Tag: rome

Internet rumour threatens to flatten Rome

An internet rumour has caused thousands to take a day off and flee Rome today.

Apparently an Italian earthquake legend, Raffaele Bendandi ,who died 30 years ago predicted that the Eternal City would be flattened by an earthquake today.

Bendandi, who was knighted by Mussolini, is said to have predicted several disasters, including the Friuli quake of 1976, which killed almost 1,000 lives.

Local rag La Repubblica said that applications from the capital’s public employees for a day off – and, presumably, out – were 18 percent higher than for the same day in 2011. Education officials were said to be expecting school attendances to be down by a fifth as parents decide it is better to be on the safe side.

Whether or not you believe that Bendandi could predict earthquakes is largely irrelevant to the story, because he never predicted an earthquake would hit Rome.

The head of a foundation set up in Bendandi’s honour in his native town near Bologna, said the rumour of aneEarthquake today was an urban legend, probably caused by that internet thing.

Paola Lagorio, the president of the Osservatorio Geoficico Comunale of Faenza, has gone on record saying that in Raffaele Bendandi’s papers, there is no prediction of a earthquake in Rome on 11 May 2011. The date is not there. The place is not there.

What seems to have happened is that someone has gone on the World Wide Wibble and written rubbish on a bog somewhere and it has snowballed into an internet reality.

Coincidently there is another earthquake prophet in Taiwan who claims the country will be split in two by a huge quake today. If he is right then the Rome office of TechEye will be still here. 

Vans drive themselves across the world

Four driverless electric vans successfully ended a 13,000-kilometre test drive from Italy to China which mirrored the journey from East to West carried out by Marco Polo in the Middle Ages.

The four vans, packed with navigation gear and other computer software drove themselves Across Eastern Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan and the Gobi Desert without getting lost.

The vans arrived at Shanghai Expo. They had been equipped with four solar-powered laser scanners and seven video cameras that work together to detect and avoid obstacles.

It was all part of an experiment aimed at improving road safety and advancing automotive technology.

According to AP, the sensors on the vehicles let them navigate through wide extremes in road, traffic and weather conditions, while collecting data to be analysed for further research.

The experiment was sponsored by the European Research Council. Isabella Fredriga, a research engineer for the project said the vans encountered all the best and worst that a road system could chuck at it.

Though the vans were driverless and mapless, they did carry researchers as passengers just in case of emergencies. The experimenters did have to intervene a few times. The vans got snarled in a Moscow traffic jam and humans were needed to handle toll stations. At one point, a van stopped to pick up hitchhikers.

They were based on a computerised artificial vision system dubbed GOLD, for Generic Obstacle and Lane Detector. This analysed the information from the sensors and automatically adjusted the vehicles’ speed and direction.

Alberto Broggi of Vislab at the University of Parma in Italy, the lead researcher for the project said that a PC controlled the steering wheel.

“The idea here was to travel on a long route, on two different continents, in different states, different weather, different traffic conditions, different infrastructure. Then we can have some huge number of situations to test the system on,” he said.

Rather than replacing drivers it is hoped that the technology will be used to study ways to complement drivers’ abilities.

The vehicles ran at maximum speeds of 60 kilometres per hour and had to be recharged for eight hours after every two to three hours of driving. 

Italian councillors get computer games to relieve boredom

Italian councillors are being given computer games to help them cope with long, boring meetings.

The major of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, says that the council’s debates can be hard work, and has issued laptops to city officials with computer games on them, Metro reports.

According to the paper, Alemanno explains: “Each councillor can amuse himself and defeat stress during our long, hard meetings.”

Not long after getting into office in 2008, right-wing politician Alemanno banned such things as sleeping on the street, singing and eating a panini in a public place.

So while it is not known which computer games Alemanno prefers, we can guess a bit about the kind of debates the games might be played during. 

Italians prepare epic road trip with no driver

A group of Italian boffins and techies  are planning an epic drive from Italy to China with no one behind the wheel.

While it is not unusual for Roman drivers to take their hands off the wheel, this is usually to wave their arms at other drivers while screaming “cazzo!” at the top of their lungs. The longest that a Roman driver has had their hands off a steering wheel is the time it takes to call Mama to hear how useless they are.

However that is all set to change as the technology for driverless cars is tested. Soon it will be possible for an Italian never to have to drive a car again, which will make the world a much safer place.

The three-month convoy will have to get out of Rome, which is no mean feat. It will then have to travel up twisting mountain passes and deal with Moscow traffic. Russian drivers are calmer than Romans, but have a large number of Mudra to make life really dangerous. From there the next challenge will be the Siberian weather before ending up in the sprawling roadways of Shanghai in October.

The project includes two electric-powered “driverless” vans, each of which will carry two technicians. One of them will always be in the driver seat ready to press the red “porca troia” button to take control should the car’s laser scanners, cameras, and software go tits up.

Each van will work with a manned leader van that will drive ahead and give its driverless counterpart cues on where it’s going next. But the driverless vehicle will be responsible for negotiating traffic and responding to the environment and obstacles around it.

The vans require an eight-hour charge after every few hours on the road, even traveling at speeds between 30-37 miles per hour. Basically it will be like driving to China in a milk float.

The experiment has been hatched out by VisLab which wants to improve its intelligent systems and artificial vision technology.

The idea is that someday 100 percent driverless technology could be used to freight cargo across continents autonomously or to reduce troop risk by running driverless military supply convoys.

This is why it is being financed by DARPA. But armoured cars are the safest way to see Rome. 

Ancient Romans come to aid of neutrino experiment

What did the Ancient Romans do for us?  Well other than the from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health it seems they are now helping with scientific experiments into neutrinos.

The Italian press, which is descended from a fat bloke walking around the streets shouting the news, is reporting how four tonnes of ancient Roman lead was yesterday transferred from a museum on the Italian island of Sardinia to the country’s national particle physics laboratory at Gran Sasso on the mainland.

The lead was supposed to become water pipes, coins or end up in roofing, however it will  instead form part of a cutting-edge experiment to nail down the mass of neutrinos.

The 120 lead ingots, each weighing about 33 kilograms, were found 20 years ago from a Roman shipwreck.

Not surprisingly the ship sank like a stone between 80 BC and 50BC off the coast of Sardinia.

The boffins are interested in the fact that over the past 2,000 years their lead has almost completely lost its natural radioactivity.  This makes it the perfect material with which to shield the CUORE (Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events) detector, which Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) is building at the Gran Sasso laboratory.

CUORE, which will begin operations next year, will investigate neutrinos which are the basic  particles with no electronic charge.  Boffins have worked out that Neutrino’s have a mass but can’t work out how much.

The aim is to use the detector to try to observe a theoretical atomic event called neutrinoless double-beta decay — a radioactive process whereby an atomic nucleus releases two electrons and no neutrinos.

To successfully observe this , they will need to shield their experiment from external radioactivity.

Lead is a shield against radiation, but freshly mined lead is itself slightly radioactive because it contains an unstable isotope, lead-210.  But after 2,000 years in the Mare, the lead in the Roman ingots has now lost almost all traces of its radioactivity.

Motorola to stick Bing onto Android phone

Motorola is set to get Google jolly cross by shoving Microsoft’s Bing search engine onto its Android phones.

Android is the open saucy operating system put out by Google, and was designed mostly to drive more users to the search engine.

Motorola said the partnership with Microsoft means that a Bing bookmark and search widget will be loaded on cell phones.

To rub salt in the wounds, the new phones will be launched in China which does not have a particularly good relationship with Google.

Motorola knows this as it struck a similar deal to let consumers in China use Baidu among others, as the default Web search instead of Google on Android based phones.

It seems that Motorola does not want to anger the Chinese authorities by sticking a search engine onto its machines that anger mandarins.

Motorola is banking on its ties to Google’s Android and its sales in China to help in a big turnaround effort. Having search alternatives on the Android phones should lessen Motorola’s dependence on Google, in China or elsewhere.

Still, it is a bit like running the MacOS and and only running Windows 7 via boot camp, or insisting on eating fish and chips in an Italian restaurant in Rome.

US claims it pwns the moon

The US State of California has decided that the Land of the Free has the legal power to declare the Apollo 11 landing site a protected archaeology site.

Apparently the US has been worried that someone will rush to the moon and damage the site of humanities “one small step”.

When Apollo 11 astronauts burgered off from the moon, they left behind not just the small steps of men but a giant pile of equipment and junk.

Some of the junk was left behind so that the lander could take off again with all the moon rocks that the astronauts could garner.

Included were space boots and portable life support systems, the arm rests from their cockpit seats, a hammer, cameras and containers; tethers and antennas; empty food bags and bags filled with urine.

California is poised to become the first state to register the items at Tranquillity Base as an official “state historical resource”.

If the US State Historical Resources Commission approves the idea, Tranquillity Base could be designated a United Nations World Heritage Site.

Although there is no doubt that the site needs to be protected, it opens up a can of worms over which nation state actually owns the moon and how the place should be administered. It is fairly likely that humanity will colonise the moon, but it is not clear who will govern it.

While America is claiming that one part of the Moon belongs to one state then all sorts of problems start to arise. We doubt that California is going to send any coppers to check out if the site has been touched by souvenir hunters.

Still, it does solve America’s problem that it does not have any history and its founding myth is about as historically accurate as Romulus and Remus.  All the US has to do is take over landmasses that have a history and it is sorted.



Roman bloke stabbed in Playstation row with son

Computer games consoles are bringing a whole new dimension to father and son relationships in Italy.

Traditionally a father would approach his son, put his arm around him and give him some paternal advice. There would then follow a long animated row with arms being flung around like windmills. Sometimes it would get so heated that one side will pull a knife and the other would end up in the tabloids and the hospital. This has been going on since the founding of Rome.

According to the Rome press the story now has a modern twist. Apparently Fabrizio R was playing the soccer video game FIFA 2009 with his 16-year-old son, Mario.

He apparently felt that now was the time to advise Mario on his style of play. This apparently angered Mario who was not keen on his father’s Playstation methods. The father was so miffed at this lack of respect that he turned the TV off to discuss the matter further, with the traditional shouting and arm waiving.

According to the Carbonari,  Mario stabbed his dad in the neck with a 15-inch (40 cm) kitchen knife.

He apparently cleaned the knife, because Mamma was there and she would not like to see a mess. In fact Mamma didn’t find out until her husband stumbled into the room, clutching his throat.

The teenager shut himself in his bedroom and sulked in a  traditional “Oh God” teen manner after the attack and came quietly when the coppers knocked on his door.

Ironically the Playstation was bought for him as a birthday present a few days earlier. His parents didn’t want him playing violent games because “you never know what they will do” so they got him the football game instead.  After all Italian football is never violent.