3 Megapixel Auto Focus Webcam by HP

3 Megapixel Auto Focus Webcam by HP
HP has announced their new cool looking Elite webcam, featuring a 3-megapixel sensor with autofocus and lots of other goodies.

Some of the highlights include:
HP Instant Chat button: press one button to automatically launch your preferred Instant Messaging program* and your webcam controls (Magic-i).
ArcSoft Magic-i: enhance your video conferencing experience with fun special effects. Magic-i also keeps all your webcam controls in one application and allows you save up to 5 user profiles so you are looking good wherever you use your webcam.
Certified high-speed USB 2.0: take full advantage of your broadband access and enjoy up to 30 frames per second for smooth and natural body motion.

3 Cool Life-Size Sci-Fi Collectibles

3 Cool Life-Size Sci-Fi Collectibles

If the 7-Foot Battlestar Galactica Cylon
Figure wasn’t enough to satisfy your sci-fi collectibles needs, here are three more cool characters to choose from.

R2-D2 & C-3PO
Both figures will include light and sound function, for the most ‘real’ experience possible. Details on the sound and light function will be made available in future updates on SideshowCollectibles.com.

Stands 7 feet 7 inches. Resin and Rigid Foam Head. Transparent Dental Acrylic Lips. Vacu-Form Dome. Steel Armature, Armature Wire in Tail to pose. Wood Base (4×2 feet) Heal Pins into Steel Bracket. Latex and Polyfoam Body & Tail.

The R2-D2 ($5,450) and C-3PO ($5,950) figures from Sideshow Collectibles are due to be released sometime during the third quarter 2008, and for the Alien ($5,200) over at MonsterGalaxy it says “contact us for availability”.

Star Wars Golf Bags

Star Wars Golf Bags

Remember those fun and cool
Star Wars Golf Club Covers from last year? Now you can extend your gear with some new Star Wars-themed golf accessories.

Sculpted art or sporting good?
We’ll let you decide which best describes Bridgestone Sports’ new pair of Star Wars golf bags, each highly stylized in the guise of Darth Vader or a stormtrooper.

These amazing golf bags from Japan will soon be available for a suggested retail price of 50,000 JPY, or about $500. Also down range are three golf club covers sporting Vader, stormtrooper, and TIE fighter designs, as well as Star Wars-themed ball markers.

Sporty Webcam

Sporty Webcam

The Chines
e company Rodintech is aiming for the sports fans by releasing its MPC-095, a webcam shaped like a guy holding a ball. You can choose between a football (both American and European), a basketball, and a baseball.

The web camera features a 1.3 megapixel video sensor, a 300K pixel camera resolution, a built-in mic, and flexible arms and legs for easy mounting.

Rodintech has currently no information about price or availability.

Google Strikes Fear Into the Hearts of Retailers and Publishers

Google recently released a new feature into their search empire, known by some as Search-within-Search. This new technology allows a user to search for a keyword pertaining to one of the popular online retailers or publishers that Google has identified, like Best Buy or The Washington Post, for example. When the search results are returned, a new search box appears right on this page allowing the seeker to search that site directly.

This seems innocent enough from a consumer's perspective. However, retailers and publishing houses alike are crying foul. Why? Because the new search technology keeps users on Google's pages while searching for items in the retailer's site, effectively ensuring that the user is seeing Google's placed advertisements. To make matters worse, these advertisements are often times for competing companies or publishers.

For example,
when I searched Google for the phrase "Best Buy," I got the following as my top search result:

Google Strikes Fear Into the Hearts of Retailers and Publishers

Google's new search-within-search

Then when I searched for "Samsung Plasma Screen," the search results page displayed advertisements for Samsung Products from companies like Newegg, Amazon, and PriceGrabber.

Industry experts
are claiming this an "uncharacteristically aggressive move" for the search giant. While the technology will certainly be useful to consumers, saving them clicks and perhaps even headaches derived from trying to navigate some companies' websites, it's also easy to understand how companies are upset by this. Furthering their potential troubles is the possibility of loosing advertising to Google. Why would a company want to advertise directly with an online retailer, for example, when they could buy ads from Google instead and simply piggy-back on their competitor's brand name?

Time will tell what the exact fallout will be, but one thing is for certain: as consumers get accustomed to a service like this, they will be at odds with the very companies who are working to have this new Search-within-Search removed from their site.

Dubai-Based Emirates Airlines First to Allow Cellphone Calls During Flights

Dubai-Based Emirates Airlines First to Allow Cellphone Calls During Flights

According to the airline,
the mobile service will only be activated when the aircraft is at cruising altitude and the cabin crew will be able to monitor and control the use of the system.

Passengers will be able to receive and send text messages, but the crew will be able to prevent voice calls at certain times, such as during night flights.

Passengers will also be requested to keep their phones on “silent” mode, said the airline.

Emirates said it decided to introduce the use of mobile phones in its fleet after experiencing high demand for the phones already installed in aircraft seats.

The airline had to obtain approval from international air safety organisations before adopting the system, which was developed by the AeroMobile company.

“We have gone to considerable lengths to ensure that all safety and regulatory issues have been fully addressed”, said AeroMobile Chief Executive Bjorn-Taale Sandberg.

Emirates flies to more than 60 countries and is owned by the government of Dubai.

Drugs In Our Drinking Water

Drugs In Our Drinking Water

A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky.

Water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the AP found. For example, the head of a group representing major California suppliers said the public “doesn’t know how to interpret the information” and might be unduly alarmed.

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies — which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public — have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.

“We recognize it is a growing concern and we’re taking it very seriously,” said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Members of the AP National Investigative Team reviewed hundreds of scientific reports, analyzed federal drinking water databases, visited environmental study sites and treatment plants and interviewed more than 230 officials, academics and scientists. They also surveyed the nation’s 50 largest cities and a dozen other major water providers, as well as smaller community water providers in all 50 states.

Here are some of the key test results obtained by the AP:

* Officials in Philadelphia said testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water, including medicines for pain, infection, high cholesterol, asthma, epilepsy, mental illness and heart problems. Sixty-three pharmaceuticals or byproducts were found in the city’s watersheds.

* Anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications were detected in a portion of the treated drinking water for 18.5 million people in Southern California.
* Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey analyzed a Passaic Valley Water Commission drinking water treatment plant, which serves 850,000 people in Northern New Jersey, and found a metabolized angina medicine and the mood-stabilizing carbamazepine in drinking water.
* A sex hormone was detected in San Francisco’s drinking water.
* The drinking water for Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas tested positive for six pharmaceuticals.
* Three medications, including an antibiotic, were found in drinking water supplied to Tucson, Ariz.

The situation is undoubtedly worse than suggested by the positive test results in the major population centers documented by the AP.

The federal government doesn’t require any testing and hasn’t set safety limits for drugs in water. Of the 62 major water providers contacted, the drinking water for only 28 was tested. Among the 34 that haven’t: Houston, Chicago>, Miami, Baltimore, Phoenix, Boston and New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, which delivers water to 9 million people.
Drugs In Our Drinking Water

Some providers screen only for one or two pharmaceuticals, leaving open the possibility that others are present.

The AP’s investigation also indicates that watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation’s water supply, also are contaminated. Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and pharmaceuticals were detected in 28.

Yet officials in six of those 28 metropolitan areas said they did not go on to test their drinking water — Montgomery County in Maryland; Omaha, Neb.; Oklahoma City; Santa Clara, Calif., and New York City.

The New York state health department and the USGS tested the source of the city’s water, upstate. They found trace concentrations of heart medicine, infection fighters, estrogen, anti-convulsants, a mood stabilizer and a tranquilizer.

City water officials declined repeated requests for an interview. In a statement, they insisted that “New York City’s drinking water continues to meet all federal and state regulations regarding drinking water quality in the watershed and the distribution system” — regulations that do not address trace pharmaceuticals.

In several cases, officials at municipal or regional water providers told the AP that pharmaceuticals had not been detected, but the AP obtained the results of tests conducted by independent researchers that showed otherwise. For example, water department officials in New Orleans said their water had not been tested for pharmaceuticals, but a Tulane University researcher and his students have published a study that found the pain reliever naproxen, the sex hormone estrone and the anti-cholesterol drug byproduct clofibric acid in treated drinking water.

Of the 28 major metropolitan areas where tests were performed on drinking water supplies, only Albuquerque; Austin, Texas; and Virginia Beach, Va<.; said tests were negative. The drinking water in Dallas has been tested, but officials are awaiting results. Arlington, Texas, acknowledged that traces of a pharmaceutical were detected in its drinking water but cited post-9/11 security concerns in refusing to identify the drug.

The AP also contacted 52 small water providers — one in each state, and two each in Missouri and Texas — that serve communities with populations around 25,000. All but one said their drinking water had not been screened for pharmaceuticals; officials in Emporia, Kan., refused to answer AP’s questions, also citing post-9/11 issues.

Rural consumers who draw water from their own wells aren’t in the clear either, experts say.

The Stroud Water Research Center, in Avondale, Pa., has measured water samples from New York City’s upstate watershed for caffeine, a common contaminant that scientists often look for as a possible signal for the presence of other pharmaceuticals. Though more caffeine was detected at suburban sites, researcher Anthony Aufdenkampe was struck by the relatively high levels even in less populated areas.

He suspects it escapes from failed septic tanks, maybe with other drugs. “Septic systems are essentially small treatment plants that are essentially unmanaged and therefore tend to fail,” Aufdenkampe said.

Even users of bottled water and home filtration systems don’t necessarily avoid exposure. Bottlers, some of which simply repackage tap water, do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals, according to the industry’s main trade group. The same goes for the makers of home filtration systems.

Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe — even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea.

For example, in Canada, a study of 20 Ontario drinking water treatment plants by a national research institute found nine different drugs in water samples. Japanese health officials in December called for human health impact studies after detecting prescription drugs in drinking water at seven different sites.

In the United States, the problem isn’t confined to surface waters. Pharmaceuticals also permeate aquifers deep underground, source of 40 percent of the nation’s water supply. Federal scientists who drew water in 24 states from aquifers near contaminant sources such as landfills and animal feed lots found minuscule levels of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs.

Perhaps it’s because Americans have been taking drugs — and flushing them unmetabolized or unused — in growing amounts. Over the past five years, the number of U.S. prescriptions rose 12 percent to a record 3.7 billion, while nonprescription drug purchases held steady around 3.3 billion, according to IMS Health and The Nielsen Co.

“People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that’s not the case,” said EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the United States.

Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

Another issue: There’s evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

Human waste isn’t the only source of contamination. Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals.

Water sampled downstream of a Nebraska feedlot had steroid levels four times as high as the water taken upstream. Male fathead minnows living in that downstream area had low testosterone levels and small heads.

Other veterinary drugs also play a role. Pets are now treated for arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity — sometimes with the same drugs as humans. The inflation-adjusted value of veterinary drugs rose by 8 percent, to $5.2 billion, over the past five years, according to an analysis of data from the Animal Health Institute.

Ask the pharmaceutical industry whether the contamination of water supplies is a problem, and officials will tell you no. “Based on what we now know, I would say we find there’s little or no risk from pharmaceuticals in the environment to human health,” said microbiologist Thomas White, a consultant for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

But at a conference last summer, Mary Buzby — director of environmental technology for drug maker Merck & Co. Inc. — said: “There’s no doubt about it, pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment and there is genuine concern that these compounds, in the small concentrations that they’re at, could be causing impacts to human health or to aquatic organisms.”

Recent laboratory research has found that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. The cancer cells proliferated too quickly; the kidney cells grew too slowly; and the blood cells showed biological activity associated with inflammation.

Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females. Pharmaceuticals also are affecting sentinel species at the foundation of the pyramid of life — such as earth worms in the wild and zooplankton in the laboratory, studies show.

Some scientists stress that the research is extremely limited, and there are too many unknowns. They say, though, that the documented health problems in wildlife are disconcerting.

“It brings a question to people’s minds that if the fish were affected … might there be a potential problem for humans?” EPA research biologist Vickie Wilson told the AP. “It could be that the fish are just exquisitely sensitive because of their physiology or something. We haven’t gotten far enough along.”

With limited research funds, said Shane Snyder, research and development project manager at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, a greater emphasis should be put on studying the effects of drugs in water.

“I think it’s a shame that so much money is going into monitoring to figure out if these things are out there, and so little is being spent on human health,” said Snyder. “They need to just accept that these things are everywhere — every chemical and pharmaceutical could be there. It’s time for the EPA to step up to the plate and make a statement about the need to study effects, both human and environmental.”

To the degree that the EPA is focused on the issue, it appears to be looking at detection. Grumbles acknowledged that just late last year the agency developed three new methods to “detect and quantify pharmaceuticals” in wastewater. “We realize that we have a limited amount of data on the concentrations,” he said. “We’re going to be able to learn a lot more.”

While Grumbles said the EPA had analyzed 287 pharmaceuticals for possible inclusion on a draft list of candidates for regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, he said only one, nitroglycerin, was on the list. Nitroglycerin can be used as a drug for heart problems, but the key reason it’s being considered is its widespread use in making explosives.

So much is unknown. Many independent scientists are skeptical that trace concentrations will ultimately prove to be harmful to humans. Confidence about human safety is based largely on studies that poison lab animals with much higher amounts.

There’s growing concern in the scientific community, meanwhile, that certain drugs — or combinations of drugs — may harm humans over decades because water, unlike most specific foods, is consumed in sizable amounts every day.

Our bodies may shrug off a relatively big one-time dose, yet suffer from a smaller amount delivered continuously over a half century, perhaps subtly stirring allergies or nerve damage. Pregnant women, the elderly and the very ill might be more sensitive.

Many concerns about chronic low-level exposure focus on certain drug classes: chemotherapy that can act as a powerful poison; hormones that can hamper reproduction or development; medicines for depression and epilepsy that can damage the brain or change behavior; antibiotics that can allow human germs to mutate into more dangerous forms; pain relievers and blood-pressure diuretics.

For several decades, federal environmental officials and nonprofit watchdog environmental groups have focused on regulated contaminants — pesticides, lead, PCBs — which are present in higher concentrations and clearly pose a health risk.

However, some experts say medications may pose a unique danger because, unlike most pollutants, they were crafted to act on the human body.

“These are chemicals that are designed to have very specific effects at very low concentrations. That’s what pharmaceuticals do. So when they get out to the environment, it should not be a shock to people that they have effects,” says zoologist John Sumpter at Brunel University in London, who has studied trace hormones, heart medicine and other drugs.

And while drugs are tested to be safe for humans, the timeframe is usually over a matter of months, not a lifetime. Pharmaceuticals also can produce side effects and interact with other drugs at normal medical doses. That’s why — aside from therapeutic doses of fluoride injected into potable water supplies — pharmaceuticals are prescribed to people who need them, not delivered to everyone in their drinking water.

“We know we are being exposed to other people’s drugs through our drinking water, and that can’t be good,” says Dr. David Carpenter, who directs the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany.

A Car that Folds for Parking

A Car that Folds for Parking

Wouldn’t it be nice to drive a car into town without worrying about finding a parking space?

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised just such a vehicle, a futuristic “City Car” that could even drive itself.
Once at your destination, the vehicle’s computers would, at the press of a button, look for a parking spot behind others like itself, and then fold roughly in half so you could stack it there as you would a shopping cart. “We have reinvented urban mobility,” said Bill Mitchell, a professor in architecture and director of the project at an MIT think tank in Cambridge, just outside Boston.

The vehicle hasn’t yet been built. But a miniature mock-up version has gone on display at a campus museum, and there are plans to build a full-scale model this spring.

The dozen or so engineers and architects on Mitchell’s team are confident their computer-generated work is on target.

They feel their golf cart-sized vehicle could provide a novel solution to the chronic traffic congestion afflicting cities across the United States, Europe and Asia - not to mention pollution and energy use, since it would run on a rechargeable battery, the researchers say. On the drawing board, their two-seater is roughly half the size of a typical compact automobile and a little smaller than the Smart car made by Mercedes-Benz.

“It’s a virtual computer on wheels,” said Franco Vairani, designer of the vehicle’s foldable frame, which he predicts will shrink the car to as little as an eighth the space needed to park the average car. While parked, it would hook up to an electricity grid for recharging, he added.

Hundreds could be stacked around a city and “you would just go and swipe your (credit) card and take the first one available and drive away,” Vairani said, seated by his computerized drawing board. People wouldn’t have to worry about where to park their cars in town and automobiles would take up less urban space, leaving more room for parks and walkways, he added.

Peter Schmitt, a team engineer, says the car would have independently powered robotic wheels and be controlled using a computerized drive-by-wire system with a button or joystick.Â

Using Mega-Cash Prizes to Incentivize Revolutionary Science

Using Mega-Cash Prizes to Incentivize Revolutionary Science

A new paper in Medical
Hypotheses suggests that very big cash prizes could specifically be targeted to stimulate ‘revolutionary’ science. Usually, prizes tend to stimulate ‘applied’ science — as in the most famous example of Harrison’s improved clock solving the ‘longitude’ problem. But for prizes successfully to stimulate revolutionary science the prizes need to be three key elements. Details after the jump.
Using Mega-Cash Prizes to Incentivize Revolutionary Science

1.) Very large (and we are talking seven figure ‘pop star’ earnings, here)
to compensate for the high risk of failure when tackling major scientific problems

2.) Awarded to scientists at a young enough age that it influences their behavior in (about) their mid-late twenties — when they are deciding on their career path

3.) Include objective and transparent scientometric criteria, to prevent the prize award process being corrupted by ‘political’ incentives.

Such mega-cash prizes, in sufficient numbers, might incentivize some of the very best young scientists to make more ambitious, long-term — but high-risk — career choices. The real winner of this would be society as a whole; since ordinary science can successfully be done by second-raters — but only first-rate scientists can tackle the toughest scientific problems.

The Amazing Schimmel Pegasus Grand Piano

The Amazing Schimmel Pegasus Grand Piano

This piano
looks like it came straight out of a science fiction movie. The Schimmel Pegasus grand piano is not just all about good looks though, it features over 200 strings under a total tension of 176,520 newtons, and a key assembly composed of 10,000 pieces. It also sports a curved ergonomic keyboard and the lid is hydraulic, allowing you to control the amount of projection desired.
Only 14 were ever made ten years ago for big-wigs like Eddie Murphy, Lenny Kravitz, and Prince. Now’s your chance to own one and play like a Sci-Fi God, as it goes on sale March 15th.

YouTube questions Hot Sex video

YouTube questions Hot Sex video

YouTube is investigating
a sudden surge in traffic that boosted a clip of a Brazilian pop band to the top of its most viewed video chart, it was reported.

The clip called Music is My Hot Hot Sex is by the Brazilian electro band Cansei De Ser Sexy and it has been viewed by nearly 90 million people.

However, in just three weeks, it got 40 million views pushing it from tenth place to YouTube's top position and the surge has left YouTube fans wondering if the 'books have been cooked'.
The clip is top of the Most Viewed (All Time) list and it beat Judson Laipply's Evolution of Dance which has been unchallenged at the top for over 18 months.

One comment on YouTube said: "This only had 4 million views 2 weeks ago. Someone must have refreshed it 80 million times or someone hacked."

Blogger Andy Baio looked at the YouTube statistics and suggested that there were inconsistencies in the traffic surge.

He compared the number of hits with user ratings which showed a "a very unusual 21,487-to-1 ratio" of views-to-ratings.

The average ratio for other top ten videos is 590:1 which is consistent with a ratio of 545:1 for the top 500 YouTube videos.

This could indicate that the number of clicks has been inflated by using an automated method rather than people actaully watching it.

A YouTube spokesman told smh.com.au: "We don't condone efforts to affect the integrity of our video rankings or view counts.

"We are looking into this matter and will take appropriate action when we resolve the investigation."

Cansei De Ser Sexy, or CSS for short, means "I got tired of being sexy" which is apparently a comment made by singer Beyonce Knowles five years ago.

Island's ancient dwarf men were not hobbits, but cretins

A new war of words has broken out over the diminutive "hobbit", whose fossilised remains were found in a cave on a remote Indonesian island four years ago.

Ecstatic Australian scientists insisted at the time that they had unearthed powerful evidence of a previously-undiscovered human species who had lived on the island while mankind as we know it continued to develop in the "outside world".

But now an opposing group of Australian researchers say the tiny people on the island of Flores were not a separate branch of the human family tree after all, but were stunted Homo sapiens - early modern man - who did not grow because of iodine deficiency while in the womb.

Island's ancient dwarf men were not hobbits, but cretins

They claim the so-called "hobbits" were in fact a backward group of humans, suffering from what the researchers describe as cretinism - caused by a nutritional deficiency.

The new claim is certain to start a fresh round of heated debate, centred around the tiny fossil of a woman, just over 3ft tall, who lived between 13,000 and 18,000 years ago in the hills in the centre of the island.

Scientists are due to start digging soon in the floor of the cave where she was found, hoping to find further evidence of a tribe of hobbits - but they may now be accused of wasting their time trying to find proof of an evolutionary fluke that never existed in the first place.

The scientists who first announced the find gave the tiny cave dwellers the name of Homo floresiensis, or Man of Flores.

Their theory was that the little people were descendants of prehistoric humans - Homo erectus - who reached Flores nearly a million years ago when it might have been possible to walk there from a larger land mass. Then, over the centuries, the seas rose, cutting them off.

Because they had to survive on what food they could find, they evolved a small stature, but the scientists said they were clever hunters because they had found evidence of toolmaking, butchering and fires.

A rival research team, however, yesterday claimed in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences that the little people were Homo sapiens whose mothers were deficient in iodine.

They lived 20 miles inland and were too far from the sea to reach iodine-giving fish, the study said.

In addition females would probably have relied on bamboo shots and root vegetables, which could have released cyanide into their bodies given the primitive cooking methods they were using.

This would have resulted in offspring being doomed to "dwarf cretinism" - missing a functioning thyroid that would have severely restricted their growth and mental and physical skills.

These cretins, explained the paper's co-author, Professor Peter Obdendorf, would have grown not much more than 3ft and their bones would have distinctive characteristics very similar to those of the Flores hobbits.

The new claims are the first to suggest that the small people resulted from diet, rather than inbreeding.

And in one fascinating observation, the researchers say there is also anecdotal evidence from the Nage people of central Flores who tell of ancestors who lived in caves, were short, roughly built, hairy, pot-bellied and stupid.

The owl who loves riding bicycles

An adventurous owl has given up on more traditional methods of owl locomotion, like flying, instead opting to travel around on a bicycle.

The owl who loves riding bicycles
Treacle the tawny owl loves to hop on to the handlebars of the bike and go for rides with wildlife centre owner Jenny Smith. She has looked after Treacle since he was a baby and the two have become almost inseparable. He would get into such a flap when she left that she let him hitch a lift on her mountain bike. The 26-year-old said: 'When Treacle was little he used to perch on a grandfather clock – he has obviously graduated from that to a bike. 'He always enjoys being on the bike and stays still. People were surprised when they first saw him there but he is a real natural at riding now. It suits us both as I get to keep fit by cycling all the time and Treacle gets a bit of fresh air.' Treacle was brought into Gentleshaw Birds of Prey and Wildlife Centre in Eccleshall, Staffordshire, six years ago because his owners could not look after him. Now their bond goes beyond a shared love of bike rides. Ms Smith said: 'It is funny. Because the owls are hand-reared by people they sometimes think they are human. 'Sometimes you even find that they will share some of their food with you. Unfortunately they eat raw mice so it is nothing you would want to put in your mouth.'

Son shops dad over 'disgusting' dog sex

A son who watched a video of his 51-year-old dad having sex with dogs was so shocked he reported him to police.

Lorry driver, Paul William Langton, filmed himself carrying out the "disgusting" behaviour with a black Labrador and a brown mongrel.

Following a row, his son – who had seen the video by chance – took the tape to a local police station.
Married Langton pleaded guilty to letting three male dogs have sex with him, between 1974 and 2004, at Leicester Crown Court.

Barbara Graham, prosecuting, said: "There were disturbing video images explicitly showing, and suggestive of, sexual acts with dogs."
He had allowed the dogs to have sex with him and been involved in other acts.
In interview, Langton, from Beaumont Leys, Leicestershire, said it had happened so long ago he had tried to blank it out of his mind because he knew it was wrong.

Judge Michael Pert QC said that although the offences were "disgusting" it did not mean, according to sentencing guidelines, they automatically qualified for a jail sentence.

The case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report to explore non-custodial options and possible treatment programmes.

Langton was remanded into custody to await sentencing next month.

After the court appearance, his 32-year-old son, who lives in Leicester but has a different surname and does not wish to be named, said his father was "rather sick and needs help".

"I used to have a pet dog and he used to look after it and take it for walks, but fortunately it was a bitch and I hope nothing happened," the son said.

"I don't know where he got the idea from in the first place – maybe he'd seen the film, Animal Farm or something horrible like that."

He said he handed over the video because his dad "was going around slandering me after we fell out over money".

"It's not as bad as child abuse, but an animal can never speak out however old it gets, so someone has to be their voice. That's another reason why I reported him," he added.

"One of the dogs was on a lead while my dad was bent over the sofa and couldn't escape."

He concluded: "I'm a bit ashamed that some people know I'm related to him. I hope he gets help and sorts himself out."