Ahad, 6 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: Metro: Central

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Free app to detect colour blindness


PARENTS will soon be able to tell within minutes if their young children are colour blind, with a simple game available as a free app from next month.

Designed by National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers for children between the ages of three and six, the game requires them to "catch" butterflies of matching colours by tapping a screen.

Those who are colour blind would consistently select different butterflies since they are unable to tell the difference between red and green, for instance.

A study on 32 children by the Singapore National Eye Centre this year found that the game, believed to be a world first, was as effective as existing tests in identifying red-green colour blindness, the most common variant.

A 2008 local study of more than 1,200 teenagers here found that 5.3% of boys and just 0.2% of girls were colour blind.

The game makes early detection of the condition in pre-school children possible, and in a fun way, said Dr Ellen Do, co-director of the Keio-NUS Connective Ubiquitous Technology for Embodiments (Cute) Centre.

Most would otherwise be too young to take standard colour blindness exams such as the Ishihara test, which requires them to make out numbers hidden in a group of coloured dots.

This is important because children begin learning using colours in kindergarten, said the game's designer Nguyen Linh Chi.

"They may get scolded by teachers and parents if they cannot complete a colouring task, but no one knows they are colour blind," she said. "They may begin to lose self-confidence."

Early detection would also prevent parents from wrongly thinking that their children have a learning disability if they struggle in school, added Dr Do.

Their views were echoed by Professor Saw Seang Mei, an eye disease expert from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.

"If a child has colour blindness, it's good to know early. It may have an impact – not just on their visual function – but also emotionally and mentally, like how they cope in school."

She added that the new game app would make it more convenient for parents to test their children, rather than wait for a formal screening.

Colour blindness is caused by faulty cones in the eye's retina that help tell colours apart.

The free app will be available from next month on the Apple App Store. A version for Android may be developed in the future. — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network

Big Brother is always watching


Thanks to modern technology, it is very easy for governments to spy on their people.

T Aipeh: Big Brother is watching you" – The horror of being constantly spied on by the government, as depicted by George Orwell in his famous novel 1984 seems to have become reality in Taiwan.

It is nothing new that a ruler would want to spy on his people. A dictator may be anxious to take total control of the country; a president may want to know what moves his or her political rivals are plotting. Spying may be done in the name of crime prevention; it may be needed to enhance public safety, or against infiltration by foreign enemies or terrorist attacks.

We've seen many examples of governments spying on their people throughout history.

Queen Elizabeth I is believed to have run an extensive network of spies working for her. Christopher Marlowe, one of the greatest English playwrights of her reign, is said to have been a government spy.

Perhaps it is because of England's strong tradition of the government watching its people that it was the 18th century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham who put forward the concept of the panopticon, a watch tower at the centre of a prison where inmates' cells are arranged in a circle around the tower.

The idea is to make it easy for the prison guards to watch the inmates. And the beauty, or horror, of that design is that inmates constantly feel they are being watched – whether there actually are prison guards inside the tower may be irrelevant.

Orwell wrote 1984 in defiance of that panopticon tradition but, ironically, modern-day London has the most public surveillance cameras in the world, watching every corner of the city. It is just a step shy of the panopticonic vision, as citizens are still not watched at home. But do they really have the privacy they think they have?

In China, the tradition of the government spying on its people may be as strong as that in England.

The most notorious and fearful spying network in Chinese history was run by eunuchs during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The spies helped the emperors control the government officials and the country, and very often, the emperors themselves were controlled by the spies.

And it is this piece of history that the opposition camp in Taiwan has been frequently alluding to when criticising the Ma administration over the ongoing wiretapping row.

Spying is of course nothing new in Taiwan. Wiretapping of civilians by the military and law enforcement units – whether legal or illegal – has often been conducted.

Not long ago, when Taiwan was still technically at war with China, its people were constantly reminded of the threat and possibility that communist spies were around them.

Such a propaganda move actually turned each and every one of the citizens into a spy for the government as they suspected and monitored one another.

Now, like London, many big cities in Taiwan have installed public surveillance cameras supposedly for crime-prevention purposes.

And thanks to modern technology, it is very easy for governments to spy on their people. Phone conversations can be easily monitored and recorded. All Internet activities are recorded by service providers.

The Edward Snowden controversy has revealed that the US government has been spying on its people over the Internet. Internet firms' transparency reports have shown that many governments have asked them for user information. Taiwan is among those governments.

The requests for information from Internet firms may be legitimate, but it highlights the fact that few can really escape Big Brother. You think your home shields you from the surveillance cameras on the streets, but when you log onto Facebook or any other social media, or surf the Net, you are being watched.

Big Brother is really watching, and the panopticon is really working – both enabled by modern technology.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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