Mar 25

China-EU financial relations are growing

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chinese President Hu Jintao met with the European Union’s leaders Jose Manuel Barroso and Fredrik Reinfeldt in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China. The EU leaders were in China to attend Monday’s twelfth China-European Union (EU) summit. Barroso said China-EU relations are “more mature, deeper” then before.

China-EU trading relations have grown over the last 35 years. The volume of trade between the pair reached US$425.58 billion in 2008, an increase of 19.5% over the prior year. Bilateral relations are far closer now than in previous years.

Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, said the Lisbon Treaty would help strengthen EU-China relations. Summit attendees also talked about nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament, human rights, climate change, combating financial crisis and financial investments.

Before the twelfth China-EU summit, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met with EU delegates in Nanjing, and the trading partners celebrated the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

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Mar 25

New Zealander on oxygen machine dies after power disconnection

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Zealander Folole Muliaga died Tuesday morning after Mercury Energy cut off the power in her household due to $168.40 of unpaid bills. Mrs Folole Muliaga was seriously ill and dependent on an oxygen life support machine that required electricity to run.

The 44-year-old died two and a half hours after the power was cut by a contractor, working for State Owned Enterprise, Mercury Energy. A spokesperson for Mercury Energy has said that they are devastated and deeply sympathetic by the news, but state they did not know that the power was needed to run the oxygen machine. They have stated that discretion is exercised in cases of extreme hardship or when medical conditions make it appropriate and that the same contractor had done so the previous day. However, relatives claim that the contractor was told that the power was needed by family members present, was invited into the house and talked to Mrs Folole Muliaga, but showed no discretion or compassion under the circumstances.

The power was cut at about 11am. Brendan Sheehan, spokesperson for the family, said that after the power was cut, Mrs Muliaga suffered from breathing difficulties. During this time Mrs Mulianga declined an offer for an ambulance from family members. At about 1pm she informed her sons that she was feeling dizzy and asked for hymns to be sung. Her condition quickly deteriorated until she couldn’t speak. When she passed out at 1:32pm, an ambulance was called but Mrs Mulianga could not be revived when it arrived 12 minutes later.

That same evening remaining family members claim they had to grieve in the dark, power was only reconnected after the outstanding amount of $168.40 was paid to Mercury Energy. Mercury Energy claim that the were initially only made aware that a funeral was going to take place and attempted to reconnect the supply at midnight once the full circumstances were made clear but were unable to contact the family. They state the supply was eventually reconnected before 8am the next day. Evidence has been provided by family members to show that they had made two payments to Mercury Energy in the same month trying to clear their outstanding bill, $61.90 on 1 May 2007, and $45 on 17 May 2007.

Trevor Mallard, minister of State Owned Enterprises, said, “I do think it is important that the facts are established before people rush to judgement.”

Both the New Zealand Police and Mercury Energy, the retail operating division of Mighty River Power, are conducting investigations into the events.

The mother-of-four school teacher lived in Mangere, South Auckland and had been suffering from a heart and lung condition, according to relatives of Mrs Muliaga, since February.

Hospital doctors have expressed surprise at the short length of time between when the supply was cut and the death occurred. They have also explained that relatives are trained what to do if the supply is lost, including to call for an ambulance if severe symptoms develop.

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Mar 25

Parents arrested after putting baby on Craigslist

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A couple from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada has been arrested on charges of public mischief after listing their seven day old baby girl on the popular Internet classified ads website Craigslist.

The listing claimed that the baby was unexpected, “healthy and very cute”. It asked CAN 10 000 for the baby. It also listed a phone number belonging to a stolen cellphone, which was used to find the couple.

It was first noticed by a 62-year old grandmother browsing the website for furniture, who said “I was shaking, and I thought, ‘Come on, how did this even get through?'” The couple claimed that the listing, which has since been removed, was a hoax.

The father, Jeremy Pete, had a history of car thefts and evasion of police, while the mother, 23-year-old Bethany Granholm, had convictions of property theft, fraud and impersonation. The parents have now been released, but charges are still being considered. The baby has been placed in provincial care.

A suspected copycat incident occurred just four days later, also offering a seven-day-old baby girl for CAN 10 000 on Craigslist. This incident turned out to be a hoax, and no child was in danger.

Last week saw a similar incident in Germany, where a couple listed a seven month old baby on eBay. In this case the police have launched a child trafficking investigation, despite the parents’ assertion that the listing was a joke.

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Mar 25

Disposal of fracking wastewater poses potential environmental problems

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A recent study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows that the oil and gas industry are creating earthquakes. New information from the Midwest region of the United States points out that these man-made earthquakes are happening more frequently than expected. While more frequent earthquakes are less of a problem for regions like the Midwest, a geology professor from the University of Southern Indiana, Dr. Paul K. Doss, believes the disposal of wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) process used in extracting oil and gas has the possibility to pose potential problems for groundwater.

“We are taking this fluid that has a whole host of chemicals in it that are useful for fracking and putting it back into the Earth,” Doss said. “From a purely seismic perspective these are not big earthquakes that are going to cause damage or initiate, as far as we know, any larger kinds of earthquakes activity for Midwest. [The issue] is a water quality issue in terms of the ground water resources that we use.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a technique used by the oil and gas industries which inject highly pressurized water down into the Earth’s crust to break rock and extract natural gas. Most of the fluids used for fracking are proprietary, so information about what chemicals are used in the various fluids are unknown to the public and to create a competitive edge.

Last Monday four researchers from the University of New Brunswick released an editorial that sheds light on the potential risks that the current wastewater disposal system could have on the province’s water resources. The researchers share the concern that Dr. Doss has and have come out to say that they believe fracking should be stopped in the province until there is an environ­mentally safe way to dispose the waste wastewater.

“If groundwater becomes contamin­ated, it takes years to decades to try to clean up an aquifer system,” University of New Brunswick professor Tom Al said.

While the USGS group which conducted the study says it is unclear how the earthquake rates may be related to oil and gas production, they’ve made the correlation between the disposal of wastewater used in fracking and the recent upsurge in earthquakes. Because of the recent information surfacing that shows this connection between the disposal process and earthquakes, individual states in the United States are now passing laws regarding disposal wells.

The problem is that we have never, as a human society, engineered a hole to go four miles down in the Earth’s crust that we have complete confidence that it won’t leak.

“The problem is that we have never, as a human society, engineered a hole to go four miles down in the Earth’s crust that we have complete confidence that it won’t leak,” Doss said. “A perfect case-in-point is the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, that oil was being drilled at 18,000 feet but leaked at the surface. And that’s the concern because there’s no assurance that some of these unknown chemical cocktails won’t escape before it gets down to where they are trying to get rid of them.”

It was said in the study released by the New Brunswick University professors that if fracking wastewater would contaminate groundwater, that current conventional water treatment would not be sufficient enough to remove the high concentration of chemicals used in fracking. The researchers did find that the wastewater could be recycled, can also be disposed of at proper sites or even pumped further underground into saline aquifers.

The New Brunswick professors have come to the conclusion that current fracking methods used by companies, which use the water, should be replaced with carbon diox­ide or liquefied propane gas.

“You eliminate all the water-related issues that we’re raising, and that peo­ple have raised in general across North America,” Al said.

In New Brunswick liquefied propane gas has been used successfully in fracking some wells, but according to water specialist with the province’s Natural Resources De­partment Annie Daigle, it may not be the go-to solution for New Brunswick due its geological makeup.

“It has been used successfully by Corridor Resources here in New Bruns­wick for lower volume hydraulic frac­turing operations, but it is still a fairly new technology,” Daigle said.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working with U.S. states to come up with guidelines to manage seismic risks due to wastewater. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA is the organization that also deals with the policies for wells.

Oil wells, which are under regulation, pump out salt water known as brine, and after brine is pumped out of the ground it’s disposed of by being pumped back into the ground. The difference between pumping brine and the high pressurized fracking fluid back in the ground is the volume that it is disposed of.

“Brine has never caused this kind of earthquake activity,” Doss said. “[The whole oil and gas industry] has developed around the removal of natural gas by fracking techniques and has outpaced regulatory development. The regulation is tied to the ‘the run-of-the-mill’ disposal of waste, in other words the rush to produce this gas has occurred before regulatory agencies have had the opportunity to respond.”

According to the USGS study, the increase in injecting wastewater into the ground may explain the sixfold increase of earthquakes in the central part of the United States from 2000 – 2011. USGS researchers also found that in decades prior to 2000 seismic events that happened in the midsection of the U.S. averaged 21 annually, in 2009 it spiked to 50 and in 2011 seismic events hit 134.

“The incredible volumes and intense disposal of fracking fluids in concentrated areas is what’s new,” Doss said. “There is not a body of regulation in place to manage the how these fluids are disposed of.”

The study by the USGS was presented at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America on April 18, 2012.

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Mar 24

Economist reports Saudi oil production can continue unabated

Monday, August 14, 2006

In its August 10 edition, The Economist magazine asserts that Saudi Arabia can continue producing oil at its current production levels for 70 years, without having to look for another drop. Further, the magazine claims that the nation could find “plenty more if they look”, calling for privatisation of national oil companies to help increase oil production.

The language is provocative – the world has plenty of oil, and only requires sufficient investment and exploration to find it. This is a line that The Economist has held for some time, certainly since before its now infamous March 1999 issue proclaiming that we were “drowning in oil” and featuring a prediction of US$5 per barrel. That issue was followed by an embarrassing retraction in December of that year, as oil started its steady climb. It now sits above US$70 per barrel.

However, petroleum geologists and energy investment specialists maintain a different view of oil reserves. They say that there is a limit to what is in the ground, and further to that, a limit to how much of it we can retrieve even with advancing technology. Just how much is down there can’t be said with any certainty, for a variety of reasons. A big one is the suspicious reserves figures given by producers in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. Since OPEC starting using a quota system based on reserves, the estimated reserves for member nations has magically risen, and even continued rising in the face of increased extraction from those reserves.

Amongst those who deal with the physical realities of oil fields, forecasts of a peak in production vary between 30 years, as the USA’s Energy Information Administration suggest, and now, as suggested by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas and other more pessimistic forecasters. A peak in production would then be followed by decline. Certainly, in the petroleum world, there is no serious suggestion of sustaining the current level of oil production for 70 years.

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Mar 24

Canada’s Parkdale—High Park (Ward 13) city council candidates speak

This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

Monday, October 30, 2006

On November 13, Torontoians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward’s councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto’s ridings is Parkdale—High Park (Ward 13). Two candidates responded to Wikinews’ requests for an interview. This ward’s candidates include Linda Coltman, David Garrick, Greg Hamara, Aleksander Oniszczak, Bill Saundercook (incumbent), and Frances Wdowczyk.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.

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Mar 23

Feather Weight Giant Mountain Bikes

Submitted by: Joey Maldonado

Giant mountain bikes are the pioneers of true quality in the industry of mountain bikes. These massive bikes are more than efficient, and are perfect road companions. When you are planning to ride through the rough territories of the mountains, then these giant bikes are there to provide you with solid support. This gives you less of a chance of stumbling and falling.

The massiveness of the bike does not mean that the bike has weight. While constructing the bike, the prime purpose is to assist you in maintaining a low center of gravity along with lower paddle feedback. These mountain bikes make you move with confidence and ease with full suspension and great technology. There is a lengthy list of advantages of giant mountain bikes. They have no power loss, no breaking influence, no paddle kickback along with a linear rising rate and exceptional traction. The bikes manufactured in Australia are gigantic maestros with the ability to fight the clash of hazardous mountainous expedition.

These giant bikes will cost you a little more than a regular bike would. However, what they offer is worth the price. These bikes offer both strength and ease. They top the motorcycle market with awe-inspiring qualities. They have received numerous awards for their greater quality and performance.

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These mountain bikes are more favored for their durability rather than for their style. This is because the materials used to make this group of road rulers are simply the best. Giant bikes are meant for both leisure and rivalry. The company follows a quality control process and the sort of customer service they provide sets a high standard for other companies to meet. The giant with its matte black finish and usual characteristic features astonishes passersby with its splendor in style and physique. Balance of power is what matters the most in the case of all mountain bikes. When giant bikes are on the mountains, the strength is well dispersed throughout this machine on wheels.

The giant bikes have the lightest mid-range frames, which you would hardly notice in the case of other bikes. The fork, brakes and the wheels add to the total weight of the bike and the rest is all light and easy to control. Usually anything gigantic gives you a feeling of extra weight and you feel uncertain in managing the machinery. Only these world-class mountain bikes make you feel light and at ease.

These bikes have wider and rougher tires for extra grip and shock absorption. These rides are ideal for hostile and unsafe terrains. Suspension in both wheels has now become common in modern bikes. Before, bikes normally had a diameter of 26 inches or a 549 mm wheel, but after 2002 manufacturers began to improve mountain bikes and pushed them to a higher level of complexity. Bikes began to have wheels with a diameter of 29 inches and 622mm became available on the market. The giant mountain bikes are totally huge and gigantic, but they have lighter weight than ever before.

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Mar 23

Stanford physicists print smallest-ever letters ‘SU’ at subatomic level of 1.5 nanometres tall

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A new historic physics record has been set by scientists for exceedingly small writing, opening a new door to computing‘s future. Stanford University physicists have claimed to have written the letters “SU” at sub-atomic size.

Graduate students Christopher Moon, Laila Mattos, Brian Foster and Gabriel Zeltzer, under the direction of assistant professor of physics Hari Manoharan, have produced the world’s smallest lettering, which is approximately 1.5 nanometres tall, using a molecular projector, called Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) to push individual carbon monoxide molecules on a copper or silver sheet surface, based on interference of electron energy states.

A nanometre (Greek: ?????, nanos, dwarf; ?????, metr?, count) is a unit of length in the metric system, equal to one billionth of a metre (i.e., 10-9 m or one millionth of a millimetre), and also equals ten Ångström, an internationally recognized non-SI unit of length. It is often associated with the field of nanotechnology.

“We miniaturised their size so drastically that we ended up with the smallest writing in history,” said Manoharan. “S” and “U,” the two letters in honor of their employer have been reduced so tiny in nanoimprint that if used to print out 32 volumes of an Encyclopedia, 2,000 times, the contents would easily fit on a pinhead.

In the world of downsizing, nanoscribes Manoharan and Moon have proven that information, if reduced in size smaller than an atom, can be stored in more compact form than previously thought. In computing jargon, small sizing results to greater speed and better computer data storage.

“Writing really small has a long history. We wondered: What are the limits? How far can you go? Because materials are made of atoms, it was always believed that if you continue scaling down, you’d end up at that fundamental limit. You’d hit a wall,” said Manoharan.

In writing the letters, the Stanford team utilized an electron‘s unique feature of “pinball table for electrons” — its ability to bounce between different quantum states. In the vibration-proof basement lab of Stanford’s Varian Physics Building, the physicists used a Scanning tunneling microscope in encoding the “S” and “U” within the patterns formed by the electron’s activity, called wave function, arranging carbon monoxide molecules in a very specific pattern on a copper or silver sheet surface.

“Imagine [the copper as] a very shallow pool of water into which we put some rocks [the carbon monoxide molecules]. The water waves scatter and interfere off the rocks, making well defined standing wave patterns,” Manoharan noted. If the “rocks” are placed just right, then the shapes of the waves will form any letters in the alphabet, the researchers said. They used the quantum properties of electrons, rather than photons, as their source of illumination.

According to the study, the atoms were ordered in a circular fashion, with a hole in the middle. A flow of electrons was thereafter fired at the copper support, which resulted into a ripple effect in between the existing atoms. These were pushed aside, and a holographic projection of the letters “SU” became visible in the space between them. “What we did is show that the atom is not the limit — that you can go below that,” Manoharan said.

“It’s difficult to properly express the size of their stacked S and U, but the equivalent would be 0.3 nanometres. This is sufficiently small that you could copy out the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the head of a pin not just once, but thousands of times over,” Manoharan and his nanohologram collaborator Christopher Moon explained.

The team has also shown the salient features of the holographic principle, a property of quantum gravity theories which resolves the black hole information paradox within string theory. They stacked “S” and the “U” – two layers, or pages, of information — within the hologram.

The team stressed their discovery was concentrating electrons in space, in essence, a wire, hoping such a structure could be used to wire together a super-fast quantum computer in the future. In essence, “these electron patterns can act as holograms, that pack information into subatomic spaces, which could one day lead to unlimited information storage,” the study states.

The “Conclusion” of the Stanford article goes as follows:

According to theory, a quantum state can encode any amount of information (at zero temperature), requiring only sufficiently high bandwidth and time in which to read it out. In practice, only recently has progress been made towards encoding several bits into the shapes of bosonic single-photon wave functions, which has applications in quantum key distribution. We have experimentally demonstrated that 35 bits can be permanently encoded into a time-independent fermionic state, and that two such states can be simultaneously prepared in the same area of space. We have simulated hundreds of stacked pairs of random 7 times 5-pixel arrays as well as various ideas for pathological bit patterns, and in every case the information was theoretically encodable. In all experimental attempts, extending down to the subatomic regime, the encoding was successful and the data were retrieved at 100% fidelity. We believe the limitations on bit size are approxlambda/4, but surprisingly the information density can be significantly boosted by using higher-energy electrons and stacking multiple pages holographically. Determining the full theoretical and practical limits of this technique—the trade-offs between information content (the number of pages and bits per page), contrast (the number of measurements required per bit to overcome noise), and the number of atoms in the hologram—will involve further work.Quantum holographic encoding in a two-dimensional electron gas, Christopher R. Moon, Laila S. Mattos, Brian K. Foster, Gabriel Zeltzer & Hari C. Manoharan

The team is not the first to design or print small letters, as attempts have been made since as early as 1960. In December 1959, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, who delivered his now-legendary lecture entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” promised new opportunities for those who “thought small.”

Feynman was an American physicist known for the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as work in particle physics (he proposed the parton model).

Feynman offered two challenges at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society, held that year in Caltech, offering a $1000 prize to the first person to solve each of them. Both challenges involved nanotechnology, and the first prize was won by William McLellan, who solved the first. The first problem required someone to build a working electric motor that would fit inside a cube 1/64 inches on each side. McLellan achieved this feat by November 1960 with his 250-microgram 2000-rpm motor consisting of 13 separate parts.

In 1985, the prize for the second challenge was claimed by Stanford Tom Newman, who, working with electrical engineering professor Fabian Pease, used electron lithography. He wrote or engraved the first page of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, at the required scale, on the head of a pin, with a beam of electrons. The main problem he had before he could claim the prize was finding the text after he had written it; the head of the pin was a huge empty space compared with the text inscribed on it. Such small print could only be read with an electron microscope.

In 1989, however, Stanford lost its record, when Donald Eigler and Erhard Schweizer, scientists at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose were the first to position or manipulate 35 individual atoms of xenon one at a time to form the letters I, B and M using a STM. The atoms were pushed on the surface of the nickel to create letters 5nm tall.

In 1991, Japanese researchers managed to chisel 1.5 nm-tall characters onto a molybdenum disulphide crystal, using the same STM method. Hitachi, at that time, set the record for the smallest microscopic calligraphy ever designed. The Stanford effort failed to surpass the feat, but it, however, introduced a novel technique. Having equaled Hitachi’s record, the Stanford team went a step further. They used a holographic variation on the IBM technique, for instead of fixing the letters onto a support, the new method created them holographically.

In the scientific breakthrough, the Stanford team has now claimed they have written the smallest letters ever – assembled from subatomic-sized bits as small as 0.3 nanometers, or roughly one third of a billionth of a meter. The new super-mini letters created are 40 times smaller than the original effort and more than four times smaller than the IBM initials, states the paper Quantum holographic encoding in a two-dimensional electron gas, published online in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The new sub-atomic size letters are around a third of the size of the atomic ones created by Eigler and Schweizer at IBM.

A subatomic particle is an elementary or composite particle smaller than an atom. Particle physics and nuclear physics are concerned with the study of these particles, their interactions, and non-atomic matter. Subatomic particles include the atomic constituents electrons, protons, and neutrons. Protons and neutrons are composite particles, consisting of quarks.

“Everyone can look around and see the growing amount of information we deal with on a daily basis. All that knowledge is out there. For society to move forward, we need a better way to process it, and store it more densely,” Manoharan said. “Although these projections are stable — they’ll last as long as none of the carbon dioxide molecules move — this technique is unlikely to revolutionize storage, as it’s currently a bit too challenging to determine and create the appropriate pattern of molecules to create a desired hologram,” the authors cautioned. Nevertheless, they suggest that “the practical limits of both the technique and the data density it enables merit further research.”

In 2000, it was Hari Manoharan, Christopher Lutz and Donald Eigler who first experimentally observed quantum mirage at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. In physics, a quantum mirage is a peculiar result in quantum chaos. Their study in a paper published in Nature, states they demonstrated that the Kondo resonance signature of a magnetic adatom located at one focus of an elliptically shaped quantum corral could be projected to, and made large at the other focus of the corral.

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Mar 21

Chicago chef invents edible menu

Sunday, February 13, 2005Cordon-bleu chef Homaru Cantu has announced a technique which allows him to create dishes made of edible, inkjet printed paper. Cantu, a head chef at the Moto restaurant in Chicago, has modified an ink-jet printer with the help of computer specialists from local firm Deep Labs and loaded it with cartridges containing concoctions of fruit and vegetables. Using this modified printer Cantu then prints onto edible sheets of soybean and potato starch tasty images downloaded from the web.

“You can make an ink-jet printer do just about anything,” says Cantu. Once the items have been printed they are dipped into a powder made of soy sauce, sugar and vegetables before then being further processed by frying, freezing, or baking them.

Cantu has applied the technique to the printing of menus so that diners can further flavor their soups by ripping up the menu and adding it to the dish.

He hopes that his idea may find its way into popular media. “Just imagine going through a magazine and looking at an ad for pizza. You wonder what it tastes like, so you rip a page out and eat it,” says the chef who is working at perfecting the flavors and has applied for a patent on the technique.

Cantu also has plans for further culinary innovations. He plans to cook steak using a handheld laser that will sear the inside of the steak well done whilst leaving the outside medium rare. He also plans to use the laser to produce bread baked from the inside out thus producing a crust on the inside.

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Mar 20

Computer professionals celebrate 10th birthday of A.L.I.C.E.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005File:Turing1.jpg

More than 50 programmers, scientists, students, hobbyists and fans of the A.L.I.C.E. chat robot gathered in Guildford, U.K. on Friday to celebrate the tenth birthday of the award winning A.I. On hand was the founder the Loebner Prize, an annual Turing Test, designed to pick out the world’s most human computer according to an experiment laid out by the famous British mathematician Alan Turing more then 50 years ago. Along with A.L.I.C.E.’s chief programmer Dr. Richard S. Wallace, two other Loebner prize winners, Robby Garner and this year’s winner, Rollo Carpenter, also gave presentations, as did other finalists.

The University of Surrey venue was chosen, according to Dr. Wallace, not only because it was outside the U.S. (A.L.I.C.E.’s birthday fell on the Thanksgiving Day weekend holiday there, so he expected few people would attend a conference in America), but also because of its recently erected statue of Alan Turing, who posed the famous A. I. experiment which inspired much of the work on bots like A.L.I.C.E. University of Surrey Digital World Research Centre organizers Lynn and David Hamill were pleased to host the event because it encourages multi-disciplinary interaction, and because of the Centre’s interest in interaction between humans and computers.File:ALICE Birthday Cake.jpg

Dr. Wallace gave a keynote address outlining the history of A.L.I.C.E. and AIML. Many people commented on the fact the he seemed to have moved around a lot in the last ten years, having lived in New York, Pennsylvania, San Francisco, Maine, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, while working on the Alicebot project. The A.L.I.C.E. and AIML software is popular among chat robot enthusiats primarily because of its distribution under the GNU free software license. One of Dr. Wallace’s PowerPoint slides asked the question, “How do you make money from free software?” His answer: memberships, subscriptions, books, directories, syndicated ads, consulting, teaching, and something called the Superbot.

Rollo Carpenter gave a fascinating presentation on his learning bot Jabberwacky, reading from several sample conversations wherein the bot seemed amazingly humanlike. Unlike the free A.L.I.C.E. software, Carpenter uses a proprietary learning approach so that the bot actually mimics the personality of each individual chatter. The more people who chat with Jabberwacky, the better it becomes at this kind of mimicry.

In another interesting presentation, Dr. Hamill related present-day research on chat robots to earlier work on dialog analysis in telephone conversations. Phone calls have many similarities to the one-on-one chats that bots encounter on the web and in IM. Dr. Hamill also related our social expectations of bots to social class structure and how servants were expected to behave in Victorian England. He cited the famous Microsoft paperclip as the most egregius example of a bot that violated all the rules of a good servant’s behavior.

Bots have advanced a long way since philanthropist Hugh Loebner launched his controversial contest 15 years ago. His Turing Test contest, which offers an award of $100,000 for the first program to pass an “audio-visual” version of the game, also awards a bronze medal and $2000 every year for the “most human computer” according to a panel of judges. Huma Shah of the University of Westminster presented examples of bots used by large corporations to help sell furniture, provide the latest information about automotive products, and help customers open bank accounts. Several companies in the U.S. and Europe offer customized bot personalities for corporate web sites.

Even though Turing’s Test remains controversial, this group of enthusiastic developers seems determined to carry on the tradition and try to develop more and more human like chat bots.Hugh Loebner is dedicated to carry on his contest for the rest of his life, in spite of his critics. He hopes that a large enough constituency of winners will exist to keep the competition going well beyond his own lifetime. Dr. Wallace says, “Nobody has gotten rich from chat robots yet, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. There is such a thing as ‘bot fever’. For some people who meet a bot for the first time, it can pass the Turing Test for them, and they get very excited.”

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