Twittering Psychics? Not This Time
In the interests of using new tools to shed light on old research
questions, psychologist Richard Wiseman recently used microblogging
site Twitter to conduct an experiment investigating psychic abilities.
Specifically, he was interested in studying remote sensing, the
supposed ability to “see” distant locations. Though deeply skeptical
about paranormal abilities in general, he wanted to give it a fair
trial. About 7000 people signed up, and more than 1000 actually
The first trial was an informal “test.” The formal part of the
study took place over four days. On each day Wiseman went to a randomly
selected location and asked for participants to send “tweets” of
their impressions of where he was. Then participants were presented
with five photos: one showing Wiseman's actual location, and four
decoys. Participants were asked to select the one showing Wiseman's
location, with the one receiving the most votes taken as the group's
The result? Not once did the group correctly guess Wiseman's location.
Interestingly enough, whether the participant was a believer or
a skeptic had no bearing on how well they performed; the results
were the same for both groups. Wiseman notes that, while the study
didn't support the existence of remote viewing, it did “demonstrate
that thousands of people are happy to take part in an instant Twitter
study. Now it is up to scientists to find other ways of harnessing
this new research tool.”
more about this
Googling for Cheap, Renewable Energy Sources
In late 2007, search engine Google added a new goal to its mission
of organizing all the world's information: investing in other companies
and doing its own research to bring forth renewable energy that
would cost less than burning coal. The firm hoped to accomplish
this goal in just a few short years. It even appointed a green energy
czar, Bill Weihl, to oversee the projects.
So how are they doing? “It is even odds, more or less, I would
say,” Weihl noted in an interview with Reuters. He went on to predict
that in three years, “we could have multiple megawatts of plants
out there.” This is serious progress; when Google took on this task,
it was considered a long shot at best.
The search giant isn't putting all its eggs in one basket; it has
invested in both geothermal and wind power, among others. But its
largest investment is on a version of solar power that uses mirrors
to heat a substance that produces steam to turn a turbine. Dubbed
solar thermal power, it is distinct from the more common use of
photovoltaic solar cells, which turn sunshine directly into electricity.
Efficiency issues have prevented such solar cells from being more
more about this
Kamara Hopes to Stop RIAA Insanity
Lawyer Kiwi Camara has joined forces with Harvard Law professor
Charles Nesson in filing a class-action lawsuit they hope will stop
the Recording Industry Association of America cold. The RIAA has
poured millions of dollars into lawsuits aimed at stopping file
swappers, using copyright law as a bat with which to beat offenders
and regularly catching the innocent along with the guilty. Camara
and Nesson hope to force the RIAA to pay back the alleged $100+
million it has won.
Camara is defending Jammie Thomas-Rasset, but wants to do more
than get a “not guilty” verdict for his client. He's attacking two
fundamental pieces of evidence the RIAA uses in most of its file
swapping cases. First, he's arguing that evidence from MediaSentry,
RIAA's hired investigator, should be barred, on several grounds.
Since MediaSentry's observations are the only evidence of copyright
infringement, that would destroy the RIAA's case right there.
But Camara goes further. Remember, the RIAA is accusing file swappers
of copyright infringement. Their case falls apart entirely if they
can't prove that they own the copyrights they claim have been infringed.
And Camara said that, while the RIAA's lawyers provided “true and
correct” copies of their copyright registrations, they're not the
“certified copies” required under federal rules of evidence. Interestingly,
the RIAA asked the judge in the case to take “judicial notice” of
the validity of the forms...but the judge has refused to do so.
And the RIAA itself admitted that it would have a hard time getting
certified copies from the US Copyright Office in time for the trial.
And Camara knows a few more legal tricks he can pull out of his
briefcase if the RIAA does come through. Grab the popcorn; could
the MPAA be next?
more about this