birds. You need really compelling, fun content. We hope that our shared reward system gives children a reason to go from app to app, while bringing parents into the equation.”

The competitive kid-apps market could work in Fingerprint’s favour as it tries to get more third-party developers to use its SDK in their games and apps. MacIntyre says that the company’s pitch is its ability to deliver an audience for developers’ apps, while also providing them with analytics on how they’re being used.

“It gets them out of the mode of being one of tens of thousands of apps in the App Store, and into being one of a group of highly-curated very high-quality kids apps,” she says. “It’s not about being an app developer building one app at a time. It’s about the network.”

Fingerprint’s launch games are based on its own characters, but during the interview MacIntyre alludes to conversations she’s been having with children’s brands. Licensing looks set to play a part in the company’s future, although no deals have been announced yet.

“As a small company starting out, we need to attract as many customers as possible, and some anchor licensed brands is helpful in that regard,” she says. “However, the apps market has proven its ability to create new IP, and most of the biggest app brands are new IP. We’re really optimistic about Big Kid Life.”

Much of the competition for Fingerprint – but also many of its potential licensors – come from the toys industry that is very familiar to MacIntyre, given her background.

She thinks that most big toy companies still treat apps “as a marketing element” – something to bolster the brands of their physical toys, rather than a way to create new brands and become an important new revenue stream.

“I’m quite sure all of the major toy players are really thinking about the app business,” she says, though, expressing optimism about the idea of linking real-world toys with apps – something done already by Disney with its AppMates line.

What about companies like LeapFrog and Fisher Price making their own tablets for children, and so become a rival platform for kid-app developers to consider?

“Is it possible to have a good experience with a kid-oriented tablet? The answer is yes, but it’s still a toy,” says MacIntyre. “With the price of full tablets coming down, it will be very difficult for anybody to make a meaningful business out of making proprietary devices [for kids]. Every parent with an iPhone or iPad is actually a competitor for LeapFrog or Fisher Price.”

She cites a recent survey showing iOS devices at the top of children’s Christmas wishlists in the US as a sign that Apple’s devices in particular have “done an amazing job of becoming aspirational to children”.

Can Big Kid Life and Mom-Comm become similarly attractive to children, parents and other developers? 2012 should provide the answer. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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The incredible shrinking laboratory or ‘lab-on-a-chip’

December 2, 2011

Blood samples are pictured at the Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analysis in Epalinges near Lausanne.

As technology races ever so quickly into the future, it does so by making daily activities in the laboratory much more easier to perform tests. It’s amazing how much information can be retrieved from just one drop of human blood. The benefits of such tests being done more quickly and inexpensive is that we can now do them more frequently. By adopting a more active role in our health and performing frequent blood tests , we can detect an underlaying disease before it progresses too far…and perhaps save our own lives..

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony   

Powered by article titled “The incredible shrinking laboratory or ‘lab-on-a-chip'” was written by Alok Jha, science correspondent, for on Monday 28th November 2011 15.27 UTC

When a doctor wants to carry out a test, she will probably prick you with a needle, fill up several test tubes of your blood, label, package and send them to some centralised hospital laboratory. Technicians will then take the contents, perform the various biochemical analyses needed, write up the results and send back the documentation in a few weeks, perhaps longer if there’s a backlog.

The process is slow and labour-intensive. What if you could reduce the whole business to a few minutes? What if, for the majority of ailments or questions, the doctor only needed a drop of your blood and could test you for viruses or cancers while you wait in her surgery? With a lab-on-a-chip, that is already possible.

Quick tests are not a new idea – pregnancy tests can be done at home and diabetics can quickly and easily measure their blood sugar levels using only a drop of blood – but complex diagnoses still need labs and technicians.

“With a lab-on-a-chip you can do a quick diagnostic test and get information right there, which is very useful when somebody’s got a disease that’s got a very short timeline to be treated,” says Mark Morrison, CEO of the Institute of Nanotechnology in Stirling, UK. “What it effectively does is miniaturises and compacts all the different processes that a researcher or a technician in the diagnostic lab uses.”

The lab-on-a-chip shrinks the pipettes, beakers and test tubes of a modern chemistry lab onto a microchip-sized wafer of glass or plastic. Perhaps you want to know which viruses are in a sample of blood? Or, on the battlefield, which biological warfare agent is present in a soldier’s bloodstream? Put in a drop of blood at one end and the carefully carved channels take its constituent molecules past a circuit of nanometre-sized chemical and physical tests that poke, prod and characterise them to answer your question, however complicated. A chip developed by the University of Alberta, for example, can screen for chromosome mutations that cause a range of cancers.

The platform blurs nanotechnology, biotechnology and micro-electronics. And it is not specific to medicine – it is being developed for environmental monitoring of pollutants and, increasingly, in basic scientific research to speed up the once-tedious aspects of examining genes or testing the properties of new materials.

Prof Tom Duke at the London Centre for Nantechnology has been working on a chip that can detect whether a blood sample contains HIV. Current tests require testing in large laboratories staffed by skilled clinicians, which is a hindrance if you want to test people in resource-poor countries where the disease is rife.

Duke’s chip simplifies that process using a sensor that only requires a drop of blood at one end. The blood is separated into its parts by an array of nanometre-sized silicon pillars in the sensor and the biggest bits – such as blood cells and large proteins – are trapped. Any virus particles pass between the pilars to the other end of the sensor, where they are attracted to a series of tiny cantilevers coated with antibodies. These are, in essence, mini diving boards that bend when something lands on them, and that deflection can be measured by bouncing a laser off them. The more the diving boards are deflected, the more virus is present. “This platform can be used for pretty much any viral or bacterial disease,” says Duke.

There are several advantages to the lab-on-a-chip approach, beyond the convenience of being able to test in the field. The test sample required is much smaller because of the sensitivity of the chip, which is useful if you need to measure trace gases in the atmosphere or the very earliest stages of a disease when the chemical markers in the blood are low in number and would probably be missed by standard tests.

“Potentially you can detect the presence of, for example, cancer or diabetes at a much earlier stage and then treat it more effectively,” says Morrison. “If you treat the disease earlier on, you have a much greater chance of success.”

The Simbas chip, designed by a team of researchers led by Ivan Dimov at the University of California, Berkeley, can detect a biological component in blood at a concentration of around 1 part per 40 billion. “That can be roughly thought of as finding a fine grain of sand in a 1,700-gallon sand pile,” says Dimov. The self-contained chip can get results from a drop of blood in 10 minutes, without the need for any external pumps, tubes or power supply.

Researchers interested in basic physiology are also finding a use for these sophisticated mini laboratories. Scientists at Harvard University have created a lung on a chip that contains several types of tissue and can be used in experiments to understand basic function. They can simulate flowing blood, introduce pollutants and toxins to see how the “lung” reacts and even stretch and contract the cells to simulate breathing.

The technology will no doubt get faster, cheaper and more abundant. But there are some ethical questions coming along the pipeline, along with the technical ones. Most important, while it is still in its infancy and still relatively expensive, who gets access to it? And, since many of the devices will be used to test for an individual’s susceptibility to specific genetic diseases, another question is who should be able to access to that information? “As a scientist I’d say screen everybody for every disease because then you know who is going to get something and you can treat them early on,” says Morrison. “But that’s maybe looking at it from a utopian point of view.”

The dystopian alternative is a precautionary note rather than an inevitability and, in any case, debates around future access to genetic and medical data are already under way, thanks to a rapidly improving arsenal of medical and environmental sensors. Miniature laboratories on silicon and glass chips are another, invaluable tool in that arsenal.

The Guardian is working in association with the European Union’s NanoChannels project to create a portal for information on the technical and ethical challenges associated with nanotechnology © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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The Brain is Wider Than the Sky by Bryan Appleyard – review

November 18, 2011


Perhaps IT technology can never replace the power of our minds …but one day it can come very close. I believe  there is a fear that IT technology will take away much of what is accomplished by us and could further obselete more people from current responsiblities. I am an optimist, and whatever advances we make in any field, one thing is constant…the human brain will always be required to control and maintain all technology…now and into the future. How widw is your brain?

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony   

Powered by article titled “The Brain is Wider Than the Sky by Bryan Appleyard – review” was written by Simon Ings, for The Observer on Thursday 17th November 2011 11.00 UTC

In 1610 Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei published Starry Messenger, a book of telescopic observations of the night sky, and opened the heavens to busy and ambitious imaginations. Johannes Kepler imagined a manned voyage to the moon in The Dream (1634). Galileo gave us much to look forward to. But the world never turns out to be what we expected.

Award-winning feature writer Bryan Appleyard reckons today’s neuroscientists are like Galileo. The images they pull from their fMRI scanners, tracing blood-flow in the living brain, are the equivalent of Galileo’s drawings of moon mountains. They are magnificent achievements – but they are the beginning of the story, not its end.

The Brain is Wider Than the Sky is not about the sciences of the mind. It’s about how ideas from those sciences are playing out in the culture at large. Appleyard is scientifically literate, rigorous and intelligent. He is also very good at tracing that perilously faint line where the science of consciousness leaves off and the moonshine begins. Not all moonshine is bad for us. Kepler’s Dream was and is a delight. But a culture cannot live on moonshine alone, and Appleyard reckons we’re consuming more of it than is good for us.

The human brain is the most complex object we know. To describe it, thinkers and writers quite understandably reach for the most complicated thing they can imagine. Four centuries ago the brain was considered a particularly fiendish plumbing problem; later it turned into a steam engine; then a telegraph office. Now it’s “like the internet”. The brain is no more a computer network than it is a heating system. Proper neuroscientists know this. The baseless assumption that the brain is some sort of meat computer has combined oddly with the IT revolution, giving many otherwise rational people the idea that our computers will someday soon acquire consciousness. If mere computational power were enough, of course, then any complex system would be conscious. The weather would be conscious. The oceans would think as they turned.

A new and powerful religion holds sway: a belief in the wisdom of the digital collective. To be saved, we must plug in. Plugging in leads, inevitably, to disenchantment. As humourist Alice Kahn has it: “For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.” Call trees are the least of it. Appleyard gives a voice to the victims, from the tearful teenager drowning in the flood of his own social media, to Cheryl Cole, whose every action is so thoroughly mediated and syndicated, she spends her life patiently explaining to journalists that she is actually a human being.

Appleyard’s central point is that, in our desire to think great things about our IT “cloud”, we’re deliberately oversimplifying ourselves. We’re hammering ourselves into ridiculously reductive boxes. In our desire to be part of something greater, we’re making ourselves small.

Appleyard is not alone, but, philosophically, this book is not quite on the same level as last year’s You Are Not a Gadget, a work of staggering apostasy by one of cyberspace’s founding fathers, Jaron Lanier. A couple of things make Appleyard’s work a valuable companion to the debate, rather than a latecomer to the party. First, his breadth of reference. He’s interviewed actors in his time, and celebrities, as well as geeks and gurus and scientists, and he treats all his subjects with a critical sympathy that looks easy but takes a career to acquire.

Second, he manages to distinguish between the work of individual scientists and the broader philosophical questions science raises. An early highlight is a vivid, concise, down-to-earth description of the workings of an fMRI scanner – a machine that can create maps of the functioning brain. Not many pages later, Appleyard turns philosopher, and offers an excellent explanation of what reductionism is, and why a science that simply anatomises phenomena into smaller and smaller parts misses a vast portion of scientifically explorable reality.

Poor thinking around digital technology is certainly damaging what is human in us, but not completely, and not for ever. Appleyard has a refreshing belief in a culture’s ability to laugh off its absurdities, eventually. He reminds us of one of the finer jokes in US sitcom Friends. Chandler shows off his new laptop, crowing about its staggering speed, immense processing power and gigantic memory. When asked what he’s going to do with it, he sheepishly admits that he might play a few games.

If only we were less gullible, this excellent joke would have lost its currency years ago, and this book need not have been written. As it is, Appleyard’s meditation is essential reading. We’re all Chandler now. And the joke – that a holy Father-figure may be lurking somewhere in the iCloud – is wearing very thin indeed.

Simon Ings’s new novel is Dead Water (Corvus) © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Battlefield 3: Andy McNab on how he brought realism to shooting games

October 27, 2011

Andy McNab

I guess if you want to buy a battlefield video game that comes as close as the real thing….try Battlefield 3 by Andy McNab who has seen the real deal…shooting games are getting more and more realistic because of the high demand for it. More bloodier,louder,faster,and exciting…more is always better…isn’t it?

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Battlefield 3: Andy McNab on how he brought realism to shooting games” was written by Keith Stuart, for on Thursday 27th October 2011 13.27 UTC

Famed for his explosive SAS memoir Bravo Two Zero, and now the author of dozens of fictional military thrillers, Andy McNab is a pretty good person to go to if you’re concerned with creating an authentic combat game. The decorated ex-soldier worked with EA Dice through the last year of development on Battlefield 3, helping with mission design, dialogue and motion capture sessions. He has also written a tie-in novel, Battlefield 3: The Russian, which explores the activities of special forces operator Dima, who appears as a non-playable character in the game.

But what has he really been able to draw from his covert missions in hotspots around the world? And has his work as a security adviser helped in the task of describing war to a bunch of coders and artists? We spoke to him last week, to find out.

You haven’t been heavily involved with a video game before. What drew you to Battlefield 3?
The story. It’s as simple as that. Normally, when you’re approached by a games company, they just want you to jump on at the end as a marketing tool, or do a bit of motion capture. But when the call came from EA Dice, I went out to Stockholm and the guys there just seemed to get it – they wanted to progress the story-side. You’ve got to have a lot more than just shooting in games now, you’ve got to have that sense of engagement.

The first things EA Dice showed me were the scripts – and they had a sense of character, of emotion, of connection. That was what did it for me. And my first job was helping with the writing, coming up with plausible bridges between missions, doing some of the dialogue. Military speak is very progressive and positive. No one says, “Well, we’ll try to get to X by 9am”, it’s all about you will do this, I will do that, this will happen. The point of that is, if you start with a moment of doubt, when things get worse, doubt becomes failure. It’s got to be positive from the start. And it’s all about brevity – military language is not as formal as we think it is.

And I spent time with the designers and artists, looking at the aesthetics – the right use of weapons, different ranges of fire, operations in urban and desert environments. I worked with the stuntmen and actors in the motion capture studios, showing them how to hold their guns. The team just wanted everything to look right.

This may sound like a stupid question, but are there moments in Battlefield that have reminded you of genuine missions you’ve been on?
Oh yes, certainly some of the urban stuff. There’s quite a lot of action in Tehran, and through the Middle Eastern architecture, it does look very similar to Iraq. The tank section of the game is based on the earthworks that were built along the Iran/Iraq borders during their war. There were huge infantry battalions based around these earthworks. Four or five years ago, I was flying along the border with the Americans – I was working for a private security company at the time – and I saw these almost medieval constructions.

So I took a couple of pictures and when we were going through the tank levels in the game, I dug out them out, sent them over and Dice produced exact replicas in the game. There’s an American tank commander who served out in Fallujah and now works for EA Dice in the US – he said the tank level is better than a military simulator.

A lot of people aren’t comfortable with the idea of gamers indulging in war simulations for fun. Are you completely OK with it?
Yes! People have always been fascinated by war – games are just another medium for that. There have been war films since the beginning of cinema – you could go along to the Saturday morning pictures and watch John Wayne kill 100 Japanese soldiers in 10 minutes. It’s all part of the same thing. And the big arguments about games inducing violence – they’re a load of nonsense; violence has always been there. And possibly, the reason the crime rate is declining in the US is that people are now staying in and exploring violence through games rather than going out and beating people up.

It’s the same with films and books. I’ve been blamed for a bank robbery in America somewhere; I’ve been blamed for a couple of murders. But look… take Chicago and Toronto: they’re separated by two lakes, nothing more, the TV is the same, their influences are the same, but Chicago’s crime rate is up here and Toronto’s is way down there. How can that be? Is it a cultural thing? I don’t know.

Are the emotions that you experience in shooter anywhere near the emotions you genuinely face in real-life missions? Are there any similarities at all?
Yes, there are. Once you’re engaged with the character, you’re part of it. You get fear, anxiety, you get the same rush of endorphins if you’re successful; obviously it’s all at different levels because it’s just entertainment. You don’t get wet, cold and hungry! Also, some people have gamers down as solitary and geeky, but that’s not the case. It’s very social, you’re in touch with 16 other gamers in Japan, the US, all over the world.

And soldiers tend to be very good at shooters don’t they?
Absolutely. The military uses games to as a teaching tool; soldiers in training have always used games. Conflict is progressing, it’s becoming more about stand-off attack – you don’t want to face the enemy, because people get killed. So war is becoming much more technical and soldiers do play a lot of games. They get it.

Which are some of the key weapons in Battlefield, do you think? Which are the most authentic?

The RPG works very well, certainly in the urban environments. We spent a lot of time working on that, getting it right, especially the signature left by the back blast. Everyone always expects a big explosion from an RPG, but you don’t get that – it’s designed to penetrate armour.

And with RPGs in shooting games you’ll often get a guy who’ll just stand right up and fire. Well, in real-life, sometimes you see them sometimes you don’t; what you’re looking for is the signature of the back blast, which is quite distinctive, it’s a noisy signature. That’s in the game, and it should help players find where the fire is coming from.

The M4 carbine is in a lot of games, but it works very well here. The animation in BF3 captures the way that soldiers manipulate these weapons, the different fixtures on the safety catch, whether it’s on single shot or auto, all that sort of stuff. Even down to the moments where you have stoppage and you’ll just tip the gun to see what’s going on – if the working parts are back, you need a new magazine. So you’ll just tip and look. That’s in the game animation. Geeky things like that.

We spent a lot of time talking about the helicopter gunships, the 40mm cannons, the way that bullet casings come down like rain – that really does happen. So we played with that. Also, they asked me if the gunship would just stay still and hover over the battlefield. I said of course it will; the crew are like, “We’ve got a big gun, we’re heavily armoured, what are you going to do about it?” There’s this attitude, “we will go forward” and we’ve got to get that in the game.

It’s about changing people’s perceptions. If you have a line of machine guns pointing one in one direction, you think they’re going to stitch the wall in a nice line – it doesn’t work that way. When rounds fall, they fall in an oval shape, so instead of having the guns facing outwards, you have two slightly turned to each other – that way you have a bigger Beaten Zone. So often you’ll get players asking, what’s that machine gun doing up there? And actually, it’s doing its job because you want the fire to be coming in from the flank, so the Beaten Zones cross. The Germans worked it out in the first world war. That’s why we lost so many soldiers at battles like Passchendaele.

You’ve also talked a lot about ensuring a lived-in look for the vehicles, and about how tanks end up being heavily customised by their crews…
Yeah, I mean, people live in them! They customise them as much as possible. If they can get hold of a barbecue, they’ll stick it on there. Some crews, certainly in Iraq, they were nicking air conditioning units and trying to rig them up in the tanks. They plug in their iPods. That’s their home. Even in mechanised battalions, in Warriors and all that, they’ll get as much of their equipment as they can on the outside, to make sure they can make the inside more comfortable. Everyone wants chargers for their phones in there! And there are mugs everywhere because they’re continually getting brews on….

There’s a lot of cynicism among the soldiers in Battlefield 3 – they’re often very sceptical, even sarcastic, about their mission objectives. Is that realistic?
Yes, I think it’s in every soldier’s job description! They’ve always got to moan, they’ve always got to be saying, ‘what the fuck’s he on about… oh well, we’ll get on and do it’. It’s not all, ‘yeah, let’s go!’. It’s not like that, people aren’t like that. Everyone just takes the piss out of each other all the time. When they’re not taking the piss is when you’ve got to worry.

The multiplayer element of Battlefield 3 really highlights the importance of good communications between infantry and air force. Is that realistic?
There are occasions where infantry just talk directly to the pilots. There are voice procedures, but if you’ve got a guy on the ground screaming for support, the pilot can just say “Shut up, where are you, what can you see? Mark it for me.” Then they come in and say “Right. I’ve got it.”

But there is a lot of chaos and confusion?
Yes, and I’ve explained that to the team. With the night mission in Tehran, when you’re coming in to the city, I spent ages talking to them about the light flares and what they do as they descend – the shadows they cast, the usual confusion… we’ve played around with that a lot.

Can I ask you quickly, as a security adviser, what do you think about the current situation in the Middle East and North Africa? Did anyone see the Arab spring and the fall of Gaddafi coming?
No. There’s this thing called “the future character of conflict”, and both in the commercial military world and the state military world missed all this, it didn’t hit anyone’s radar. If anything, people were getting more concerned about central Asia. It remains to be seen whether this is all a good thing. I think everyone is relieved that Gaddafi is dead rather than going to the ICC – no one wanted him there. Why would they? It would give him a voice. Now it’s cut, it’s done, he’s dead.

Now it’s about keeping out of the way of the NTC, because there’s that void to fill – they have to manage themselves. As soon as it was over, they were saying, “OK Nato, out!.” That’s the right way to do it. It’s been about mentoring the NTC. They’ve got to be in charge of their own destiny. You don’t want the Europeans stomping around out there.

If you were still in active service with the SAS, where do you think you would be now?
In Afghanistan probably, in a task force there. Since November, most of the Nato special forces have been all about malleting the leadership of the Taliban. The process of transition has begun in the country; the Afghan national army control Kabul now and have actually been quite successful. So the plan is to remove the hardcore leadership of the Taliban so you’re left with people who you can negotiate with. I was out there just before Cameron in November last year and I got a brief that the task forces had malleted about 1,400 Taliban in a 90-day period. It was a huge operation. That’s what it’s all about – the run up to the point at which combat troops are withdrawn; they’re going no matter what – late 2014, probably 2015. They will go, because it will be election time.

So where do you think the next conflict hotspots will be for western powers?
There are many of them – and again it’s about assessing the future character of conflict. What all military forces do is assess energy and food security and the routes to and from trade partners. Food and water, we’re all right on, so it’ll be energy and trade routes – conflicts on the east and west coasts of Africa, possibly. The Americans, I think, still have an aircraft carrier fleet off the west coast protecting that flank. Our energy out of north Africa seems pretty secure now, it’s the east and west coast that might be problem…

Battlefield 3 is released on Friday for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Steve Jobs honoured by Silicon Valley

October 16, 2011

Steve Jobs honoured by Silicon Valley

What’s next now that Steve Jobs is no longer with us? Who will be the one to follow into the future? How will his passing impact this industry? We are left with many questions…

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony      

Powered by article titled “Steve Jobs honoured by Silicon Valley” was written by Ed Pilkington in New York, for The Guardian on Sunday 16th October 2011 21.39 UTC

Some of Silicon Valley’s top executives were set to gather at Stanford university on Sunday evening to celebrate the life and genius of the Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Fittingly perhaps for a memorial of a man who was notoriously secretive, the precise location of the event and its guest list is under wraps. It is being billed as strictly private, with no public or media coverage welcome.

Last week Jobs had a small private funeral following his death on 5 October, aged 56, from pancreatic cancer. On Wednesday morning, another private event will be held at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters for the company’s employees to pay their respects to their deceased leader.

Despite the primarily private nature of the commemorations, Jobs’s many admirers and fans have been able to express their sentiments through an outpouring of messages and cards to Apple stores and the company’s website.

In California, the governor Jerry Brown declared Saturday “Steve Jobs Day”. In a proclamation, he said: “It is fitting that we mark this day to honour his life and achievements as a uniquely Californian visionary. He epitomised the spirit of a state that an eager world watches to see what will come next.”

Security around the Stanford commemoration has been so tight that scarcely any details have yet emerged. Reuters reported that the president of one of Apple’s bitterest rivals, Samsung Electronics, Lee Jae-yong, would be among the attendants.

Samsung and Apple are fighting for supremacy in the smartphone and tablet markets. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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This week’s new games

October 15, 2011


I know a lot of my readers love playing computer games…so here is a list of this week’s recently created games.  RAGE looks like an interesting one …waking up to a new world of mutated creatures roaming about the face of the earth. You just want to survive and with each new challenge, you need to eliminate the infected.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “This week’s new games” was written by Nick Gillett, for The Guardian on Friday 14th October 2011 23.06 UTC

RAGE, PC, PS3 & Xbox

Waking up from cryogenic stasis, you’re ejected into what’s left of the Earth: a Mad Max-style, mutant-infested wasteland.

Saved from death at the hands of horribly agile, scythe-wielding monstrosities, you repay the kindness by undertaking a succession of jobs. While these never go much beyond fetching things and eradicating baddies, the action is fierce enough and the dusty wild west aesthetic never less than gorgeous. The game all ends rather abruptly, but the journey to that point is a raucous and wildly engaging ride.

Bethesda, £34.99-£49.99

Forza Motorsport 4, Xbox

Along with 500 upgradeable cars, a globe-spanning collection of tracks and entirely superfluous Kinect integration, Forza’s fourth iteration arrives infused with Top Gear, from its Clarkson-intoned introduction to regular visits to the series’ test track. Looking absolutely staggering and supplying a palpable sense of the weight, momentum and handling characteristics of each car, its AI racers are no longer infallible and can often be seen slipping from the track in a doomed bid to stop you overtaking. Conceived as Xbox’s answer to Gran Turismo, this surpasses its inspiration. Best racing game ever.

Microsoft, £49.99

Dark Souls, PS3 & Xbox

Where modern games are easy, Dark Souls’ predecessor – Demon’s Souls – was difficult to the point of abject brutality, teaching you repeated lessons in survival, all of which ended with a view of your character’s broken corpse and the loss of appallingly hard-won equipment and experience. Dark Souls manages to be even harder, but somewhere in the endless dance of death amid the dank, vast network of subterranean corridors and tunnels, there’s an experience of stunning, almost cathartic beauty for those masochistic enough to discover it.

Namco Bandai, £49.99

Games news

Other games out now include Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, which adds helicopters and AC-130 gunships to its wafer-thin fighter plane thrills …

Kinectimals Now With Bears brings lots of cute fluffy pandas and koalas to one of the highlights of Xbox’s Kinect lineup …

Just Dance 3 lets up to four players get their simultaneous grooves on with a wedding-style soundtrack of songs and a flashmob mode for up to eight Wii remotes …

Dead Rising 2: Off The Record places you back among the undead for more zombie massacres using amusing improvised weapons …

Might & Magic: Heroes VI refreshes its strategic, turn-based combat for a a new outing …

Cursed Crusade is a hilariously poor, holy crusaders hack and slash ’em-up that you should do your best to avoid …

Finally Farming Simulator 2011: Platinum Edition now features animal husbandry and an extended range of tractors along with the “Bergmann Shuttle 900K large silage wagon”. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder, dies at 56

October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs

He had passion for what he did by pushing to be the best and will be rememberd for changing how we percieve technology. His ideas will continue to florish with the people he had share his vision. Thanks Steve  Jobs.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony

Powered by article titled “Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder, dies at 56” was written by Dominic Rushe in New York, for The Guardian on Thursday 6th October 2011 00.53 UTC

Steve Jobs, billionaire co-founder of Apple and the mastermind behind an empire of products that revolutionised computing, telephony and the music industry, has died in California at the age of 56.

Jobs stepped down in August as chief executive of the company he helped set up in 1976, citing illness. He had been battling an unusual form of pancreatic cancer, and had received a liver transplant in 2009.

Jobs wrote in his letter of resignation: “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.”

Apple released a statement paying tribute: “Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives … The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.”

Bill Gates, the former chief executive of Microsoft, said in a statement that he was “truly saddened to learn of Steve Jobs’s death”. He added: “The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come.

“For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honour. I will miss Steve immensely.”

He is survived by his wife, Laurene, and four children. In a statement his family said Jobs “died peacefully today surrounded by his family … We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief”.

Jobs was one of the pioneers of Silicon Valley and helped establish the region’s claim as the global centre of technology. He founded Apple with his childhood friend Steve Wozniak, and the two marketed what was considered the world’s first personal computer, the Apple II.

He was ousted in a bitter boardroom battle in 1985, a move that he later claimed was the best thing that could have happened to him. Jobs went on to buy Pixar, the company behind some of the biggest animated hits in cinema history including Toy Story, Cars and Finding Nemo.

He returned to Apple 11 years later when it was being written off by rivals. What followed was one of the most remarkable comebacks in business history.

Apple was briefly the most valuable company in the world earlier this year, knocking oil giant Exxon Mobil off the top spot. The company produces $65.2bn a year in revenue compared with $7.1bn in its business year ending September 1997.

Starting with his brightly coloured iMacs, Jobs went on to launch hit after hit transformed personal computing.

Then came the success of the iPod, which revolutionised the music industry, leading to a collapse in CD sales and making Jobs one of the most powerful voices in an industry he loved.

His firm was named in homage to the Beatles’ record label, Apple. But the borrowing was permitted on the basis that the computing firm would stay out of music. After the success of the iPod the two Apples became engaged in a lengthy legal battle which finally ended last year when the Beatles allowed iTunes to start selling their back catalogue.

Jobs’s remarkable capacity to spot what people wanted next came without the aid of market research or focus groups.

“For something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups,” he once said. “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Jobs initially hid his illness but his startling weight loss started to unnerve his investors. He took a six-month medical leave of absence in 2009, during which he received a liver transplant, and another medical leave of absence in mid-January before stepping down as chief executive in August.

Jobs leaves an estimated $8.3bn, but he often dismissed others’ interest in his wealth. “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Gamescom 2011: Lollipop Chainsaw – preview

August 22, 2011

Lollipop Chainsaw

Lollipop Chainsaw

A cheerleader killing zombies.Gamescom that is so wild and I sure a lot of gamers out there will be looking out for the release in 2012…but I suspect it will be ready for release during the Christmas holidays in 2011. The hero is a teenage cheerleader using all her skills to fight off zombies in every corner of a high school. Arms,legs,heads,heads,and more bloody body  parts flying every-where …I sure mom and dad won’t approve of this software…remember its make believe …don’t go psycho on us…there are more games coming…so stick around for the fun.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Gamescom 2011: Lollipop Chainsaw – preview” was written by Keith Stuart, for on Monday 22nd August 2011 13.10 UTC

Juliet Starling is a beautiful, popular cheerleader – the kind of idolised creature who provides the antagonist in every Hollywood teen flick. But in the latest third-person hack-’em-up from Grasshopper Manufacture, she is about to become the hero. A zombifying virus has hit the brilliantly named San Romero high school and the only way she’s going to escape is by harnessing her athletic skills – oh, and a chainsaw. The chainsaw is definitely going to come in handy.

Nowadays we know what to expect from Grasshopper founder Suda51. Violence, bizarre humour, punk music, some more bizarre humour. He is a sort of games industry combination of Roger Corman and Takeshi Kitano; he makes games about his own obsessions and seems to pay only fleeting attention to how others will interpret his works. How else can you explain Killer7, an action adventure game that’s essentially about split personality disorder? And this time the story has been co-written by cult director James Gunn, responsible for the likes of Tromeo and Juliet and sci-fi horror comedy Slither, so don’t expect anything as mundane as coherency to suddenly get in the way of a good evisceration.

In the Gamescom demo I saw, Juliet must navigate through the classrooms and corridors of her school, dismembering her undead peers. She has multiple chainsaw and pom pom attacks, as well as a handy dodge manoeuvre. And of course, all of these can be combined into a series of histrionic combos. Pull off enough of these in sequence (usually by manipulating and juggling zombie bodies) and a gauge in the bottom left of the screen fills up, giving access to the glorious special move roster. There are some belting executions: you can leapfrog over a zombie’s head then jam the chainsaw up between their legs, continuing the slicing trajectory until the blade bursts out the top of their skull, slicing your victim in half.

Everywhere, arms and heads are flying off, and bodies slump like discarded clothes. But this is no blood-red torture porn shocker. The clue is in that oxymoronic title, with its combination of sweet and deadly. In Lollipop Chainsaw, the visual style is comic book horror re-imagined as kawaii cute-fest; so decapitations are accompanied by rainbows, flying pink hearts and twinkling sounds. It shouldn’t work, but the slightly cell-shaded visuals and brash primary colour palette provide a sympathetic backdrop, while all the onscreen messages and HUD elements are in a grainy comic font. It’s a stylistic, hyper-kinetic smorgasbord of pan-global, pop culture references that draws its visual logic from the likes of Steve Ditko and Naoko Takeuchi. Who needs reality when you have illustration?

Amid the madness skulks a zombified teacher, Mr Fitzgibbon, who lumbers in shouting “no talking!” before trying to eviscerate you. He quickly becomes the centre of a mini-boss battle, picking up school desks and using them as makeshift shields against your flamboyant attacks. “Do you homework,” he growls, as you pom pom him from above. The only way to defeat him is to leap over his head and attack him with a special move from behind his desk. When you’ve finished with him, there will be no detention ever again.

We’re also shown a full boss battle against a zombie punk named Zed who works a Mohawk and tartan trousers combination, and lists his favourite bands as Black Flag and The Misfits. He looks like the sort of emaciated drug causality you might have spotted at Jane’s Addiction gigs in the late eighties. “I love the smell of dead cheerleader in the morning,” he whines in a cockney accent. His weapon is an electrified mike stand and the fight takes place on an under-lit disco dance floor. When you chainsaw him in half, he just pushes the two sections of his head together again with his bony hands. Instead, you need to chainsaw his mammoth stage amps in half; mammoth stage amps that, by the way, have a giant neon sign at the top, flashing the word “cocksucker” at you. For Suda51, subtlety is never the best policy. When he is eventually beaten, he cries and screams, the blood spurting from various dismemberments. “He’s such an emo,” Starling witheringly protests.

One of the criticisms levelled at Suda51’s previous Grand Guignol romp Shadows of the Damned, was that there was little gameplay substance beneath the ironic gore. Lollipop Chainsaw could well be another generic third-person slasher – and lord knows, we’ve seen enough zombie games recently. However, it seems as though there are multiple routes to take through the school (indicated by great big arrows shakily pointing at different doors), and it looks like there are uninfected pupils to rescue, bringing in a shepherding mechanic (no, that didn’t do Dead Rising any favours, but let’s see). Also, there’s the small matter of Nick Roulette, the talking decapitated head that Juliet has tied to her belt. What’s his role? Another joking accomplice, a la Johnson in Shadows of the Damned? They’re not saying just yet.

If the combat system is tight, if the visual imagination stays at this level and if the narrative pushes us along through the corridors of gore and rainbows, this is set to be another Grasshopper Manufacture title that you just have to experience for yourself.

Lollipop Chainsaw will be released on Xbox 360 and PS3 in 2012 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Fake Apple stores not limited to China

July 25, 2011

Fake Apple Store

When businesses get caught cheating the consumer, the reaction can be insulting as appears in the photo above. Is he angry because he got fingered? He is surely putting that finger into good use for the photographers. Caught with fake Apple.

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony


Powered by article titled “Fake Apple stores not limited to China” was written by Charles Arthur and agencies, for on Monday 25th July 2011 10.37 UTC

The problem of fake Apple retail stores turn out not to be limited to the southwestern city of Kumming in China, as identified last week by an American blogger living there: similar fakes exist in countries from Croatia to Venezuela, according to readers who have contacted her.

Two of the five fake Apple stores in the southwestern city of Kumming identified by the writer on the Birdabroad blog last week have since been shut down by Chinese officials, according to a local government website there.

But Chinese officials said they would not be taking any action against the other three stores, which like the other two prominently displayed Apple signs and logos, because they did not find any fake Apple products for sale, according to a report by a local newspaper posted on the Kunming city government’s website. Apple has 13 official resellers in Kumming, but no official stores.

The latest post on the Birdabroad blog says that readers have contacted her with details about “fake (or at least seriously questionable)” Apple stores in countries including Burma, Croatia, Columbia, Slovenia, Spain and Venezuela. A number of other fake Apple stores were also identified in China, including one in the city of Xi’an.

Apple has 331 official stores worldwide which in the past financial quarter brought in $3.5bn (£2.15bn) of revenue. Their ability to attract customers and so generate revenues for consumer electronics companies seeing diminishing returns – or which can sell pricier goods using the company’s brand cachet – seems to have them popular, if expensive, targets for copying.

After the Birdabroad blogpost appeared on Wednesday, the Kunming Trade and Industry Bureau inspected more than 300 electronics stores in Kunming and found the five fake Apple stores, the city government’s website said. Calls by the Associated Press to the Kunming Trade and Industry Bureau went unanswered on Monday.

The maker of the iPhone and other hit gadgets has four company stores in China– two in Beijing and two in Shanghai – and various official resellers.

The proliferation of the fake stores underlines the slow progress that China’s government is making in countering a culture of a rampant piracy and widespread production of bogus goods that is a major irritant in relations with trading partners. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Child of Eden – review

June 14, 2011

Child of Eden

Another game to look at ….this is a thumbs up review for “Child of Eden“. The author below decribes a game that is more like  a light show of if you like that, give it a try..

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Child of Eden – review” was written by Sarah Ditum, for on Tuesday 14th June 2011 12.55 UTC

Have you ever taken a Spirograph to a rave? No? Then hold tight to your coloured Biros and pack your glosticks, because that’s very much what on-rails shape-shooter Child of Eden is like – and it’s a blissful, beautiful thing to play.

It’s pegged as a spiritual successor to 10-year-old trancey lightshow Rez, and in terms of gameplay, it’s virtually a remake. That doesn’t mean there’s anything tired or predictable about it, though; that decade has been kind to designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s ideas, and it feels as though technology has finally fallen into step with his curious mix of gunplay and rhythm action.

Levels consist of swirling corridors out of which malevolent shapes rush you. These are the “infected” and it’s your job to cleanse them. Thanks to Kinect, you do this by swishing and jabbing to lock onto targets and activate your lasers.

The option to revert to the control pad is there, but it’s hard to know why you’d want to when the motion control feels so good, and so right. Kinect can be floaty and frustrating, but that’s not an issue here at all. Partly, that’s because the gesture-control is sharply implemented and satisfyingly instinctive. And partly, it’s because the game sucks you right in.

This is despite an opening that looks like a high-end shampoo commercial, and a fairly disposable story – Lumi is a human intelligence struggling to be born inside the internet (that’s Eden), and you have to defeat the virus that threatens her. That’s all, by the way.

What matters is that this throws you into a world of glittering geometry, soundtracked by the ecstatic music of the band Genki Rockets. Even if you start out resistant to the concept, it’s nearly impossible not to become absorbed, because the game is designed to make you a part of it. Every shot adds another beat to the music; every arm sweep, another explosion of colour and light.

As you approach the end of a level (there are five in all), everything comes together. The soundtrack pulses to joyful climax, the visuals dazzle, and you’re there, arms in the air, making it all happen. When you triumph and the music drops away to a gentle, satisfied rhythm, it feels like you’ve really accomplished something.

Calling something an “experience” rather than a “game” is generally one of the nobbier cards a reviewer can play, but there really is some truth to it here. Child of Eden even offers a no-damage difficulty level that encourages you to play for pleasure rather than play to win – and it’s not just a patronising sop to the aiming-impaired, but a different way of being in the world, and satisfying in its own right.

There’s a lot that’s not included in Child of Eden, and it would be easy to miss the game’s point if you wanted to. It isn’t about character or narrative. It doesn’t make you feel like a mighty, hooah-ing bullet sponge. You don’t solve puzzles or collect items (barring the unlockable backgrounds and videos you can win as you progress).

That’s fine – all of those needs are well served elsewhere on the games shelf. In Child of Eden, you just do, and out of that sleek simplicity comes a game of giddying depth and potentially endless replayabilty, because every time you take on a level, the interaction of visuals, sound and motion makes it something slightly different. The best thing you can do is let the music take you with it.

• Game reviewed on Xbox Kinect © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Modern Warfare 3 – preview

June 1, 2011

Modern Warfare 3

Your first mission is to take back New York City being occupied by the and your team is sent in to turn the tide and secure the area…are you ready? Ready for Modern Warfare 3…

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Modern Warfare 3 – preview” was written by Keith Stuart, for on Thursday 26th May 2011 12.00 UTC

Earlier this week, at a studio complex somewhere in Kentish Town, Activision previewed what will certainly be one of the biggest entertainment events of the year. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the latest in the long-running series of first-person shooters, is likely to make more money than any blockbuster movie release, and through subsequent downloadable content, it will continue to generate millions of dollars throughout 2012.

Last year, the Cold War-based Call of Duty: Black Ops shifted something in the region of 18m copies and became America’s biggest-selling game ever. But fans consider the spin-off Modern Warfare titles – developed by the original Call of Duty studio, Infinity Ward – to be the standard bearers for the series.

Of course, Modern Warfare 3 was always an inevitability, but nothing about its development has been predictable. Last year, several months after the release of the smash hit Modern Warfare 2, Activision sacked Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella for, “breaches of contract and insubordination”.

The duo sued Activision, Activision counter-sued and in the meantime dozens more Infinity Ward staff left, many joining their previous bosses at new development start-up, Respawn Entertainment, now working on an undisclosed project for EA. Very quickly, Activision revealed that it had also formed a new studio, Sledgehammer Games, with Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey previously of EA’s Visceral Games at its head, and a remit to work on the Call of Duty brand.

Indeed, the team was already being paired up with a restructured Infinity Ward to start work on Modern Warfare 3. The two companies have shared development duties – an increasingly common set-up in the modern industry, where projects can require teams of up to 200 people.

“We’re taking it to an entirely new level,” says Infinity Ward creative strategist Robert Bowling, displaying the customary games industry hyperbole. “We’re taking players into the heart of major cities all around the world, delivering urban combat in places like Manhattan and London. We’re also going throughout Europe, to Russia, parts of Africa, and the Himalayas – you will travel the world.” Yes you will, and judging by the two missions Activision revealed to us at the press event, you will blow most of it up in the process.

The story, apparently, picks up immediately after the close of Modern Warfare 2, in which Russia launched an invasion of the US, while the elite counter-terrorist squad Task Force 141, attempted to gather evidence against Russian ultranationalist leader Vladimir Makarov. “Washington DC is burning, ” explains Schofield. “Task Force 141 is either dead or on the run and battles rage along the eastern seaboard of the United States. You must now join with your delta team in Manhattan to help turn the tide against the Russians who have occupied New York City…”

Titled Black Tuesday, the first mission we’re shown picks up at the opening of the New York campaign. The player starts aboard a Black Hawk helicopter that’s just crash-landed in the city’s financial district. The objective is to get to the stock exchange, but there is a full-scale battle raging. Missiles cut through the sky, taking out vast chunks of Manhattan real estate. A front line of obliterated roads, burned-out police cars and crawling APCs is populated by groups of soldiers cowering behind great chunks of fallen masonry. It is, in short, what we expect from a Call of Duty set-piece – a cacophonous opera of destruction and gunfire, through which the player is closely guided by a computer-controlled superior (in this case, someone called Sandman).

From here, we burst into an office block riddled with bullet holes. An enemy chopper hovers outside, spraying everything with machine-gun fire. Then we’re out into an alley between tenements and fire escapes, before bursting into a jewellery store and engaging in another gun fight amid dozens of glass display cases exploding into shards.

The key moment is when we finally reach the stock exchange and indulge in a lengthy shoot-out on the trading floor, which has been intricately replicated – and then destroyed. Then we’re up a series of scaffolding platforms onto the roof where a thermite charge takes out a satellite dish, blocking enemy communications. From here, we get the grandstanding conclusion.

A comms link is established with a drone craft, and as in Modern Warfare 2, the player is able to remote-guide Reaper missiles at enemy positions, finally taking out a Hind and watching it spin to fiery oblivion in the streets below. But this isn’t quite the end. There’s still time to leap into a Black Hawk, laying down mini-gun fire, and duelling with another Hind between the skyscrapers – the final audacious moments see the two craft firing at each other through the superstructure of an unfinished building. It is every Michael Bay movie condensed into one roaring aerial showdown.

“The campaign is all about that cinematic intensity,” says Bowling, somewhat needlessly after what we’ve just experienced. “We are locked into delivering 60 frames per second; that’s what allows us to combine the high-speed gameplay and tight gun control. But the single player is just one aspect of a much, much larger experience.” Along with the main campaign, we’re promised the now customary Spec-Ops missions, and a two-player co-op option that will be apparently be massively built upon since its Modern Warfare 2 introduction. As for online multiplayer – well, something big is planned and an announcement is due next week.

To close the event, Bowling and Schofield show us another level, this time following the Bravo Six team on a covert mission in London’s docklands. An enemy weapons shipment is being unloaded, and we’re here to gather valuable intel (guided from the air by a voice actor who sounds uncannily like series regular, Craig Fairbrass).

There’s no indication of how this all links in with the Russian invasion of the US, but the air support is picking up heat signatures in a nearby warehouse and our job is, naturally, to take out the bad guys. The player is in control of a character named Burns who’s using a silenced P90 to pick off soldiers. Then we’re out into the dock and a full-on assault, with car alarms going off everywhere and Canary Wharf towering in the background, just visible through the night-time drizzle.

Whatever was offloaded from the ship has now seemingly been spirited off, and we’re giving chase in a truck, which thunders onto railway tracks and down into the tube system, where enemies fire from a hurtling train. We zig-zag between oncoming trains, taking constant fire. At one point, the whole cavalcade whips through a packed station, and we see commuters running in panic. We’re told to watch our fire – and for a second it looks like the infamous No Russian scene from Modern Warfare 2, where the player has to take part in a terrorist raid on a Russian airport filled with civilians. Eventually, the tube train jumps the track and spins through the tunnel in a fury of debris. And we’re out.

It is, as Call of Duty has always been, breathless stuff – a total sensory assault, this time lent an extra dramatic charge by those intricately detailed representations of familiar cityscapes. I wonder if the developers have considered how the use of such imagery will remind some of real-life atrocities in New York and London – and indeed, the trailer has already evoked the hysterical wrath of the Daily Mail, which has claimed that the tube train sections essentially simulate the July 7 bombings. It is an attention-grabbing connection, but it is also spurious; players will understand that the use of recognisable landmarks ramps up both the intensity and the stakes, and these hugely familiar cities have been destroyed countless times over the years in monster and sci-fi flicks.

With the tumultuous demo over, plenty of intriguing questions remain. We’re not sure if any favourite characters from previous Modern Warfare titles are returning, and there’s much to discover about the reworked multiplayer. In gameplay terms, amid the state-of-the art special effects and sheer graphical detail, the corridor-like structure is hugely familiar, a single route plotted through the chaos.

A question mark looms over whether the Modern Warfare 3 single-player mode can innovate beyond the restrictive formula of its predecessors. But then, do its millions of fans want it to?

This is a series based on bombast and bullets, and while last year’s Black Ops made a few interesting narrative sojourns into the territory of the 1970s conspiracy thriller, it looks like Modern Warfare 3 will be pure 21st century action cinema – a gigantic paean to the art of computer-generated destruction.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 will be released on 8 November for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Call of Duty Elite FAQ

May 31, 2011

 Call of Duty Elite

I know my students will be putting in hours with this game…they love the action and the challenge that computer games can deliver…they get so wrapped up in the action that they totally forget to do their homework…Call of Duty Elite is here…

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony 

Powered by article titled “Call of Duty Elite FAQ” was written by Keith Stuart, for on Tuesday 31st May 2011 13.06 UTC

Will I have to subscribe to Elite in order to play Call of Duty online?
No. “It’s worth repeating,” said Berger during the reveal event, “Call of Duty does not and will not charge for multiplayer – that is our continued commitment to our players.” Berger also reiterated the fact that some elements of Elite will be free to Modern Warfare 3 buyers, including the career stats and groups elements.

How can Activision justify charging for a social networking service?
Well, Elite will have already cost millions of dollars to set up. Activision has formed a new development studio, Beachhead, to create the system. Berger also stated that the publisher is employing “a standalone service team to provide worldwide 24/7 customer service for Elite members”. That all costs money.

If map packs are included in the Elite subscription, does that mean I’ll have to subscribe in order to get DLC from now on?
No, you’ll be able to buy Modern Warfare 3 map packs without subscribing.

Will the service begin with MW3?
Yes, but it’s also backwards compatible, to some extent, with Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2. These titles will feature a more limited version of Elite.

Is Elite multi-platform?
Yes, the service will work with PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the Call of Duty titles.

Will I be able to access my Elite account from different devices?
Yes, according to Berger: “The Beachhead team has adopted a philosophy that we call ‘the four screens’. The idea is, when we launch Elite, it will be customised for mobile applications, on the television itself and within the game interface.” An iPhone app is apparently launching later in the year.

If this is a success, will other publishers follow suit?
If there’s the possibility of a new revenue stream, other publishers are bound to develop similar models. Electronic Arts, for example, is already experimenting with monitised multiplayer gaming, via its Online Pass system, which charges a one-off fee to buyers of pre-owned games who want to play online. The thing is, Call of Duty is one of the biggest entertainment brands in the world, and it has a vast, loyal user-base. As Activision pointed out during its London preview event, all four of the Call of Duty titles released between 2007 and 2010 are in the top ten most played Xbox Live titles. It’s doubtful whether there are many other franchises that have the brand loyalty and mass appeal to support a similar proposition. But this time next year, if Activision is raking in millions of extra dollars from its Elite community, don’t rule out a surge of similar announcements… © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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The MIT factor: celebrating 150 years of maverick genius

May 18, 2011

A physics class at MIT in 1957

MIT guiding us and still shaping brilliant minds for the world…wow…150 years and still going strong…keep the discoveries coming…..

Pass it on,

Dr Anthony   

Powered by article titled “The MIT factor: celebrating 150 years of maverick genius” was written by Ed Pilkington, for The Guardian on Tuesday 17th May 2011 23.05 UTC

Yo-Yo Ma’s cello may not be the obvious starting point for a journey into one of the world’s great universities. But, as you quickly realise when you step inside the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), there’s precious little about the place that is obvious.

The cello is resting in a corner of MIT’s celebrated media lab, a hub of techy creativity. There’s a British red telephone kiosk standing in the middle of one of its laboratories, while another room is signposted: “Lego learning lab – Lifelong kindergarten.”

The cello is part of the Opera of the Future lab run by the infectiously energetic Tod Machover. A renaissance man for the 21st – or perhaps 22nd – century, Machover is a composer, inventor and teacher rolled into one. He sweeps into the office 10 minutes late, which is odd because his watch is permanently set 20 minutes ahead in a patently vain effort to be punctual. Then, with the urgency of the White Rabbit, he rushes me across the room to show me the cello. It looks like any other electric classical instrument, with a solid wood body and jack socket. But it is much more. Machover calls it a “hyperinstrument”, a sort of thinking machine that allows Ma and his cello to interact with one another and make music together.

“The aim is to build an instrument worthy of a great musician like Yo-Yo Ma that can understand what he is trying to do and respond to it,” Machover says. The cello has numerous sensors across its body, fret and along the bow. By measuring the pressure, speed and angle of the virtuoso’s performance it can interpret his mood and engage with it, producing extraordinary new sounds. The virtuoso cellist frequently performs on the instrument as he tours around the world.

When Machover was developing the instrument, he found that the sound it made was distorted by Ma’s hand as it absorbed electric current flowing from the bow. Machover had a eureka moment. What if you reversed that? What if you channelled the electricity flowing from the performer’s body and turned it into music?

Armed with that new idea, Machover designed an interactive system for Prince that the rock star deployed on stage at Wembley Stadium a few years ago, conjuring up haunting sounds through touch and gesture. Later, two of Machover’s students at the media lab had the idea of devising an interactive game out of the technology. They went on to set up a company called Harmonix, based just down the road from MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which they developed Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

From Ma’s cello, via Prince, to one of the most popular video games ever invented. And all stemming from Machover’s passion for pushing at the boundaries of the existing world to extend and unleash human potential. That’s not a bad description of MIT as a whole. This maverick community, on the other side of the Charles River from Boston, brings highly gifted, highly motivated individuals together from a vast range of disciplines but united by a common desire: to leap into the dark and reach for the unknown.

The result of that single unifying ambition is visible all around us. For the past 150 years, MIT has been leading us into the future. The discoveries of its teachers and students have become the warp and weft of modernity, the stuff of daily life that we now all take for granted. The telephone, electromagnets, radars, high-speed photography, office photocopiers, cancer treatments, pocket calculators, computers, the internet, the decoding of the human genome, lasers, space travel . . . the list of innovations that involved essential contributions from MIT and its faculty goes on and on.

And with that drive into modernity MIT has played no small part in building western, and particularly US, global dominance. Its explosive innovations have helped to secure America’s military and cultural supremacy, and with it the country’s status as the world’s sole superpower.

As the school marks its 150th anniversary this month, it seems the US has never needed MIT’s help more than it does today. The voices of the nay-sayers are in the ascendancy, questioning the US’s ability to reinvent itself, to heal its wounded economy and sustain its leadership in the face of a burgeoning China. Questions too, are increasingly being asked about the ability of science and technology to address the world’s problems, as optimism about the future slides into doubt. “There is a profound cynicism around the role of science that is debilitating for those in the enterprise, and devastating for this country,” says MIT’s president, Susan Hockfield. “If we can’t figure out how to make technological innovation the path to the future, then America is not going to have invented the future, some other country will have.”

She fears the US is increasingly suffering from what she calls a deficit of ambition. While 85% of MIT students are studying science and engineering, in the US as a whole the proportion is just 15%. That leaves the world’s creative powerhouse vulnerable. “If you travel to Asia, to Shanghai or Bangalore, you feel the pulse of people racing to a future they are going to invent. You feel that rarely any more in the US.”

Which makes MIT’s mission all the more essential. “MIT has an enormous responsibility right now,” Hockfield says. “We feel that deeply. It needs to be a beacon of inspiration around the power of science and technology to create a brighter future for the world.”

No pressure, then.

From the moment MIT was founded by William Barton Rogers in 1861 it was clear what it was not. It was not like the other school up the river. While Harvard stuck to the English model of an Oxbridge classical education, with its emphasis on Latin and Greek as befitted the landed aristocracy, MIT would look to the German system of learning based on research and hands-on experimentation, championing meritocracy and industry where Harvard preferred the privileges of birth. Knowledge was at a premium, yes, but it had to be useful.

This gritty, down-to-earth quality, in keeping with the industrialisation that was spreading through the US at the time, was enshrined in the school motto, Mens et Manus – Mind and Hand – as well as its logo, which showed a gowned scholar standing beside an ironmonger bearing a hammer and anvil. That symbiosis of intellect and craftsmanship still suffuses the institute’s classrooms, where students are not so much taught as engaged and inspired. There is a famous film of one of MIT’s star professors, the physicist Walter Lewin, demonstrating the relationship between an oscillating metal ball and mass. Halfway through the experiment he climbs on to the ball and starts swinging himself around the lecture theatre in a huge oscillating arch as though he were appearing in Spider-Man on Broadway.

When Emily Dunne, an 18-year-old mechanical engineering student from Bermuda, was taking a course in differential equations recently, she was startled when her professor started singing in the middle of the lecture. “He was trying to show us how to understand overtones. It was kind of weird, but then everyone here is a little quirky,” she says.

Mind and Hand applies too to MIT’s belief that theory and practice go together; neither is superior to the other, and the two are stronger when combined. That conviction is as strongly held by the lowliest student as it is by its Nobel laureates (there have been 50 of them).

Take Christopher Merrill, 21, a third-year undergraduate in computer science. He is spending most of his time on a competition set in his robotics class. The contest is to see which student can most effectively programme a robot to build a house out of blocks in under 10 minutes. Merrill says he could have gone for the easiest route – designing a simple robot that would build the house quickly. But he wanted to try to master an area of robotics that remains unconquered – adaptability, the ability of the robot to rethink its plans as the environment around it changes, as would a human. “I like to take on things that have never been done before rather than to work in an iterative way just making small steps forward,” he explains. “It’s much more exciting to go out into the unknown.”

Merrill is already planning the start-up he wants to set up when he graduates in a year’s time. He has an idea for a new type of contact lens that would augment reality by allowing consumers to see additional visual information. He is fearful that he might be just too late in taking his concept to market, as he has heard that a Silicon Valley firm is already developing similar technology. As such, he might become one of many MIT graduates who go on to form companies that fail.

Alternatively, he might become one of those who go on to succeed, in spectacular fashion. And there are many of them. A survey of living MIT alumni found that they have formed 25,800 companies, employing more than three million people including about a quarter of the workforce of Silicon Valley. Those firms between them generate global revenues of about .9tn (£1.2tn) a year. If MIT was a country, it would have the 11th highest GDP of any nation in the world.

Ed Roberts, MIT’s professor of technological innovation and entrepreneurship, says such figures belie the fact that the institute is actually quite small, with just 10,000 students and about 1,000 faculty. “That’s not big. But when all those people sign up to a mission to forward entrepreneurship, you have a dramatically bigger impact. In MIT, people are encouraged not just to think bold, but to do it boldly.

“If you come up with a brilliant idea, that’s OK. If you win a Nobel prize for your research, that’s fine. But if you take that idea and apply it and make something transformative happen, then in MIT that’s deeply admired.”

Inevitably, perhaps, there is a nerdy quality to the place that is reflected in one of its much cherished traditions – the student “hack”. Hack is a misleading word here, as it is less to do with cracking into computers than with hi-tech high-jinks. “Prank” is a better description.

In the student canteen you can see two of the most famous MIT hacks preserved for prosperity – a police car that was balanced on top of the institute’s great dome, and a functioning fire hydrant that was erected in one of the lobbies. The latter hack, dating from 1991, was a wry comment on a former president’s remark that “getting an education from MIT is like taking a drink from a fire hose”. Then there is the Baker House Piano Drop, an annual institution ever since students first dropped a stand-up piano from a sixth-storey dormitory in 1972, then measured the impact that it made when it crashed on the pavement below.

Wacky, perhaps. Geeky, certainly. But also extraordinarily difficult technically and requiring great imagination and ingenuity. MIT in a nutshell.

The current president offers two other important clues to MIT’s success as a cauldron of innovation. The first is meritocracy. Hockfield is MIT’s first female president, which is significant for an institution that since the 1990s has been battling against its own in-built discrimination against women. Women still make up only 21% of the faculty. But the gender balance of its students is almost 50:50, and about 40% of its staff members were born outside the US, underlying how MIT remains a huge magnet for talented individuals around the world. “It’s one thing to talk about fostering creativity, but unless you strive for a true meritocracy you are driving away the best people, and what would be the point of that?” Hockfield says.

MIT delights in taking brilliant minds in vastly diverse disciplines and flinging them together. You can see that in its sparkling new David Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, which brings scientists, engineers and clinicians under one roof. Or in its Energy Initiative, which acts as a bridge for MIT’s combined firepower across all its five schools, channelling huge resources into the search for a solution to global warming. It works to improve the efficiency of existing energy sources, including nuclear power as it has its own nuclear reactor, a lesser-known fact that MIT prefers not to brag about. It is also forging ahead with alternative energies from solar to wind and geothermal, and has recently developed the use of viruses to synthesise batteries that could prove crucial in the advancement of electric cars.

Before my tour of MIT ends I am given a taste of what this astonishing abundance of riches means in practice. In the space of half an hour I enjoy the company – in the flesh and spacially – of three of the towering figures of the modern age.

I begin by dragging Tim Berners-Lee away from his computer screen to talk to me about how he ended up here. The Briton who invented the world wide web is part of the global brain drain to MIT. He created the web by linking hypertext with the internet in 1989 while he was at Cern in Geneva, but then felt he had no option but to cross the Atlantic. “There were a couple of reasons I had to come – one was because the web spread much faster in America than it did in Europe and the other was because there was no MIT over there.”

What is it about MIT that Europe could not offer him?

“It’s not just another university, it has this pre-eminent reputation and that in turn sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy: as soon as it becomes seen as the cool place to go for technology, then people will head there as I did. Even though I spend my time with my head buried in the details of web technology, or travelling the world, the nice thing is that when I do walk the corridors I bump into people who are working in other fields that are fascinating, and that keeps me intellectually alive.”

Berners-Lee offers to take me to my next appointment, and in so doing makes his point about MIT’s self-fulfilling prophecy even more eloquently. We walk along the squiggly corridors of MIT’s Stata Centre, which was designed by Frank Gehry. It is a classic Gehry structure, formed from undulating polished steel and tumbling blocks of brushed aluminium that reminds Berners-Lee, he tells me, of the higgledy-piggledy Italian village one of his relatives grew up in. After negotiating a maze of passageways Berners-Lee delivers me at the door of Noam Chomsky. It sums up this wild place: the inventor of the web leads me through the work of a titan of modern architecture to one of the world’s foremost linguists and anti-war activists.

Chomsky is in a hurry. On the night of our meeting he will appear on stage alongside the Kronos Quartet at the world premiere of a new piece of music dedicated to him. The composer? Tod Machover, he of the Yo-Yo Ma cello.

I put it to Chomsky that it’s a revealing paradox that he, as a leading critic of the US’s overweening military might, has been based, since the 1950s, at an institution that was centrally involved in erecting the burgeoning military-industrial complex he so incisively opposes. After all, MIT has long been a leader in military research and development, receiving huge sums in grants from the Pentagon. It was core to America’s prosecution of the cold war, developing ever more sophisticated guidance systems for ballistic missiles trained on Moscow.

“What people don’t understand is that the role of the Pentagon,” Chomsky says, “to a large extent was developing the technology of the future. There were some odd things about it. This building was also one of the centres of the antiwar resistance, and it was right in there, 100% funded by the Pentagon. But they didn’t care.”

What does that tell us about MIT?

“I was just left alone to my own devices. Other people took days off to run their businesses; I went off as an antiwar activist. But no one ever objected. MIT is a very free and open place.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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