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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Sweat or shiver no more

Posted: 09 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

HOMEGROWN technology could make walking in sweltering outdoor temperatures and working in chilly offices a more comfortable experience.

It involves powder- and fibre-like materials which can be used in clothes.

They can be about as thick as a strand of hair or thinner. These can keep a person cool in warm weather by absorbing body heat and dispersing it.

When the person is in a cold environment, the materials, which are said to be thrice as good as existing products in conducting heat, are able to do the reverse.

The technology was one of several showcased by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) yesterday at its Next-to-the-Skin exhibition at Biopolis in Buona Vista.

Exploit Technologies – the technology commercialisation arm of A*Star – put up the exhibition to go alongside the two-day Startup Asia conference, which ended yesterday.

The conference organised by Tech In Asia, a tech news site, showcased technology start-ups and their products.

By holding its exhibition next to the conference, Exploit hoped to interest companies in A*Star's prototypes and investors in commercialising them.

Radiana Soh, Exploit's assistant vice-president, said the prototypes were developed within a month earlier this year after A*Star scientists met private companies and investors.

The four researchers, led by Dr Shah Kwok Wei, a scientist from A*Star's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, behind the cooling materials are now working with a United States company to incorporate them into hospital beds.

Other possible applications include using the materials in firemen's uniforms, sports attire and hiding soldiers from snipers that track targets using heat signature.

Other prototypes that were exhibited included a pillow that uses optic fibre sensors to monitor sleep patterns.

Similar technology embedded in baby swaddles will also be able to monitor the vital signs of newborns. These products can warn caregivers if something is wrong.

A fashion show of outfits designed by Nanyang Technological University students from the School of Art, Design and Media, and which incorporated some of A*Star's technologies, including the cooling materials, was also held yesterday evening at Biopolis. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Islamic scholar dies at age 88

Posted: 09 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

ISLAMIC scholar and senior religious teacher Ustaz Ibrahim Kassim (pic), who played a key role in helping to rehabilitate terrorists, died yesterday. He was 88.

Ustaz Ibrahim was in the pioneer batch of volunteer Islamic scholars who formed the core of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), which was founded in 2003 to rehabilitate Muslim extremists in Singapore.

He also helped in a big way to develop Singapore's model of religious rehabilitation from scratch, after the 2001 arrest of Jemaah Islamiyah members here.

At the Whitley Detention Centre, he and other Islamic scholars would meet the detainees and address their misinterpretations of Islamic concepts, like jihad.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to the community leader in a condolence letter to his daughter Sakina.

Ustaz Ibrahim championed moderate Islam and worked closely with the government and the Muslim community to counter radical Islamic ideologies propagated by extremist terrorists, Lee wrote.

"He made a special effort to attend my dialogue with the Malay/Muslim leaders on the tudung issue in January, even though he was ill," Lee added.

"I was touched that he subsequently wrote to me to support what I had said about the tudung issue."

Lee also said he met Ustaz Ibrahim, who "was frail, but in good spirits", at the pioneer generation tribute party in February.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean said the religious teacher made many contributions, and that he was impressed by his knowledge and humility.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, speaking yesterday at the Al-Khair Mosque in Choa Chu Kang where a prayer session was held before Ustaz Ibrahim was buried, said: "He recognised that the phenomenon (of Islamic extremism) has to be tackled, and if the religious elites do not step forward, then who else is able to?"

Ustaz Ibrahim is survived by four children, nine grandchildren and a great grandson. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Chinese performer suffers for his art

Posted: 09 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

BEIJING: Having one of his own ribs cut out to turn into a necklace, enduring a slashing from neck to thigh – He Yunchang will do anything for art as long as it does not kill him.

The extreme performance artist's head is almost entirely shaved and his face flecked with faint scars from his shows.

His blood-drenched, often naked masochistic displays are intended to demonstrate that some things are worth making sacrifices for.

The 23cm rib he had voluntarily surgically removed as China celebrated the opening day of the Beijing Olympics – on the auspicious, once-in-a-century date of 8/8/08 – hangs around his neck on a gold loop, dragons' heads biting down on either end.

The operation was intended to demonstrate his own individual autonomy, he said, a decision he could take for himself "while many other things are out of my control".

"There are more powerful people in society who make decisions for others, and there are rules and social morality which restrict people," he said late one night in his studio on the outskirts of Beijing, in the raspy voice of a 120-cigarette-a-day smoker.

In one of his latest works, in March he painted the fingernails and toenails of 10 mannequins – with his own blood.

"I want to convey the message that I am ready to pay a high price to show my concern about the world," said the 48-year-old, a married father of one.

"My principle is that, if it's worth the pain, then my safety comes second. But I keep things under control. It is important that I do not let myself die."               

His still photos, paintings and sculptures have been exhibited and sold across Europe and America.

Their popularity derives from his drastic performances, often almost as excruciating for his audiences to watch as they are agonising for him.

In a 2010 performance titled "One Metre Democracy", He gathered 25 people for a poll on whether he should endure a knife gash – without anaesthetic – from his collarbone to his knee.

The idea was approved by 12 to 10, with three abstentions, and a doctor carried out the incision in a procedure that lasted several minutes, with voters posing for a group photo afterward while He lay naked and bloodied on a bed.

The artist has also stared at panels of 10,000 glaring watts of light bulbs to damage his eyesight, encased himself in a cube of quick-setting concrete for 24 hours, and burned his clothes while wearing them.

He once hung upside down from a crane for 90 minutes holding a knife in a rushing river, blood dripping from cuts in his arms made with the blade, in a symbolic mixing of the liquids.

Among his less extreme endeavours, he also carried a stone from a beach in England on a 112-day journey over 3,500km by foot – only to put the travel companion back where he found it.

"He Yunchang is an alchemist of pain," said Judith Neilson, founder of the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney which specialises in contemporary Chinese art.

"He Yunchang evidently believes that pain and extreme discomfort, deliberately planned and willingly undergone, have a transcendent quality – and that it is this quality that raises mere action to the level of art," she said.

His performances "serve as silent rebukes to contemporary Chinese society, where people undergo all kinds of suffering for money precisely because they see money as the ultimate protection against suffering".

Although contemporary art has flourished in China over recent years, the ruling Communist Party maintains tight controls on freedom of expression and only a minority of artists convey political messages with their work.

He has avoided directly confronting the authorities and says: "I generally stay quiet and calm. I don't make waves".

But China's most renowned dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who has faced detention and strict surveillance for his more confrontational work, praises the approach of his friend and neighbour in Caochangdi, an avant-garde artists' community on the outskirts of the capital.

He's art "always has a mix of play, personal history, political message and poetic romance," said Ai.

"Everything that is happening in China today, with development, old structures and Communist doctrines, are all stuck together," Ai continued.

He's work "is trying to pull life out of the ruins".

His performances are not always easy to carry out, and he has run into trouble with officialdom – although in the United States, rather than in China.

In 2005 police thwarted his attempt to stand naked on a rock atop Niagara Falls for 24 hours.

Two years later officers in New York stopped him as he organised a game of mahjong – again naked – using bricks in place of the usual domino-sized tiles.

Several hospitals refused to carry out the rib removal without a medical justification, until he found a willing doctor in his home province of Yunnan, in the southwest.

"This has been my wish for many years," He recalled telling surgeons. "If you can help me realise it, then you're actually helping me, not harming me." — AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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