Thursday, May 26, 2011

Now Lamborghini to build 'family' car

Supercar maker Lamborghini is set to build its first four-seater model since the LM002 SUV of the 1980s.

The Italian marque currently sells only two models, the V10 Gallardo and V12 Aventador, but Lamborghini's boss Stephan Winkelmann said at a luxury-brand forum this week that the company was considering a more practical "everyday" car for its third model.

"We are going to have a third model; it has to be an everyday car," said Winkelmann at the recent Reuters Global Luxury and Fashion Summit in Paris. "We want to have a car which is able to be used on a daily basis."

Winkelmann hinted strongly last year that a "four-door car would be a very feasible approach" to expanding the brand's vehicle range. After he all but ruled out a new SUV last year, a production version of Lamborghini's 2008 sedan concept, called the Estoque, is more likely for the car that is not expected until 2015.

The Estoque is a front-mid-engined design with permanent all-wheel drive and a 3.0-metre wheelbase that's marginally longer than that of Porsche's four-door Panamera.

At the time of its global debut, the House of the Raging Bull announced few other statistics, other than to say that a production version could be powered by either the Gallardo LP560-4's 412kW/540Nm 5.2-litre V10 or "a turbocharged eight-cylinder derived from this V10''.

It also tempted that "a particularly economical, but nevertheless dynamic, variation would be a V8 with a hybrid module or an extremely high-performance TDI".

Lamborghini does not plan to work with a partner on the new model, but ''we will use synergies where possible within the (Volkswagen) group,'' added Winkelmann.

An "everyday" model has the potential to significantly boost sales volumes and profitability for Lamborghini. It was affected by the global financial crisis more than some of its rivals, including Ferrari, but says it expects to increase sales this year to about 1500 units.

Strong demand from emerging markets such as China and Russia could be hot targets for the Estoque as sales of high-end models are growing.

The new Lamborghini may be more practical but it's unlikely to be more affordable, with a price tag likely to be several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A high-end sporty, coupe-like four-door would join a trend started by the Mercedes-Benz CLS in 2004 and followed in recent years by the Panamera and Aston Martin Rapide.

Ferrari isn't expected to produce a four-door model any time soon, though its latest supercar - the FF - is its most practical model yet, featuring a hatchback-style rear end and all-wheel drive.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Relationship between Coffee & blood pressure, dementia, skin cancer

PROS: Drinking just one cup of a coffee a day could reduce your blood pressure, according to a Greek study of 485 people aged 65 to 100.

The researchers found those who drank between one and two cups daily had the healthiest arteries.

The scientists believe this is due to antioxidants in the coffee increasing the production of nitric oxide, a compound found naturally in the body. Nitric oxide helps relax artery walls, and lowers blood pressure.

And a single cup could boost your brainpower, too: a Bristol University study of 600 people found those who had a cup of regular coffee performed better in mental tests than those who drank decaffeinated coffee or nothing.

This may be because caffeine causes more sugar to travel to the brain, giving it extra energy and creating a temporary ‘lift’, says Dr Sarah Schenker, a dietitian.

CONS: Even one cup during the day could keep you counting sheep late into the night, says Sian Porter, of the British Dietetic Association. It takes around eight hours to completely remove caffeine from the body, she explains, so don’t drink a cup after 3pm to 4pm if you suffer from sleep troubles.

PROS: This amount of coffee a day could keep Alzheimer’s at bay, say scientists from the University of Florida. Although the findings came from animal research, the team say that around 200mg of caffeine, the equivalent of two cups of coffee, could help prevent the build-up of proteins in the brain that have been linked to memory loss associated with the disease.

And drinking the equivalent of two cups of coffee 30 minutes before exercise may enhance your performance by providing you with more energy, suggests a study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine.

‘It stimulates the production of fatty acids in your body which you use for fuel — it’s like opening the cap on your reserve tank,’ says Dr Schenker.

CONS: ‘If you’re pregnant, your upper caffeine intake limit should be 200mg, or two cups of regular-strength coffee,’ says Dr Schenker.

‘It’s thought the caffeine causes the body to release high levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which could increase the risk of miscarriage.’

PROS: The caffeine intake from three cups a day can reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer by a fifth, the American medical journal Cancer reported in 2008.

After studying more than 122,000 women, researchers found the benefits were even greater for women who’d never been on the contraceptive pill or HRT (their risk was reduced by 35 and 43 per cent respectively).

Men who drink three cups of coffee have a 40 per cent lower risk of developing gallstones, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The scientists believe the caffeine stimulates contractions in the gall bladder, helping to remove any small stones before they become a problem.

CONS: Coffee drinkers who have more than three cups a day may increase their risk of heart attack, a U.S. study in 2006 found.

‘After around three cups of coffee, your heart will beat noticeably faster, raising blood pressure slightly,’ explains Dr Schenker.

And bizarrely, drinking just three cups of a coffee a day may make some women’s breasts shrink, according to researchers from Lund University in Stockholm.

The scientists surveyed almost 300 women about their bust size and coffee consumption, and found a clear link between drinking three or more cups of coffee daily and smaller breasts. The effect of caffeine on oestrogen levels could be responsible for the results, say the researchers.

PROS: There is 400mg of caffeine in four cups of coffee and this amount is thought to provide the maximum benefit of coffee’s disease-combating antioxidants.

‘Tea and coffee are packed with antioxidant polyphenols, which can potentially cut the risk of cancer,’ says Dr Michelle Harvey, research dietitian at the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Centre, University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust.

‘Studies show it promotes production of a less potent form of the cancer-causing hormone oestrogen,’ she says.

University of Utah scientists found people who drink four cups daily are 39 per cent less likely to suffer from cancers of the mouth and larynx.

Other research suggests this amount may also reduce the risk of developing colorectal and prostate cancer, as well as type-2 diabetes.

CONS: People who drink this amount are twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
Researchers believe coffee may increase the levels of compounds in the body that can lead to inflammation and joint pain.

PROS: Researchers at the National Cancer Centre in Tokyo found that drinking five cups of coffee reduced the risk of serious liver damage by three quarters.

Their findings were based on a study of 90,000 middle-aged men and women over ten years. The scientists believe antioxidants in the coffee may be responsible for the protective effect.

CONS: Several studies have shown that this amount of coffee is a risk factor for osteoporosis, as caffeine can interfere with the absorption of calcium.

However, many experts dispute this, and the National Osteoporosis Society says there is no conclusive evidence that coffee thins bones, but advises no more than five cups to be safe.

PROS: Drinking six or more cups a day can reduce the risk of some skin cancers by 31 per cent, according to researchers from Wayne State University in Detroit, who studied more than 90,000 women. They believe antioxidants may protect skin cells.

CONS: This amount of coffee can lead to dehydration, says Dr Schenker. ‘The coffee causes excess fluid to be lost from the body. 

This speeds up the elimination of minerals and vitamins — one of the key vitamins it depletes is B6, vital for preventing kidney stones.’

It can also cause the body to release hormones that, linked to anxiety and stress, can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, increase blood pressure and in turn, the risk of cardiovascular illnesses.

‘The constant “fight-or-flight” response this amount of caffeine has on your body can definitely have severe health implications,’ she adds.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Google takes step forward to battle iTunes, Amazon in online music service

Google has began letting people store music collections in virtual online libraries in a challenge to Apple's popular iTunes shop as well as a similar service from Amazon.

Google Music does not sell songs but allows users to store personal collections in the internet "cloud" for streaming to smartphones, tablet computers or other gadgets.

Google Music is being rolled out on an invitation-only basis in the United States to test the service, which the California internet giant envisions eventually making available worldwide. In a statement, Google Australia said it didn't "have a timeline to announce for an Australian release".

"When you add your music to the new service, you can listen to it on the web on any compatible device," said Google product manager Paul Joyce.

Google was getting around having to cut deals with music labels by letting people store digital versions of songs they already own in online "lockers" which they can access using gadgets linked to the internet.

As many as 20,000 songs could be stored at Google Music, Joyce said at the internet search giant's annual developers conference in San Francisco.

Invitations can be requested online at

The music service is a "compelling platform" for eventually selling digital music, according to Google director of digital Jamie Rosenberg. "It has been in our interest and has been in our plans to work with the music industry to sell music.

"Unfortunately, some of the major labels were only interested in doing so on terms that were unreasonable," he said. "That isn't going to stop us."

Rosenberg contended that Google Music is "a completely legal" service akin to a person storing music collections on home computer hard drives.

Stored music could be streamed to gadgets but digital files cannot be downloaded for sharing or copying.

Google Music takes aim at a similar service launched in March by internet retail powerhouse and is a long-coming step toward taking on Apple's iTunes digital content shop.

With Amazon Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, users can upload digital music, photos, videos and documents to Amazon servers and access the files through web browsers or phones and tablet computers running Google's Android software.

Music bought from or Apple's iTunes or from a personal collection is held in a digital "music locker" on the internet and can be accessed from computers running Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or Chrome web browsers.

Cloud Drive gives five gigabytes of free online storage to Amazon account holders and a free upgrade to 20GB with the purchase of an MP3 album. Users can also purchase 20GB for $US20 a year.

Google Music is free for the time being.

Apple sells music at iTunes and is reportedly working on an internet "cloud" storage service for streaming digital music collections but has not announced any plans.

Apple purchased an online music site called in December 2009 which hosted digital music collections on the web.

"Google is trying to differentiate its Android platform because they want Android to dominate," said Wedbush Morgan Securities managing director of research Michael Pachter.

Pachter said the move was a necessary tactic to keep Android devices popular in the fierce smartphone and tablet markets but shouldn't be a big deal for consumers who already have options for getting or storing music online.

"Another vendor of the same content at the same price isn't very exciting," Pachter said. "But, by integrating it into all Android devices Google can make a competitive advantage for Google."

Google also used the opening of its developers conference to announce it is adding movie rentals to its Android Market offering digital content for devices running Android software.

Movie rental prices start at $US1.99 and films could then be streamed to any Android-powered device. People have 30 days to view rented movies, and must finish watching them within 24 hours of starting.

More than 100 million Android devices have been activated worldwide and 400,000 new gadgets powered by the Google-backed software are activated daily, according to Google product manager Hugo Barra.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Video games make kids eat more says study

An hour spent playing video games may make teenage boys eat more over the rest of the day, a small study suggests.

The study, of 22 normal-weight teens, found that the boys ate a bigger lunch when they had a pre-meal video game, versus an hour spent relaxing. And they did not make up for the extra bites by burning more calories through gaming, or by eating less later in the day.

On average, the boys downed 163 calories more on the day when they played video games, researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Exactly what that means for video gamers' waistlines is unknown. But the findings add to studies that have linked kids' screen time - from TV and computers - to the odds of being overweight.

While those studies observed patterns, and do not prove cause-and-effect, the current study actually tested the idea that something about video-gaming itself might affect eating habits, explained lead researcher Jean-Philippe Chaput.

It's not clear why boys ate more on game day, according to Chaput, who researches obesity and lifestyle at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada.

"We didn't see an increase in hunger," he said, adding that neither the boys' self-ratings of hunger nor their levels of appetite hormones appeared to be affected by playing video games.

Instead, Chaput speculated that there is a subtle "mental-stress effect", and eating food may satisfy the brain's need for a "reward".

"And most of the food we'd want," Chaput said, "would be sugary and fatty".

He noted that in past research, he has found a similar effect of computer work on calorie intake.

For the current study, Chaput's team had the teenage boys come to a research lab on two separate days: on one morning, they played a soccer video game for an hour, followed by lunch; on another morning, they sat quietly for an hour before lunchtime.

The boys then went home and kept a record of what they ate for the rest of the day.

Overall, Chaput's team found, the teens spent more energy when they played video games than when relaxing. But their food intake more than compensated for the energy they burned that day, netting them an extra 163 calories.

There are still many questions - including whether findings from the research lab translate into the real world.

Chaput speculated that the number of extra calories could be even greater in real life, where kids often spend hours playing video games in a day, and may eat junk food while they play.

On the other hand, it's not clear if the extra calories seen in this study are an "acute effect" that would fade if someone played video games regularly, according to Chaput.

But if video games do regularly affect how kids eat, he said, it would be concerning. Even though an extra 163 calories "sounds minor", Chaput said, "if it is chronic, it could have a major effect over the years".

By comparison, a can of regular coca cola contains 90 calories.

For now, Chaput suggested that parents try to limit their kids' time in front of the TV and computer, and replace some of those sedentary hours with physical activity.

Experts generally recommend that children get no more than two hours of screen time per day. But research suggests that few kids meet that goal.

Chaput suggested that parents "act as role models" for their kids, and spend less time parked in front of the tube themselves. "Go outside and play with your kids," he advised.

Still, Chaput said he is not blaming video games for the childhood obesity epidemic. "Obesity prevention is complex. This is just one factor in the overall picture."

One question for future studies, he said, is what kind of effects "active" video games, like Wii games, might have on kids' calorie balance.

On the positive side, they get users to move and burn calories; but if they also encourage overeating as compared to old-fashioned exercise, like riding a bike, that would be a downside.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Like humans, Monkeys can remember what they've seen

Monkeys can recollect what they've seen, according to the study which offers some of the first clear evidence that, like humans, they have the capacity for memory.

Scientists found that rhesus monkeys can flexibly recall extremely simple shapes from memory, as evidenced by their ability to reproduce those shapes on a computer touch screen.

They say the findings suggest that human and monkey memory is more similar than scientists knew. Unlike recognition, recall shows an ability to remember things that are not present in the moment, the researchers explained.  Recall is necessary for planning and imagining and can increase the flexibility of navigation, social behaviour, and other cognitive skills.

Benjamin Basile, of Emory University in the United States said: 'The ability of monkeys to recall these shapes flexibly suggests that they might be able to recollect other types of information that would be useful to them in the wild.

'It's exciting to speculate that they may be able to recollect the appearance of monkeys they know, what favourite foods look like, or the path they would have to take to get to a water source.'

He said it's also possible that the monkeys use their recollection in very limited ways Basile added: 'Maybe it's often just easier to recognise the monkey, the food, or the landmark in front of you.

'What we do know is that they do seem to have the ability to recall information in the lab.' Earlier studies had shown that recall and recognition tests given to humans require different types of memory.

However, it had been difficult to devise recall tests suitable for other primates, given that they don't draw or talk.

In the new study, Basile and Robert Hampton trained five rhesus monkeys on a novel recall test in which they had to reproduce a simple figure on a touch screen from memory.

Those shapes included two or three boxes in a grid. After a delay, part of the shape appeared in a different location, and the monkeys had to 'draw' in the rest of the shape by touching where the other boxes should be.

As in humans, the monkeys remembered less in recall than in recognition tests, even under matched conditions, and recall performance deteriorated more slowly over time.

Importantly, the monkeys were able to transfer their memory skill to novel shapes; their recall ability wasn't limited only to the shapes they had seen during training.

The researchers say that the ability of rhesus monkeys to recall what they've seen in the past suggests that the ability to recollect does not depend on language and may have been present in our common ancestor 30 million years ago.

Basile said: 'Recollection and familiarity likely evolved because they solved functionally incompatible problems.

'For example, familiarity does not support detailed memory for context, but it is quick and resistant to distraction. 

'Recollection is slower and more vulnerable to distraction but supports a more detailed and flexible use of memory. 

'Familiarity might better allow rapid responses to foods and predators under distracting conditions, whereas recollection might be necessary to access knowledge of distant food locations or past social interactions for planning future behavior.'

The report was published online in the journal Current Biology.