Pioneering technique for growing new breasts could be available next year

A new therapy that is intended to regrow a woman’s breast from her own cells after a mastectomy could be offered to British patients for the first time next year, The Times has learnt.

A patient trial of the new technique, which induces fat tissue to fill a breast-shaped scaffold implanted under the skin, is being planned for the spring by surgeons at a London hospital.

The initative comes as scientists in Australia announced yesterday that they would start treating women using a similar procedure within six months, the result of successful tests on pigs and mice. If the trials are successful, the new approach would transform breast reconstruction, offering an alternative to saline and silicone implants that is likely to achieve better cosmetic results and a more natural feel. The technique, which is expected to regenerate a breast in about eight months, could also be used for breast enlargement, though it will initially be used to treat cancer patients.

Professor Kefah Mokbel, of the London Breast Institute and St George’s Hospital, told The Times that he would seek approval from his ethics committee to try the procedure next month, and hopes to be cleared to start treating patients by next March. The Australian team, led by Professor Wayne Morrison, of the Bernard O’Brien Institute of Microsurgery in Melbourne, has already obtained ethical approval for a trial involving half a dozen women, which will start within six months.

Professor Mokbel said that his first patients would be women who had been cancer-free for at least two years. That is to guard against the possibility of stimulating the growth of cancer cells left over after surgery, which is the chief risk of the treatment. “This is the next step in breast reconstruction surgery,” he said. “It is potentially a very exciting development. I believe it will be successful, and will allow us to regrow a fatty breast that looks and feels more natural.” He added that it should be used only in clinical trials, not least because of the risk of restarting a patient’s cancer.

The technique, which the Australian team has named Neopec, involves removing some of the woman’s own fat cells, and enhancing the concentration of stem cells within them in the laboratory. A biocompatible scaffold is then implanted under the patient’s skin, to create a cavity that matches the shape of her other breast. The stem cell-enhanced fat is injected into the cavity, which the cells divide to fill. The cavity is attached to blood vessels under the arm. The Melbourne team, which has been developing the technology for a decade, has recently tested it on pigs, which grew new breasts within six weeks.

Phillip Marzella, chief operating officer of the Bernard O’Brien Institute, said that the procedure relied on the body’s own behaviour of filling internal voids. “Nature abhors a vacuum, so the chamber itself, because it is empty, tends to be filled in by the body,” he told The Times. “We hope it will have a significant impact around the world. There are a lot of women who don’t have reconstructive surgery for whatever reason, or have silicone breast implants, but this will give them their own tissue back. “We also like to think that it would alleviate the shock that a woman feels when she is told she has breast cancer, to know that she could possibly grow her breasts back.”

Dr Marzella said the first trials would involve a scaffold that would have to be surgically removed after the new breast had grown. In the longer run, a biodegradable version could be used. “We also envisage that in ten years’ time this approach could be open to cosmetic surgery and, if the principle works, then it could be used in the nose or other parts of the body for reconstructive surgery.”

The technique will create a new breast entirely composed of fat, without functional breast tissue and milk ducts. Professor Mokbal predicted that it would eventually be possible to regrow more specialised breast tissue. “Though it’s still quite far away, mammary stem cells could be used to regenerate the whole breast, including the nipples and milk ducts,” he said.

Anthony Hollander, professor of tissue engineering at the University of Bristol, who led a team last year that replaced part of a woman’s trachea with stem cells, welcomed the study. “This is a simple concept, and simple very often means good,” he said. Sarah Cant, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “This is an extraordinary piece of early research. that might lead to improved breast reconstruction after surgery. The next stage is to see if this technique will be safe and effective in people and only then can we assess its true potential.”

this is a good news to those that have been affected by breast cancer. and this definitely helps those who wanted bigger boobs.. the most interesting part, this sounds promising enough that it should spur the medical reconstruction of human organs sooner or later. however this is still under testing. lets hope that the tests went well and bring us all good news. article from TimesOnline.

Netflix Streaming on Sony’s PlayStation 3

Following Sony’s new marketing campaign (“It Only Does Everything”), Netflix Streaming has finally arrived on the PS3. When announcements were made last month that we’d finally be joining the ranks of the Xbox 360 as well as various LG, Samsung, and Insignia networked Blu-ray Disc players, I immediately signed up for my free Netflix “Instant Streaming Disc.” I wasn’t exactly sure why they were sending me a disc, thinking that it would be some type of firmware update. But it turns out (or, if I had read the announcement further than “go here to sign up for your free disc”) the Instant Streaming Disc is actually a Blu-ray, which uses BD-Live to stream movies and television episodes from the Netflix server. Meaning, every time you want to stream content, the Instant Streaming Disc must first be inserted into the PS3.

Setting It Up

Netflix Streaming on the PS3 rquires: a Netflix membership subscription plan with unlimited viewing included (1-at-a-time DVDs with unlimited streaming is $8.99/month, and $10.99/month for a 1-at-a-time with Blu-ray Disc access), the free Netflix Instant Streaming disc, and a broadband internet connection (hard wired or wireless).

For installation and title selection, you’ll at first need both a computer and your PS3 (in the future, one could use the PS3’s internal internet browser). First, insert the Instant Streaming Disc into the PS3. An unlocking code will show up on your TV’s screen. From there hop over to your Netflix account, in the “Watch Instantly” tab, where it will ask you for that code. Once entered, the PS3 will sync up your Instant Queue. Selected titles can be arranged as you see fit, just like your DVD Queue. It’s handy to pick carefully here, because if you have a lot of titles, scrolling over to the last one can be a bit time consuming.

Daily Use

Running the disc brings you to your Instant Queue. Clicking to the right (using either a remote, or a PS3 game controller – I personally am using a Harmony 880 via the Nyko PS2 USB adapter. Logitech now makes a PS3 adapter for their remotes) scrolls you through your Queue. Click UP and then to the right to access other categories, such as Recently Watched, New Arrivals: Movies, New Arrivals: TV, Comedy, Drama, Action, and a myriad of other genres.

Click (or press down) on any title to “play,” give the title a star rating, or “remove from Instant Queue.” Once a movie is started, options will change to “resume playing” or “play from the beginning.” TV shows are organized by season, so play options include “Play Episode 1” or “Choose Episode.” “Play,” “pause,” “fast forward” and “rewind” buttons work as they should (though fast forward and rewinding require 10 or so seconds to buffer). But pressing stop will exit you out streaming all together (taking you back to the PS3’s menu); to go back to your Instant Queue, simply press “menu” and then click “up.”

Movies and TV episodes are available in “HD” (AVC encodes oscillating between 1.5 and 5 Mbps) and SD (running just under 600 kbps), with all audio in two-channel, stereo Dolby Digital. There are over 17,000 movie and TV titles. TV shows are a mix of old and new; movies are generally older, given contracts movie studios have in place with pay cable outlets which streaming would violate. “Starz Play” titles are newer releases (anything that’s currently playing on the Starz network), but they don’t appear to be in “HD.”

Impressions

For anyone savvy enough to have a Netflix account and a PS3 already, this is a no brainer. It’s free (well, included in your subscription), and easy for those of us who have no trouble surfing the web. For folks less technically savy, this service is more difficult than using cable or satellite On Demand services because you can’t manage your account from one location.

Quality-wise, Netflix Streaming certainly isn’t a Blu-ray killer, let alone even competitor, but I suppose that’s not really the point. This is an added feature to allow subscribers more content and added value. Quote-unquote HD content is “serviceable.” Not as good as HD cable/satellite, but a bit more resolution than DVD. I checked out ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (a fantastic Blu-ray, btw) and the opening sequence of ‘Scorpion King 2’. These two features weren’t as clear as the Vudu HDX titles I’ve seen, nor as good as Quicktime HD movie trailers. They suffered from banding, blocking, and digital artifacts. Once my expectations were in the proper place, I was generally pleased. This would be a good way to see a title when you didn’t want to wait for Netflix to send out your next disc. The one thing to mention here is that my Internet connection did drop out once, and so ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ paused, and started replaying in SD, which was no comparison. To get it back up to “HD”, I hit “menu”, and “resumed playing” which re-buffered the feed, and brought it back in “HD.”

On my 52” Sony LCD, the SD streaming content was subpar (but truthfully, most SD content doesn’t look great). It’s like watching a non-anamorphic widescreen DVD, and “zooming in” your TV to make it fill more of the screen. Images and text are hazy, fuzzy, and colors are muddy. Here I checked out ‘Armageddon’ (which was in anamorphic widescreen), ‘Dead Space: Downfall’ (non-anamorphic widescreen) and ‘Big Bry’s Western Style BBQ’ (1.33:1). Each title had its own disappointment. ‘Armageddon’ was blocky, and less engaging without its 5.1 mix; ‘Dead Space’ looked clear, but it had letterboxing and pillar boxing happening at the same time; and ‘Big Bry’s’ audio was out of sync for the entire presentation (though, this might not be the fault of the service).

Despite its ease of use, and the fact that it’s free (Xbox 360 owners have to pay over $50/year for Xbox Live Gold service), my biggest complaint is the necessary Instant Streaming Disc. Sure it’s a nifty use of BD-Live, and no doubt there’s a specific, genius-computer-programmer reason as to why it had to be designed this way, but frankly, it’s cumbersome. Is it really THAT hard to get up off the couch and insert a disc, like when playing any Blu-ray or DVD? Of course not, but like the PlayStation Store or Network, streaming content seems better served for when you can exit out of a movie or game, and then click over to something else. Now streaming is forced to be a conscious choice, and given the quality of the service, it might be a better value to pop in another Blu-ray or in some cases, a DVD. At least with many DVDs, you’re getting a discreet surround sound mix.

Bottom Line

Though Netflix Streaming may have its uses (digging back in to childhood classics like ‘Voltron’!), and it’s great to bring another feature to the PS3, video/audiophiles need not apply. The current lack of quality will be bothersome. Hopefully, with time, the streaming / video encoding quality will grow along with the selection of “HD” content. For now, enjoy what you can.

nice review done by Micheal S. Palmer of High-Def Digest. i tried to open up Netflix last night. i thought its free. but i need to subscribe for $9/month. i’m not into that just yet. but this guide could be useful in the near future.

New dinosaur species may be a missing link

Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa – Before the dig started, it looked like any other patch of dinosaur dirt: gray soil, a few brownish fossilized bones exposed by erosion. Paleontologist Adam Yates thought his diggers would find a few bones from the massospondylus — South Africa’s most common dinosaur, a small omnivorous creature not much bigger than a large dog.

So the Australian paleontologist at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg initially assigned a master’s student to excavate the site and research the story of how the dinosaurs died. But within days back in 2006, it was clear they were onto something big. In about 11 weeks spread over the years since, Yates’ team excavated about 300 bones from a site just over 20 feet long and 9 feet wide. They discovered three new dinosaurs and the fangs of a mysterious dinosaur carnivore, probably a fourth new species. The first to be named and researched is Aardonyx celestae. The others are still being studied.

What makes Aardonyx celestae so exciting is that the species, like a crucial piece in a complicated jigsaw puzzle, helps explain how some of the earliest dinosaurs, two-legged herbivores known as prosauropods, evolved into the largest creatures that ever walked the Earth: the sauropods, four-legged creatures with long necks and small heads that ripped off tree foliage with their cavernous jaws.

Yates doesn’t like the term “missing link.” It upsets his scientific sensibilities, because evolution does not unfold in a neat linear fashion. But he says the term does at least convey the significance of the discovery. “It’s one of the dinosaurs in a long, smeary continuum,” he said today. “It shows us what we should already have pretty much guessed, which was that evolution was a messy complicated affair.”

The scientists found two Aardonyx specimens at Spion Hill in Free State, neither of them adult. The smaller of the two — a more complete set of bones — was about 7 years old, about 23 feet long and 6 feet high at the hip. An adult might have grown to 50 feet and weighed half a ton, Yates said.

His eyes lighted up today as he talked about dinosaurs, bones and evolution. Although he was in the 21st century at a news conference pointing at slides with a red laser pen and wearing a radio mike, it was easy to imagine him a couple of centuries ago, striding over the limestone and shale cliffs of Lyme Regis, the famous paleontology site in southern England where “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” by John Fowles was based.

He confessed a little sheepishly that he initially overlooked the site. You could barely sink a hammer into the fossil-rich Karoo Basin in eastern South Africa without hitting massospondylus bones; the last thing he wanted to do was dig up something ordinary.  “They’re very common and I really wasn’t interested in digging up a lot of massospondylus bones,” Yates recalled. “We had other exciting sites.” But he was there to supervise on day one in 2006, when the master’s student, Marc Blackbeard, and other volunteers started to dig. As they chipped away, they pulled out bones by the dozen — far bigger than those of a massospondylus.

His voice rose in excitement when remembering that day: He was rushing around, too busy even to dig, as volunteer students kept producing extraordinary bones, asking him to tell him what they’d found. “As soon as we started opening up, we realized it was very densely packed,” he said. “We kept on finding bone after bone. You start to say, ‘This doesn’t add up. It’s not what I thought it is.’ Pretty much within the first few days I was clear that it was a new type of dinosaur.”

Aardonyx, or earth’s claw, is a reference to the concrete-like stone in which the fossils were embedded at Spion Kop, one of South Africa’s richest dinosaur sites. Celeste is Yates’ wife, a paleontology preparator who had the unpleasant task of chipping the stone from the fossils.

U.S. paleobiologist and functional morphologist Matt Bonnan of West Illinois University, who took part in the project sponsored by National Geographic, studies bones to find out how dinosaurs moved and lived. “This find is very significant because Aardonyx is a transition animal,” he said. “It’s a close cousin of the sauropod dinosaurs. It gives us a window on what was happening very early on in the evolution of those giants.”

Bonnan describes Aardonyx celestae as a lumbering creature with a large belly and chest, like the huge sauropods that came later. Like those animals, it ate huge quantities of foliage. The prosauropods, smaller grazing animals evolved to run, dominated the landscape when Aardonyx lived. Aardonyx exemplifies why dinosaurs evolved from bipeds to quadrupeds. Lush vegetation allowed them to eat more; they evolved into larger animals. But their huge bellies made balancing on two legs difficult, so they dropped onto their smaller front legs, eventually evolving into heavy quadrupeds.

The scientists’ hypothesis was that the Spion Kop area was once a lush, wet oasis edged by a vast desert — hence the different kinds of dinosaurs found there. They believe the animals may have died during a drought, possibly at the edge of a dry water hole.

At some point, carnivore X — an unknown mystery carnivore — ate the dead or dying Aardonyx. Several fangs were found on the scene, and they’re not like other dinosaur teeth from the same era. But with just a few teeth to go on, carnivore X is another missing piece of the dinosaur evolution puzzle. “I’d very much like to find the bones of the mysterious carnivore X,” Yates said. “Its teeth are intriguing, teeth like dinosaurs that don’t appear until much later.” He hopes more digging in the area might uncover the carnivore. “That’s the joy of paleontology,” he said. “There’s something out there. We have to go out there and find it.”

new dino found. an interesting story as they’ve found the part that connects two sets of generations of dinosaurs. and naming it after his wife? that’s kind of romantic. my dear – what would u like me to name after u? my car? haha… article from Los Angeles Times.

Amnesty: Israel denies Palestinians access to water

London/Tel Aviv – Israel is denying Palestinians access to adequate water while settlers ‘enjoy lush lawns and swimming pools,’ a report issued by Amnesty International in London alleged Tuesday.

Israel rejected the report’s findings, with Minister of Infrastructure Uzi Landau calling it ‘distorted and superficial,’ while the Israel Water Authority said it had not been contacted by any of Amnesty’s researchers to comment on the findings, or present its own. The report, entitled Troubled Waters, claims that Israel retains total control over shared water resources and uses over 80 per cent of water from the Mountain Aquifer, the main source of underground water in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

On average, Palestinian daily water consumption barely reached 70 litres per person a day, while Israeli daily consumption was more than 300 litres per day – four times as much. In some rural communities Palestinians survived on barely 20 litres per day, the minimum amount recommended by aid organizations for domestic use in emergency situations, the 112-page report said. It said that between 180,000-200,000 Palestinians living in rural communities had no access to running water and the Israeli army often prevented them from even collecting rainwater. In contrast, Israeli settlers in the West Bank had ‘intensive- irrigation farms, lush gardens and swimming pools,’ said Amnesty. Numbering about 450,000, the settlers used as much or more water than the entire Palestinian population of some 2.3 million.

Israeli Infrastructure Minister Landau said in response that Israel adhered to all its water agreements, and supplied the Palestinians with more water than previously agreed on. He claimed that the Palestinians would not build water purification plants. The Water Authority also questioned some of the report’s conclusions. It said that while Israeli access to water before the 1967 war, when Israel captured the West Bank, was about 500 cubic metres per person per year, it has now dropped to 149 cubic metres per person per year. In contrast, the Authority said, Palestinian consumption has risen from 87 cubic metres per person per year to 105 cubic metres per person per year.

Amnesty reported this but no action is taken. the world keeps quiet as the Palestinians suffers every day. i am not saying this because they are muslims. but those are human basic needs. the water is available but it was not given to them. this is too much. may Allah have mercy upon them as when the time comes, these Israelis will suffer like no else does. to fellow Palestinians – have faith in Allah. what you endure today will be rewarded fairly when the time comes. article from Monsters and Critics.

Clashes at Al-Aqsa

Israel’s rightwing government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu is wrong if it thinks the Palestinians or the world will ever acquiesce in its occupation of Jerusalem. On Sunday, clashes took place once again between the occupying police and Palestinian protesters at the Al-Aqsa mosque, provoking a most angry and apt comment from a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas who said Jerusalem was ‘a red line that Israel should not cross.’

A stronger warning came from Turkey’s Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who is secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Conference. Calling upon the Muslim world to take a united stand for defending Al-Aqsa, he said Israeli actions could have ‘grave consequences.’ Similar condemnatory messages have come from the Arab League and Egypt.

There are reasons why Mr Netanyahu thinks Israel can get away with its crimes in occupied territory and continued attempts to alter the West Bank’s demographic character. For all its pious rhetoric, the American administration has not been able to make Israel give up its intransigence and get the peace talks going. Even though President Barack Obama declared categorically in his June four speech that all settlement activity must stop, the Likud government last month told George Mitchell, America’s special representative, that it will continue to build new housing units in what it calls ‘Judea and Samaria.’ Israel has also been emboldened by America’s success in pressuring the Palestinian Authority into ignoring the Goldstone report, which condemns Tel Aviv for its war crimes and crimes against the Gazans earlier this year.

Al-Aqsa is a Muslim and not just an Arab issue. Israel has been digging under the mosque, and there is a serious possibility that this could damage the Al-Aqsa and the Holy Precincts in general. As Mr Ihsanoglu said this could have ‘unpredictable consequences’ for world peace. One hopes Israel has not forgotten that the second Intifada in September 2000 began because of Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Islamic holy places despite warnings against it. Israel has no choice but to withdraw from the Palestinian territories if it wants lasting peace in the Middle East.

they never stop don’t they? why do they keep on creating such hatred towards them? muslims tried to make peace with them but they kept doing what they did before. i wish i could have the power to stop them.. article from Dawn.com.

syafeerul: multitouch notebooks

as the world awaits patiently for the WINDOWS 7 full version to be release later this month – notebook manufacturers prepared themselves with multitouch equipped notebooks. windows 7 proves to be finger friendly as shown by various tablet pc users across the globe.

i was in search of tablet pc about a year ago. looking for a device that would assists me in doing my work more efficiently and also be able to provide media and gaming for leisure. of all tablet pcs available, two attracted me the most – HP Touchsmart TX2 and Dell Latitude XT 2. The later anyhow was too expensive to even come under consideration. TX2 appeals most to me. with multitouch capability, added with a quite reliable graphic accelerator and also medium ranged processor – suits my needs best. the price was however a bit expensive performance-wise. the high price was simply justified by that having multitouch capability. since obtaining the machine is not a must for that time – i decided to wait till the price drops to a more competitive price.

a year passes by and windows 7 is set to launch officially this month. those whom tested windows 7 with tx2 gave positive response. much better than running vista or xp on the convertible notebook.  so i went to search for the model again. but to my surprise – other manufacturers have joined the band. so this requires another long survey to confirm again. after all im not in need of the device urgently. my omnia did quite a wonderful job for now. so what other options do i have?

1. ACER Aspire AS5738PG

Acer Slaps a Multitouch Screen On Its $800 Aspire 5738PG

You wouldn’t know it by looking at it, but that is Acer’s new multitouch laptop. Sort of like Lenovo has done with the T400s, Acer has put a multitouch screen on an existing clamshell notebook.

Besides its long ass model number, the 15.6-inch Aspire AS5738PG has a capacitive multitouch screen. However, unlike HP’s TouchSmart or Lenovo’s SimpleTap, Acer doesn’t include a touch optimized user interface of its own on top of Windows 7. Nevertheless, it will be capable of the typical multitouch gestures, including pinching to zoom and two finger scrolling.

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For $800 you also get some pretty decent specs: an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, ATI Radeon HD 4570 graphics, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive with 64-bit Windows 7 Premium. Since the multitouch doesn’t add too much to the price it may just be worth trying out, I just wonder how long it will take until you forget that you can put your fingers on the screen.

price is quite cheap. quick look – not a convertible notebook = no slate mode. article from Gizmodo.

2.Toshiba Satellite U505 and M505

Toshiba Announces Windows 7 Notebooks, Netbooks, & Touch Models

Toshiba Announces Windows 7 Notebooks, Netbooks, & Touch Models

Toshiba is planning to offer various Satellite and Qosmio laptops with Windows 7 beginning October 22. Toshiba’s range of laptops with Windows 7 Home Premium will include the Satellite U500 Series, Satellite M500 Series, Satellite A500 Series, Satellite P500 Series, Satellite L500 Series, Satellite T100 Series, and the Qosmio X500 Series. Toshiba also plans to offer Windows 7 Starter on the Toshiba mini NB200 Series netbooks.

In a separate announcement, Toshiba also introduced two new Satellite laptops that will feature touch screens. The new Satellite U505 Touch and Satellite M505 Touch models will enable users to flick through photos, shuffle files, browse online, and play games using Windows Touch-enabled functionality. Toshiba is also introducing its own touch-ready software called Toshiba LifeSpace which will be pre-installed exclusively on the new touch-enabled laptops. LifeSpace includes two components: Bulletin Board and ReelTime. Bulletin Board provides fast access to daily activities, tasks, and projects in a visual way. This application has several built-in gadgets such as labels, calendars, a clock, and a to-do list. ReelTime helps you find files based on when they were opened using a visual history. The Satellite M505 Touch laptop ($949.99 MSRP) will be available on October 22 and Satellite U505 Touch laptop ($1,049.99 MSRP) will be available on November 1.

medium priced – comparable to TX2. not much comments on this machine yet. again not convertible is a letdown. see full article from link to Hothardware website.

3. Lenovo Thinkpad X200

Lenovo Thinkpad X200 Tablet, 12 Inches of Touchtasticness

Lenovo’s X200 tablet isn’t the best kept secret, but it’s a nice looking convertible laptop now that we have the full specs. At 3.5lbs, the configurable tablet features a 12.1″ touchscreen (in pen or finger input options) Core 2 Duo processors up to 1.86GHz supported by 4GB of RAM, and available upgrades to 128MB SSD, WiMax, integrated camera, fancy dual array mic (designed to cancel ambient noise) and thumbprint reader. But that’s not all!

If you’re willing to dock in to the optional UltraBase port, you can output HD A/V through the DisplayPort (DVI replacement) and add goodies like DVD burners and Blu-ray drives. The graphics setup is integrated, the Intel GMA4500—not a powerhouse but capable of displaying 1080P content from that Blu-ray add-on. And if you stick with the standard 4-cell battery, the X200 can run for about 4.2 hours with a jump to 10 hours if you upgrade to the 8-cell. According to Lenovo, that’s a 50% improvement on battery life from their old tablets. We don’t know the price, but expect to pay a bit for the premium system.

no price at the moment. pretty sure this is going to be expensive. but this one is convertible. quite a good option here. let’s wait till the reviews comes out. article from Gizmodo again!

Google’s Fast Flip: Odd and Imperfect, but Useful

Fast Flip is quite neat–pretty addictive, actually. But it’s also…kind of odd.

Did I just say that one of the differences between Bing and Google is that Bing is splashy and Google revels in its plain jane interface? I lied. Google had a TechCrunch50 announcement of its own this afternoon, and involves a new Google Labs feature that has a high “wow, lookee there!” quotient: Google Fast Flip.

Fast Flip is based on Google News, and Google says it came up with it to address the fact that browsing through news sites is usually a slow process-not at all like the effortless instant gratification of flipping through a magazine or newspaper. Google has partnered with several dozen news sources-including the BBC, BusinessWeek, the Christian Science Monitor, the Daily Beast, Esquire, the New York Times, Newsweek, Salon, Slate, and TechCrunch-to create previews of their stories that live on Fast Flip but which display the first several paragraphs of the article in a form that looks like the originating site. You rifle through these previews by clicking left and right arrows, and the pages zip on and off-screen in high-speed, fluid animation-hence the “Fast Flip” name.

Fast Flip has a Like button that lets you express your approval of stories you like, and Google says that the more you use the service, the smarter it will get about presenting you with stuff you’re likely to be interested in. (It lets you browse in multiple ways-by subject, by provider, and by author.) Oh, and there are mobile versions for iPhone and Android.

It’s quite neat-pretty addictive, actually. But it’s also…kind of odd. For several reasons:

It doesn’t necessarily make browsing for news faster. The flipping interface shows one story at a time in legible form-versus the dozens that plain ol’ Google News puts on one screen-along with thumbnails in which the headlines are tiny and the articles themselves are too tiny to read. Once you click on a preview, you go to the originating site-which is no faster than usual-and getting back to Fast Flip may be kinda cumbersome, especially if you’ve clicked through to a multi-page article.

The previews break some conventions of the Web. They may have what seem to be hyperlinks, and tools like icons for printing the page, but none of this stuff works-the preview is a giant hyperlink to the article on the originating site.

The ads are un-Google-esque. Google is putting ads in Fast Flip and sharing the revenues with its content partners. Unlike classic Google text ads, these are display ads-tall, skinny ones-and while they’re context sensitive, some of the ones I’m seeing so far are a tad on the cheesy side.

It doesn’t always work. Fast Flip doesn’t carry a beta tag, but it’s a Google Labs project, so it’s experimental by definition. I found it a bit quirky-one Slate page was so wide it didn’t fit in the preview, for instance. And this one-line Atlantic blog post doesn’t really need a preview, except that Fast Flip fails to display the embedded video that makes the text make sense:

I don’t mean to be overly nitpicky-Fast Flip is clever, and I hope it sticks around and evolves. If you check it out, let us know what you think.

haven’t tried this but will surely take a look soon.. looks nice.. article from PC World.

PlayStation 3 will be upgradeable to Blu-ray 3D

Sony CEO Howard Stringer announced last week they are fully behind the standardization of Blu-ray 3D. Sony will support full HD 3D, and he also said that it would release screens to support the development, alongside a new generation of Blu-ray machines. He also mentioned that the PlayStation 3 would be upgradeable to support the new 3D format. This could prove to be a very important step in giving a the new format a good start. Giving millions of PS3 owners 3D playback with a simple software update. It should be noted that the 3D format requires a new TV and special glasses (not the cardboard type.)

great to hear this.. at least we know that despite coming up with the new slim version, sony has not left us older users empty-handed. thanks sony.. article from DVDTown.

Swine Flu

In the Health section’s special report on swine flu last week, we posed some common questions to Andrew Pekosz, an associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. As readers submit further questions, he will continue to offer answers.
–Rachel Saslow

I got a swine flu vaccine in 1976. Am I protected from this strain?

No, you are not. The 1976 and 2009 H1N1 viruses are different, and the immune responses from the 1976 vaccine lasted only about a year.

What is the typical incubation period of swine flu?

This is difficult to estimate, but it appears that it takes one to three days for symptoms to develop after exposure to the virus. Remember that the most important thing is what you do after you feel the first symptoms: Stay home and limit your contact with people, practice good cough and sneeze hygiene (cough or sneeze into disposable tissues or your sleeve) and wash your hands and the surfaces you come in contact with frequently.

When will the vaccine be available?

As of now, it looks as though vaccination for high-risk groups will begin in mid- to late October. Once the high-risk groups have been immunized, vaccination of the general population will begin, most likely in November or early December. Announcements regarding when and where to get the vaccine will be made on a regular basis this fall, so pay close attention to your news sources for updated information.

Will the seasonal flu vaccine help protect me from H1N1?

The seasonal flu vaccine will not provide any significant protection against H1N1. However, we do expect to see some cases of seasonal influenza this year, and many of the high-risk populations for H1N1 vaccination (pregnant women, children, people with underlying medical conditions) as well as people over the age of 65 should get the seasonal vaccine in addition to the H1N1 vaccine.

My child has a severe egg allergy. Can he get the H1N1 vaccine?

All the influenza vaccines that will be administered this year consist of virus components generated from eggs, so if you have an egg allergy, you should not get either the seasonal flu vaccine or the H1N1 vaccine.

I’m 66 and in good health. Do I need the vaccine, and when should I get it?

As always, consult with your physician about specific medical advice. I would suggest you should get the seasonal flu vaccine, which is available now, since you are in one of the risk groups for getting severe disease from seasonal flu. Also, get the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available to your age group, which will not be at the beginning of the vaccination campaign but probably in November or December.

additional info on the pandemic H1N1. article from The Washington Post.

Disney’s purchase of Marvel is a super deal

Disney’s $4-billion deal for Marvel Entertainment isn’t simply an acquisition. It’s a reinvention.
The future of Chairman Bob Iger’s media conglomerate had been turning increasingly cloudy as family entertainment, especially in the movies, has evolved from old-fashioned, squeaky-clean Disney fare to the edgier, more unsettling PG-13 universe populated by Marvel’s arsenal of comic superheroes. But Monday’s purchase gives Disney access to Marvel’s voluminous library of superheroes, which include Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, Captain America, Thor and the Fantastic Four and about 4,995 other comic-book characters.

The Marvel deal, like the $7.4-billion 2006 pact Iger negotiated to bring Pixar into the Disney fold, is another sign that Disney’s top brass realizes that the company’s reign as an original creative engine for mass entertainment is over. Once an idea factory full of brilliant animators and imagineers, Disney is now a mass merchandising machine in search of exploitable product, whether it comes from Marvel, Pixar or DreamWorks, which will be releasing its upcoming slate through Disney as well. The signals of Disney distress have all been visible for some time. The Pixar deal was a frank admission that Disney’s venerable animation factory had run out of gas. Not long after Disney bought Pixar, John Lasseter gave an especially revealing interview to Fortune magazine, where he told of Iger experiencing a remarkable epiphany when attending an opening-day parade at the ceremonial launch of Hong Kong Disneyland. As Lasseter recalled: “[Bob] was watching all the classic Disney characters go by, and it hit him that there was not one character that Disney had created in the past 10 years. Not one. All the new characters were invented by Pixar.”

Iger clearly had a similar moment of brutal corporate clarity when he made an unusually frank admission to media analysts this year when attempting to explain why Disney had such an abysmal quarter with its theatrical releases when the other studios were enjoying near-record box-office returns. “It’s about choice of films and the execution of the films that have been chosen for production,” Iger confessed. “We’ve had a rough year. So in that case, it’s not the marketplace. It’s our slate.” While Pixar is now around to bolster the animation side of the business, the live-action end has been in the doldrums. In fact, since the studio’s lucrative “Pirates of the Caribbean” series premiered in 2003, Disney hasn’t been able to launch another broad-appeal international franchise. That would be a huge gaping wound for any studio but especially for Disney, which needs new mass appeal product to feed its real profit centers — its merchandising division, theme parks and TV channel.

What went wrong? And can Disney fix it?

The studio’s biggest failures in the past year showed Disney’s inability to reach the new family audience that has supplanted Disney’s traditional customers. Last Christmas, Disney thought it had a big winner with “Bedtime Stories,” which attempted to broaden the studio’s traditional family brand by marrying a kid-friendly concept to the young-male appeal of Adam Sandler. The studio tried a similar strategy recently with “G-Force,” another kid-friendly film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer in a bid to connect Bruckheimer’s broader-edged action brand to the traditional Disney animated audience. Despite spending millions in TV advertising reaching out to the older-skewing (Disney-owned) ESPN sports audience, the movie failed to reach an older audience. As with “Bedtime Stories,” Disney found itself unable to age up its films. Iger goes to the movies, so he must have realized what was happening. The sweet-natured vibe of older Disney films is losing its appeal. In recent years, parents have become comfortable with a new, more intense level of violence and action. And, of course, it is Marvel more than any other film producer that has tapped into that new sensibility with its “Spider-Man,” “Iron Man” and “X-Men” franchises.

“The real difference maker with Marvel,” says one rival studio chief, “is that it makes movies where the parents are just as excited to see the film as their kids. That’s the difference between a movie barely making $100 million — like a lot of Disney’s homegrown products — and a movie making $300 or $400 million. It’s a whole different playing field.”

The purchase of Marvel allows Disney to broaden its brand.

It can now be the studio that encompasses every niche of family entertainment, from “High School Musical” to “Pirates of the Caribbean” to “Toy Story” to “Spider-Man.” For years, everyone has tried to take all of the risk out of the movie business. For Disney, this latest purchase is a way to take all of the unbranded — meaning risky, obscure or experimental — material out of its wheelhouse. The studio is now a giant collection of familiar, easily accessible brands — Marvel, Pixar, Spielberg and Bruckheimer — all under one large, even more familiar umbrella brand: Disney. It is a sprawling company that will probably someday look a lot more like Procter & Gamble than a movie studio.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. While Disney won’t get to distribute Marvel’s movies until 2013 (when Marvel’s distribution deal with Paramount comes to an end after Paramount releases an “Iron Man” sequel in 2010, “Thor” and “First Avenger: Captain America” in 2011 and “The Avengers” in 2012), it will enjoy most of the proceeds from those films. And Disney will immediately start tapping into the merchandising revenues from those releases as it figures out how to exploit the titles via its other businesses. But what the Marvel deal really means is that Disney is radically restructuring its creative aspirations. Once a company that drew inspiration from within, it is now paying top dollar to buy mature businesses — first Pixar and now Marvel — to feed its merchandising assembly lines. It will be years before anyone can say whether Disney overpaid for access to all this outside creative energy. Let’s just say that once it was on the open market, Marvel was clearly worth more to Disney than it was to Fox, Sony, Viacom or any other possible suitors.

There will be plenty of bumps in the road, since Disney will eventually have to make room in its movie-release calendar for an increasingly wide range of product and brands, including Pixar, Bruckheimer, Marvel and DreamWorks. Iger and his studio lieutenant Dick Cook will have to referee all sorts of release-date disputes as well as prickly creative autonomy issues. But with one bold move, Disney has accepted an uncomfortable reality: that the foundation of the family entertainment business has shifted under its feet. If the studio wants to stay at the front of the pack, it will have to change with the times. In many ways, Marvel is the modern-era version of Disney, the repository of adolescent dreams and fantasies that has helped shape today’s pop culture. It will be Disney’s challenge not just to absorb all of Marvel’s unruly superheroes but to understand why they have as strong of a hold on today’s young audiences as any of Disney’s own creations.

so now Disney owns another big-gigantic brand name Marvel. for whatever the price they paid, that’s an awesome business move. Marvel had been in its business for ages and fans of millions from all over the planet. they have thousands of characters-superheroes-villains that can be made into movies. great move Disney. just hope that this won’t stop Marvel from maintaining its superb comic creativeness.. article from Los Angeles Times.