Top ten memorable quotes of 2008

Sarah Palin lost the election, but she’s a winner to a connoisseur of quotations.

The Republican vice presidential candidate and her comedic doppelganger, Tina Fey, took the top two spots in this year’s list of most memorable quotes compiled by Fred R. Shapiro.

Palin’s quotes were pivotal, said Shapiro, associate librarian and lecturer in legal research at the Yale Law School who compiles the list.

“This quote helped shape the election results,” he said of the Russia quote. “As it sank in the public realized this was someone really, really inexperienced and perhaps lacking in curiosity about the world.”

Shapiro said that when he began the list he thought he would select the most profound, eloquent or witty quotes. But the celebrity culture and political discourse led him down a different path.

“What I have come to do is pick some quotes that really say something about our culture and they tend almost exclusively to be quotes that are notable for negative reasons rather than being admirable or eloquent,” Shapiro said.

#10- “Barack, he’s talking down to black people… I want to cut his balls off.” — Rev. Jesse Jackson, overheard over a live microphone before a Fox News interview, July 6

#9- “Anyone who says we’re in a recession, or heading into one — especially the worst one since the Great Depression — is making up his own private definition of “recession.” — commentator Donald Luskin, the day before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, The Washington Post, Sept. 14

#8- “I’ll see you at the debates, bitches!” — Paris Hilton in a video responding to a McCain television ad, August 2008

#7- “Maybe 100.” — McCain, discussing in a town hall meeting in Derry, N.H., how many years U.S. troops could remain in Iraq, Jan. 3.

#6- “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.” — the Treasury Department’s proposed Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, September 2008.

#5- “The fundamentals of America’s economy are strong.” — McCain, in an interview with Bloomberg TV, April 17

#4- “It’s not based on any particular data point, we just wanted to choose a really large number.” — a Treasury Department spokeswoman explaining how the $700 billion number was chosen for the initial bailout, quoted on Sept. 23

#3- “We have sort of become a nation of whiners.” — former Sen. Phil Gramm, an economic adviser to Sen. John McCain, quoted in The Washington Times, July 10.

#2- “All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.” — Palin, responding to a request by CBS anchor Katie Couric to name the newspapers or magazines she reads, broadcast Oct. 1

#1- “I can see Russia from my house!” — Comedian Tina Fey, while impersonating Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live,” broadcast Sept. 13.

Nude Virgin Mary cover prompts Playboy apology

LOS ANGELES, Dec 12 (Reuters) – A nude model resembling the Virgin Mary on the cover of the Mexican edition of Playboy magazine, published only days before a major Mexican festival dedicated to the mother of Jesus, prompted the company’s U.S. headquarters on Friday to apologize.

The magazine, which hit newsstands on Dec. 1 as ceremonies began leading to Friday’s pilgrimage to the Mexico City shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, showed a model wearing nothing but a white cloth over her head and breasts.

She is standing in front of a stained glass window with the cover line, “We Love You, Maria” in Spanish. The model’s name is Maria Florencia Onori.

The Virgin of Guadalupe, said to have appeared to a sixteenth century Indian peasant, is Mexico’s most revered Roman Catholic figure and the annual pilgrimage to the Mexico City basilica dedicated to her is one of the world’s largest religious events.

In a statement, Chicago-based Playboy Enterprises Inc (PLA.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said the Mexican edition of the magazine is published by a licensee, and the company did not approve or endorse the cover.

“While Playboy Mexico never meant for the cover or images to offend anyone, we recognize that it has created offense, and we as well as Playboy Mexico offer our sincerest apologies,” the statement said.

Raul Sayrols, publisher of Playboy Mexico, said in a statement, “The image is not and never was intended to portray the Virgin of Guadalupe or any other religious figure. The intent was to reflect a Renaissance-like mood on the cover.”

Playboy Mexico printed 100,000 copies of the issue. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Todd Eastham)

World’s Fastest Robot

Computational Neuroscientists And Engineers Build Robot That Teaches Itself To Walk Up And Down Hills

Computational neuroscience designed a robot hatteaches itself how to walk on differing terrain. The RunBot uses an infrared eye to detect slopes, and adjusts its gait for the smoothest walk. From repeated attempts it matches the degree of slope to the appropriate length of step and movement of joints. Essentially, the robot learns to walk on uneven ground in the same way as a child.

Robots are the wave of the future. And nothing is moving there faster than the world’s fastest robot — one that could set the pace for all robots in the future!

But what sets this robot apart from all others? It walks like a human and when it falls … it learns from its mistakes, and corrects itself.

“After two or three times, like a baby, it just learns from mistake and it changes gait and walks up the slope,” Poramate Mannonpong, Ph.D., Computational Neuroscientist at the University of Goettingen in Goettingen, Germany said.

Dr. Manoonpong is the computational neuroscientist behind the Runbot. By using sensors and an infrared eye, this robot can detect a slope on its path and adjust on the spot! It’s created with the same critical joints as a human.

“It has two hip joints, two knee joints, here … and it has a foot contact sensor for each leg.” Dr. Mannonpong said.

Just like in people, sensors make sure the joints are not over-stretched and that the next step is initiated as soon as the foot touches the ground. This technology may someday be used to help humans.

“We hope that in one day, human can walk with artificial leg,” Dr. Mannonpong said.

Speed walking robots started out slowly, at 0.7 leg lengths per second. Now, the Runbot can speed walk at 3.5 leg lengths per second. Compared to its size, that’s almost as fast as a speed walking Olympian. Proving robots are moving us fast towards the future.

The next phase is to make the Runbot freestanding and then work with companies to produce the technology for humans.


–>BACKGROUND: Scientists at the University of Goettingen in Germany have built a robot that teaches itself how to walk like a human being: the computer inside learns how to adapt the robot’s stride to different terrains and environments. Runbot holds the world record in speed walking for dynamic machines. Just like a human, it leans forward slightly and uses shorter steps. It can learn this behavior after only a few trial runs.

HOW IT WORKS: The Runbot has an infrared “eye” (a sensor) that can detect a slope on its path and adjust its stride accordingly. The robot’s ability to switch quickly from one gait to another is due to the organization of the movement control. On the more basic levels, movement is based on reflexes driven by sensors. Control circuits ensure that the joints are not overstretched or that the next step is started as soon as the foot touches the ground. When the gait needs to be adapted, higher centers of organization step in. At its first attempt to climb a slope, RunBot will fall over backwards, since it has not yet learned to use its visual to change its gait. But like children learning to walk, the robot learns from its failures, leading to a strengthening of the contact between the eye and movement control. Once these connections are established, step length and body posture can be controlled by the visual signal.

HOW ROBOTS WORK: Robots are manmade machines intended to replicate human and animal behavior. Robots are made of roughly the same components as human beings: a body structure with moveable joints; a muscle system outfitted with motors and actuators to move that body structure; a sensory system to collect information from the surrounding environment; a power source to activate the body; and a computer “brain” system to process sensory information and tell the muscles what to do. Roboticists can combine these basic elements with other technological innovations to create some very complex robotic systems.

ABOUT A.I.: Robots and computer networks are always evolving intelligent consciousness in popular science fiction. But while modern scientists have made great strides in building computers that can mimic logical thought, they still haven’t cracked the code of human emotion and consciousness. There are two prevailing schools of thought on artificial intelligence. Proponents of “strong AI” consider that all human thought can be broken down into a set of mathematical operations. They expect that they will one day be able to replicate the human mind and create a robot capable of both thinking and feeling, with a sense of self — the stuff of classic science fiction. Think of the robot Number Five from the 80s movie Short Circuit, who suddenly realized, frightened, that he could be “disassembled” by the scientists who made him. “Weak AI” proponents expect that human thought and emotion can only be simulated by computers. A computer might seem intelligent, but it is not aware of what it is doing, with no sense of self or consciousness.