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Category “Technorgasm”

Mumbai Pizza Chain Already Delivering Pizzas by Drone

Way to highlight that innovative spirit America…NOT!

The FAA, killing “Pizza by Drone” since 2011.

Would you like your pizza home-delivered by an unmanned drone? That may not be impossible in future, for a little-known pizza chain in Mumbai last week succeeded in making a test-delivery less than 3km away from its outlet in Lower Parel by using a remote-controlled, GPS-enabled drone.

The ‘customer’ was actually a friend of the chain’s CEO, so it was technically not a sale, as commercial deliveries by drones are not allowed in India. Yet, in a way, it was a first for a product delivery Amazon has only planned. On May 11, the drone took off from the Lower Parel outlet and, flying at a speed of 30km an hour, manoeuvred its way atop the city’s mill district to reach its destination, a high-rise in Worli, in nearly 10 minutes.

The drone dropped the 13-inch plain margherita pizza, weighing half a kilo, on the 21st floor rooftop (where it was collected by the ‘customer’) before taking off again for the return journey. The speed with which the delivery was made thus beat the record for most leading pizza chains, which manually deliver pizzas within 30 minutes.

The drone used in the operation was custom-made, said an official from the pizza chain, adding that an auto engineer friend of his had helped him make the flight possible. The official said the chain had carried out the test-delivery as an experiment because it wants to be ready when regulations in India allow for such methods of product delivery.

Drones are quite common in India. The motion picture industry there has apparently been using them for years.

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Is Artificial Blood 20 Years Down the Road?

Talk about your medical breakthrough if this can be worked out.  No more concerns about the blood supply.  No more worry from hospitals that they lack the wrong blood type.

With this achievement, “O-Negative” just became much more in supply.

Artificially created blood could one day replace donations as the norm for blood transfusions.

That’s according to researchers at the University of Edinburgh who have been using stem cells to create red blood cells.

And in 2016 they are planning to conduct a groundbreaking trial that, for the first time, will test artificial blood made from stem cells in patients.

The £5 million project is being pioneered by the University of Edinburgh and comes after years of research into growing red blood cells.

The process involves using adult skin or blood cells that have been genetically modified into stem cells, known as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. (Emphasis mine.)

These iPS cells are then cultured in biologic conditions that mimic the human body, eventually leading to their transition into mature red blood cells.

The trick so far has been increasing the efficiency of this transition process, as not all the cells are capable of becoming red blood cells.

The team at the University of Edinburgh has got this efficiency to approaching 50% in a process that takes about a month.

The red blood cells are then separated from the rest of the cells in a centrifuge.

Their next step will be to trial the blood in patients in 2016.

Two things: If you’re still giving blood, keep giving blood.  Hospitals prefer having the exact blood type of the recipient on-hand, as good a universal donor O-Negative blood is, it can’t be stressed how medically important the right blood type is to recovery.

Secondly…another fine discovery made possible with adult stem cells.

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Amazon Creates “Pay to Quit” Program

Think you’ve got more to offer this world and feel like you’re a cubicle troll?

Do you happen to work for Amazon.com?

Then have they got the option for you, up to $5,000 options to be exact.  Taking a page from fellow online retailer “Zappos,” Amazon is paying their employees to quit (if they so choose) an amount of $2,000.  The amount increases $1,000 per year they’ve been with the company and maxes out at $5,000.

In Jeff Bezos’ longest letter to shareholders, the Amazon CEO introduced a new program called “Pay to Quit,” a $5,000 offer for employees to quit their job at Amazon.

Borrowing the “Pay to Quit” idea from Zappos, Bezos said the program will push employees to seriously evaluate whether they are where they want to be.

“We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay,” said Bezos in the letter to shareholders. “Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

Here’s how it works: employees are given the option to quit once a year. If they want to quit, they get an offer of $2,000, which increases by $1,000 each year until it reaches $5,000.

In terms of a severance package, it’s the not the worst one could walk away from.

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Cartoon of the Day


Here’s a news article on the study.

As barbecue season approaches, researchers have discovered an unlikely ingredient that could improve the safety of your meat – letting it swill in beer.

They say that letting meat marindade in pilsner can help reduce the formation of potentially harmful cancer-causing substances in grilled meats.

They say pilsner and black beer are most effective, halving the amount of Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have been linked to colorectal cancer.

The researchers are reporting that the very same beer that many people enjoy at backyard barbeques could, when used as a marinade, help reduce the formation of potentially harmful substances in grilled meats.

The researchers grilled samples of pork marinated for four hours in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner beer or a black beer ale, to well-done on a charcoal grill.

Black beer had the strongest effect, reducing the levels of eight major PAHs by more than half compared with unmarinated pork.

“Thus, the intake of beer marinated meat can be a suitable mitigation strategy,” say the researchers.

The study appears in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

My personal favorite is to marinade with a Leinie’s Creamy Dark.  Add that to some McCormick’s ready-made seasoning or marinade mix and it’s great.

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Cartoon of the Day


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NASA Suspends Space Cooperation with Russia over Crimea / Ukraine

Gee, you’d think this would have been one of the first things we did instead of starting with the strongly worded letters. 

NASA has been told to suspend contact with Russian government officials because of Russia’s “ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to an agency memo circulated Wednesday. The International Space Station, which is jointly operated by NASA, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and Canada, is exempt and not directly impacted by the new guidelines.

The memo apparently reflects a broad State Department directive to multiple federal agencies that have regular contact with the Russian government. In NASA’s case, the space station represents the bulk of the agency’s dealings with Russia and the exemption presumably means business as usual.

But the space agency has multiple, less-visible cooperative efforts in space science, aeronautics and other areas, and the potential impacts on those remain to be seen.

“Apparently, this is happening in all federal agencies,” said John Logsdon, professor emeritus of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. “So it’s consistent with the across-government thing. It’s civilian, it doesn’t have anything to do with the RD-180 (a Russian engine used aboard Atlas 5 rockets) and ISS is unperturbed.”

He said the restrictions mirror those already in place governing NASA’s relationship, or lack thereof, with China.

As the memo seems to dictate, the ISS — International Space Station — is exempt.  Last week, a new crew which included 3 Americans, went up to the the ISS for another prolonged stay.  Cost of one seat for each on board a Russian Soyuz rocket is said to be about $71 million.  With the U.S. currently having turned its entire space shuttle fleet into museum pieces, the Russians are the only way out to space until — or even if — a new American orbiter is given the green light.

The ISS program is currently set to expire in 2024, the current speculation from NASA is to have a replacement for the space shuttle sometime around 2017. No one knows what, if anything is on the launch pad at the moment.

Though at $71 million a seat, you can’t help but think Richard Branson is seriously undercharging for tickets of his “Virgin Galactic” space tourism venture.

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WI Assembly Passes 1st in the Nation “Patent Troll” Bill

Still has to clear the state Senate, but this is a huge law if we want to see technological businesses (and the end users who often are the victims of patent trolls) flourish in Wisconsin.

Patent trolls cost the U.S. economy over $29 billion-plus annually.  That’s lost innovation, lost jobs and lost revenue to people who didn’t create the initial tech, but only bought an expired patent and then proceeded to sue for money that never was rightfully theirs.

Madison – Today the Wisconsin State Assembly passed Assembly Bill 656, the Patent Notification Act, a bill authored by State Representative Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) targeting “patent trolls.” The legislation makes predatory patent trolling illegal in Wisconsin by creating a standardized notification process for patent assertion entities to notify individuals or entities operating in Wisconsin, which they suspect are infringing on their intellectual property rights. Wisconsin is the first state to have passed such legislation.

“Wisconsin is leading the fight to protect businesses from patent trolls in America. This bill sends a clear message to patent trolls around the country to think twice before scamming Wisconsin businesses. As new technology develops, this type of predatory behavior will persist unless something is done to level the playing field. We must protect the innovation leading to job creation, without over regulating the process so companies or institutions making a legitimate claim are protected.

“I’d like to thank my colleagues in the Assembly for joining me in the fight against patent trolls. By offering this proactive solution to address the issues facing us today, we show our ability to adapt to the times and protect innovation to ensure economic prosperity continues in the state of Wisconsin now and into the future,” Neylon commented.

The bill passed on a voice vote, which means it likely passed on unanimous consent.

ADDENDUM:  Obviously, there is some legal question as whether this will have any teeth to it.  Patents are a federal issue, and their rules may trump Wisconsin’s.

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The House Continues to Win

Early reports have it that Vegas sportsbooks — despite losing on “Prop Bets” involving safeties for the third-straight year — have made nearly $20 million in profits off of Super Bowl XLVIII bets. 

Note this figure does not include “off-Vegas” and non-casino bets.  You know, the illegal ones (which might include your office pool, but hey, I ain’t snitching).

Gamblers wagered a record $119.4 million at Nevada casinos on the Super Bowl, allowing sportsbooks to reap an unprecedented profit as the betting public lost out in Seattle’s rout of the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos.

Unaudited tallies showed sportsbooks made an unprecedented profit of $19.7 million on the action, the Gaming Control Board announced Monday. That’s millions more than the past three Super Bowl wins combined.

The Denver Broncos were a 2.5-point favorite, but the Seattle Seahawks took the championship 43-8.

Oddsmakers said Peyton Manning fans drove the unprecedented handle, flooding Las Vegas and northern Nevada with wagers on the favored team and its veteran quarterback, who was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the 2013 season the day before the game. Many believed Manning was primed for a big game after his record-setting year.

The previous record for the amount of bets placed, or the handle, was set last year, when gamblers wagered $98.9 million on the Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.

The last record for casino win was set in 2005, when sportsbooks won $15.4 million.

As for the “First Score – Safety” prop bet, it was paying at odds on two levels:

Some oddsmakers said they lost out on proposition bets, including whether a safety would be the first score of the game. Casinos paid out at 8-to-1 for the safety. Fans who bet that the first score would be on a safety cashed in at 60-to-1. It was the third year in a row that sportsbooks have been hit on the safety bet.

“The safety is no longer in my vocabulary,” said Johnny Avello, who runs the luxurious sportsbook at Wynn.

The last time Vegas lost on the Super Bowl was in 2008.  At the time, casinos lost $2.6 million.

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You Can Now Buy Cars Via Amazon*

(* – If you believe web-based advertising.)

Two things of interest here.

1) The fact that this ad takes place in Madison, WI probably helps highlight how much Amazon is intending to invest in the Badger State.

2)  A Nissan Versa, seriously?  (I guess if you want a cheap hatchback, you want a cheap hatchback…)


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PBS Running into Internet Streaming Demands of Viewers

Something tells me, you won’t be hearing the words, “This Streaming Video is made possible through a generous donation from [Insert Corporate Name Here] and viewers like you” anytime soon.

Despite some fans eager to see it earlier, “Downton Abbey” will continue to begin its new seasons on PBS in January, the system’s chief executive said Monday.

The return of “Downton Abbey,” which began its fourth season on Jan. 5, is becoming a post-holiday tradition for the show’s fans, said Paula Kerger, PBS president. The British series began presenting new episodes in late September back home, but PBS holds it back. The drama had more than 10 million viewers for its fourth-season debut, and the episode was streamed online 1 million times during the following week, she said.

Debuting PBS’ most buzz-worthy show at the same time it starts in Britain will put it in direct competition with the new season offerings from the broadcast networks, Kerger said. It is also easier to get cast members to the U.S. to promote the new season if they don’t have to worry about those duties in Britain at the same time.

“It would be very hard for me to imagine putting it anywhere else than where it has seemed to have found a very strong audience,” she said.

Like the U.S., Great Britain has a television season that starts in the fall.  Unlike the U.S. — which typically fills this time with “mid-season replacements” and shows on shorter orders — the U.K. also has a television season that begins in January or February.  So I understand why PBS is reluctant to force the “Downton” cast to make multiple trips across the pond to promote the show in a whirlwind media tour of London, New York and Los Angeles.

However, we are living in a world where streaming video and “On-Demand” viewing are taking off, and such “exclusive” deals that PBS has with ITV (“Downton’s” home network in the UK) and the BBC (“Sherlock’s”) are becoming moot as more and more Americans buy software which allows them to stream full episodes on the BBC’s UK website.

(Currently, only computers with IPs based in the UK can access the video streaming of bbc.co.uk, however, either a software patch or scrambler device is allowing many Americans to bypass the IP restrictions and view them from their PCs here in the states.)

Also, many showrunners in the UK are publicly stating they hate the way PBS is delaying their shows for their own ratings needs.  One of them, is Steven Moffat, who writes “Sherlock.”  To try to compensate Moffat’s outrage, PBS moved up the show from its usual March start to mid-January.

The premiere episode of “Series 3” aired this past Sunday.

PBS is experimenting with a shorter delay for the “Sherlock” series, responding to the pleas of fervent fans. The show’s new season began in Britain on New Year’s Day and this past Sunday on PBS.

That’s still too long a delay, said series co-creator and writer Steven Moffat.

“We can’t expect a show to go out in one country and expect people in another country to wait more than a day. The world has changed utterly,” Moffat said in an interview. “We’re going to be downloading all our television very, very soon, so the idea you have to wait is nonsense.”

“Sherlock” star Benedict Cumberbatch agreed.

“It breaks my heart that this hit show, appreciated worldwide as it is, is not delivered worldwide at the same time. And it’s possible,” he said, if PBS and the BBC would coordinate the U.S.-U.K. airings.

Not doing so is a slight to the show’s “communities of fans,” Cumberbatch said.

Moffat’s other show — the sci-fi show “Doctor Who” — is also on the BBC and has apparently solved the problem a number of ways. Many of which were designed to avoid spoilers in an ever-increasing technological world.

The first is that since the start of “Series 7,” the show has been aired on the same day; premiering first in the UK, then airing on BBC America about six hours later.  Second have been a series of global simulcasts; starting first with a worldwide announcement of actor Peter Capaldi as “The 12th Doctor” on every BBC-affiliate from the UK to the U.S. to Australia.  They repeated the feat in late-November when “The Day of the Doctor,” the 5oth Anniversary Special aired.

It was the single-biggest simulcast event in world history.

No one has actually said how long the contract between BBC and PBS is when it comes to the re-airing of “Sherlock.”  Given that it took longer between “Series 2” and “Series 3” to film because of commitments by show stars Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, plans in the works for a “Series 4” and “Series 5” underway, along with Moffat’s urging of same-day airings, the question becomes:  If or When does “Sherlock” move to BBC America?

It might happen sooner than a lot of PBS viewers think, and they can blame technology for it.

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