News Article | August 17, 2009
Miniature iPhones, handsets that double as shavers and others shaped like packs of cigarettes are just some of the gray-market devices on sale at Chinese markets. China is home to a booming, unregulated industry in knock-off mobile phones that is hurting legal handset makers even as it spawns innovation. The low-price handsets have become popular enough to inspire a nickname, "shanzhai," which translates as "bandit" and includes any phone not licensed for sale by regulatory authorities. Included in the category are look-alike versions of well-known smartphones like the iPhone and the Nokia N97, sometimes so close in appearance to the original handsets that the two can be hard to distinguish. But despite their resemblance, the knock-off phones sometimes lack functions found in the original handsets and can come with malware pre-installed or have safety hazards like exploding batteries. Fake iPhones were openly sold beside real iPhones smuggled into China during a recent visit to one of Beijing's multistory electronics bazaars. The iPhone is not officially sold in China, but merchants buy the handsets unlocked outside China and resell them inside the country. Local carrier China Unicom is in talks with Apple to officially launch the iPhone in the country. The shanzhai iPhones came with either a standard 3.5-inch screen or a smaller 2.9-inch screen. Applications were displayed in iPhone-style bubble squares, but the phones could be distinguished from real versions partly by the China-specific applications preloaded on them, such as a popular chat client. "iPhone" was misspelled on the back of some of the handsets as well, engraved either as "AIphone" or "iPhne." Other spelling changes found on knock-off handsets in China include "Nckia" and "Samsang." Vendors asked prices from 600 yuan (US$88) to 1,200 yuan for the imitation iPhones, and most made a point of calling them "China-made" rather than "pirated" or "fake." Real iPhones at the same stands sold for around 4,000 yuan. Shanzhai phones have performed well with China's price-conscious consumers. Of the 750 million mobile phones manufactured in China last year, about one in five -- or 150 million -- were shanzhai phones, according to Chinese research outfit CCID Consulting. Some of those made it to other countries, but most were sent to markets across China. Shanzhai phones probably took a greater share of China's handset market this year, cutting into sale opportunities for both foreign and Chinese handset makers, said Karl J. Weaver, China handset business development manager for Newport Technologies. "The shanzhai not only have affected the traditional tier-one handset manufacturers, they've also affected the Chinese companies," said Weaver. "I anticipate they lost a lot of money." The shanzhai industry has defied regulation despite intellectual-property concerns raised by copycat devices. Reasons for low regulation so far could include the large number of people the industry employs and government support for its entrepreneurial side, said Weaver. Some shanzhai phone vendors have gone on to design and market handsets licensed through the official regulatory process, he said. Knock-off manufacturers have also innovated at times. Novel features that have appeared in shanzhai handsets include dual-SIM card slots, extra-loud speakers and built-in cigarette lighters, sometimes added to phone designs otherwise copied from a major brand. "There's creativity in the knock-off," said Weaver. "Some of the shanzhai products actually have better functions and features than the original product itself." Top shanzhai phone makers that become legal could potentially become global vendors, he said. The shanzhai industry is based in Shenzhen, a freewheeling southern city where factories churn out gadgets for companies including Apple. The presence of established handset makers makes it easy for merchants to find knock-off suppliers in the city, said a stall owner at the Beijing bazaar surnamed Zhang. "You can go online or go to Shenzhen yourself," Zhang said at his Apple device booth. "The people there can design a handset that looks just like an iPhone very quickly." "But they all keep close cover," he said.
Every year at about this time the Earth passes through the debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, which hits the atmosphere at 100,000 miles per hour. And every year I would bundle up the kids and we would all go down to the dock and look to the north-east, where the constellation Perseus is, and we would all be sitting there, freezing, drinking cocoa and complaining. Instead of outbursts of meteors, we got outbursts of whining about how few meteors there actually were. Most years, there are sixty to a hundred per hour, and a minute is a very long time in these days of short attention spans. In sister site MNN’s earlier coverage, Kirsten noted that this year might be special, with up to a hundred per hour. In fact, new research suggest that this year may be the attention-span challenged meteor watcher’s dream light show; According to the Royal Astronomical Society and National Geographic, this year could be even better than that, as many as 200 per hour. Professor Mark Bailey, Director Emeritus of Armagh Observatory, said "The Perseid meteor shower is one of the best and most reliable meteor showers of the year, and the predictions of a surge in activity this year make it particularly exciting this time. If you're lucky enough to have a clear sky early in the morning on 12 August, I'd definitely get up to take a look.” We used to stay up for other meteor shows, but the Perseids is usually the best for families; it happens when it is relatively warm (this year it is HOT) and a lot of people are on vacation where they can actually see something. Astronomers agree: Our poor editor Melissa, trapped in Brooklyn, says “I can see a dozen stars on the best of nights here, I have no hope.” But this one might be different; some Perseids are really bright, and with this many happening who knows, you might see it even in Brooklyn. So put down that phone and look sort of north-east, but they can appear almost anywhere in the sky. This is the meteor shower for the attention-challenged. EarthSky has good suggestions for meteor watching, saving the best for last:
VALLEY OF THE KINGS, Egypt (AP) — Egypt invited archaeologists and experts from around the world to examine new data from new, extensive radar scanning conducted on King Tutankhamun's tomb to explore a theory that secret chambers could be hidden behind its walls. The open invitation to a conference in Cairo in May, issued by the antiquities minister at a news conference just outside the tomb, aims to bring broader scientific rigor to what so far have only been tantalizing clues. The new exploration was prompted by a theory by British Egyptologist Nicolas Reeves that undiscovered chambers lie behind the tomb's western and northern walls and that they likely contain the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, one of pharaonic Egypt's most famous figures — whose bust, on display at the Berlin Museum, is a much storied symbol of ancient beauty. Preliminary scans whose results were announced last month suggested two open spaces with signs of metal and organic matter. Egypt's archaeologists announced on April 1, 2016, they completed more extensive scanning, sponsored by National Geographic, and the results must now be analyzed. If chambers — whether containing Nefertiti's tomb or not — are discovered behind the western and northern walls covered in hieroglyphs and bas-reliefs in Tut's tomb, it would likely be the biggest discovery in Egyptology since Howard Carter first discovered the king's 3,300-year-old burial chamber and its treasures in 1922. Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anani, who was appointed to his post last week, counselled caution. He said Egypt's "scientific credibility" and the preservation of its antiquities were at stake, adding; "We will rely only on science going forward. There are no results to share at the current stage, but only indications. We are not searching for hidden chambers, but rather we are scientifically verifying whether there are such rooms." "We are looking for the truth and reality, not chambers." Another radar scan will be carried out at the end of the month. It will be done vertically from atop the hill above the tomb, using equipment with a range of about 40 meters (yards). Harvard University Egyptology professor Peter Der Manuelian, who is not involved in the project, said the Valley of the Kings is "notorious for containing fissures, cracks" that complicate interpreting the scans. "So, the more scans we do, and from different angles and directions, inside and outside the tomb, the better," he told The Associated Press. Even if the spaces are rooms, they could be undecorated small rooms for holding embalming materials, he said — or, more dramatically, "the beginning of a larger floor plan." "We'll have to be patient. In the meantime, kudos to Nick Reeves for pointing out the presence of these anomalies and for sharing them with the world." Reeves' theory was prompted by the unusual structure of Tut's tomb. It is smaller than other royal tombs and oriented differently. Furthermore, his examination of photos uncovered what appear to be the outlines of a filled-in doorframe in one wall. He has speculated that Tutankhamun, who died at age 19, may have been rushed into an outer chamber of what was originally Nefertiti's tomb. Nefertiti was one of the wives of Tut's father Akhenaten, though another wife Kia is believed to be Tut's mother. "We have a theory, and now what we're trying to do is test it. And, if I am right, fantastic, if I am wrong, I've been doing my job, I've been following the evidence trail, and seeing where it leads," Reeves told the AP. El-Anani said Egyptologists and Valley of the Kings experts will discuss on May 8 the findings of the scans in a previously scheduled conference devoted to King Tut to be held at Egypt's new national museum near the Giza Pyramids outside Cairo. There, they can discuss the findings. The outcome, he said, will guide what course of action Egypt takes. The Valley of the Kings was one of the main burial sites for ancient Egypt's pharaohs, located among the desert mountains across the Nile River from Luxor, the site of the monumental temples of Thebes, one of the pharaonic capitals. Tut's was the most intact tomb ever discovered in Egypt, packed with well-preserved artifacts. But he was a relatively minor king ruling for a short period at a turbulent time. Nefertiti was the primary wife of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, who unsuccessfully tried to switch Egypt to an early form of monotheism. Akhenaten was succeeded by a pharaoh referred to as Smenkhare. Reeves believes Smenkhare and Nefertiti are the same person, with the queen simply changing her name during her rule. Not long after Tut died in 1323 B.C., his family was overthrown by a general, ending the 18th Dynasty that had been in power for 250 years. John Darnell, professor of Egyptology at Yale University, said Tut's tomb is "somewhat anomalous due to its small size ... But the question is: Was Tutankhamun's tomb small, or do we have only a portion of a larger tomb?" The latest scans were carried out over 12 hours along five different levels of the walls, producing 40 scans. The data will be analyzed by U.S.-based experts, but the results would not be known for at least another week. "Technology is beginning to open doors that were permanently locked, or seemed permanently locked or maybe we did not know it existed," said Terry D. Garcia, chief science and exploration officer for National Geographic. "It is creating a revolution ... and it is going to result in the 21st century being the greatest in exploration in the history of mankind, and we are just scratching the surface." The mystery is also a golden opportunity for Egypt to boost its deeply damaged tourism industry by drawing world attention to its wealth of pharaonic antiquities. But any benefit from the discoveries may be slow coming, with Egypt still facing turmoil, including a deadly fight against Islamic militants in the Sinai. Pharaonic sites were once Egypt's main draw. But cities like Luxor have suffered heavily from the plunge in tourism. Now, visits to Egypt's beaches have also been devastated since the crash of a Russian airliner in October over the Sinai Peninsula that killed all 224 people onboard. Russia said it was downed by an explosive device and suspended all flights to Egypt. Britain suspended all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, the Egyptian Red Sea resort from which the doomed aircraft took off shortly before it crashed. AP correspondent Brian Rohan contributed to this report from New York. Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
New York has a dense population. Close to 20 million people call the state home, and over 8.4 million are concentrated in New York City. It’s a testament to urbanization, a city defined by its flourishing cultural and business quarters. But Jon Dohlin, the vice president and director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium, sees another bountiful aspect of the area, and it lies in the coastal waters. “New York more than almost any other maritime city—it seems to me and my colleagues—has sort of lost that sense of being a maritime city,” Dohlin says in an interview with R&D Magazine. “It doesn’t have the same feel as say Boston, or Seattle, or even San Francisco, great cosmopolitan cities that still fundamentally define themselves as maritime cities.” But sometimes all it takes to change the widespread conception about a place is a scientific discovery, something that can reawaken that sense of awe and wonderment at the natural environment beneath the concrete surface. In Long Island’s Great South Bay, scientists and veterinarians from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium have discovered a nursery ground for the sand tiger shark, a sleek and docile creature with dagger-like and ferocious teeth. For years, local anglers and boaters had spotted and caught juvenile sand tiger sharks in the area. The anecdotal evidence was bolstered in 2011, when one of the aquarium’s scientists received a picture of a dead shark, suspected to be a sand tiger shark. “It’s all about listening to people who live on the water, who work on the water, who are constantly interacting with the coastline…and listening to the wisdom and knowledge they have from the work that they do,” says Dohlin. Following up on such tips gave Dohlin and colleagues the opportunity to quantify that anecdotal knowledge. Armed with a location, the team concentrated their efforts on the bay and proceeded with a tagging study. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, 15 of the tagged sharks ended up returning to the Great South Bay in subsequent seasons, a behavior known as site fidelity. Ranging in size between 6.5 and 10.5 ft in length, sand tiger sharks have a wide distribution, being found in many of the world’s warm and temperate waters near coastlines. Slow swimmers, the rust-colored sharks are docile, feasting on small fish, and are only known to attack humans if bothered first, according to National Geographic. But like many sharks and rays, these creatures are threatened, and are classified as a “Species of Concern” by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service. Fishing of the sharks in state and federal waters has been prohibited since 1997. According to Dohlin, sand tiger sharks have a low reproduction rate, only giving birth to one or two pups each year, or every other year. And when born, they only measure around 11 to 12 in, making them quite vulnerable to predation. In order to ensure they reach adulthood, they need backwater areas, where they can grow and thrive until reaching maturity. “At three to four years of age, when they’re no longer considered juvenile and they’re about 4 to 5 ft long, they (can) move out into open coastal waters,” says Dohlin. Dohlin and colleagues believe the sharks are born somewhere off the coast of the southeastern U.S., perhaps in the Chesapeake Bay region or the Carolinas. “We know that they continue to move seasonally,” he says. “What we don’t know is where they go down south,” whether the location is another nursery or not. “Are they constantly moving back and forth between nurseries? We don’t really know that, and we don’t know…the key components of this habitat that make it so suitable for their growth,” he adds. “Instead of constantly moving as the adults do,” the juveniles have these controlled sites. There are still many questions, and Dohlin and his team are expanding their dataset to find the answers. The information learned will go on to inform a new shark exhibit, which is part of a $150 million renovation project at the New York Aquarium. This is a chance to revel in the “power and charisma of sharks,” he says.
It sounds like the pipe dream of a life-long birder: fly me somewhere I can see a representative of every major family of birds alive today in the same place at the same time. And since I’m wishing, I might as well add that I want to see their ancestors, too, lined up in a parade of ghosts. Ridiculous, right? The funny thing is, such a place exists — in upstate New York. That’s because at the visitor’s center at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the paint is barely dry on a mural of epic proportions. Close in size to the footprint of a 3000-square-foot house, it depicts a true-to-size representative of every major family of birds on an enormous world map. Not only that, but beneath the riotous colorful birds is a parade of ghostly ancestors representing 375 million years of evolution, starting with the first plucky vertebrate that made its way onto land: my old pal, Tiktaalik. With digital technology as ubiquitous as it is, how does a hand-painted mural like this come to be? I spoke with Dr. John Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the lab and a key figure in making it a reality, and the principal artist, Jane Kim of Ink Dwell Studios, to get the scoop. When Kim, fresh out of the certificate program for scientific illustration at Monterey Bay, came to intern at Cornell’s 4-month Bartels Illustration program, she was surrounded by giants. The Cornell Lab has long celebrated the connection between ornithology and art; the halls of the research center are adorned with the artwork of Audubon, Catesby, and Fuertes. More recently, the lab has brought in contemporary artists as well - Maya Lin, Andy Goldsworthy, and James Prosek - to leave their marks with large science art installations of their own. The thought that Kim's work might in short order be displayed alongside these giants was the farthest thing from her mind at the time. Instead, Kim did what other interns before her had done: help ornithologists at the lab illustrate their research projects. But she was already thinking big; during her internship she entered and won the Viewer’s Choice Award in a National Geographic competition for conservation murals. When her supervisor, Dr. Fitzpatrick, learned of this, he pulled her from her desk and took her outside for a chat. Fitzpatrick, a painter himself, had long dreamed of a mural celebrating the evolution of birds since the department moved into its new building in 2003. He even knew where the mural should go - an enormous 70’ x 40’ wall inside the visitor’s center that stared blankly at him every day. In fact, he had approached several artists about it but they declined, citing the enormous commitment it would take. So Fitzpatrick shelved his ambitious idea. That is, until Kim came along and revealed her penchant for thinking big. When he approached her, she didn’t hesitate. The next day she produced a proposal for the 400-million-year evolution of birds and the project was underway. Well, almost. Of course it wasn’t that easy. It took years to hammer out the details of the project including - no surprise - how to pay for it. But, a funny thing about birds - they enjoy a passionate following and the lab was able to raise enough money for Kim to dedicate herself to the project full-time for close to two years. Three years after Kim and Fitzpatrick had the initial conversation about the possibility of a mural, Kim dove in. She spent a year off-site compiling reference photos (at least 50 per bird), researching, sketching, and refining the narrative as a whole while the researchers involved argued about which species to include (!). In August of 2014 she moved back to Ithaca to begin 16 months of on-site painting. Painting an average of a bird a day, and with the help of seven interns, she finished the project at the end of 2015. If you’re sitting in one of the other 19,340-something incorporated towns or cities in America that doesn't happen to be within an hour's drive of Ithaca, NY, you may be thinking, “Who on earth will get to see this?” Well, I have some good news. Their already excellent website has a smattering of tantalizing images from the project and by the end of 2016 there should be an online an interactive of the entire wall. That means you, your granny, and your cat will soon be able to explore the wall for a wealth of information on the birds it depicts. If the website delivers as promised, it will be an impressive online education tool for the general public for decades to come. Later this week, I'll be sharing some behind the scenes images of the project in progress, so stay tuned. Now someone fly me to Ithaca, please! Links: Wall of Birds website Ink Dwell studio More about The Cornell Lab Visitor’s Center art installations by contemporary artists Andy Goldsworthy, James Prosek, Maya Lin and now Jane Kim