On Books, #9

God forbid that any book should be banned. The practice is as indefensible as infanticide.

— Dame Rebecca West

Published in: on July 24, 2009 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Discounting Calories

Antiquated and inaccurate methods for calculating the caloric content of foods leads to erroneous consumer decisions, according to a recent New Scientist article on ”The Calorie Delusion: Why Food Labels Are Wrong”. Specifically, “according to a small band of researchers, using the information on food labels to estimate calorie intake could be a very bad idea. They argue that calorie estimates on food labels are based on flawed and outdated science, and provide misleading information on how much energy your body will actually get from a food. Some food labels may over or underestimate this figure by as much as 25 per cent, enough to foil any diet . . .”

Caloric estimates worldwide are grounded upon 19th century testing methods which “calculated the energy content of various foods by burning small samples in controlled conditions and measuring the amount of energy released in the form of heat,” then subtracted waste products from estimated caloric content. But, of course, “nutritionists are well aware that our bodies don’t incinerate food, they digest it. And digestion — from chewing food to moving it through the gut and chemically breaking it down along the way – takes a different amount of energy for different foods. According to Geoffrey Livesay, an independent nutritionist based in Norfolk, UK, this can lower the number of calories your body extracts from a meal by anywhere between 5 and 25 per cent depending on the food eaten. ‘These energy costs are quite significant,’ he says, yet are not reflected on any food label.”

For many useful examples and illustrations of considerable relevance, see the article. But note also that in this and in a subsequent article, “The Burning Truth About Calories”, New Scientist observes that, despite their known inaccuracy, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization opposes revising the methods for calculating calories, and opposes relabeling foods. New Scientist and the majority of nutritionists seem to agree with the FAO, for reasons which I personally find unpersuasive at best. See what you think.

Published in: on July 24, 2009 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Paws for Effect

Gingerbread, a female, is almost certainly right-pawed -- though she appears utterly unimpressed by the question.

Gingerbread, a female, is almost certainly right-pawed -- though she appears utterly unimpressed by the question.

Cats display “handedness,” too.

Published in: on July 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Forcing the Net Through a Sieve

Public Knowledge, a Washington DC based public interest group “working to defend your rights in the emerging digital culture,” has released a 60 page document exploring, and condemning, industry proposals for implementing “copyright filtering” on the internet. The report is entitled Forcing the Net Through a Sieve: Why Copyright Filtering is Not a Viable Solution for U.S. ISPs

“Copyright filtering” is a “method whereby network appliances use a technology known as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to inspect the data that travels over an Internet Service Provider’s (ISP’s) network, identifying content as it passes through the filter and then dealing with that content accordingly.”

Here’s what the paper’s authors have to say in their Executive Summary:

“Copyright filtering, the latest proposed ‘magic bullet’ solution from the major music and movie studios and industry trade groups, poses a number of dangers to Internet users, legitimate businesses and U.S. federal government initiatives to increase the speed, affordability and utilization of broadband Internet services. The following whitepaper presents a number of reasons why the use of copyright filters should not be allowed, encouraged or mandated on U.S. Internet Service Provider (ISP) networks. Among them:

“1. Copyright filters are both underinclusive and overinclusive. A copyright filter will fail to identify all unlawful or unwanted content while harming lawful uses of content.
2. Copyright filter processing will add latency. Copyright filters will slow ISP networks, discouraging use, innovation and investment and harming users, businesses and technology policy initiatives.
3. The implementation of copyright filters will result in a technological arms race. Users will act to circumvent the filters and the architects of the filters will find themselves caught in a costly, unwinnable arms race.
4. Copyright filters do not make economic sense. The monetary costs associated with copyright filtering far outweigh any perceived benefits.
5. Copyright filters will discourage investment in the Internet economy.
Copyright filters will disrupt the Internet ecosystem, severely undermining our most promising engine for economic growth.
6. Copyright filters will harm free speech. Due to technological limitations, copyright filters will harm lawful, protected forms of speech such as parody and satire.
7. Copyright filters could undermine the safe harbor provisions that shield ISPs from liability. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), ISPs are shielded from liability for their users’ actions. Copyright filters could undermine these safe harbors, which have allowed the Internet to become the most important communications medium of the modern era.
8. Copyright filtering could violate the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act. Copyright filtering could constitute unlawful interception under the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act (ECPA).”

If you’re interested in the topic, you might also wish to see this press release from PublicKnowledge.org concerning their analysis

Published in: on July 24, 2009 at 11:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Chandra At Ten

Cassiopeia Image from Chandra X-Ray Telescope

Cassiopeia Image from Chandra X-Ray Telescope

On the occasion of the Chandra X-Ray Telescope’s tenth anniversary, the BBC News has created an amazing little four-minute slideshow of Chandra images. It’s really quite stunning.

For just a little more information on the Chandra anniversary, see Science Daily’s brief article on the topic.

For much, much more see the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center, which, among a wealth of other materials, includes an x-ray photo gallery of such stunning images as this one, of the supernova remnant E0102:

E0102 (Chandra)

Published in: on July 24, 2009 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment