Archive | Housing Policy & Research

Murder Costs Society — About $17 Million

AMES, Iowa, Oct. 6 (UPI) — Murder has a human cost, of course, but U.S. sociologists say there’s a financial cost as well — about $17 million per murder.

Researchers at Iowa State University calculated the costs of five crimes — murder, rape, armed robbery, aggravated assault and burglary — in terms of the victim costs, criminal justice system costs, lost productivity estimates for both the victim and the criminal, and estimates on the public’s resulting willingness to pay to prevent future violence, a university release says.

They calculated the societal cost of rape ($448,532), armed robbery ($335,733), aggravated assault ($145,379) and burglary ($41,288).

While research attaching cost estimates to heinous crimes may appear a bit cold in nature, one researcher says it’s actually conducted with prevention in mind.

“This area of research has really been run with prevention researchers,” Matt DeLisi, an ISU associate professor of sociology and director of the criminal justice program, said. “That’s because what they find is that even if a prevention program is very expensive — and most of them are actually shockingly inexpensive — they’re still more cost effective than allowing these careers to unfold.”

The study was published in the August 2010 edition of The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Justice, Other0 Comments

Blind Inventors Develop Computer Tool

SYDNEY, Oct. 5 (UPI) — Two blind Australian inventors have developed a way for the blind to access and use computers without needing expensive technology, observers say.

Faced with the prospect of spending upward of $1,000 to buy specialized “screen reader” software, Queensland University of Technology graduate James Teh and business partner Michael Curran developed a free program called NVDA, or NonVisual Desktop Access, which provides a synthetic voice to read the words on a computer screen as the cursor moves over them, a university release says.

Teh, who majored in software engineering, said most blind students typically don’t have the money to purchase screen reader technology at the period in their life when they most need it.

“We really are in the information age — everything is online these days,” Teh said. “So access to computers for the blind and vision impaired is incredibly important, which is why we wanted our software to be free.”

NVDA can be downloaded on to anyone’s personal computer free of charge.

“It can also be copied to a USB stick, which can be used on any PC at school or university, with no installation required,” Teh said.

Teh and Curran have used their own experiences as blind computer users to develop a product with innovative features.

For example, as the mouse cursor moves up and down the screen, a small beeping sound becomes higher and lower in pitch to let you know where the cursor is located.

NVDA has been translated into 27 languages, thanks to volunteer translators, and has already been downloaded more than 50,000 times.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other0 Comments

Optical Technique Could Spot Early Cancer

EVANSTON, Ill., Oct. 5 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say an optical scanning technology could detect early signs of lung cancer by examining cheek cells in human beings.

Researchers from Northwestern University say the pioneering “biophotonics” technology shows potential for pre-screening patients at his risk for the disease, a Northwestern release said.

“By examining the lining of the cheek with this optical technology, we have the potential to pre-screen patients at high risk for lung cancer, such as those who smoke, and identify the individuals who would likely benefit from more invasive and expensive tests versus those who don’t need additional tests,” said Dr. Hemant K. Roy, director of gastroenterology research at NorthShore HealthSystem, a partner with Northwestern in the research.

Vadim Backman, professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied science, developed the technique, called partial wave spectroscopic microscopy.

PWS can detect cell features as small as 20 nanometers, uncovering differences in cells not apparent using standard microscopy techniques, researchers say.

“Despite the fact that these cells appear to be normal using standard microscopy … there are actually profound changes in the nanoscale architecture of the cell,” Backman said. “PWS measures the disorder strength of the nanoscale organization of the cell, which we have determined to be one of the earliest signs of carcinogenesis and a strong marker for the presence of cancer in the organ.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Architecture, Engineering, Other0 Comments

Blind Inventors Develop Computer Tool

SYDNEY, Oct. 5 (UPI) — Two blind Australian inventors have developed a way for the blind to access and use computers without needing presently expensive technology, observers say.

Faced with the prospect of spending upwards of $1,000 to buy specialized “screen reader” software, Queensland University of Technology graduate James Teh and business partner Michael Curran developed a free program called NVDA, or NonVisual Desktop Access, which provides a synthetic voice to read the words on a computer screen as the cursor moves over them, a QUT release says.

Teh, who majored in software engineering, said most blind students typically don’t have the funds to purchase screen reader technology at the period in their life when they most need it.

“We really are in the information age — everything is online these days,” Teh said. “So access to computers for the blind and vision impaired is incredibly important, which is why we wanted our software to be free.”

NVDA can be downloaded on to anyone’s personal computer free of charge.

“It can also be copied to a USB stick, which can be used on any PC at school or university, with no installation required,” Teh said.

Teh and Curran have used their own experiences as blind computer users to develop a product with innovative features.

For example, as the mouse cursor moves up and down the screen, a small beeping sound becomes higher and lower in pitch to let you know where the cursor is located.

NVDA has been translated into 27 languages, thanks to volunteer translators, and has already been downloaded more than 50,000 times.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other0 Comments

Ancient Petroglyphs Defaced

WILLIAMS, Ariz., Oct. 3 (UPI) — A vandal defaced a remote rock wall containing ancient petroglyphs in Arizona which had stood unaltered for at least 1,000 years, a local archaeologist said.

The preserved cultural record in Keyhole Sink in northern Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest contained etchings depicting people, animals and a blazing sun — an archaeological treasure which was defaced when someone painted “ACE” on top of the glyphs in sloppy, dripping lettering, The Arizona Republic reported Sunday.

“It’s beyond words,” Kaibab archaeologist Neil Weintraub said of the damage. “It feels like an attack on this site. What has it done except give people pleasure for years?”

There is an ongoing attack on ancient archaeological sites in Arizona and across the Southwest, the newspaper said. They are defaced with paint, bullet marks, paintball stains and messages scratched into rocks.

Professional thieves remove pottery, hack out chunks of ancient art-covered rock and dislodge anything they can carry away, the newspaper said.

The sites are vulnerable and operated on the, apparently erroneous, assumption people are decent and won’t indulge in the kind of behavior going on, officials said.

“We can’t monitor them all, and neither can the land managers,” said Nicole Armstrong-Best, interim coordinator for Arizona’s Site Stewards program which oversees a group of 800 volunteers who monitor about 3,000 of the most significant sites in the program, the Republic reported.

“It hurts us emotionally, because this is just such a special place,” Margaret Hangan, Kaibab National Forest’s heritage-program manager said. “It’s really hard to see that not everybody feels the same way we do about it.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Art, Other0 Comments

'Nano-needle' Used for Cell Research

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Oct. 1 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they’ve developed a needle so tiny it can deliver a research payload called quantum dots directly into the nucleus of a human cell.

Quantum dots are tiny specks of semiconductor material only a few molecules big that can be used to monitor microscopic processes and cellular conditions.

“Lots of people rely on quantum dots to monitor biological processes and gain information about the cellular environment,” Min-Feng Yu, a professor of mechanical science and engineering at the University of Illinois, said.

“But getting quantum dots into a cell for advanced applications is a problem,” he said.

Now Yu and his colleagues have come up with a “nano-needle” so fine it can inject the dots into a pinpointed location within the nucleus, a university release said.

“This technique allows us to physically access the internal environment inside a cell,” Yu said. “It’s almost like a surgical tool that allows us to ‘operate’ inside the cell.”

The researcher coated a single nanotube, only 50 nanometers wide, with a very thin layer of gold, creating a nanoscale electrode probe.

They then loaded the needle with quantum dots. A small electrical charge releases the quantum dots from the needle.

This provides a level of control not achievable by other molecular delivery methods, they say.

“Location is very important in cellular functions,” researcher Ning Wang said. “Using the nano-needle approach you can get to a very specific location within the nucleus. That’s a key advantage of this method.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other0 Comments

Particle Physics Pioneer Charpak Dies

PARIS, Oct. 1 (UPI) — Nobel Prize-winning physicist Georges Charpak, who revolutionized the study of high-energy particle physics, has died in Paris, officials said.

Charpak, inventor of a particle detector that improved the way scientists conducted high-energy particle physics experiments, was 86.

No cause of death was given, The Washington Post reported.

Charpak was born to Jewish parents in Poland. His family moved to France when he was 7. When the Germans invaded in 1940, Charpak was a French resistance fighter but was arrested by Vichy officials in 1943. Transferred to German custody in 1944 he spent a year in the Dachau concentration camp until it was liberated by Allied forces.

After the war, Charpak received a doctorate in nuclear physics from the College de France in Paris.

In 1968, Charpak was a physicist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where he developed the multiwire proportional chamber, a particle detector that used computers to collect data 1,000 times faster than previous devices.

Charpak called it “a little thing which propagated in a couple of years like a fire in the experiments of my colleagues.”

“My very modest contribution to physics has been in the art of weaving in space thin wires detecting the whisper of nearby flying charged particles produced in high-energy nuclear collisions,” Charpak said at his Nobel Prize ceremony.

“It is easy for computers to transform these whispers into a symphony understandable to physicists.”

Almost every experiment in the study of subatomic particles today uses detectors based on Charpak’s design.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Art, Nuclear, Other0 Comments

Homeless Youth Most Vulnerable to Crime

TORONTO, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Homeless young people are the victims of crime at rates that would be considered unacceptable for any other groups, Canadian researchers say.

Researchers at York University in Toronto and University of Guelph suggest youth homelessness needs to be addressed with a balanced response rather than reliance on emergency services. They say transitional support is needed to help move young people out of homelessness.

“The very people we are taught to fear are the ones who are most at risk,” Stephen Gaetz of York University says in a statement. “More than 76 percent of the homeless youth we surveyed said they had been victims of violent crime in the past year and almost three-quarters of them reported multiple incidents.”

In contrast, Gaetz says, the Canadian General Social Survey reports about 40 percent of general population young people reported being crime victims in the previous year.

Gaetz and colleagues interviewed 244 homeless youths in Toronto. Their report was commissioned by Justice for Children and Youth, a non-profit clinic that provides legal advice and support to homeless youth in Toronto.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Justice, Other0 Comments

Rocket Pioneer Robert Truax Dies

VALLEY CENTER, Calif., Sept. 30 (UPI) — Robert C. Truax, considered one of the leading rocket scientists of the 20th century, has died in California, his family said.

Truax’s wife Marisol said he died Sept. 17 in Valley Center of prostate cancer at age 93, The New York Times reported.

Truax was a career naval officer lent to the Air Force for top-secret projects and later became a corporate aerospace executive and an entrepreneur, the Times said.

In early research for the Navy he laid the groundwork for the liquid-fuelled rockets vital to American space efforts and was a leader in developing the Thor, Viking and Polaris missile programs.

As president of the American Rocket Society, Truax was an indefatigable booster of the American space program.

Truax was born Sept. 3, 1917, in Gary, Ind., after which the family moved to Northern California and later settled in Alameda, where Truax completed 12 years of school in nine years and became an Eagle Scout.

He graduated from the Naval Academy with a degree in mechanical engineering, writing scientific articles on rockets.

Truax is survived by his third wife, Marisol Guzman, four children from his first marriage, two sons from his second, seven grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other0 Comments

World 'water Threats' Mapped in Study

NEW YORK, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Nearly 80 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with an “insecure” supply of fresh water due to scarcity and pollution, U.S. researchers say.

The study that mapped water availability and quality down to the regional level shows 3.4 billion people live in areas of severe “water threats,” the BBC reported Wednesday.

“What we’ve done is to take a very dispassionate look at the facts on the ground — what is going on with respect to humanity’s water security and what the infrastructure that’s been thrown at this problem does to the natural world,” study leader Charles Vorosmarty from the City College of New York said.

“What we’re able to outline is a planet-wide pattern of threat, despite the trillions of dollars worth of engineering palliatives that have totally reconfigured the threat landscape,” Vorosmarty said, referring to the dams, canals, aqueducts and pipelines employed by the developed world to safeguard drinking-water supplies.

Conserving water through reservoirs and dams works for people, but not nature, the researchers said, and they urged developing countries not to follow the same path.

Instead, they say governments should invest in water-management strategies that combine infrastructure with “natural” options such as safeguarding watersheds, wetlands and floodplains.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Infrastructure, Other0 Comments

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