Oh My God. Carol Brady Is Having Sex And She’s Enjoying It

Sadly, one of the cornerstones of my so-called misspent childhood, was watching a television show called the Brady Bunch. To the uninitiated, the Brady Bunch was an American situation comedy, based around two families, the wife and three daughters and the husband with three sons and, as the title song goes “they knew it was much more than a hunch, that this group must somehow form a family and that’s the way they all became the Brady Bunch.”

I can’t believe I still remember that. Damn.

It was corny and goofy and lame but somehow endearing. The Brady Bunch were a group of people who portrayed themselves as the almost perfect family, loving towards each other, supportive and helpful, always finding a way out of a tight spot, all the while looked after by a doting housekeeper. It’s not that you ever wanted to be the Brady Bunch but they were a safe pair of hands in the Department of Entertaining Distractions.

The matriarch of the family was Carol Brady, attractive in that homespun kind of way, always cheerful and happy. Played perfectly by actress Florence Henderson. So you can imagine my shock, but certainly not horror, when I read that Carol Brady, gasp, enjoys S-E-X. She sure does, according to a magazine recently published in the United States. Not only does she enjoy sex, Carol Brady, aka Florence Henderson, now aged 80, has a friend with benefits. Henderson told the magazine, Closer, that she has gotten considerably better at sex as she’s got older and that it’s a complete myth that people her age aren’t having sex.

And the shocks, they just keep coming.

Henderson said she had one main sexual partner but that they were not exclusive to each other. “He lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and is a chiropractor,” she said. “I really enjoy his company, but I am sure he sees other people, as I do. “(Sex) keeps getting better. You learn to do things with more experience, intelligence and the ability to choose more wisely,” she said. “I like to date younger men [in their 60s] because they need to keep up with me.”

Oh my God. Squeaky-clean Carol Brady, say it isn’t so? Hah. Too late he cried. She’s already said, it’s not only so, it’s so, so good.

These days Florence Henderson, who incidentally looks great for her age, hosts her own television cooking show in between hosting lovers it seems. But that got me thinking? Should we be disgusted by this revelation? Or should Florence Henderson be applauded for continuing to embrace life and all of the joys that go with it? It doesn’t disgust me but then I’m not far off being old enough to be one of her ‘toy boys’. What a thought? But the reality is age is not much of a barrier when it comes to the elderly having and enjoying intimacy. Some years ago, the first detailed examination of the sexuality of older Americans was published. Although the study relates to older Americans it would apply to older people all over the world. It was a nationally represented survey of 3 thousand Americans, men and women, aged between 57 and 85. It found that half to three quarters of those surveyed, remain sexually active, with a significant proportion engaging in ‘frequent and varied sexual behavior.’ The survey found that sexual problems do increase with age and the rate of sexual activity does fade a little but interest in sex remains high and frequency is stable among the physically able who are still lucky enough to have a willing partner. It also torpedoed one of the great myths that constantly circulates among the younger generation irrespective of what era they live or lived in. “There’s a popular perception that older people aren’t as interested in sex as younger people,” said Stacy Tessler Lindau of the University of Chicago, who led the study, that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Our study shows that’s simply not true.”

In fact it found that older people value sexuality as an important part of life. The study paints a portrait for older people, that includes a previously uncharacterized vitality and interest in sexuality and one that has not been fully appreciated. The survey found a close link between sex and health, with healthier people reporting the highest rates of sexual activity. In addition to supporting the well-known idea that illness can interfere with a sex life, the survey suggests that a healthy sex life may itself help keep people vibrant. “Individuals who remain sexually active gain the benefit of the physical exercise that comes with sex,” Lindau said. “It’s also possible the hormones — the endorphins released by orgasms — give a general sense of well-being that could be beneficial. The psychological benefits of being loved and cared for may also trickle over to physical health.”

What makes this kind of study so unique and different is the fact that despite the intense focus on sex in popular culture, political sensitivities have severely limited funding for reliable, detailed studies of sexual activity among Americans of any age. Smaller, more limited studies have provided glimpses into the sex lives of the elderly, but no one had previously attempted an in-depth, nationally representative survey among this rapidly growing segment of the population. “We just don’t know very much about sexuality in the later years,” said Robert N. Butler, president of the International Longevity Center in New York, a nonprofit think tank. “There’s been a tremendous amount of resistance to such studies. That’s what makes this so terrific.”

In their the study, researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with a randomly selected sample of 3,005 Americans from July 2005 to March 2006. “We found people to be grateful to have an opportunity to discuss these issues,” said Lindau, noting that researchers achieved an unusually high 75 percent response rate from those they approached. “The topics we were asking about resonated with people. Many said they had never had a chance to talk to anyone about these issues, not even a spouse or their physicians.” About 28 percent of men and about 14 percent of women said sex was very important, and about three-quarters of those with partners reported being sexually active, which is about equivalent to what previous research had found for people in their 40s and 50s. Being sexually active was defined as having had mutual voluntary sexual contact with another person within the past 12 months. “Our findings indicate that when it comes to sexual activity, older people are really just younger people later in life,” Lindau said.

So true. So true.

“There’s no reason to believe they give up the basic human desire for love and intimacy and the kind of pleasure that comes from intimate relationships,” Lindua said.

As you might expect, the proportion of those having sex did decline somewhat with age. By ages 75 to 85, it was down to 39 percent of men and 17 percent of women. Among those who remained sexually active, frequency also fell with age. But even among the oldest age group, 54 percent of those who were still sexually active, reported having sex at least two to three times per month and 23 percent reported having sex once a week or more. “This just shows that the light doesn’t go out. The flame doesn’t go out,” said Todd P. Semla, president of the American Geriatrics Society.

Ok. This is a reader warning, We’re about to get a bit grubby.

The most common sexual activity was vaginal intercourse. But the survey found a significant proportion of respondents reported engaging in oral sex, both giving and receiving, as well as masturbation. Mirroring their younger counterparts, elderly men reported more sexual activity than women, but researchers said that was largely because women live longer than men, giving the surviving men more opportunities to have sex than women. (Go you good thing). “This doesn’t necessarily mean that women aren’t necessarily interested in intimacy and sexuality,” Lindau said. “A substantial number of women say the reason they are not having sex is they don’t have a partner.”

Among those who remained sexually active, nearly half reported at least one sexual problem. Forty three percent of women reported a lack of sexual desire, 39 percent of women reported vaginal dryness, and 37 percent of men reported problems achieving an erection.But, given the availability of new medical treatments such as Viagra, the findings did indicate that older people would benefit from more frank and open discussions about sex with their doctors. “This should increase awareness among physicians to pay more attention to this,” said John E. Morley, Director of Geriatrics at St. Louis University. “This is extraordinarily important, and we need to pay more attention to it.”

My word it is. If you are still not convinced, just ask Carol Brady.

Texas Continues To Execute People Who Have Severe Intellectual Disabilities

Driving in the United States, I saw a bumper sticker that read: Texas. It’s like a whole other country. And judging by what has just occurred, the Lone Star State is living up to the billing. It’s certainly another country when it comes to recognising, or in this case not recognising, some of the rulings in the United States Supreme Court, especially when those rulings involve the death penalty for capital crimes such as murder. The good people of Texas have just put a convicted killer to death by lethal injection after he spent almost 20 years in prison on death row. So what’s the big deal? The prisoner, a man called Robert Ladd, had an IQ of 67, which would constitute a legal mental disability in most US states, making him ineligible for execution, but not in Texas.

Now, before anyone gets on some high moral horse and starts galloping in my direction, I am not here to defend Robert Ladd. There could be no defence to the crimes he committed apart from intellectual impairment. He strangled a woman, 38-year-old Vicki Ann Garner, beat her with a hammer and then set fire to her body. When he was arrested in 1996 for her slaying, Ladd had been on parole for about four years after serving roughly a third of a 40 year prison term for the murder of a Dallas woman and her two children. How and why he received parole is an interesting question that authorities are yet to answer.  Ladd had pleaded guilty to all three murders. He deserved to be incarcerated for what he did. In all probability locked up for the rest of his life. No-one would seriously suggest otherwise. But did he deserve the death penalty? That is an interesting question and it’s where Texas goes it alone, earning the dubious title of America’s most active death penalty state. Texas put Ladd to death by lethal injection having deemed him to be not sufficiently disabled or mentally impaired, according to its own bizarre criteria for the condition. But before I discuss the Texan criteria for mental disability, its important to understand what the United States Supreme Court has said about intellectual disability and the death penalty.

The death of Ladd has exposed a flaw in the normally stringent safeguards imposed by the federal courts on States in the United States that carry out the death penalty. Although the States are generally allowed to set their own standards, the US Supreme Court has twice ruled on the issue of intellectual disability in order to set what it considers to be the parameters for humane and civilised conduct. In the rulings – in 2002 and last year – the Supreme Court banned the execution of people with “mental retardation” on the grounds that it was cruel and unusual punishment, prohibited by the eighth amendment of the US constitution. It also said that death penalty states had to conform to standards set by medical science and not impose their own arbitrary definitions of mental disability. Clearly someone forget to point that out to the good old state of Texas.

The Texas definition is bizarre to put it mildly. Many would be familiar with the John Steinbeck 1937 novella, Of Mice and Men. It is a classic piece of American literature. But in Texas the book is more than just a classic, it has legal status. Under what are known as “Briseno factors”, the State establishes the profile of an individual who ordinary Texans would agree was intellectually disabled. It points to Lennie Small, the lumbering and childlike character in John Steinbeck’s book, identifying him as the legal yardstick. In other words, the Texas definition of intellectual disability has to match the degree of mental impairment depicted by a character in a fictional novella.

I’m sorry but that is crazy.

“This case is indeed stranger than fiction. said Brian Stull, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project and Ladd’s attorney. ” Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd’s IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death.  But the Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gauging intelligence crafted from ‘Of Mice and Men’ and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd’s fate shouldn’t depend on a novella.”

Ladd came within hours of being executed by lethal injection in 2003. Finally, a Federal Court agreed to hear evidence about Ladd’s juvenile record that suggested he was mentally impaired. But that appeal was subsequently denied and the Supreme Court last year refused an application to review Ladd’s case. The courts no longer accept juvenile records as an argument in favour of intellectual impairment. His Attorneys made a renewed push for clemency, using similar arguments as his execution date approached. “Ladd’s deficits are well documented, debilitating and significant,” Stull told the court.

But despite the pleas on his behalf Ladd was executed by the State of Texas. His final statement was to his victim’s sister. telling her he was “really, really sorry. I really, really hope and pray you don’t have hatred in your heart,” he said, adding that he didn’t think she could have closure but hoped she could find peace. “A revenge death won’t get you anything,” he said. Then Ladd told the warden: “Let’s ride.” The ACLU said the execution of a mentally impaired prisoner proved that “we are in the midst of a complete systems failure in terms of honouring the constitutional protections the Supreme Court ordered for intellectually disabled people.”

The writer, John Steinbeck once said, Texas was a state of mind. But, if the State of Texas continues to use one of his characters, as a legal benchmark for intellectual disability, out of its mind might have been a more accurate description.

The Fastest Electric Car In The World And When It Goes Into Insane Mode So Do Its Passengers

The other day I was reflecting on how technology is changing the way we live. The way we think and act. How we relate to one another and how we get from point A to B. Petrol driven cars are a thing of the past. One man who fundamentally knows this to be true is Elon Musk. For those who have never heard of him, he is the guy that brought us PayPal. An absolute necessity for any E bay user. Musk dabbles in a lot of what he considers great ideas. One of those great ideas is to spend a lot of money developing an electric car. As a concept it ticks plenty of boxes. Environmentally friendly, electric cars emit no greenhouse gases. Lets face it within the next 15 to  20 years the world is going to be driving a lot of electric cars. Putting aside environmental concerns, the planet is running out of fossil fuel.

Musk’s company is called Tesla. And Tesla Motors makes beautiful cars. The man behind some of those designs is the electric carmaker’s chief designer, Franz von Holzhausen, He and his team create the signature Tesla look. And the Germanic in him means he pays great attention to pedantic detail that includes taking a fresh look at something as innocuous as door handles and coming up with something fancy, like gullwing doors that will appear on the company’s next car, the Model X. Not a new concept, but the gullwinged Mercedes sports, first introduced in 1954, still has the ability to cause severe cases of car envy.

“What I really wanted to achieve was this moth-to-the-flame (result). You don’t really realize what you are looking at or why you are attracted to it, but you are,” Von Holzhausen said. “That engagement is what sparks curiosity.”

Von Holzhausen has the enviable job of creating the design benchmark for Tesla, which is trying to carve out a market for electric cars and convince the public that gasoline rides are destined to become obsolete in the same way that motorised cars put the horse and buggy out of business.  Von Holzhausen joined Tesla in mid-2008 after designing at Mazda, General Motors and Volkswagen. There are, of course, other automakers that come up with sexy curves and slick looks for their cars. But Tesla, so far, has stolen a march on its competitors in the good looks department.

I don’t want this to sound like I am doing some kind of sales pitch for Tesla. It’s just that I have a soft spot for David and Goliath like stories. Part of Tesla’s appeal, for me, is how this upstart, which has upstaged long-time carmakers already, may go on to become a major player in the auto world one day. And how this niche fledgling electric car company takes an unconventional approach to elements of a car that some might regard as unimportant and use them to win over a car buyer’s heart,  An example of that is the door handle for the Tesla Model S. It slides out and retreats with the control of a key fob. It’s something that carmakers usually don’t spend a lot of time or money on. But Tesla’s designers thought differently. “As you approach the car for the first time, your first contact is through the door handle,” von Holzhausen said. “It’s a memorable experience. It needs to elicit an emotion.”

Tesla’s all-wheel drive Model S P85D is the most supercharged model of any electric sports car to hit the market.

It retails for US$133,500, but this not your average automobile. For a start, its 691 horsepower, dual-motor is capable of running on autopilot by using cameras and ultrasonic sensors to read speed limits, monitor other cars on the road and park automatically.

However, the most impressive addition to the car is a feature called “insane mode”. The aptly titled feature lives up to its name with one push of a button accelerating  from 0 to 95km/h, that’s a click under 60mph, in just over three seconds.

In order to test Tesla’s latest mode, a drag racing website took unsuspecting victims (members of the public) for a spin in the S P85D to experience the car’s rapid acceleration for the first time. They recorded the spectacle on camera and if the screams, shocked facial features and profanities are anything to go by, it would appear Telsa are on to a real winner with this sports car if you can afford the asking price. But the reactions to ‘insane mode’ are priceless.

I’ve posted the video here, profanities included. Hopefully it will give you a laugh and a half.

 

What Do Women Want When It Comes To Sperm Donors? The Answer Is Not What You Think

What do women want? Now there’s a question worth answering. Not by me. But if, by some miracle, I was, ever able to accurately answer that question, as opposed to providing what I think might be the right answer, then I would be exceptional indeed.

Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, I don’t even come close to having an answer. I’m not even going to try. But some researchers in Australia have. Especially in relation to what women are looking for in the prospective father of their chid. And what researchers discovered might surprise you. It surprised me.

A study of online sperm markets shows women value more than just money when it comes to choosing a father for their children. Queensland University of Technology behavioural economists, Stephen Whyte and Benno Torgler conducted a survey of 70 women who were shopping for sperm donors via the web, instead of traditional fertility and IVF clinics.

Ok. But let’s just pause the narrative for a moment. Why would women be shopping for sperm donors on the Internet instead of the traditional methods and means? In Australia the answer is because of dwindling anonymity for sperm donors. In fact, around 95 per cent of the sperm donations are sourced from overseas, the vast majority coming from the sperm export powerhouse, the United States. One of the dwindling few Australian men willing to donate said his decision to donate sperm was influenced by the inability to conceive with his wife and the lengthy process of adoption. “I knew the trouble some couples go through to conceive and just how emotionally draining it can be – that feeling of helplessness at times,” he said. “I was happy to help other families overcome these challenges in any way I could.” But he is very much the exception. Unfortunately, most Australian men remain extremely hesitant to donate sperm because they fear they might be identified by their potential offspring at some future time. The shortage of sperm donors is an issue across the entire country. IVF Australia spokesman Professor Michael Chapman said the shortage continues to force many to turn to the United States for a steady supply of sperm. He said imported sperm was being used to alleviate waiting lists and shortages. “In New South Wales the waiting time for donor sperm for married couples is two to three months, while single women often have to wait six months,” he said. The discrepancy is due to some donors specifying that their sperm is only to be used by couples wanting to conceive a child. City Fertility’s chief executive Adnan Catakovic said his national organisation imports between 50 and 200 sperm donations from the US each year. Melbourne Law School Professor Loane Skene said the right of children to identify their genetic parents. once they become adults, has undoubtedly reduced the number of sperm donors in Australia. “Although the child can find out who their parent is once they turn 18, there are no legal rights associated between them – a genetic father can’t be made to financially support the child,” she said. So are donor children interested in meeting their genetic father? The answer probably lies somewhere in between. Donor children are often not interested in meeting their fathers but want to know that their genetic father is a person and not just a number . The law in Australia is very clear about separating parenting rights from donor rights.

Anyway, lets get back on to the topic we began discussing at the very start. And that is the research that suggests women value more than just money when it comes to choosing a prospective father for their children. One of the behavioural economists, Stephen Whyte, responsible for conducting the survey of 70 women shopping for sperm donors online said the results were totally unexpected. “We’re interested in cognitive, psychological or emotional factors that are involved when people make decisions,” Whyte said. “Probably the biggest economic decision you’ll make in your life is your choice of partner, and having any subsequent offspring.” But the women surveyed were motivated not by money or career when considering a prospective father. He said women using online sperm markets provided a unique opportunity for a study of this type, because it took the issue of “parental investment” – the amount of time a potential partner would invest in the child’s growth and welfare – out of the equation. “This is an opportunity for women to go out and choose a donor that fits their aesthetic, the purely physical characteristics that they’re after,” he said. “But the study actually shows the most important things to women when they choose a donor in this online market are behavioural traits, like kindness, openness and reliability.” Whyte said those were traits taught by parents, arguably making them unimportant when it came to choosing a donor, but women still rated them as most important. He said the study also showed women didn’t value men with a high-profile or high-earning careers as much as popular wisdom might suggest. “They’re putting behavioural traits at the top, physical aspects like eye colour and hair colour next, then, at the bottom, the least important things are income and occupation,” Whyte said. “It’s a step away from the evolutionary psychology argument that women favour resources or indication of resources in a partner, to help them bear the heavy burden in having kids.” The world-first research will be published in the Journal of Bioeconomics, but Whyte said it wasn’t the end of the story. “These sorts of sperm sharing websites have only been around for about five years, and what’s going to be interesting is will that change, and will more women seek to use these services?,” he said. “It will be interesting to do a larger study into the why – are they going to those services to get better contact than at current fertility or IVF clinics?”

He also said work would be done in examining the male side of the equation. “When we did the survey we collected both women participating, and men donating, but we’re still in the process of finishing the paper on the men,” he said. In fact the findings in relation to men could be just as crucial as women. Men forgo any right to anonymity when the donate sperm online. And that is what interests scientists like Stephen Whyte.  “But it’s the same thing… why are men happy to participate in this online sperm marketplace, when a regular donation at a clinic is completely anonymous? “ It’s a change in the way the human race is mating.”

You could say that again.

What Mobile Phones Will Look Like In 20 Years From Now

When I started in journalism, thirty plus years ago, there were no computers, or the Internet. We used to write our stories initially with a pen and notebook and then on typewriters back in the office using carbon copy paper. It wasn’t quite the Stone Age, although there was a person called the stone sub whose job it was to make the last minute changes to hot metal used to print a newspaper. When I think about the past, I get a little misty eyed. It makes me nostalgic. There was a certain romance in the way newspapers used to be written, created and printed which I kind of miss. But you can’t stop progress. Then came computers, email and mobile phones. In the case of mobile phones, we’ve discovered we can’t live without them. They’ve undergone their own revolution. In the 30 years since the first mobile phone was offered for sale, we’ve seen it morph from a wallet busting brick, into a super slim computer that can do virtually anything we want from entertaining us to saying what we should be doing next. But what interests me is where to from here? What if we could see into the future? What is the next generation, and several generations after that, mobile phone going to look like? What are the innovations already being played with by engineers and scientists in Hi Tech laboratories around the world? Is the future of the device set to change at warp speed? So, somewhat ambitiously, I thought I would try and answer those questions. I did some digging and this is what I came up with by way of research and the best guesses on where mobile phone technology is heading. To make it easier, I’ve divided the technological predictions from the next two years, all the way through to the next 20.

Let’s begin with the next 1 to 2 years.

Mobiles were truly ugly when they were first introduced but at least they could withstand rough treatment. In recent years there’s been a tradeoff in mobile phone design, with resilience winning out in favour of artistic beauty. But the future will witness yet another transformation with the introduction of unbreakable mobile phones. Weatherproof handsets are already proving to be a surprise hit with consumers who want their mobile device to be made of tougher stuff. Manufacturers will be looking to use the latest materials, including scratch and shatterproof infused glass, as well as liquid metal for cases, to make them virtually indestructible and, able to bounce back to their original shape after being dented.

Modular mobile phones will hit the market where customers can buy a handset made from features they pick and choose to be included. There’s already a project under way that will allow consumers to decide what their custom handset can do and what it will look like so they can create a phone that perfectly fits their needs. For example, if there’s a phone that has a great camera, but you don’t need the other stuff, this modular approach would allow you to have the best of everything or cherry pick the bits that are important to you. Expect to see the pick ‘n’ mix smartphones shift the goalposts in the immediate future.

In 3 to 5 years, with smartphone screens getting bigger, and people spending more time on mobiles than any other device, expect to see super high resolution, cinema quality displays on handsets. This will be a quantum leap from the monochrome, one line displays of the 90s. We will be looking at full 4K screens, that’s four times the resolution of High Definition, right in the palm of your hand. This feast for the eyes is only just reaching our television living rooms today but mobile makers are already eyeing it up for pocket size gadgets. It’s unlikely that mobile sizes will continue to grow at this stage with around five inches or 12 centimetres fast becoming the optimum size. But within three years, stunning 4K screen will be the de rigueur. And If you think 4G browsing on your phone is pretty fast today, just wait a few years and you’ll be falbbergasted. The next generation wireless mobile network will be at warp speed by comparison, quick enough to download a high def movie in just 30 seconds. It will also make storage size obsolete as everything from your apps including entertainment could be accessed from the storage cloud within the blink of an eye. The infrastructure for this technology is being prepared for release in 2020.

The camera will also evolve in our smartphones to do far more than just your standard selfie. It will have 3D technology using wide angle lenses and sensors so you will be able to map your surroundings, that will mean you can actually walk around inside your photos. Mobile cameras will understand and process the space around you and then remodel it into a 3D image. For example, you could revisit old birthday party pictures, explore old holiday photos, or take a look around hotels, houses for sale or eBay items in great detail. The technology is currently being tested in mobile handsets.

In 6 to 10 years, the fabled foldable mobile phone, which has been talked about almost as long as the flying car will become a reality. This remarkable innovation will be brought about by breakthroughs in material technology — in particular a super thin, super strong and conductive wonder material called Graphene. There are already mobile phones on the market that have a slight bend in them and manufacturers are showing off these flexible devices at tech shows, but within ten years we could see mobiles that can change shape to suit our needs and roll up right into our pocket. There wouldn’t be a need for both a tablet and a mobile, or for you to decide what screen size to choose— imagine being able to unravel a screen that adapts to different sizes? You can make it bigger for browsing the internet or smaller if you just want to make a phone call. Mobile manufacturers are keen on this flexible, wrappable, mouldable, unbreakable mobile device and research labs like the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Canada have already begun producing a prototype. Batteries last about as long as a sneeze these days but in the Hi Tech future, our devices could run for 20 years on a single charge. A team at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, have developed a titanium dioxide gel that stores lithium ions in its nanostructure which makes it the Holy Grail as far an everlasting battery is concerned. But that is not the only development in battery technology. There’s a team in South Korea looking to transform the heat that’s generated from our bodies into electricity to power mobile phones. There’s also the idea of piezoelectricity, which converts movement into energy so we could walk and charge our mobile phone at the same time. Believe it or not researchers in California have created a tattoo that generates electricity from human sweat. So if you will pardon the pun we won’t have to sweat the future of a mobile phone’s power supply.

In 10 to 15 years those holographic floating displays that used to be the stuff of science fiction movies, will burst out of our mobile devices. Researchers are working on a 3D screen that materialises into thin air which we can move and manipulate. It’s already being developed by a startup company called Ostendo Technologies. Their ‘Quantum Photonic Imager’ is a mini projector that can beam a high resolution image into the open. That technology could be fine tuned so that we’re fully interactive with the floating screen — we could watch sport being played in front of us, get inside maps and play games in a 3D space created for us. Wearable technology is even trying to remove the necessity of carrying a phone and in future years the physical handset could disappear altogether. Just as the smartphone managed to overwhelm the hardware of developments like Sat Nav, MP3 players, wallets, and to some degree watches and compact cameras,the new smart watches and smart glasses will be operated by spoken command and they will become the primary communication device. The screen would be projected in front of the glasses in a Heads Up Display or through a pill sized holographic projector that would unfurl in midair. It would spell the end of the selfie. What a shame.

Finally, in 20 to 30 years we’ll look back and be highly amused at how we once had to actually hold a mobile phone to operate it. Going way beyond wearables, is a smart contact lens that could offer a device free experience to display messages, web pages, directions and video literally right in front of your eye. A lens with basic computer circuitry is currently being tested, which includes sensors that will provide important medical alerts such as when a diabetic reaches dangerous glucose levels. With nanotechnology having the potential to build robots the size of blood cells, the prospect of developing computing components small enough to fit on a contact lens is a distinct possibility. As the memory of clunky, manual mobile handsets morph into a world of invisible communication devices, plugged straight into our bodies, we will also see highly sophisticated operating systems that we can talk to as if they were another human being. Artificial Intelligence with built in personal assistants which become intuitive, knowing what we like, where we’ve been and what we’re doing.

If our mobiles can already work out and tell us when to leave work in order to catch our usual train home while reminding us to say happy birthday to an office colleague  and warning us about the number of calories there are in a biscuit even before we’ve eaten it, how hard can it be to imagine what else it will be able to do? Forget about asking Siri if it’s going to rain, you can have a full blown conversation, if you want to, about the state of the weather all over the world.

A computer has already been designed to dominate the television game show Jeopardy,  providing complex human like answers to questions. Some, like me, might find all of this terrifying but techno geeks, I’m sure, can’t wait. As one wag suggested, Artificial Intelligence is coming so you better get your small talk ready or you will run out of things to say.

A Chinese Company Builds An Apartment Block And A Mansion Using A 3D Printer

There are some naysayers who think climate change doesn’t exist. It’s a greenhouse, or should I say, outhouse myth. Don’t get me wrong. I am not one of them. To me, the evidence is unequivocal. Sea levels are rising and the world is getting warmer. Time is also running out. Some scientists believe we are close to midnight in terms of doing anything meaningful to stop climate change from destroying our world.

But this is not meant to be a discussion on climate change as worthy as that might be. What I am really wittering on about here is the remarkable something that just happened in China, indirectly related to climate change. It may change the way we live. It will certainly change the way we build.

A Chinese company has just constructed an apartment block, and what is quaintly described as a McMansion, using (wait for it) a 3D printer. Go figure. In case you are wondering, is it the same kind of ink jet print used to print copy on pieces of A4 paper? Absolutely. Obviously, we are talking about a ginormous version. The printer is 105 feet or 30 metres long, 33 feet or 10 metres wide and 21 feet or 6 metres high. In fact it resembles a giant piping bag used to decorate cakes. But instead of using ink, the giant 3D printer lays down a cement like material partly made from construction waste, like concrete dust, fiberglass strands, sand and a hardening agent to build walls and ceilings tough enough to withstand an earthquake. The company called Winsun Decoration Design Engineering, constructed a six storey apartment and a mansion, of about 11 thousand square feet or 1,100 square metres, side-by-side in an industrial park in eastern China. And how long did it take for them to do it? This part you are not going to believe. The answer is less than a week, for both buildings. The five storey apartment took one day to print and five additional days to assemble. Not only is it quick, it is environmentally friendly.

The construction method is extraordinary. 3D printing works through a process of layering. The printer reads a file, the same as a deskjet reads an image, and then translates that into a physical object the way your printer spits out ink on to a page—one strip at a time. The “ink” in this 3D printer is recyclable construction material that shoots out of a nozzle and onto a platform. It will gradually build layers with curves until it reaches the top. You could call it a bottom-up process. What is so exciting about this technology is that it’s better suited to creating or prototyping new shapes rather than reproducing existing ones. The Chinese company Winsun constructed preforms for its two buildings that are simply bolted together in much the same way as you would do if you were building a giant Leggo set. The prefabs are then reinforced with steel and filled with insulation, which is the procedure followed in every other traditional construction project. Of course this method of building has produced some remarkable statistics. The company says it cut construction costs, when compared to a standard built project, by 60 percent with 70 percent lower production time and an 80 percent lower cost. The mansion, although huge in size, cost as little as US$161,000 to build. Speed is the key feature. The company says completing the various elements of the structures takes only 30 percent of the time needed to finish a similar structure using traditional construction methods. The company wants to use 3D printers to build bridges and skyscrapers.

This is definitely a new way of building and the possibilities are endless. In fact, last year, Winsun wanted to prove a point so it constructed ten houses in less than 24 hours, each of them about 2,100 square feet, costing US$5,000 to build. Can you imagine how this would benefit low-income housing projects, disaster relief in poor countries, or refugees fleeing war? Instead of living in tents or other crude or rudimentary forms of shelter, these houses could be either temporary or permanent accommodation. These developments have caused a lot of people all over the world to suddenly get very excited. It is not hard to see why. There are key benefits, too good to pass up, for using a 3D printer as a method of construction. Ironically, as a design becomes more complex, the cost of 3D printing drops substantially when compared to traditional methods. And the reason for that is because a 3D printer can literally reinvent the wheel. It can create any prototype you want. The only limit is your imagination. Or course that has architects, all over the world, positively licking their lips. It means that architects can dream up and build all sorts of fantastic structures that are currently either too difficult or too expensive to construct using traditional methods. These kinds of buildings would also be safer for the people living in them as well as the people constructing them. Structures built with curves are inherently stronger. Pillars with greater density towards their edges are sturdier and because fewer construction workers will be needed to build these buildings there will be fewer deaths and injuries. But nothing is perfect. It also means there will be less jobs in the construction industry.

3D printers can also be used for construction of a different kind. For years, scientists were able to “print” types of human tissue using a 3D printer, but in a significant leap forward by both American and Australian researchers, scientists can now make that human tissue survive on its own.

Until now, a major barrier to medical researchers moving from printing tiny sheets of tissue, to entire 3D organs, is that they hadn’t worked out how to develop the vital blood vessels that provide the cells with nutrients and oxygen, and allow them to excrete waste. This essential process is called “vascularisation” and is necessary if researchers are to prevent cells from dying before they can grow into large, transplantable organs. But in a major joint medical breakthrough, researchers from Sydney and Harvard universities have managed to use a 3D printer to bio-print capillaries, the tiny channels that allow vascularisation to take place so that cells can sustain themselves and survive. The process is ingenious. This high-tech “bio-printer,” allows researchers to fabricate tiny, interconnected fibres that serve as the mould for artificial blood vessels. They then cover the 3D printed structure, with a cell-rich protein-based material, which is solidified by shining light on it. Finally, they remove the bio-printed fibres, leaving behind a network of tiny capillaries coated with human endothelial cells, which form stable blood capillaries and all of this happens in less than a week. Biomedical engineer and a leader of the research team, the University of Sydney’s Dr Luiz Bertassoni, said printing organs may still be a couple of decades away, but this was a “great step” towards achieving that goal. “We have shown that we can print these capillaries, we have shown they are functional, that they mature to form capillaries and that we can tailor make them to the sizes and structures we need,” he said. “Tissue engineering to make simpler tissues has been a reality for a number of years and through what we have been able to achieve, we can start talking about larger, more complex tissues that are able to survive longer.”

While the majority of the research was carried out at Harvard University, Bertassoni said a laboratory had recently been established at the University of Sydney so the work could continue in Australia. After the findings were published in the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Bertassoni said he was contacted by patients, wanting to know if this technology means organs can now be printed? While that is still a number of years away, what the medical team had achieved was ‘game-changing.’

But it hasn’t stopped scientists from trying to make human organs using a 3D printer. Harvard researchers are trying to print functioning human kidneys, while a team at the University of Louisville in Kentucky is trying to create a 3-D-printed heart. “Thousands of people die each year due to a lack of organs for transplantation,” Bertassoni said. “Many more are subjected to the surgical removal of tissues and organs due to cancer, or they’re involved in accidents with large fractures and injuries. “While printing organs may be a couple of decades away, I also wouldn’t be surprised if I was wrong about that because this type of engineering is moving so rapidly. I would so love to be wrong.”

I think we all hope that you are Doctor Bertassoni.

The Doctor Taken To Task For Including Junk Food In His Daughter’s School Lunch

Now here is something really thought provoking. A father was strongly criticised by his daughter’s substitute teacher, because she considered the school lunch, he packed for the little girl, was too unhealthy.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of that happening, but maybe it needs to happen more often than it has.

The teacher sent a note home with the child demanding that the father promise to do a better job in the future. In the note, the daughter’s substitute teacher, at Kirksville Primary School in Missouri, listed the unhealthy foods in the little girl’s school lunch, which included four chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, crackers and a pickle. It ended: “Please see that she packs a proper lunch tomorrow.” The letter was followed by a request for a parental signature, which the father refused to give, because he was so offended by the letter’s contents.

Wait. There’s more. Here’s where the story gets really interesting.

The Dad in question, a man called Justin Puckett, also happens to be a family Doctor from Missouri. He posted the contents of the letter on Facebook.

Now I am sure many will think, some might even say, as a Doctor, Justin Puckett, should know better than to send his daughter to school with a lunch containing so much junk food.  In his defense, the Doctor and father said “I have the ultimate responsibility to raise my children and I take that role very, very seriously and so maybe I took it bit more personally that there was some offence that maybe I wasn’t doing a good job in that duty, something that is my number one job.”

Of course a cynic might say if it’s your number one job Justin, you need to be doing it better.

To be fair, Justin Puckett, also made the point that the teacher did not give an accurate description of what was in his daughter’s lunch: “Unfortunately, the letter didn’t have what she had, correctly. She had four pieces of ham, a whole protein meat, she also had some pickles, which we admittedly cheat on pickles every once and a while as a vegetable, because some fights just aren’t worth having. She also had four marshmallows in a Ziploc bag and then she had three very small pieces of chocolate, of which she ate one for lunch and then she also gave her brother and another friend one at an after school program,” Puckett said.

The school later called the family to apologise saying the substitute teacher was out of order. The school released a statement saying: “we had an individual take it upon themselves to send a note home to parents ……this will not happen again.”

Puckett went on to say “The issue isn’t what happened at the Primary School and with my daughter because she is very independent and going to be completely unaffected by this. But what does bother me is that it just seems that we are constantly being inundated with the inability to be parents of our children,”

Has Puckett got a point? Or was the substitute teacher in the wrong here? In the court of public opinion I am not so sure. The substitute teacher obviously takes her job very seriously. She sees herself as an educator whose role is to promote healthy minds and bodies. She thought she was doing the right thing. No way could that school lunch be said to be healthy. The child might have got away with one piece of chocolate but if you were to ask any nutritionist, four pieces of chocolate and a bag of marshmallows is definitely a bridge too far. Now, you might think it silly to be having an argument over some junk food. But what isn’t silly is the latest missive from the World Health Organisation, warning that diseases linked to lifestyle choices, including diabetes and some cancers, kill 16 million people prematurely each year and urgent action is needed to stop what it describes as a “slow moving, public health disaster”. Unhealthy habits like consuming too much fat, salt and sugar along with smoking and alcohol abuse, are causing an epidemic of diseases, which together constitute the leading cause of death globally. The WHO says this “lifestyle disease” epidemic “ is a much greater public health threat than any other epidemic in human history.

” Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and a range of cancers, killed 38 million people around the globe in 2012 — 16 million of them under the age of 70, the WHO says. ”  Not thousands are dying, but millions are dying … every year in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, not in their 80s and 90s.”

Forty two million children under the age of five are considered to be obese, and an estimated 84 per cent of adolescents do not get enough exercise.

In Australia, for example, some leading health groups have called on the Government to consider introducing a tax on junk food and sugary drinks. The Consumers Health Forum, the Heart Foundation, the Obesity Policy Coalition and the Public Health Association of Australia are calling on the government to take decisive action to end the widespread marketing of junk food and drink. The groups surveyed 1016 people, and 50 per cent supported a government imposed tax on junk food and sugary drinks, similar to the tax on alcohol and tobacco. The research also showed 79 per cent of people believe if a child’s intake of junk food is not lowered they will live shorter lives than their parents. Seventy-seven per cent of people polled, support making it compulsory for all packaged foods to have a health star rating. Eighty five per cent of people surveyed, say unhealthy eating habits is now a major problem for Australian children. It is the first time four major health groups have joined forces to demand action from the Government, which they say is now urgent.

“Despite at least six reports from task forces, obesity summits and research papers in the past 20 years advocating firm measures to stop marketing junk food to children, the advertising of fat, sugar and salt drenched products continues largely unrestricted,” the groups say in a joint statement. “Unless immediate action is taken to address dietary related illness there will be a significant increase in cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.” Heart Foundation National CEO, Mary Barry believes introducing a tax will help protect Australian children and stem the cost of obesity in this country which is estimated at $56 billion a year. “The obesity crisis is threatening a whole generation of children,” Ms Barry said.

Those are compelling reasons for why a dispute over four chocolates and a bag of marshmallows isn’t so inconsequential after all and why a father and a doctor should know better, and a substitute teacher might not have been so out of order in reminding him.