Archive for May 6th, 2008|Daily archive page

5 Bionic Exoskeleton Suits of the Future

Source: environmentalgraffiti.com

Real Life Iron Man Suits

iron man

Image via Kotaku

As the old saying goes: the suit makes the man; never will this maxim resonate so well, than when referring to bionic exoskeleton suits. They’ll not only make you the man, they’ll make you superhuman.

Yes, picture this for a second. Imagine walking at an average speed of 20 miles an hour, lifting 300lbs weights as if they weighed only 10 and being able to leap 20-30 feet in the air. Imagine having a bionic extension that shadowed your every move.

You might be thinking that this could only be achieved in comic books, or in glossy Hollywood blockbusters like Iron man or the 1959 epic Starship Troopers. Frighteningly however, robotics has come a long way thanks to the archetypal bunch of mad scientists and inventors, working away in their laboratories.

The reality of an army of indestructible soldiers wearing exoskeleton suits may come sooner than you think. No longer are exoskeleton suits merely wearable joysticks. At long last, robotics is combining our decision-making processes with the dexterity and brute force of the machines. In other words, the mind controls the metal.

terminator
Image by Flickr user Alternate Words

However much this might sound like the plot of a bad science fiction movie, the rabbit hole goes deeper. The US Pentagon’s DARPA or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has invested $50 million in robotic exoskeleton projects.

The question to ask then, is will we see a bionic army, roaming the battlefields of the future or will there be some unexpected twist?

No I’m not about to prophesize an apocalyptic battle between man and machine (even though as a die-hard sci-fi fan, I think it would be kinda cool). No, brute force, contrary to popular belief is not limited to the realms of the military, but extends to the more mundane. The potential applications of powered suits are endless. Hydraulic limbs could assist people to walk, lift heavy equipment or rubble in rescue missions and aid in construction. Anything is possible after all.

So, without further ado, let’s explore some of the most incredible exoskeletons (in order of coolness) that may be seen on the battlefields of the future or helping us in our every day lives.

5. The Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX)

BLEEX

Image Via Zamazing

The director of UC Berkeley’s Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory Homayoon Kazerooni’s central aim was “to create an exoskeleton that combines a human control system with robotic muscle.” The project funded by DARPA, was in 2004, the most advanced exoskeletal suit. It has subsequently been overtaken by others on the list however.

How does it work?

Much like a human nervous system surprisingly. There are a series of 40 sensors and hydraulic actuators, which form a local area network. The machine therefore is able to shadow the subject’s every move.

One challenge was designing the fuel-based power actuation system, vital for sustaining soldiers on the battlefield. Unfortunately, this hasn’t yet been perfected.

4. The Landwalker Exoskeleton

landwalker

Image via techfresh

At 3.4 meters tall and weighing in at 1000kg, this juggernaut looks like something out of Star Wars. It is in fact, a devilish mix of Japanese machinery and vision, from the robotics manufacturer Sakakibara-Kikai.

Unlike the UC Berkeley project, this exoskeleton is not anthropomorphic and not as intelligent. It sure looks cool though: it has a gun mounted on each side, which can currently only fire squishy pink balls, but given a bit of development time, this bad boy will scare the hell out of any soldiers on the battlefield. If you want to buy one, it’ll set you back 36 million yen, roughly US$345,000.

4. Hal 5

Hal5

Images Via Tactical War Fighter

HAL, short for Hybrid Assistive Limb, is not a war machine. In fact, it is designed to assist people who have difficulty walking or lifting heavy objects.

Hal5 is the latest in a series of robots designed by Dr. Sankai a professor at the University of Tsukuba, Japan. The structure of the exoskeleton is composed of nickel and aluminum alloys, as well as a thick plastic casing. Inside a small pouch on the belt buckle is a Linux-based control computer, a Wi-Fi communications system and a set of batteries that power the exoskeleton for over 2 hours.

Like Berkeley’s exoskeleton, Hal5 mimics the every move of its user: its weight is unnoticeable as it supports itself and you can easily leg-press 400 pounds. Nice…

What perhaps is most interesting, is the fact that you could see this prototype in action in a street near you.

As a report from spectrum confirmed:

Japan, with almost half the world’s nearly 1 million industrial robots, is likely to be the place where adoption of exoskeletons will first take hold. The country’s rapidly aging population—one in four Japanese will be 65 or older by 2015—and its ambivalence toward admitting foreign laborers have created a shortage of caregivers, and some believe robotic-aided nursing care could be the solution.

2. Sarcos’ Exoskeleton

Sarcos exoskeleton

Modified Images via the following sources: 1 , 2

Perhaps one of the most impressive exoskeleton suits overall, the dexterity and brute force of this machine is incredible. The video below shows the subject lifting huge weights effortlessly and quickly – I bet a punch with the exoskeleton would knock you flat.

Yes, Sarcos’ exoskeleton is another DARPA funded project. The exoskeleton, much like the Berkeley suit, works much like a human nervous system. A complex set of sensors act as nerves and hydraulics act as muscle.

1. Real life Halo suit

real life halo suit

Modified Images via the following sources 1, 2, 3

I just couldn’t resist including this one. Although it isn’t technically bionic, it is the first ballistic proof exoskeleton. Yes, Troy Hurtubise, inventor of the bear proof suit and star of the documentary Project Grizzly, deliberately went out of his way again to create a Halo replica suit called the Trojan.

It has already withstood knives, bullets, light explosives and clubs. It weighs 40 pounds and is crafted out of high impact plastic, has ceramic bullet protection and ballistic foam. The exoskeleton has everything from places to put pepper spray, ingestible transponders, knife and gun holsters and a device to record your last words.

Troy’s dream is to have this suit deployed on battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. He claims that if any major military organisation takes him up on his offer, he can produce each suit for roughly $2000.

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This Coca-Cola Commercial is Simply Amazing! [Video]

Video

fantastic animation. now fetch me another bottle of high fructose corn syrup laden carbonated ***** …

5 Psychological Experiments That Prove Humanity is Doomed

Source: cracked.com

Psychologists know you have to be careful when you go poking around the human mind because you’re never sure what you’ll find there. A number of psychological experiments over the years have yielded terrifying conclusions about the subjects.

Oh, we’re not talking about the occasional psychopath who turns up. No, we’re talking about you. The experiments speak for themselves:

#5.
The Asch Conformity Experiment (1953)

The Setup:
Solomon Asch wanted to run a series of studies that would document the power of conformity, for the purpose of depressing everyone who would ever read the results.

Subjects were told that they would be taking part in a vision test, along with a handful of people. The participants were then shown pictures, and individually asked to answer very simple and obvious questions. The catch was that everybody else in the room other than the subject was in on it, and they were were told to give obviously wrong answers. So would the subject go against the crowd, even when the crowd was clearly and retardedly wrong?

The Result:
Questions the subjects were asked were like the puzzle shown here:

All they had to do was say which line on the right matched the one on the left. As you can see, Asch wasn’t exactly asking these people to design the next space station. Really, the only way you could get the line questions honestly wrong is if you took two doses of LSD that morning and rubbed them directly on your eyeballs (which would have made for an even more awesome experiment, but we’re getting off the point).

Yet, sadly, 32 percent of subjects would answer incorrectly if they saw that three others in the classroom gave the same wrong answer. Even when the line was plainly off by a few inches, it didn’t matter. One in three would follow the group right off the proverbial cliff.

What This Says About You:
Imagine how much that 32 percent figure inflates when the answers are less black and white. We all tend to laugh with the group even when we didn’t get the joke, or doubt our opinion we realize ours is unpopular among our group. So much for those lectures you got in elementary school about peer pressure and “being brave enough to be yourself.”

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m a rebellious non-conformist,” many of you are saying. Of course, for virtually all of you, the next step is to find out what the other non-conformists are doing …

… and make sure you conform to it perfectly.

“Wait, you’re right! Surely we must rebel against this mindless herd mentality! Let’s all take to the streets!”

#4.
The Good Samaritan Experiment (1973)

The Setup:
The Biblical story of the Good Samaritan, if you hadn’t heard, is about a passing Samaritan helping an injured man in need, while other, self-righteous types walk right on by. Psychologists John Darley and C. Daniel Batson wanted to test if religion has any effect on helpful behavior.

Their subjects were a group of seminary students. Half of the students were given the story of the Good Samaritan and asked to perform a sermon about it in another building. The other half were told to give a sermon about job opportunities in a seminary.

As an extra twist, subjects were given different times that they had to deliver the sermon so that some would be in a hurry and others not.

Then, on the way to the building, subjects would pass a person slumped in an alleyway, who looked to be in need of help. We like to think Darley and Batson beat the crap out of some random dude to make it more realistic, but sources say otherwise.


C. Daniel Batson probably did not beat a homeless dude

The Result:
The people who had been studying the Good Samaritan story did not stop any more often than the ones preparing for a speech on job opportunities. The factor that really seemed to make a difference was how much of a hurry the students were in.

In fact, if pressed for time, only 10 percent would stop to give any aid, even when they were on their way to give a sermon about how awesome it is for people to stop and give aid. Though to be fair, if you were late for a class, did your professor ever accept, “I had to stop and help a wounded traveler” as an excuse? Probably not unless you could produce the guy’s blood-stained shirt as evidence.

What This Says About You:
As much as we like to make fun of, say, anti-gay congressmen who get caught gaying it up in a men’s bathroom and pointing out Al Gore’s resource-hogging mansion

… the truth is us common folk are just as likely to be hypocrites as the politicians. After all, it’s much easier to talk to a room full of people about helping strangers than, say, actually touching a smelly and bleeding homeless man. So even pointing out their hypocrisy becomes a form of hypocrisy.

And in case you thought these results were just restricted to hypocritical seminary students, turn on the news. Remember a few years ago when cameras captured at least a dozen cars refusing to stop for an injured woman laying in the road?

Just like the students, they all had to be somewhere. The drivers were presumably proud enough of themselves just for swerving to miss her, rather than squishing her like roadkill.

Which brings us to …

#3.
Bystander Apathy Experiment (1968)

The Setup:
When a woman was murdered in 1964, newspapers printed that 38 people had heard and seen the attack, but did nothing. John Darley and Bibb Latane wanted to know if the fact that these people were in a large group played any role in the reluctance to come to aid.

The two psychologists invited volunteers to take part in a discussion. They claimed that because the discussion would be extremely personal (probably asking about the size of their genitals or something) individuals would be separated in different rooms and talk to each other using an intercom.

During the conversation, one of the members would fake an epileptic seizure, which could be heard on the speakers. We’re not completely sure how they conveyed over the intercom that what was happening was a seizure, but we’re assuming the words “Wow this is quite an epileptic seizure I’m having” were uttered.

The Result:
When subjects believed that they were the only other person in the discussion, 85 percent were heroic enough to leave the room and seek help once the other began the fake seizure. This makes sense. Having an extremely personal conversation (again, presumably about tiny genitalia) with another person is difficult enough, but being forced to continue to carry on the conversation by yourself is just sad. But either way, 85 percent helped. So that’s good, right?

Well, they weren’t done. When the experiment was altered so that subjects believed four other people were in the discussion, only 31 percent went to look for help once the seizure began. The rest assumed someone else would take care of it. So the phrase, “The more, the merrier” somehow got lost in translation because the correct expression should be, “The more, the higher probability that you will die if you have a seizure.”


Anyone can have epilepsy, according to this child’s drawing

What This Says About You:
Obviously if there’s an emergency and you’re the only one around, the pressure to help out increases massively. You feel 100 percent responsible for what happens. But, when you’re with 10 other people, you’re only 10 percent as responsible. The problem is everybody else only feels 10 percent responsible too.

This sheds some light on our previous examples. Maybe the drivers who swerved around the injured woman in the road would have stopped if they’d been alone on a deserted highway. Then again, maybe they’d be even more likely to abandon her since they know nobody is watching (unlike the people in the experiment, who at least knew there were others around to judge their actions).

Or maybe it comes down to just how plausible an excuse we can make for ourselves. “Surely someone will come along and save the lady in the road,” we say. Or, “Surely someone else will do something about the environment,” or “Surely the shark will get full and stop eating that dude at some point.” We just need the slightest excuse to do nothing.

#2.
The Stanford Prison Experiment (1971)

The Setup:
Psychologist Philip Zimbardo wanted to find out how captivity affects authorities and inmates in prison. Sounds innocent enough. Seriously, what could go wrong?

Zimbardo transformed the Stanford Psychology Department’s basement into a mock prison. Subjects volunteered by simply responding to a newspaper ad …


Not the actual ad

… and then passing a test proving good health and high-quality mental stability, which are very important factors in deciding who goes to prison. These volunteers were all male college students who were then divided arbitrarily into 12 guards and 12 prisoners. Zimbardo himself decided that he wanted to play too, and elected himself Prison Superintendent. The simulation was planned to run for two weeks.

Yep, nothing at all can go wrong with this.

The Result:
It took about one day for every subject to suddenly go as insane as a shit-house rat. On only the second day, prisoners staged a riot in the faux detention center, with prisoners barricading their cells with their beds and taunting the guards. The guards saw this as a pretty good excuse to start squirting fire extinguishers at the insurgents because, hey, why the hell not?

From that point on, the Stanford Prison that had already gone to hell, just continued to ricochet around in hell for day after day. Some guards began forcing inmates to sleep naked on the concrete, restricting the bathroom as a privilege (one that was often denied). They forced prisoners to do humiliating exercises and had them clean toilets with their bare hands.

Incredibly, when “prisoners” were told they had a chance at parole, and then the parole was denied, it didn’t occur to them to simply ask out of the damned experiment. Remember they had absolutely no legal reason to be imprisoned, it was just a damned role-playing exercise. This fact continued to escape them as they sat naked in their own filth, with bags on their heads.

Over 50 outsiders had stopped to observe the prison, but the morality of the trial was never questioned until Zimbardo’s girlfriend, Christina Maslach, strongly objected. After only six days, Zimbardo put a halt to the experiment (several of the “guards” expressed disappointment at this). If you were about to applaud Maslach as the only sane person involved in this clusterfuck, you should know that she went on to marry Zimbardo, the guy who orchestrated the whole thing.

What This Says About You:
Ever been harassed by a cop who acted like a major douchebag, pushing you around for no reason? Science says that if the roles were reversed, you’d likely act the same way.

As it turns out, it’s usually fear of repercussion that keeps us from torturing our fellow human beings. Give us absolute power over somebody and a blank check from our superiors, and Abu Ghraib-esque naked pyramids are sure to follow. Hey, if it can happen to a bunch of Vietnam-era hippie college students, it sure as hell could happen to you.

#1.
The Milgram Experiment (1961)

The Setup:
When the prosecution of the Nazis got underway at the Nuremberg Trials, many of the defendants’ excuse seemed to revolve around the ideas of, “I’m not really a prick” and, “Hey man, I was just following orders.” Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram wanted to test willingness of subjects to obey an authority figure. Maybe he could just, you know, ask people? Oh, hell no. That would not be nearly horrifying enough.

Instead he ran an experiment where the subject was told he was a “teacher” and that his job was to give a memory test to another subject, located in another room. The whole thing was fake and the other subject was an actor.

The subject was told that whenever the other guy gave an incorrect answer, he was to press a button that would give him an electric shock. A guy in a lab coat was there to make sure he did it (again no real shock was being delivered, but the subject of course did not know this).

The subject was told that the shocks started at 45 volts and would increase with every wrong answer. Each time they pushed the button, the actor on the other end would scream and beg for the subject to stop.

So, can you guess how this went?

The Result:
Many subjects began to feel uncomfortable after a certain point, and questioned continuing the experiment. However, each time the guy in the lab coat encouraged them to continue. Most of them did, upping the voltage, delivering shock after shock while the victim screamed. Many subjects would laugh nervously, because laughter is the best medicine when pumping electrical currents through another person’s body.

Eventually the actor would start banging on the wall that separated him from the subject, pleading about his heart condition. After further shocks, all sounds from victim’s room would cease, indicating he was dead or unconscious. If you had to guess, what percentage of the subjects kept delivering shocks after that point?

Five percent? Ten?

Between 61 and 66 percent of subjects would continue the experiment until it reached the maximum voltage of 450, continuing to deliver shocks after the victim had been zapped into unconsciousness or the afterlife. Repeated studies have shown the same result: Subjects will mindlessly deliver pain to an innocent stranger as long as a dude in a lab coat says it’s OK.

Most subjects wouldn’t begin to object until after 300-volt shocks. Zero of them asked to stop the experiment before that point (keep in mind 100 volts is enough to kill a man, in some cases).

What This Says About You:
You might like to think of yourself as a free-thinking marauder, but when it comes down to it, odds are you won’t stick it to The Man because of the fear The Man will stick it right back up your ass. And this was just a guy in a lab coat–imagine if he’d had a uniform, or a badge.

Charles Sheridan and Richard King took this experiment one step further, but asked subjects to shock a puppy for every incorrect action it made. Unlike Milgram’s experiment, this shock was real. Exactly 20 out of 26 subjects went to the highest voltage.

Almost 80 percent. Think about that when you’re walking around the mall: Eight out of ten of those people you see would torture the shit out of a puppy if a dude in a lab coat asked them to.

If you enjoyed that, you might like our rundown of 5 Mental Disorders That Can Get You Laid. Or check out the T Shirt designs you’ll be wearing tomorrow and submit your own in the Photoshop contest in the forum. If you’re out of ideas, head over to eHow for Cracked.com Editor Jack O’Brien’s handy guide on How to Design a Funny T-Shirt. And if you’re tired of finding the best Cracked has to offer on your own sign up for the Cracked Newsletter and receive the choicest articles in your inbox every Thursday morning.

Five Camping Essentials for the Soft City-Dweller

Source: wired.com

teepee.jpg

Camping. Man at one with nature, free of the chains of modern society, living off the land and enjoying a simpler life. Bull. Unless you want to starve, get bitten to death by insects and come home from your hiking weekend with more chafing than a gimp who forgot the talcum powder, you’re going to need some gadgets. Not the electronic kind. We’re talking about high-tech thinking applied to low-tech gear, well thought-out designs that will save both time and pain, although not always cash.

These tips are from first-hand experience, garnered over this previous weekend. I’m an armchair hiker, and the people I traveled with were far more experienced woodsmen. Which is probably why, as a novice, I noticed all their cool gear. I did, though, manage to bring a few useful widgets:

kinky-boots.jpgBoots

I ignored the usual advice that says you should break in your hiking boots before you leave. I picked up the cheapest pair I could find the day before leaving. I got lucky. The €60 ($93) McKinley boots I picked up were soft textile instead of leather and were comfortable, light, tough and didn’t rub at all. This was just as well, as what I though would be a quick one hour jaunt turned into a six hour hike, including some hairy 60 degree slopes.

The cheap boots did, however, breathe. Which, in combination with the next item in the list, quite literally saved my soles.



falke_tk2.jpgTechnical Underwear

Day One: New, breathable, cooling, stay-dry socks from Falke. Result: Dry, comfortable feet, no blisters, no rubbing. The socks even have L and R embroidered on them to help with dressing. Day Two: Normal, thick sports socks. Result: Sweaty feet and a heel blister after half a mile. I quickly swapped back to the Falkes from the day before, which had conveniently stuck to the side of my pack after being thrown there the night before. These socks were the best thing I bought for the trip, including the bottle of Single Malt Whisky.

Next time, I also would consider some breathable underwear. Chafed cheeks, known to English restaurant workers as “Chef’s Arse,” are a terrible curse that can be cured only with a handful of corn flour. Avoid.

Product page [Falke]



opinel.jpg

Knife

A Leatherman would be nice, but they’re expensive and I wasn’t planning to complete a Makeshift Challenge. I took an Opinel, the classic French wood and steel folding knife with a locking collar. Cheap, sharp, beautiful to look at — the only time you won’t find one of these in my bag is on the way to and from the airport.

Product page [Opinel]



42681_PE137685_S4.jpgFrisbee/Plate combo

You need a plate, even while you rely on your more professional fellow campers to bring the actual cooking gear. And if you’re going to carry plate, why not make it a plate that flies? The solution was found at Ikea. The Reda set of mixing bowls comes with lipped lids, the largest of which flies at least as well as a real Frisbee. Sure, you could eat your food off an actual Frisbee, but this was already in my kitchen.

Product page [Ikea]






9004-1.jpgBar Blade

The bar blade is the Rolls Royce of bottle openers. A simple strip of steel with a slot and a hole punched into it, the bar blade has many more uses than merely opening beer (although it does that remarkably well). In the past, I have used mine as a screwdriver (it fits the coin-sized slots used in many consumer goods perfectly) and to break into my own car (I left the keys inside). On this trip it pulled out tent pegs and stirred the cooking pot. And if you’re wondering what the circular hole is for, it’s for swinging the blade around your finger. Really.

Product page [Bar Gizmos]

A few other things to consider. Take ready-made cigarettes. The lungs of a smoker are already delicate, and the extra speed and effort needed to catch up to your companions after rolling a fag only makes things worse. Also, take ground coffee. Your more experienced fellow campers will undoubtedly have a small stove. They will also only have instant coffee, which is not coffee at all.

If you really can’t tear your mouth away from the electronic teat, we suggest you check out BoingBoing Gadgeteer Joel Johnsons’ account of his pampered foray into the wilds, where he survived rattlesnakes and WiFi deprivation using only an iPhone, a laptop, solar panels, a current inverter, an Amazon Kindle, a nerdy homemade bracelet and, for all we know, a pizza delivery service.

This time, the comments are the place for your camping hints and tips. Not the specs on your quarter-pound, carbon-fiber and space-nylon tent, but the little camping hacks that get you through a trip. Go.

Windows XP SP3 hits Windows Update, Vista SP1 makes a comeback

Source: engadget.com

At last the moment you’ve been waiting for. Microsoft wants to hit your version of Windows with an update, and this time you don’t have to go rummaging around the internet to find it: just fire up Windows Update and let Microsoft do all the work. After a few false starts XP users get the much-anticipated SP3 update, which promises speed boosts and some of the fancy security features found in Vista. If you’re a Vista user you’re also in luck, since Microsoft has restarted its Vista SP1 distribution after some compatibility problems with Microsoft Dynamics RMS. Sounds like a party.

The Legend of Cliff Young: The 61 Year Old Farmer Who Won the World’s Toughest Race

Source: elitefeet.com

Those who are in the ultra world already know about the legendary Cliff Young but those outside may not have heard the story.

The whole nation thought he was a crazy old man to undertake an almost impossible feat. Most feared that he would die trying. But this humble old man proved all the critics wrong.Cliff Young, at 61 years of age, participated in 1983’s Sydney to Melbourne race. Considered to be the world’s toughest race, with the distance of 875 (543.7 m) kilometers and took at least 5 days to finish, Cliff Young entered the race against world-class athletes. Read how he achieved the unthinkable and inspires the whole nation.

The Beginning

Every year, Australia hosts an 875-kilometer endurance racing from Sydney to Melbourne – considered to be the world’s longest and toughest ultra-marathon. It’s a long, tough race that takes five days and normally participated by world-class athletes who train specially for the event. Backed by big names in sports like Nike, these athletes are mostly less than 30 years old men and women equipped with the most expensive sponsored training outfits and shoes.

In 1983, these top class runners were in for a surprise. On the day of the race, a guy named Cliff Young showed up. At first, no one cared about him since everybody thought he was there to watch the event. After all, he was 61 years old, showed up in overalls and galoshes over his work boots.

As Cliff walked up to the table to take his number, it became obvious to everybody he was going to run. He was going to join a group of 150 world-class athletes and run! During that time, these runners don’t even know another surprising fact – his only trainer was his 81-year-old mother, Neville Wran.

Everybody thought that it was a crazy publicity stunt. But the press was curious, so as he took his number 64 and moved into the pack of runners in their special, expensive racing outfit, the camera focused on him and reporters started to ask:

“Who are you and what are you doing?”

“I’m Cliff Young. I’m from a large ranch where we run sheep outside of Melbourne.”

They said, “You’re really going to run in this race?”

“Yeah,” Cliff nodded.

“Got any backers?”

“No.”

“Then you can’t run.”

“Yeah I can.” Cliff said. “See, I grew up on a farm where we couldn’t afford horses or four wheel drives, and the whole time I was growing up– until about four years ago when we finally made some money and got a four wheeler– whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go out and round up the sheep. We had 2,000 head, and we have 2,000 acres. Sometimes I would have to run those sheep for two or three days. It took a long time, but I’d catch them. I believe I canyoung.jpg run this race; it’s only two more days. Five days. I’ve run sheep for three.”

When the marathon started, the pros left Cliff behind in his galoshes. The crowds smiled because he didn’t even run correctly. Instead of running, he appeared to run leisurely, shuffling like an amateur.

Now, the 61-year-old potato farmer from Beech Forest with no teeth had started the ultra-tough race with world-class athletes. All over Australia, people who watched the live telecast kept on praying that someone would stop this crazy old man from running because everyone believed he’ll die even before even getting halfway across Sydney.

Turtle vs rabbits
cliff young australia Every professional athlete knew for certain that it took about 5 days to finish this race, and that in order to compete, you would need to run 18 hours and sleep 6 hours. The thing is, old Cliff Young did not know that!

When the morning news of the race was aired, people were in for another big surprise. Cliff was still in the race and had jogged all night down to a city called Mittagong.

Apparently, Cliff did not stop after the first day. Although he was still far behind the world-class athletes, he kept on running. He even had the time to wave to spectators who watched the event by the highways.

When he got to a town called Albury he was asked about his tactics for the rest of the race. He said he would run through to the finish, and he did.

He kept running. Every night he got just a little bit closer to the leading pack. By the last night, he passed all of the world-class athletes. By the last day, he was way in front of them. Not only did he run the Melbourne to Sydney race at age 61, without dying; he won first place, breaking the race record by 9 hours and became a national hero! The nation fell in love with the 61-year-old potato farmer who came out of nowhere to defeat the world’s best long distance runners.

He finished the 875-kilometre race in 5 days, 15 hours and 4 minutes. Not knowing that he was supposed to sleep during the race, he said when running throughout the race, he imagined that he was chasing sheep and trying to outrun a storm.

When Cliff was awarded the first prize of $10,000, he said he did not know there was a prize and insisted that he had not entered for the money. He said, “There’re five other runners still out there doing it tougher than me,” and he gave them $2,000 each. He did not keep a single cent for himself. That act endeared him to all of Australia. Cliff was a humble, average man, who undertook an extraordinary feat and became a national sensation.

The Inspirational Run Continues
In the following year, Cliff Young entered the same race and won the 7 th place. During the race, his hip popped out of the joint socket, his knee played up and he endured shin splints. But those didn’t deter him from finishing the race. When he was announced as the winner for most courageous runner and presented with a Mitsubishi Colt, he said, “I didn’t do it near as tough as old Bob McIlwaine. Here, Bob, you have the car,” and gave the keys to him.

It was said that Cliff Young never kept a single prize. People gave him watches, because he never had one. He would thank them because he did not want to hurt their feelings, but will then give it away to the first child he saw. He did not understand why he would need a watch because, he said, he knew when it was daylight, when it was dark, and when he was hungry.

Cliff came to prominence again in 1997, aged 76, when he attempted to become the oldest man to run around Australia and raise money for homeless children. He managed to completed 6,520km of the 16,000km run before he had to pull out after his only permanent crew member became ill.

His love for running never diminished but in year 2000, after collapsing in his Gellibrand home a week after completing 921 kilometers of a 1600-kilometre race, his lose his strength for running. The mild stroke ended his heroic running days.

After the long illness, Cliff Young, the running legend passed away on 2 nd November 2003. He was 81.

Current Race

The “Young-shuffle” has been adopted by ultra-marathon runners because it is considered more aerodynamic and expends less energy. At least 3 winners of the Sydney to Melbourne race have been known to use the ‘Young-shuffle’ to win the race.

Now, for Sydney to Melbourne race, almost nobody sleeps. To win that race, you have to run like Cliff Young did, you have to run all night as well as all day.

6 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Get Addicted To

Source: cracked.com

Soy shakes, golden retrievers, squat thrusts. These aren’t the makings of a week-long bender in Vegas, unless you happen to be Marquis de Sade. However, the human brain is a mysterious lump of meat, and under rare circumstances the mind can become hooked on all sorts of things that are usually completely innocent or even commendable.

Such as …

#6.
Books

Doesn’t sound so bad …
Many of us own collections that we’re too ashamed to discuss in public, whether it’s vintage porn, yarn or commemorative Burger King glasses. So when you hear there’s such a thing as book addiction, you figure, hell, it’d be rad to be addicted to the Western literary canon. You’d be so quick with quips and quotes at dinner parties you could wear a damned monocle and nobody would dare call you on it.

The horrifying reality:
The most prominent modern bibiliomaniac was Stephen Carrie Blumberg. From 1974 to 1990, this bookish chap raided the archives of about 185 North American universities. When the FBI finally raided his Ottumwa, Iowa home, the feds discovered 28,000 stolen books and manuscripts he had been compulsively hoarding.

Bibliomaniacs like him don’t necessarily read their books or even collect valuable ones. They just collect them out of a compulsive need to have a fuckload of books. So you could be a bibliomaniac while remaining completely illiterate, though you could build a kick-ass fort.

By the way, after Blumberg spent 4.5 years in prison for stealing all those books, he was rearrested in July 2003 for stealing, um, doorknobs. Figure that one out.

Warning Signs:
Technology has obviously made books unnecessary, so the sight of even one book in a friend’s home should be cause for concern. If the person has gone as far as to purchase an entire special shelf to hold all of his books, it’s probably time for an intervention.

#5.
Pets

Doesn’t sound so bad …
We know what you’re thinking: If one puppy is adorable, think how much more adorable a dozen of them would be! Furthermore, chicks dig animal lovers and dudes love the movie Beastmaster, so where’s the problem? Every day we come home will be like that scene in Ace Ventura!

The horrifying reality:
In one infamous 2005 case, animal control officers retrieved more than 300 sewage-scented pups from Barbara and Robert Woodley’s Sanford, North Carolina home. The house’s stench was so damn doggy that it brought the rescuing veterinarians to tears … literally. Animal hoarding is often the result of crippling obsessive-compulsive disorder. The hoarder believes that he alone understands his pets, who apparently wish to live cramped and knee-deep in their own shit.

On a similar note, The New York Times recently posited that “crazy cat lady” syndrome stems from an infection by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. According to this model, feline stool transmits the bug, which gives the infected owner an unhealthy case of cat-scratch fever. Before you laugh, know that 60 million Americans may be infected with toxoplasma and that some experts think it will turn all of us into zombies.

Warning Signs:
We’re going to go out on a limb here, but we’re thinking the presence of lots and lots of animals in a guy’s living room may be an indication. Further, if you catch someone extolling the virtues of Eddie Murphy’s 1998 opus Doctor Dolittle, that individual is either a potential animal hoarder or eight-years-old. On the other hand, if you catch someone extolling the virtues of Marc Singer’s 1982 opus The Beastmaster, buy that man a drink!


He has a Master’s degree … in beasts

#4.
Eating Right

Doesn’t sound so bad …
Hey reader, what’d you eat today? What’s that? A sausage stromboli, some Skittles and a teacup full of Maker’s Mark? And it’s not even noon? For shame, you’re not getting enough fiber to absorb that bourbon.

Wait, what did we eat? The internet writer’s special, natch: a tub of Crisco and a tin of Skoal. So if they say there’s such a thing as getting addicted to healthy food (or orthorexia) then we should all be so lucky. Right?

The horrifying reality:
You can die from it.

See, the orthorexia nervosa sufferer’s fanatical desire to consume the correct foods comes with the problem that their idea of what “correct” means is entirely subjective and often nutritionally unsound. Eating 10 cans of pinto beans a day sounds healthier than eating ten Big Macs, but both diets leave out important nutrients and will reward you with DEFCON 5 flatulence. And at the end of the day, your body just needs fat. A diet with zero fat can kill you just as effectively as too much, though most of us are a very long way away from experiencing that for ourselves.

Warning Signs:
The doctor who discovered this disorder says “social isolation” resulting from the diet is one warning sign. So take Mr. Pinto Bean from our above example. Chances are he’s disgusted with other people’s “impure,” non-bean diets, so he posts a personal on Craigslist entitled “LOOKING 4 GOYA-MINDED WOMAN.”

And since no one shares the rectitude required to eat beans 24/7, Mr. Bean spends the rest of his life alone, weeping as he farts, farting as he weeps.

#3.
Exercise

Doesn’t sound so bad …
Imagine a world where every push-up tasted like a 1996 Dom Perignon, where every sweat droplet tickles your cheek like [Scarlett Johansson’s denuded gazonga]*, where every bench press smells like a crisp $100 bill. If this is the world of the exercise addict, we want in.

* NOTE: Female readers, replace this phrase with [Antonio Banderas’ Latin love lance].

The horrifying reality:
The compulsive exerciser gets no extraordinary high from working out. Rather, the addict is joylessly consumed by the minutiae of his or her routine and will often overtrain and eschew leisure time to feel the burn. These people work out until they create hormone imbalances, destroy their bones and, ironically, waste muscle.

We can blame the three P’s for exercise addiction: Perfectionism, Poor body image and Phear of athletic Phailure.

Muscular dysmorphia (aka “bigorexia”) is a similar problem. The bigorexic will be unsatisfied with his musculature until he is able to arm wrestle a mastodon, and will not stop until he is a veiny mass of trapezius. We can attribute bigorexia to the three G’s: G.I. Joe body ideal, Gigantism and Gsteroids.

Warning Signs:
If anyone you know uses the word “orgasmic” to describe his workout, either he’s an exercise addict or hitting on you. Contact a mental professional or prepare for some serious emotional searching.

#2.
Water

Doesn’t sound so bad …
Seriously, water? Your body is mostly water. Water has leaked out of every orifice of your body at one time or another. There’s no way a water addiction could actually be bad for you, is there?

The horrifying reality:
Water addicts have been known to flush their body with upwards of seven liters of typically high-grade H2O per day, which can lead to hyponatremia, a potentially fatal sodium deficiency.

Wait, didn’t they always say salt was bad for you? Well, what we’ve learned here today is that you need a minimum of everything, even things like salt and fat. Like there’s probably some measured amount of tequila that is just right for the body.

Warning Signs:
Water dependency is fairly uncommon, but probably impossible to spot these days when everybody has a damned bottle of Dasani or Evian in their hand. Maybe it’s the dude whose house is piled with discarded plastic bottles.

Then again, that guy could just be addicted to …

#1.
Garbage

Doesn’t sound so bad …
Save money and reduce your carbon footprint by not throwing anything away! For instance, wash out those tuna tins and you’ve got some natty street hockey pucks! Look at all those empty beer cans under your bed–those are serviceable maracas for Cinco de Mayo! And the cellophane from that Otter Pop wrapper? That’s a prophylactic if we ever saw one.

The horrifying reality:
No one embodied disposophobia (the compulsive refusal to throw anything away) like the Collyer Brothers of Harlem. Until their deaths in 1947, Homer and Langley Collyer lived with approximately 103 tons of garbage in their Fifth Avenue brownstone. The brothers were notoriously hermetic. Langley would only lurk the streets at night, preying on junk like some sort of hobo vampire. When urban myths sprang up that the Collyer brownstone was full of treasure, the brothers built booby traps to defend their worthless trash heap.

The Collyers met their maker when their crap collection turned on them. Langley died when tunneling through a stack of newspaper, activating one of their hidden booby traps, thus crushing Langley instead of any would-be moldy newspaper thief. Homer, who was blind and paralyzed, died of starvation. This newspaper tunnel was so damn big that it took police 18 days to find Langley, who died a mere 10 feet away from Homer.

In the end, the Collyers’ demise resembled the climactic battle scene in Home Alone 2, if the Wet/Sticky Bandits were mentally ill and died in squalor.

Warning Signs:
We’re going to continue with the “everything in moderation” theme we’ve got going here and say that in fact a human needs a certain amount of filth to survive. So if your friend continually refuses to throw away that pot roast from last Christmas, he’s probably just lazy. But if you find him surrounding the fridge with tripwire, it’s probably time to have a talk.

If you enjoyed that, you might enjoy our rundown of The 5 Most Ridiculously Over-Hyped Health Scares of All Time. Or find out why traveling to Africa is a worse idea for your penis than ever before. Or watch a video about a horrific addiction that destroys lives and relationships (at least with people you might be seen with in public).

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Bolton: Striking Iran ‘Is Really The Most Prudent Thing To Do

Source: thinkprogress.org

Yesterday morning, Fox News interviewed former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton to discuss whether America is close to striking Iranian targets, as new reports indicate the Bush administration is drawing up plans for a “surgical strike.” Bolton said that while there are “obviously risks associated” with a strike on Iran, the risks of not doing something are “far higher” at this point.

Fox anchor Jaime Colby asserted, “The Brits think we overestimate the threat of Iran in this particular case. Are they right or wrong?” Bolton — who has previously claimed that the “mullahs in Iran” want a Democratic president in 2008 — responded:

I think they’re dead wrong on this. I think this is a case where the use of military force against a training camp to show the Iranians we’re not going to tolerate this is really the most prudent thing to do. Then the ball would be in Iran’s court to draw the appropriate lesson to stop harming our troops.

Fox anchor Colby reacted to Bolton’s war cries by concluding — without sarcasm — “That’s a good message to end on. Thank you.” Watch it:

Bolton has asserted that preventive war against Iraq “did work” and “achieved our strategic objective.” Moreover, he has openly stated that the U.S. should have no interest in the well-being of Iraqis.

Bolton’s unquenchable appetite for a military conflict with Iran is easy to understand, given that he cares so little about the disastrous consequences that follow from war.

Blu-ray hits bumps in the road to HD market dominance

Source: arstechnica.com

Mid-February was a good time to be a Blu-ray backer. Media moguls who had championed the technology were busy floating on yachts in the Pacific, chomping cigars, and stroking white longhaired cats; the billion-dollar payday was at hand. But numbers out last week indicate that standalone Blu-ray player sales plummeted in the early part of this year, and enthusiasm for the hi-def format appears as lukewarm as the applause at an REO Speedwagon concert. Where did all the buyers go?

Last week, both ABI Research and The NPD Group delivered the news: the standalone Blu-ray player market did not suddenly rise up and walk after HD DVD quit the market. Instead, it remained in its bed and took a turn for the worse. NPD reports that player sales dropped by 40 percent from January to February 2008 and increased by only 2 percent the following month.

ABI argues that the Blu-ray player market won’t improve to full health for more than a year, perhaps as long as 18 months. “BD player prices remain high, and supplies are limited,” says ABI Research principal analyst Steve Wilson. “This is good for the market because most current players do not support all the functions that studios place on the discs. Lacking support for—or upgradability to—BD Live! or Bonus View (picture in picture), consumers cannot utilize all the available options. Manufacturers would rather sell more fully-featured models.”


Data source: ABI Research

This is “good” only because the collective companies involved in supporting Blu-ray haven’t been able to get their collective act together. In fact, the only real beneficiary of the current high-prices, underperforming standalone players has been Sony’s games division, which produces the PlayStation 3, a solid (and future-proof) Blu-ray player in its own right.

In answer to the question posed above, it appears that buyers have gone in several directions simultaneously.

PS3. The reported declines in Blu-ray player sales aren’t actually declines at all; they only apply to standalone players. Sony’s PlayStation 3 has been moving serious units, and while standalone player shipments can be numbered in the thousands, Sony sold 257,000 PS3s in March 2008 alone. That represents a 98 percent growth rate in year-over-year sales. Given the high cost of standalone players and the fact that the price didn’t fall after the HD DVD announcement, it’s clear that most people are getting their Blu-ray fix from the PS3.

ABI believes that PS3s will account for a full 85 percent of all Blu-ray players in the wild by the end of 2008. Despite dire headlines regarding Blu-ray that are based on the recent ABI and NPD reports, it’s clear that the format is actually growing the number of players in the field, and in significant ways.

Upconverting players. HD players from both contending formats have long had to face questions about whether the quality boost they offer is “good enough” to drive users to make a pricey upgrade away from a DVD player. While the PS3 represents a good value for money, standalone players typically don’t. They still exist far above the $100 magic number for broad adoption of new consumer electronics devices, and upconverting DVD tech continues to look quite good. On my new 52″ LCD TV, for instance, Battlestar Galactica upconverted over an HDMI connection looks simply spectacular. Sure, it would look better in HD, but good enough that I want to drop hundreds on a new player?


Data source: NPD Group

NPD notes that upconverting DVD player sales are up 5 percent in the first quarter of 2008 over 2007, while those that cannot upconvert dropped by 39 percent.

Download services. But not everyone sees the need for a disc-based player anymore. The 360 has a well-regarded content download service that delivers HD movies right to the console, for instance, and Microsoft has been talking up to the direct download model for content distribution now that its pony is out of the race.

Apple has its own iTunes infrastructure that can serve up video content to iPods, iPhones, Macs, PCs, and TVs, and it now offers 720p rentals for the Apple TV. Amazon and TiVo provide further video download and rental options, while Netflix has been adding to its ever-increasing stable of films that can be streamed online instead of ordered through the mail.

Given the array of such services available, it’s not hard to see how even tech-savvy folks might hang on to a decent DVD player as backup but make use of newer streaming and download services to grab on-demand fare.

HD DVD is dead, and Blu-ray is arguably well positioned to take advantage of that fact. But the format has a long way to go before it supplants DVD as the physical media of choice for the living room. Remember, it took nearly a decade for sales of DVD players to overtake those of VCRs. It was only when DVD players began dropping down around $100 that they truly took off, and Blu-ray has a long way to go before it gets there.

APOD: Galaxies Collide

Post-War Suicides May Exceed Combat Deaths, U.S. Says

Source: bloomberg.com

May 5 (Bloomberg) — The number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care, the U.S. government’s top psychiatric researcher said.

Community mental health centers, hobbled by financial limits, haven’t provided enough scientifically sound care, especially in rural areas, said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He briefed reporters today at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in Washington.

Insel echoed a Rand Corporation study published last month that found about 20 percent of returning U.S. soldiers have post- traumatic stress disorder or depression, and only half of them receive treatment. About 1.6 million U.S. troops have fought in the two wars since October 2001, the report said. About 4,560 soldiers had died in the conflicts as of today, the Defense Department reported on its Web site.

Based on those figures and established suicide rates for similar patients who commonly develop substance abuse and other complications of post-traumatic stress disorder, “it’s quite possible that the suicides and psychiatric mortality of this war could trump the combat deaths,” Insel said.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD, is the failure to cope after a major shock, such as an auto accident, a rape or combat, Insel said. PTSD may remain dormant for months or years before it surfaces, and in about 10 percent of cases people never recover, he said.

Difficult to Predict

“We don’t yet know how to predict who is going to be the person to be most concerned about,” Insel said.

The Pentagon didn’t dispute Insel’s remark.

“The department takes the issue of suicide very seriously, and one suicide is too many,” said spokeswoman Cynthia Smith in an e-mail.

The department has expanded efforts to encourage soldiers and veterans not to feel stigmatized if they seek mental health treatment, Smith said.

Soldiers who’d been exposed to combat trauma were the most likely to suffer from depression or PTSD, the Rand report said. About 53 percent of soldiers with those conditions sought treatment during the past year. Half of those who got care were judged by Rand researchers to have received inadequate treatment.

Failure to adequately treat the mental and neurological problems of returning soldiers can cause a chain of negative events in the lives of affected veterans, the researchers said. About 300,000 soldiers suffer from depression or PTSD, the report said.

Treatment Options

Researchers aren’t sure whether it’s appropriate to treat such patients with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a class of medications that include Prozac, and other anti- depressants, Insel said. His institute is examining that question and novel treatments for PTSD, including using so-called virtual reality technology.

The psychiatric association reported last week that a survey of 191 military members and their spouses found 32 percent said their duty hurt their mental health, and six in 10 believed seeking treatment would damage their careers.

More than 15,000 psychiatrists are attending the professional group’s meeting.