Tuesday, March 1, 2011

High tech gadgets used to trigger medieval weapon

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters Life!) - Workers at a Google data center combined 12 century know how and space age technology to trigger a medieval weapon that was used to hurl rocks, balls of fire and dead animals over castle walls.

They used an Android cellphone, a computer the size of a credit card and a Blue Tooth receiver to trigger the wooden weapon, known as a trebuchet, during the first "Storm the Citadel Trebuchet Competition" in Charleston over the weekend.

The trebuchet was used during medieval times to break down fortifications.

"They also threw dead people," said Dennis Fallon, dean of engineering at The Citadel, a military college with about 2,100 male and female cadets. "What we have done in military history is not always something to be proud of."

More powerful than the ballistas and catapults of ancient empires, the trebuchet used a long swing arm, triggered by the pull of gravity on a counterweight placed at the other end, to slingshot its payload into the air.
The brutal weapon played a large part in the medieval Crusades. According to histories of the time, Richard the Lionheart called his best weapon "Malvoisine." Edward I supposedly brought about the surrender of Scotland's Sterling Castle in 1304 with a giant trebuchet named "Warwolf."

The trebuchet made a comeback in the late 20th century among medievalists, college professors and fans of the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" in which a cow is hurled over a castle wall.
In the 1990s in Britain, armament enthusiast Hew Kennedy built a massive machine on his Shropshire estate and used it to throw compact cars and flaming pianos across his field.

Saturday's competition was sponsored by Google during The Citadel's National Engineering Week to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs in the schools, local employees said.
In November 2009, President Barack Obama announced a major initiative to support STEM education over the next decade to keep Americans globally competitive in innovation and technology.

South Carolina high school students competed along with engineering majors and corporate teams in designing, building and firing the trebuchets.

"There's a lot of engineering principles involved. There's a lot of math principles involved. And it's just fun," said Jeff Stevenson, a manager at the Google Data Center in nearby Berkeley County.
Competing teams launched oranges and colored balls at a target, and with a larger machine Google built for demonstration purposes, squashes, melons and bags of flour.

"We're playing real-life Angry Birds," said Eric Wages, data center operations manager, referring to the iPhone and Android game in which angry birds are flung at pigs.

The Citadel Cadet Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers won the trophy for the best of the college and professional teams.

(Editing by Jerry Norton and Patricia Reaney; For the latest Reuters lifestyle news see: http://www.reuters.com/news/lifestyle))

Facebook really can lead to divorce

Washington, Mar 1 (ANI): Facebook and other social networking sites can help you meet that special someone if you're single. But improper use of social media can turn even the healthiest of marriages into disasters.

Facebook is cited in one in five divorces in the United States, according to a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Also, more than 80 percent of divorce lawyers reported a rising number of people are using social media to engage in extramarital affairs.

"We're coming across it more and more," said licensed clinical psychologist Steven Kimmons, of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill.

"One spouse connects online with someone they knew from high school. The person is emotionally available and they start communicating through Facebook. Within a short amount of time, the sharing of personal stories can lead to a deepened sense of intimacy, which in turn can point the couple in the direction of physical contact."

Though already-strained marriages are most vulnerable, a couple doesn't have to be experiencing marital difficulties in order for an online relationship to blossom from mere talk into a full-fledged affair, Kimmons said. In most instances, people enter into online relationships with the most innocent of intentions.

"I don't think these people typically set out to have affairs," said Kimmons, whose practice includes couples therapy and marriage counseling. "A lot of it is curiosity. They see an old friend or someone they dated and decide to say 'hello' and catch up on where that person is and how they're doing."

It all boils down to the amount of contact two people in any type of relationships -ncluding online - have with each other, Kimmons said. The more contact they have, the more likely they are to begin developing feelings for each other.

"If I'm talking to one person five times a week versus another person one time a week, you don't need a fancy psychological study to conclude that I'm more likely to fall in love with the person I talk to five times a week because I have more contact with that person," Kimmons said.

Stories of people whose marriages were destroyed by affairs that began on social networking sites abound on the Internet. It's enough to make some people swear off online technology for life. Though there are no hard-and-fast rules to follow, there are some safeguards couples can apply to decrease the chance of online relationships getting out of control. For starters, do a self-assessment of why you're using online sites.
"Look at the population of the people who are your online friends," Kimmons said. "Is it a good mixture of men and women? Do you spend more time talking to females versus males or do you favor a certain type of friend over another? That can tell you something about how you're using social networks. You may not even be aware that you're heading down a road that can get quickly get pretty dangerous, pretty fast to your marriage."

Another safeguard is to spell out from the beginning with your online contacts what your expectations are of social networking relationships. Also, it's a good idea to not engage in intimate conversation with someone who is not your spouse.

"From the start tell your online friend that you're not looking for anything more than establishing old contacts with people to find out how they're doing," Kimmons said.

In some instances, couples could share passwords with each other and place the computer in a common area in the house or apartment.

"It's not that people are going to read what you're writing but they'll see what you're doing," he said. "Then it's not a secret."

Couples can also set parameters around how much time and when they are online each day.
"If you're doing this at 2 o'clock in the morning with no one watching because you don't want anyone else to know about it, that should be a signal to you that this is something approaching a boundary line or you're at least moving in that direction," Kimmons said. (ANI)

E-books on the rise with sales of digital books growing 18-fold in 2010

London, Mar 1 (ANI): The sale of e-books is on the rise, with Bloomsbury, the publisher of the Harry Potter books, saying its digital book sales grew 18-fold in 2010.

Now e-books account for 10 percent of Bloomsbury print sales as more customers download titles to read on iPads, Kindles and other hand-held devices.

The publishing house said revenues of 90.7 million pounds were up 4 percent in the year to December 31, while profits excluding one-off items went up to 8.4 million pounds from 7.7 million pounds a year earlier.
Strong demand for Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Eat, Pray, Love', which was turned into a movie starring Julia Roberts, and the Harry Potter books following the film release of 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows', helped Bloomsbury's sales in the final quarter of the year.

Bloomsbury predicted that 2011 will be "the year of the e-book" as more titles become available for download and sales of hand-held devices such as Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad grow rapidly.
The company also predicts that Britain is gaining the kind of momentum seen in the U.S., where e-books account for 15 percent of sales.

The trend was highlighted by the success of the 2010 Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson's 'The Finkler Question', which saw 42 percent of its U.S. sales through e-books in its first month.
"Bloomsbury had an excellent year with a number of best-selling titles and particularly buoyant sales in the final quarter," the Daily Mail quoted chief executive Nigel Newton as saying.

"We are also benefiting from our strong position in digital publishing which continues to experience exciting and unprecedented growth," he stated. (ANI)

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