Daily Archives: July 7, 2008

US wants sci-fi killer robots for terror fight

Scotsman | Jul 6, 2008

By Murdo MacLeod

KILLER robots which can change their shape to squeeze under doors and through cracks in walls to track their prey are moving from the realms of science fiction to the front line in the fight against terrorism.

The US military has signed a £1.6m deal with a technology firm to design robots which are intelligent enough to work out how to wiggle through small spaces to reach their target.

The action film, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, featured a seemingly un-stoppable killer robot played by Robert Patrick. The machine was made from liquid metal and could change its form to slide under doors and walk through iron bars.

America’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) and the Army Research Office has awarded the contract to iRobot, which has developed other robots for the military.

They want scientists to come up with a design for a tiny robot able to move under its own power and change shape so it can get through gaps less than half an inch wide.

The US administration has not said what it wants the robot to do but
its specification says: “Often the only available points of entry are small openings in buildings, walls, under doors, etc. In these cases, a robot must be soft enough to squeeze or traverse through small openings, yet large enough to carry an operationally meaningful payload.”

In an effort to inspire creative ideas, the US military has pointed to examples in nature of creatures which are able to squeeze through narrow gaps and change their form.

Helen Greiner, co-founder and chairwoman of iRobot, said: “Through this programme, robots that reconstitute size, shape and functionality after traversal through complex environments will transcend the pages of science fiction to become real tools for soldiers in theatre.”

But Scottish-based experts believe the challenge may be too much even for the US military’s budgets and technology.

Mike Cates, professor of physics at Edinburgh University, said: “There are materials which can change their shapes and then regain them. There are alloys, known as memory metals, which are used in glasses and which can regain their shape. The difficulty in this case is all the other elements which need to be added to a device such as this, such as the circuitry and some form of system to propel it.”

Brian Baglow, of technology firm Indoctrimat, said: “As well as designing the materials for this, the sensor systems will be a problem. It’s not easy for them to work out where the gaps are which they can get through.”

Lost film footage from sci-fi classic Metropolis has been found

Coventry Telegraph | Jul 5, 2008

By David Bentley

LONG-LOST scenes from Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi classic Metropolis – amounting to a quarter of the original footage – have been discovered in the archives of a museum in Argentina.

The 25 minutes of footage were found by staff at Museo del Cine Pablo C. Ducros Hicken in Buenos Aires. The badly scratched 16mm negative will require considerable restoration.

German newspaper Die Zeit said: “The find from Buenos Aires is a real treasure, a worldwide sensation. Metropolis, the most important silent film in German history, can from this day on be considered to have been rediscovered. Among the footage, there are several scenes which are essential in order to understand the film.”

The Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Foundation – a German organisation based in Wiesbaden and dedicated to preserving, restoring and reconstructing movies – said: “With this discovery in Buenos Aires these scenes will finally come back to life. Even if the quality of the picture is in a deplorable condition, thanks to the Argentinian material, the dream of the completion of Metropolis will finally come true.”

The movie is set in 2026 in a futuristic city and potrays rising tensions in a rigid class system in a two-tier society – the underground workers and the elite. The movie is notable for its impressive visuals including towering architecture and its female robot, the Maschinenmensch. Metropolis’s cultural impact has been vast, inspiring the look of Blade Runner and the name of Superman’s city among other infuences.

Several restored versions have been released. A DVD and Blu-ray release intended for release next year will be the most complete yet, incorporating the footage recovered in Argentina.

Toddlers should be reported for ‘racism’, Government-funded group claims

Nursery teachers should inform on youngsters such as these if there is a ‘racist incident’, says a Government-funded advisory group

Daily Mail | Jul 7,  2008

By  Steve Doughty

Toddlers should be taught about racism and singled out for criticism if they have racist attitudes, a Government-funded advisory group said yesterday.

It told nursery teachers, playgroup leaders and childminders to record and report every racist incident involving children as young as three.

These could include saying ‘Yuk’ about unfamiliar food.

Even babies should not be ignored in the hunt for racism because they can ‘recognise different people in their lives’, a new guide for nurseries and child care centres said.

The instructions for staff in charge of pre-school children in day care have been produced by the National Children’s Bureau, which receives £12million a year, mostly through taxpayer-funded organisations.

The NCB, which describes itself as ‘an umbrella body for the children’s sector’, has long used its resources to campaign on controversial issues, for example in favour of a legal ban on smacking by parents.

It also runs the Sex Education Forum, a campaign for more sex education in schools.

The new 366-page guide, Young Children and Racial Justice, warned that ‘racist incidents among children in early years settings-tend to be around name-calling-casual thoughtless comments, and peer group relationships’.

It said such incidents could include children using words like ‘blackie’, ‘Pakis’, ‘those people’ or ‘they smell’.

Children might also ‘react negatively to a culinary tradition other than their own by saying “yuk”.’

Nursery staff are told: ‘No racist incident should be ignored. When there is a clear racist intent, it is necessary to be specific in condemning the action.’

If children ‘reveal negative attitudes the lack of censure may indicate to the child that there is nothing unacceptable about such attitudes’.

Nurseries are encouraged to report as many racist incidents as possible to local councils.

‘Some people think that if a large number of racist incidents are reported, this will reflect badly on the institution,’ it said. ‘In fact, the opposite is the case.’

The guidance said that anyone who disagrees is racist themselves.

It also suggests cultivating the home languages of new immigrants  –  despite Government anxiety to promote the learning of English.

It said: ‘English is now viewed as the major language of the world but this is not because it has any innate linguistic advantages  –  it is because English is the language of power in a world dominated by English-speaking peoples.’

Critics of the race programme for pre- school children labelled it ‘totalitarian’.

Author and researcher on family life Patricia Morgan said: ‘Stepping in to stop severe bullying is one thing, but this is interference in the lives of children. It smacks of totalitarianism.

‘It is regulation of private speech and thought. They intend nursery staff to step into children’s playground squabbles and then report them to the local council as race incidents. Who would ever have thought that the anti-racism crusade would go so far?’

Case Study

Judge Jonathan Finestein ordered the local authority to review its decision to prosecute

A boy of ten has already been taken to court for calling a mixed race 11-year-old ‘Paki’ and ‘Bin Laden’ in a school playground argument.

The pair subsequently made up and became friends again, yet the Crown Prosecution Service decided to go ahead because the victim’s mother made a complaint.

The ten- year- old eventually appeared at Salford Youth Court in 2006 where he denied a raciallymotivated offence under the Public Order Act of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause another person harm or distress.

But District Judge Jonathan Finestein (pictured) ordered the authorities to review their decision to prosecute.

He said of the defendant: ‘I shouldn’t think he understands Bin Laden or Al Qaeda. I’m not condoning what he supposedly said but there must be other ways of dealing with this apart from criminal prosecution.’

Prosecutors later decided not to pursue the case.