Apple to give free cases, refunds to iPhone 4 owners

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Apple Inc. announced Friday that it will give owners of its new iPhone 4 a free case in response to mounting concerns over the device’s antenna placement. The iPhone 4 antenna is actually a metal strip that wraps around the side of the device, which has caused dropped calls when held in a certain way.

The announcement came in a rare press conference held by Apple on Friday morning. During the event, company CEO Steve Jobs attempted to address reports by both consumers and the media of signal reception issues relating to the positioning of the phone’s antenna. Rather than recall the devices or offer a hardware fix, Jobs said yesterday that Apple will offer a free case to anyone who has purchased an iPhone 4.

The rubber cases, or “bumpers”, wrap around the side of an iPhone and have been found to alleviate the reception issues. Apple’s bumpers were priced at US$29 before the press conference, but will be free to anyone with an iPhone 4 until September 30. Jobs also said that those who had already purchased a bumper will receive a full refund for the accessory. For consumers still dissatisfied with iPhone 4, Jobs said that the phones can be returned for a refund as well.

Jobs acknowledged that “a very small percentage of users” were experiencing antenna issues, but dismissed the existence of an “Antennagate,” saying that similar problems plague all cellular phones and that the iPhone issue “has been blown so out of proportion that it is incredible.” He showed videos demonstrating a drop in signal strength when held in a certain way for other smartphones to help make his point.

According to company statistics, about one out of every 200 iPhone 4 customers have called AppleCare to complain about the antenna. The iPhone 4 return rate is about one-third of the iPhone 3GS return rate. However, Jobs admitted that the percentage of calls dropped on the iPhone 4 was slightly greater than the percentage of calls dropped on the 3GS. Jobs attributed the small increase to fewer iPhone 4 users putting cases on their devices.

In response to critics saying that Apple had not addressed the reception problem quickly enough, Jobs said that iPhone 4 had only been out for 22 days and that the company could not have resolved the issue any faster. The press event came just days after Consumer Reports declined to give Apple’s newest phone a “recommended” rating due to the antenna’s placement. The group said that Apple’s move to give away free cases is a good first step, but not permanent enough to earn a higher rating.

Earlier, on June 24, Apple told customers to either hold the phone without covering the antenna, or to use a case. The so-called “death grip”, however, has not been as big an issue for other phones as it has for iPhone 4, said Mike Gikas of Consumer Reports. On July 2, Apple associated the issue with a long-undiscovered software bug relating to the formula for calculating signal strength. An iOS update released Thursday came with an updated, more accurate method of calculating the number of cellular signal bars to display, but did not actually prevent the signal loss that comes with covering the antenna.

Congressional dems visit to Iraq encourages support of Bush $81B “reconstruction” plan

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A visit to Baghdad’s “Green Zone” on two separate days last week (March 22 and 24, 2005) has convinced Washington’s Democratic senators and representatives that things are going well.

The Senate delegation, led by Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev), visited on Tuesday. The House delegation, led by Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), visited two days later. They all came away from their whirlwind visits with opinions that although conditions were improving there would still be many years of American occupation before Iraq could be a true democracy.

“Although progress has been made, there is a significant way to go until the Iraqis are capable of providing for their security,” said Pelosi, the House Democratic leader. She led an eight-member group that included seven Democrats and Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) (San Diego County).

The delegations spent their one day in Iraq’s Green Zone, the heavily protected area in downtown Baghdad that serves as headquarters for the 150,000 U.S. military forces and diplomats and the Iraqi government. They headed to their other stops in Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt. Security was tight and didn’t allow for any additional travel in the war torn nation.

The sole Republican in the Congressional delegation, Issa, said “I believe it will be a fairly long stay.”

Pelosi’s comments echoed Issa, and added “the cost of this war is huge to the American people,” citing 1,500 service personnel the Bush administration has admitted were killed in action, and the estimated $500 million-a-day price tag. “The message some of us had for our military leaders and Iraqi leaders is that whatever it takes to transfer security responsibilities should be applied now. It’s long overdue,” she added.

An emotional trip to Beirut, Lebanon, by the congressional delegation included a visit to the grave of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in a Feb. 14 bombing that is blamed, but not substantiated, to have been committed by Syrian agents. Darrell Issa, of Lebanese descent, noted “there’s a huge permanent group of mourners at his grave, with hundreds of tents set up.’’

Senator Reid stressed the need for continued U.S. support for reconstruction efforts, along with training Iraqi security forces to replace U.S. military personnel and help bolster the Iraqi economy and political structure. “Everyone understands that reconstruction is an important part of the U.S. mission here,” he added.

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) agreed: “I believe what we are seeing here is good.”

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a leading critic of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, seemed upbeat about the future of the new Iraq government. Iraq’s future stability “greatly depends on the training of Iraqi security forces.”

“We got a very, very upbeat report from the top U.S. military officials,” she added.

All of the delegation seemed to agree that their trip enforced the enormity of the challenge and the financial need to help the Iraqi people. This would require a continued input of American taxpayer dollars and left little doubt that they would line up to support the Bush administration’s proposed new $81 billion dollars (US) in expenditures there.

UK government loses personal information of 25 million people

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling announced to a shocked House of Commons today that two password-protected — but not encrypted — computer disks containing the entire Child Benefit database have been lost in transit between the offices of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Washington, Tyne & Wear and the National Audit Office (NAO) in London, in what has been described as “one of the world’s biggest ID protection failures”.

The database contains details of all families in the UK who receive Child Benefit — all families with children up to 16 years of age, plus those with children up to 20 years old if they are in full-time education or training — estimated to contain 25 million individuals in 7.25 million families. Among other items of information, the database contains names, addresses, dates of birth, child benefit and National Insurance numbers, and where appropriate, bank or building society account details.

The discs were created by a junior official at the HMRC in response to a request for information by the NAO, and were sent unregistered and unrecorded on 18 October using the courier company TNT — which operates the HMRC’s internal mail system. When it was found that the discs had not arrived for audit at the NAO, a further copy of this data was made and sent — this time by registered mail — and this package did arrive. HMRC were not informed that the original discs had been lost until 8 November, and Darling himself was informed on 10 November.

The violation of data protection laws involved in the creation of the discs has led to strong attacks on the government’s competence to establish the proposed National Identity Register, when all UK residents will have an identity card. Conservative Shadow Chancellor George Osborne described the loss of data as “catastrophic” and said “They [the government] simply cannot be trusted with people’s personal information”.

The Chairman of HMRC, Paul Gray, has resigned over the affair, and critics are calling for Darling to do likewise.

This is the third data embarrassment for HMRC in recent weeks — earlier this month it was reported that the details of over 15,000 Standard Life customers had been put on disk, and then lost en route from HMRC in Newcastle to Standard Life in Edinburgh — and last month a laptop containing the data of 400 people with high-value ISAs was stolen from the boot of a car belonging to a HMRC official who had been carrying out a routine audit.

Digest/22November2004

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Digest for 22-29 November 2004

< 15-22 November 2004 • Index • 29 November-5 December 2004 >

This a collection of articles whose datelines read between 22 and 29 November. They have not necessarily gone through a peer-review process, and may not even be done. This is essentially an index right now. Click on an article’s title to read it in full.

Activists protest against School of the Americas22 November, 2004, United States Antiwar magazines report up to 16,000 protesters demonstrated outside a United States military school this weekend, demanding it be closed in connection with accused human rights violations.

Dan Rather resigns as anchor, to stay on as correspondent22 November, 2004, USA Dan Rather has announced that he will retire on March 9th, 2005 as anchor of CBS Evening News. He will continue to be an investigative reporter for both of the 60 Minutes shows.

Indonesian police arrest four suspects wanted over Australian Embassy bombing24 November, 2004, Jakarta, Indonesia.Associated Press and Reuters are both reporting that Indonesian police have arrested four suspects for the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta on September 9th, which killed 10 people.

Ukrainian opposition leader calls for police and army to join revolution24 November, 2004, UkraineAmid protests of up to 200,000 over Ukraine’s disputed presidential election, officially declared loser Viktor Yushchenko has called on the army and police to join a revolution against the government.

Internal emails expose Boeing-Air Force contract discussions24 November, 2004, United StatesEmails exchanged among United States Air Force officials regarding a USD$23 billion dollar deal with aircraft manufacturer Boeing have been entered into the public record. Senator John McCain (RAZ) entered them into the Congressional Record during a speech last week against the now-cancelled deal to lease 100 mid-air tanker aircraft from Boeing.

Australia in a good position after first day of Adelaide test match26 November, 2004, Adelaide, South AustraliaAt stumps on day one, Australia has opened a commanding lead in the second cricket test against New Zealand.

Record computer outage at UK government departmentNovember 27 2004, United Kingdom. A computer outage beginning on Monday afternoon at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has caused delays in the processing of new claims. 80% of the DWP’s desktop computers were put out of action by a software update. This story is being widely reported but details are scarce. Most of the talk is about the severity of the problem and the pattern of failures associated with IT outsourcing in the government.

170 workers trapped in Chinese mine after explosion28 November, 2004, Shaanxi province. Early in the morning on Sunday November 28th, 170 workers were trapped in the Chinese Chenjiashan mine, the BBC reports. According to Chinese state officials, 123 workers managed to escape the facilities. Many of those who escaped the mines are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Since the accident, there has been no contact with the 170 workers trapped inside, although the initial number of 183 people still in the complex was revised downwards.

Researchers discover high temperature enables more efficient hydrogen generationSunday, November 28th, 2004Researchers in Salt Lake City Utah, at Ceramtech Incorporated, hand in hand with workers at The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory stated that they had learned that through superheating thewater to 800 degrees Celsius, far less electricity was required to produce the same volume of hydrogen.

USL v. BSDi settlement agreement unsealed28 November, 2004, United StatesThe 1994 settlement agreement between UNIX Systems Laboratories (USL) and BSDi (USL v. BSDi) was unsealed in November 2004 under the California Public Records Act (California Code § 6250-6270). The details of the settlement may have ramifications with respect to the SCO v. IBM case with SCO believing it is the successor in interest to USL.

American teenage girl charged with murder of her own mother29 November, 2004, United States.Rachelle Waterman, (aka Rachelle Ann Monica Waterman and “smchyrocky”), a 16-year-old girl from Craig, Alaska, USA, has been charged with the first degree murder of her own mother.

World’s Largest Ball of Twine Turns 5029 November, 2004, Cawker City, Kansas.People in Kansas like to just go have a look at things from time to time, particularly if it is kitchy and big. Frank Stoeber died in 1974, but not before he left behind a legacy of twine. Frank started a building a ball of sisal twine (a form of hemp) in 1953, which as grown to 40 ft in diameter hence. The ball of twine’s domicile is a mini-museam located in the downtown of Cawker City, Kansas, which onlookers can simple look at or add twine to.

Hiring A Reliable Contractor For Roofing Services

byadmin

Home-owners cringe over the thought of needing to repair or replace their roof. Although this is a frequently experienced emotion, individuals typically feel at ease once they learn just how quick, hassle-free, and inexpensive these services can be. In order to get the most out of a roofing project, home-owners need to hire professionals. Unfortunately, there are a ton of contractors that claim to provide superior work at less than reasonable costs. In most of these cases, home-owners have found themselves in the middle of a roofing project nightmare. In order to avoid this situation, it is highly recommended that due diligence is always complete on all prospective contractors.

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When conducted by a skilled professional, Roofing Services are completed on time, on the budget, and with little to no bumps in the road. There are a couple of things that should be checked prior to hiring a contractor, some of which include:

  • Is the contractor licensed?
  • How many years of experience does the company have?
  • Have they completed similar work recently?
  • Are they properly insured?

In most cases, contractors are able to provide all roofing services, which include new installation, repairs, maintenance, or re-roofing. The amount of labour time that is required to successfully finish these services will vary drastically. Therefore it is encouraged for individuals to find this information out before committing to anything. With all of these services, customers will have the option to choose the type of material that will be used. Some roofing materials have shown to be more beneficial than others. Therefore these advantages should be a factor that is considered.

Roofing Services no longer have to be a headache. Hire a contractor that knows what they are doing and takes the extra time needed to produce a professional result. A great motto for roofing companies to live by is: We will make your house a better home. Look into the companies background, services provided, and customer references. By doing this, homeowners can gain the confidence they need to hire the contractor and have work begin as soon as possible. Reliable services through dependable contractors make roofing projects that much simpler.

Visit Uniquehomesolutions.org for further details.

Volunteers and food needed for flooded Manitoba, Canada

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Local municipal and provincial volunteers in Manitoba, Canada are exhausted in their efforts to divert the rising waters of the Red River of the North.

It has been hard work with little sleep for the residents who live on the shores of the Red River to shore up their defences with sandbags, build dikes, clear frozen culverts and break ice jams

Volunteers to spell relief for local volunteers and food are desperately needed.

“It’s a week now we’ve been doing this … you’re talking four, five, six public works guys. In my one community we’ve got 25 volunteer firefighters and those guys have been going 24/7, so of course it’s wearing them down.” said Paul Guyader, Manitoba’s emergency measures coordinator.

“We’re dealing with one of the biggest floods the province has ever seen,” said Steve Strang, mayor of St. Clements, Manitoba “We’ve put out hundreds of thousands of bags already. The municipalities are working very well, we’re working with the provincial government, we’ve brought in every possible resource we could to address this issue. The volunteerism within the community has been phenomenal.”

The Portage Diversion has taken some spring waters from the Assiniboine River and diverted the flow to Lake Manitoba.

Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation has been totally evacuated, as well as many homes near the Canada – United States border.

The cold weather is freezing the ice jams into place. Guyader has had 2 Amphibex Excavators operating on the river breaking up ice.

The Red River is right now 16.7 feet (5 metres) above spring ice conditions. The Red River Floodway gates cannot be opened with the current ice jams.

“If we operate now, we can get ice jamming going into the floodway, jamming up against the St. Mary’s bridge, as such, the floodway capacity would be reduced and would cause higher water levels in the city of Winnipeg.” said Steve Topping, Manitoba Water Stewardship spokesman

The floodway was constructed in 1968 following the 1950 flood to divert the overflow spring flooding waters of the Red River. The floodway has been widened the since the 1997 “flood of the century” and the expansion is expected to be completed this spring. As well Manitoba built permanent dikes around communities within the flood plain since the last two major floods..

The Red River waters will crest between the beginning of April to mid April, at which time also the weather should be warming up. Communities are bracing for higher water levels, more ice jams as well as melting snow in the warmer spring temperatures.

UK inflation rate increases to 4%

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have made a statement saying the inflation rate of the United Kingdom measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased to 4% in January 2011. In December 2010, this figure was 3.7%. According to BBC News Online, 4% is the highest CPI that the UK has experienced since November 2008.

There are various reasons for the raised British inflation rate, including value added tax (VAT) increasing from 17.5% to 20% on January 4 and the value of crude oil rising. The inflation rate of the Retail Price Index in the country has increased to 5.1%; previously, the value was 4.8%. The CPI has now been a minimum of a percentage point higher than the intended 2% target for one year and two months.

The ONS revealed that the price of petrol per litre, which the CPI measured at £1.27 (US$2.04, €1.51) (£5.77/ Imperial gallon), was a record peak. The rising values of tobacco, alcohol, hotels, restaurants, transport and furniture are also said to have caused the increase in VAT. Between December 2010 and January 2011, the rate of the CPI increased by 0.1%, the first time that inflation rose during these two months since records commenced in 1997. The ONS have stated that “[t]wo of the main factors that had an impact on the January data are the increase in the standard rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) to 20% and the continued increase in the price of crude oil”.

Mervyn King, the current Governor of the Bank of England, has written a letter and sent it to George Osborne, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer of the British government. The letter provides an explanation for the inflation outlook and what can be done to overcome it. Within the letter, King states that the inflation is anticipated to increase to 5% within the next few months.

“The MPC’s central judgement, under the assumption that Bank rate increases in line with market expectations, remains that inflation will fall back so that it is about as likely to be above the target as below it two to three years ahead,” Mervyn King stated in the letter. “The MPC judges that attempting to bring inflation back to the target quickly risks generating undesirable volatility in output and would increase the chances of undershooting the target in the medium term.”

During the last week, the UK interest rates remained at 0.5%. The Bank of England has kept this figure at half a percent for twenty-three consecutive months.

Belgian Archbishop lectures on health care and religion

Friday, March 23, 2007

Yesterday, Belgian Archbishop Godfried Danneels visited the Catholic University of Leuven to give a lecture on health care and religion, entitled “Care for the body, care for the mind”. Some 120 people, mainly professors at the University Hospitals, but also clerics and students, attended the conference and following piano recital.

In his introduction speech, Dean of Medicine Bernard Himpens reminded the audience how much the art of medicine had changed since the time of Andreas Vesalius, probably the Faculty’s most famous scientist. The Dean stressed the important role of the Hospital’s Biomedical Ethics Committee, but added that religion continues to be important.

“Some people even believe that good ethics must be carried by faith, and any profound ethics should result in faith,” the Dean noted. He asked the question where the evolution of a merely “passive tolerance for the Christian starting points” would lead the health care system.

In his lecture, the Archbishop acknowledged that the technical aspects of health care were probably the most important to achieve results, but that on the other hand, the medical-technical approach by itself could not guarantee the happiness of the patients.

Wikinews asked Professor Martin Hiele, Chairman of the Commission for Medical Ethics, if he felt there was a need for a lecture on the subject of religion and health care. He replied that

Especially when it concerns health, disease and death, everyone is looking for answers. The influence of the Church and of religion on the way that the health care system deals with life and death is an important topic nowadays -that is the reason that a lot of people have come today, I think.

Prof. Bernard Spitz, from the University’s Department of Developmental Biology and head of the Hospital’s Obstetrics Department, told Wikinews that

Religion is important in our profession. Increasingly you see that it becomes more technical, but also that people start looking for differentiation. A lot of people do the same thing technically, but not everyone does it from the same perspective. Also, when in organisation that used to be based on an ideology, this ideology disappears, people become burn-out, asking themselves why it is that they work so hard.

The lecture was organised by the DeGroof Bank and the Faculty of Medicine. It is the first of three lectures on the subject of religion, spirituality and ethics in health care.

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

National Museum of Scotland reopens after three-year redevelopment

Friday, July 29, 2011

Today sees the reopening of the National Museum of Scotland following a three-year renovation costing £47.4 million (US$ 77.3 million). Edinburgh’s Chambers Street was closed to traffic for the morning, with the 10am reopening by eleven-year-old Bryony Hare, who took her first steps in the museum, and won a competition organised by the local Evening News paper to be a VIP guest at the event. Prior to the opening, Wikinews toured the renovated museum, viewing the new galleries, and some of the 8,000 objects inside.

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Dressed in Victorian attire, Scottish broadcaster Grant Stott acted as master of ceremonies over festivities starting shortly after 9am. The packed street cheered an animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex created by Millenium FX; onlookers were entertained with a twenty-minute performance by the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers on the steps of the museum; then, following Bryony Hare knocking three times on the original doors to ask that the museum be opened, the ceremony was heralded with a specially composed fanfare – played on a replica of the museum’s 2,000-year-old carnyx Celtic war-horn. During the fanfare, two abseilers unfurled white pennons down either side of the original entrance.

The completion of the opening to the public was marked with Chinese firecrackers, and fireworks, being set off on the museum roof. As the public crowded into the museum, the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers resumed their performance; a street theatre group mingled with the large crowd, and the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex entertained the thinning crowd of onlookers in the centre of the street.

On Wednesday, the museum welcomed the world’s press for an in depth preview of the new visitor experience. Wikinews was represented by Brian McNeil, who is also Wikimedia UK’s interim liaison with Museum Galleries Scotland.

The new pavement-level Entrance Hall saw journalists mingle with curators. The director, Gordon Rintoul, introduced presentations by Gareth Hoskins and Ralph Applebaum, respective heads of the Architects and Building Design Team; and, the designers responsible for the rejuvenation of the museum.

Describing himself as a “local lad”, Hoskins reminisced about his grandfather regularly bringing him to the museum, and pushing all the buttons on the numerous interactive exhibits throughout the museum. Describing the nearly 150-year-old museum as having become “a little tired”, and a place “only visited on a rainy day”, he commented that many international visitors to Edinburgh did not realise that the building was a public space; explaining the focus was to improve access to the museum – hence the opening of street-level access – and, to “transform the complex”, focus on “opening up the building”, and “creating a number of new spaces […] that would improve facilities and really make this an experience for 21st century museum visitors”.

Hoskins explained that a “rabbit warren” of storage spaces were cleared out to provide street-level access to the museum; the floor in this “crypt-like” space being lowered by 1.5 metres to achieve this goal. Then Hoskins handed over to Applebaum, who expressed his delight to be present at the reopening.

Applebaum commented that one of his first encounters with the museum was seeing “struggling young mothers with two kids in strollers making their way up the steps”, expressing his pleasure at this being made a thing of the past. Applebaum explained that the Victorian age saw the opening of museums for public access, with the National Museum’s earlier incarnation being the “College Museum” – a “first window into this museum’s collection”.

Have you any photos of the museum, or its exhibits?

The museum itself is physically connected to the University of Edinburgh’s old college via a bridge which allowed students to move between the two buildings.

Applebaum explained that the museum will, now redeveloped, be used as a social space, with gatherings held in the Grand Gallery, “turning the museum into a social convening space mixed with knowledge”. Continuing, he praised the collections, saying they are “cultural assets [… Scotland is] turning those into real cultural capital”, and the museum is, and museums in general are, providing a sense of “social pride”.

McNeil joined the yellow group on a guided tour round the museum with one of the staff. Climbing the stairs at the rear of the Entrance Hall, the foot of the Window on the World exhibit, the group gained a first chance to see the restored Grand Gallery. This space is flooded with light from the glass ceiling three floors above, supported by 40 cast-iron columns. As may disappoint some visitors, the fish ponds have been removed; these were not an original feature, but originally installed in the 1960s – supposedly to humidify the museum; and failing in this regard. But, several curators joked that they attracted attention as “the only thing that moved” in the museum.

The museum’s original architect was Captain Francis Fowke, also responsible for the design of London’s Royal Albert Hall; his design for the then-Industrial Museum apparently inspired by Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace.

The group moved from the Grand Gallery into the Discoveries Gallery to the south side of the museum. The old red staircase is gone, and the Millennium Clock stands to the right of a newly-installed escalator, giving easier access to the upper galleries than the original staircases at each end of the Grand Gallery. Two glass elevators have also been installed, flanking the opening into the Discoveries Gallery and, providing disabled access from top-to-bottom of the museum.

The National Museum of Scotland’s origins can be traced back to 1780 when the 11th Earl of Buchan, David Stuart Erskine, formed the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; the Society being tasked with the collection and preservation of archaeological artefacts for Scotland. In 1858, control of this was passed to the government of the day and the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland came into being. Items in the collection at that time were housed at various locations around the city.

On Wednesday, October 28, 1861, during a royal visit to Edinburgh by Queen Victoria, Prince-Consort Albert laid the foundation-stone for what was then intended to be the Industrial Museum. Nearly five years later, it was the second son of Victoria and Albert, Prince Alfred, the then-Duke of Edinburgh, who opened the building which was then known as the Scottish Museum of Science and Art. A full-page feature, published in the following Monday’s issue of The Scotsman covered the history leading up to the opening of the museum, those who had championed its establishment, the building of the collection which it was to house, and Edinburgh University’s donation of their Natural History collection to augment the exhibits put on public display.

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Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Selection of views of the Grand Gallery Image: Brian McNeil.

Closed for a little over three years, today’s reopening of the museum is seen as the “centrepiece” of National Museums Scotland’s fifteen-year plan to dramatically improve accessibility and better present their collections. Sir Andrew Grossard, chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “The reopening of the National Museum of Scotland, on time and within budget is a tremendous achievement […] Our collections tell great stories about the world, how Scots saw that world, and the disproportionate impact they had upon it. The intellectual and collecting impact of the Scottish diaspora has been profound. It is an inspiring story which has captured the imagination of our many supporters who have helped us achieve our aspirations and to whom we are profoundly grateful.

The extensive work, carried out with a view to expand publicly accessible space and display more of the museums collections, carried a £47.4 million pricetag. This was jointly funded with £16 million from the Scottish Government, and £17.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further funds towards the work came from private sources and totalled £13.6 million. Subsequent development, as part of the longer-term £70 million “Masterplan”, is expected to be completed by 2020 and see an additional eleven galleries opened.

The funding by the Scottish Government can be seen as a ‘canny‘ investment; a report commissioned by National Museums Scotland, and produced by consultancy firm Biggar Economics, suggest the work carried out could be worth £58.1 million per year, compared with an estimated value to the economy of £48.8 prior to the 2008 closure. Visitor figures are expected to rise by over 20%; use of function facilities are predicted to increase, alongside other increases in local hospitality-sector spending.

Proudly commenting on the Scottish Government’s involvement Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, described the reopening as, “one of the nation’s cultural highlights of 2011” and says the rejuvenated museum is, “[a] must-see attraction for local and international visitors alike“. Continuing to extol the museum’s virtues, Hyslop states that it “promotes the best of Scotland and our contributions to the world.

So-far, the work carried out is estimated to have increased the public space within the museum complex by 50%. Street-level storage rooms, never before seen by the public, have been transformed into new exhibit space, and pavement-level access to the buildings provided which include a new set of visitor facilities. Architectural firm Gareth Hoskins have retained the original Grand Gallery – now the first floor of the museum – described as a “birdcage” structure and originally inspired by The Crystal Palace built in Hyde Park, London for the 1851 Great Exhibition.

The centrepiece in the Grand Gallery is the “Window on the World” exhibit, which stands around 20 metres tall and is currently one of the largest installations in any UK museum. This showcases numerous items from the museum’s collections, rising through four storeys in the centre of the museum. Alexander Hayward, the museums Keeper of Science and Technology, challenged attending journalists to imagine installing “teapots at thirty feet”.

The redeveloped museum includes the opening of sixteen brand new galleries. Housed within, are over 8,000 objects, only 20% of which have been previously seen.

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  • First floor
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  • Top floor

The Window on the World rises through the four floors of the museum and contains over 800 objects. This includes a gyrocopter from the 1930s, the world’s largest scrimshaw – made from the jaws of a sperm whale which the University of Edinburgh requested for their collection, a number of Buddha figures, spearheads, antique tools, an old gramophone and record, a selection of old local signage, and a girder from the doomed Tay Bridge.

The arrangement of galleries around the Grand Gallery’s “birdcage” structure is organised into themes across multiple floors. The World Cultures Galleries allow visitors to explore the culture of the entire planet; Living Lands explains the ways in which our natural environment influences the way we live our lives, and the beliefs that grow out of the places we live – from the Arctic cold of North America to Australia’s deserts.

The adjacent Patterns of Life gallery shows objects ranging from the everyday, to the unusual from all over the world. The functions different objects serve at different periods in peoples’ lives are explored, and complement the contents of the Living Lands gallery.

Performance & Lives houses musical instruments from around the world, alongside masks and costumes; both rooted in long-established traditions and rituals, this displayed alongside contemporary items showing the interpretation of tradition by contemporary artists and instrument-creators.

The museum proudly bills the Facing the Sea gallery as the only one in the UK which is specifically based on the cultures of the South Pacific. It explores the rich diversity of the communities in the region, how the sea shapes the islanders’ lives – describing how their lives are shaped as much by the sea as the land.

Both the Facing the Sea and Performance & Lives galleries are on the second floor, next to the new exhibition shop and foyer which leads to one of the new exhibition galleries, expected to house the visiting Amazing Mummies exhibit in February, coming from Leiden in the Netherlands.

The Inspired by Nature, Artistic Legacies, and Traditions in Sculpture galleries take up most of the east side of the upper floor of the museum. The latter of these shows the sculptors from diverse cultures have, through history, explored the possibilities in expressing oneself using metal, wood, or stone. The Inspired by Nature gallery shows how many artists, including contemporary ones, draw their influence from the world around us – often commenting on our own human impact on that natural world.

Contrastingly, the Artistic Legacies gallery compares more traditional art and the work of modern artists. The displayed exhibits attempt to show how people, in creating specific art objects, attempt to illustrate the human spirit, the cultures they are familiar with, and the imaginative input of the objects’ creators.

The easternmost side of the museum, adjacent to Edinburgh University’s Old College, will bring back memories for many regular visitors to the museum; but, with an extensive array of new items. The museum’s dedicated taxidermy staff have produced a wide variety of fresh examples from the natural world.

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At ground level, the Animal World and Wildlife Panorama’s most imposing exhibit is probably the lifesize reproduction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. This rubs shoulders with other examples from around the world, including one of a pair of elephants. The on-display elephant could not be removed whilst renovation work was underway, and lurked in a corner of the gallery as work went on around it.

Above, in the Animal Senses gallery, are examples of how we experience the world through our senses, and contrasting examples of wildly differing senses, or extremes of such, present in the natural world. This gallery also has giant screens, suspended in the free space, which show footage ranging from the most tranquil and peaceful life in the sea to the tooth-and-claw bloody savagery of nature.

The Survival gallery gives visitors a look into the ever-ongoing nature of evolution; the causes of some species dying out while others thrive, and the ability of any species to adapt as a method of avoiding extinction.

Earth in Space puts our place in the universe in perspective. Housing Europe’s oldest surviving Astrolabe, dating from the eleventh century, this gallery gives an opportunity to see the technology invented to allow us to look into the big questions about what lies beyond Earth, and probe the origins of the universe and life.

In contrast, the Restless Earth gallery shows examples of the rocks and minerals formed through geological processes here on earth. The continual processes of the planet are explored alongside their impact on human life. An impressive collection of geological specimens are complemented with educational multimedia presentations.

Beyond working on new galleries, and the main redevelopment, the transformation team have revamped galleries that will be familiar to regular past visitors to the museum.

Formerly known as the Ivy Wu Gallery of East Asian Art, the Looking East gallery showcases National Museums Scotland’s extensive collection of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese material. The gallery’s creation was originally sponsored by Sir Gordon Wu, and named after his wife Ivy. It contains items from the last dynasty, the Manchu, and examples of traditional ceramic work. Japan is represented through artefacts from ordinary people’s lives, expositions on the role of the Samurai, and early trade with the West. Korean objects also show the country’s ceramic work, clothing, and traditional accessories used, and worn, by the indigenous people.

The Ancient Egypt gallery has always been a favourite of visitors to the museum. A great many of the exhibits in this space were returned to Scotland from late 19th century excavations; and, are arranged to take visitors through the rituals, and objects associated with, life, death, and the afterlife, as viewed from an Egyptian perspective.

The Art and Industry and European Styles galleries, respectively, show how designs are arrived at and turned into manufactured objects, and the evolution of European style – financed and sponsored by a wide range of artists and patrons. A large number of the objects on display, often purchased or commissioned, by Scots, are now on display for the first time ever.

Shaping our World encourages visitors to take a fresh look at technological objects developed over the last 200 years, many of which are so integrated into our lives that they are taken for granted. Radio, transportation, and modern medicines are covered, with a retrospective on the people who developed many of the items we rely on daily.

What was known as the Museum of Scotland, a modern addition to the classical Victorian-era museum, is now known as the Scottish Galleries following the renovation of the main building.

This dedicated newer wing to the now-integrated National Museum of Scotland covers the history of Scotland from a time before there were people living in the country. The geological timescale is covered in the Beginnings gallery, showing continents arranging themselves into what people today see as familiar outlines on modern-day maps.

Just next door, the history of the earliest occupants of Scotland are on display; hunters and gatherers from around 4,000 B.C give way to farmers in the Early People exhibits.

The Kingdom of the Scots follows Scotland becoming a recognisable nation, and a kingdom ruled over by the Stewart dynasty. Moving closer to modern-times, the Scotland Transformed gallery looks at the country’s history post-union in 1707.

Industry and Empire showcases Scotland’s significant place in the world as a source of heavy engineering work in the form of rail engineering and shipbuilding – key components in the building of the British Empire. Naturally, whisky was another globally-recognised export introduced to the world during empire-building.

Lastly, Scotland: A Changing Nation collects less-tangible items, including personal accounts, from the country’s journey through the 20th century; the social history of Scots, and progress towards being a multicultural nation, is explored through heavy use of multimedia exhibits.

Gastric bypass surgery performed by remote control

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A robotic system at Stanford Medical Center was used to perform a laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery successfully with a theoretically similar rate of complications to that seen in standard operations. However, as there were only 10 people in the experimental group (and another 10 in the control group), this is not a statistically significant sample.

If this surgical procedure is as successful in large-scale studies, it may lead the way for the use of robotic surgery in even more delicate procedures, such as heart surgery. Note that this is not a fully automated system, as a human doctor controls the operation via remote control. Laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery is a treatment for obesity.

There were concerns that doctors, in the future, might only be trained in the remote control procedure. Ronald G. Latimer, M.D., of Santa Barbara, CA, warned “The fact that surgeons may have to open the patient or might actually need to revert to standard laparoscopic techniques demands that this basic training be a requirement before a robot is purchased. Robots do malfunction, so a backup system is imperative. We should not be seduced to buy this instrument to train surgeons if they are not able to do the primary operations themselves.”

There are precedents for just such a problem occurring. A previous “new technology”, the electrocardiogram (ECG), has lead to a lack of basic education on the older technology, the stethoscope. As a result, many heart conditions now go undiagnosed, especially in children and others who rarely undergo an ECG procedure.