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Cellphone ban at petrol stations a myth

The ban on the use of cellphones at petrol pumps is nothing more than an ‘urban myth’, according to a top industry body representing Australia’s mobile telecom sector.

The myth that mobile phones and petrol are an explosive combination surfaced in the 1990s and has since been perpetuated through warning signs at gas stations across the world.

“It’s not something that is a reality. It’s something that came forward in the early ‘90s and has been the subject of a bit of urban mythology,” said Chris Althaus, chief executive, Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association. However, Althaus said the association still favoured the ban on mobile phone use at petrol stations.

He said: “It's incredibly important that people are safe when they are filling their cars up with petrol, so we’re happy to support the idea that you don’t use a phone while you’re doing that. But it’s not on the basis that the device could somehow lead to a spark and ignition. That’s never been known to happen, and the physics would suggest that it’s nigh on impossible.”

Scientist Karl Kruszelnicki traces the myth back to an email sent to a Shell oil company office in Jamaica. The email gained credibility after a Shell employee passed it on.

Female toads grow fat to thwart unwanted mates!

A new study has revealed that female toads can thwart unwanted suitors by simply inflating their bodies.

The female toad, when grasped by its unwanted male counterpart, inflates itself so that the rival males can throw off the unwanted one, scientists found.

“Our study shows that females can exert mate choice by inflating their bodies,” said lead author Bas Bruning, an ecologist at Vrije University in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Competition in mating seasons is tough. Males gather at suitable water holes and jump on any female when she approaches.

They then battle each other for the best or —  ideally for one of them — the sole amplexus position — mounting a female’s back and gripping her by the armpits.

The scientists conducted an experiment with two groups of male and female frogs — one in which the females could inflate and the other in which they couldn’t.

“We found the number of male takeovers is much higher when females can inflate than when they cannot,” Bruning said.

For now, it is not known whether avoiding being dinner or being ‘taken advantage of’ came first for the female cane toad. But the fact that body inflation is so widespread in frogs and toads offers a clue, Brodie said.

MIT researchers develop ‘invisible’ computer mouse

Researchers at MIT have developed a method to let users click and scroll — without an actual mouse. Cup your palm, move it around on a table and a cursor on the screen hovers. Tap on the table like you would click a real mouse, and the computer responds.

The project, called ‘Mouseless’ and developed by Pranav Mistry, uses an infrared laser beam and camera to track the movements of the palm and fingers and translate them into computer commands. When a user cups their hand as if a physical mouse was present under their palm, the laser beam lights up the hand that is in contact with the table. The infrared camera detects this and interprets the movements. However, user interfaces have gone beyond the conventional mouse use. And mouse hardware itself is cheap, so there’s not much of a cost saving here.

Intel CTO Justin Rattner said the mouse and keyboard combination is unlikely to be replaced in everyday computing for a long time.

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